Rain happens. But there’s no need to let it ruin your camping experience. Here are some tips for camping in the rain to help you stay happy and dry when the liquid sunshine starts falling from the sky.
1. Find the Right Tent Site
Choose a campsite with a little elevation that’s not beside a river or lake. It isn’t fun to wake up in three inches of water during a downpour. Even better, if your tent faces the morning sun, it’ll be easier to coax yourself out of your sleeping bag on drizzly mornings. And whatever you do, don’t set up under a tree. Long after the rain has stopped, raindrops will keep dripping on your head and falling branches could injure you if the wind picks up overnight.
2. Light Up the Night
Lights can help boost the ambiance under the tarp or tree canopy. Bring LED string lights to drape around the campsite, light some candles to flicker sweetly in mason jars, and pack a good camp lantern and flashlights. Remember to bring plenty of extra batteries; lithium batteries are extra-reliable in cold weather. If you think you’ll be returning late, attach reflectors to the trees near your tent so you can find your way back in the dark.
3. Create an Outdoor Living Room
When the day’s activities are done, don’t let everyone retreat to their tents—create an outdoor living room. Fashion a camping rain shelter by stringing up a tarp or two overhead, and one on the ground as well. Then set up camp chairs, attend to the ambient lights, break out the brews and snacks and get some music and games going. Cards Against Humanity, anyone?
4. Power (Food) to the People
After returning from your hike, keep the wet, cold at bay with some comfort food. A cup of hot cocoa goes a long way on rainy afternoons. Aztec hot chocolate with chili goes even further. Got a killer campfire pizza or Dutch-oven lasagna recipe? Now’s the time to bust that out. We humans need more calories to maintain body temperature when it’s cold, so keep the carbs coming. It’s always nice to throw some veggies into the mix, but do yourself a favor and prep them first, in your warm home, instead of peeling and chopping in the cold.
5. Layer Up
The right camping rain gear and a good layering system will help regulate your body temperature, wicking moisture while you’re active, and retaining body heat when you cool down. Choose polyester or wool base and mid layers under a waterproof jacket or rain poncho. Cotton is never a good choice, because when it gets wet it stays wet, which will plummet your body temp fast. Make sure to pack an extra set of base layers and wool socks in a waterproof bag for hanging out back at camp, when you’ll want dry clothes to change into and a cuppa something hot to warm up.
6. Opt for Orange
Headed into the drizzle during hunting season? Don’t forget to wear bright colors like red or orange. You don’t want to be mistaken for a deer or waterfowl, so leave your urban color scheme at home and show off the orange parka that really brings out your eyes.
7. Hang Up, Then Hang Out
When your clothes are soaked, it might be tempting to dump them in the corner and curl up in your sleeping bag. Consider hanging any wet clothes first. You’ll thank us tomorrow, when you have dry clothes that don’t smell like mildew. Pack a clothesline and string it under a tarp or your tent’s vestibule so you can hang all your wet clothing to dry. Taking time to manage the moisture factor will make your trip a lot more pleasant.
Pro tip: If you’re desperate for dry clothes, put a few damp items in your sleeping bag. Your body heat will dry them overnight.
8. Add a Bivy Bag
When the ground is wet and cold, add a bivy bag to stay warm. This extra layer of insulation will help protect your sleeping bag from moisture, and it can also help retain a little heat.
You can also double up on sleeping pads to keep you warmer. Once you’re nestled in for the night, try to keep your face exposed. Breathing into the bag can cause down insulation to get wet, which will affect its performance. Even better—choose a synthetic bag that insulates even when wet.
9. Preheat to 98.6 Degrees
To avoid having to pull on cold clothes, preheat them to 98.6 degrees! Pack tomorrow’s clothes into a small, breathable bag and stuff it down into your sleeping bag so it stays nice and warm next to your body overnight. Having warm clothes to put on in the morning makes chilly mornings so much better.
10. Whip Out the Hand Warmers
Poor circulation can be a factor when it’s soggy outside. Whip out the hand warmers. Stuff a few in your boots to make breakfast a little cozier, and then ride those warm, happy feet into your morning hike.
11. Flip and Sip
Ever wake to find your water bottle has frozen overnight? Flip your water bottle. Water always freezes from the top. If temps dip below freezing overnight, turn your water bottle upside down so the bottom will freeze instead, and you can get at least a few sips out in the morning.
12. Save the Day With Gaiters
Consider wearing rain pants or packing gaiters. Wet leaves and morning dew can get you wet in a hurry and even soak your pants clear through. Rain pants and gaiters can save the day.