Camping in the Rain

Photo by Steven Burke

A tarp provides much-needed dry space on an otherwise soggy campsite (Photo by Steven Burke)

One reality of fall camping is that you are likely to run into at least a few hours of rain. Camping in the rain can be a really enjoyable experience, provided you take the proper steps to ensure that you and your family are prepared. Here are some tips for planning to camp in the rain.


Unless you have a really big tent, a secondary rain shelter is very convenient for changing clothes, cooking and playing games. Even if you do have a big tent, it’s a lot more enjoyable to get outside. A well-positioned tarp will let you enjoy the outdoors while still keeping dry.

Waterproof bags

During the summer you can get away with suffing your clothes and belongings into the bottom of a backpack and forgetting about them. Come fall, however, it’s guaranteed that the one leak in the tent will be directly onto wherever your clothes are stored. Make sure they’re in a waterproof bag.

Hot drinks

Nothing shakes the damp chill quicker than a steaming cup of coffee, tea or cocoa. A Thermos® bottle will allow you to keep beverages (or water) hot through the night, so you don’t even have to wait on the fire in the morning.

Camp shoes

Nothing makes you colder, quicker, than wet feet, so pack extra socks and a pair of “camp shoes” that you can wear around the campsite, while your regular shoes or boots are drying out from the day’s activities.

Stick to your leave-no-trace principles

A little rain is not excuse for breaking out the shovel and trenching around your tent! Avoid trenching by siting your tent away from likely drainage paths.

See also…

46 thoughts on “Camping in the Rain

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  5. Been camping a lot, and set up in the rain. Put your rain tarp up first, then set up your tent – evrything stays dry!

  6. Another cold or damp weather tip is we have hot water bottles for each sleeping bag. And you can reuse and reheat the same water to conserve. After all it’s just going back in the same hot water bottle. My husband loves this warming tip. I actually use my camp coffee pot and don’t quite boil the water. It’s the perfect amount for a large water bottle.

  7. Another cold or damp weather tip is we have hot water bottles for each sleeping bag. And you can reuse and reheat the same water to conserve. After all it’s just going back in the same hot water bottle. My husband loves this warming tip.

  8. Pingback: Tips for camping in the rain. - the board sidewalk is a great idea! | campinglivezcampinglivez

  9. Pingback: Tips for camping in the rain...I have needed this in the past...and assume I will need this again - tomorrows adventures

  10. Tarps are your best friend when camping.

    Even in sunny conditions, they can be strung up over your campsite to provide shade.

    Although, there are some factors to consider when stringing up your tarp if you suspect rain/wind.

    Make sure you know a decent system of loop and hitch knots. A bad knot in your rope will result in a saggy tarp or worse, a collapsed tarp.

    This is a great resource for learning some basic knots:

    Make sure your tarp is tight and angled. If your tarp is parallel to the ground and/or has any slack, it will act as a rain catch, then it will begin to sag where the water is collecting and possibly collapse. If it’s taunt and slightly angled, the water will roll off one side and prevent the tarp from sagging/collapsing.

    You might have to get creative on how to string up your tarp to prevent sagging/collapsing.

  11. Just a little FYI, instead of putting the tarp under your tent, it is best to put it inside your tent. When the tarp is under your tent is acts like a bowl and keeps the water there. If you put the tarp inside your tent you will always be on dry land. Have the tarp a bit bigger than the instead of your tent and let it curl up the sides. This way if it does rain you will be dry inside. I have camped many years in a tent, in fact just got back from the BWCA last week and it rained the first and last nights there and other than packing up wet tents everything else I had was dry. Also, I like the large tarp over the tent area. I have done this also and it’s just that extra layer of protection. Great article.

    • Hello Julie,

      The tarp under the tent isn’t so much about water retention or repelling, it’s about protecting the bottom of the tent from damage.

      That being said, you can bring 2 tarps for rainy situations. One for under (to protect) and one on the interior (to keep water out). Being that tarps are relatively cheap, if you suspect that rain may be coming, you should pack a couple of spare tarps.

      • That being said…the tarp under the tent needs to be a bit smaller than the tent and then it will not collect water. I use a lighter weight plastic inside and a tarp outside. If the ground is grassy, I skip the underneath tarp. Happy Camping :)

  12. Great tips. Just a note to those who use the pop up shelters, they are not totally waterproof, as we found out in a heavy downpour. We made a “bonnet” for the shelter, using a dropcloth, good ole duct tape and rope, so it’s easy to put it on in a hurry. Camp on!

  13. your ground cloth should never stick out from under you tent, it in fact should be like an inch smaller all around, because when your ground cloth sticks out from under your tent, it wicks the water that runs down your tent wall under your tent, there fore flooding your tent inside.

    • It’s also cold, and miserable unless you come to actually “camp in the rain,” been there done that. Camped in the snow and was prepared for it and it was actually fun.

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  15. well the idea of camping in rain is itself very exciting. but i will prefer to do that with my family as than i can enjoy most. plus children will learn a lot from these kind of experiences and learn a social intimacy too.

    • You can try, but the problem is the mold gets between the nylon and the waterproofing, causing it to separate. The manufacturer should have some cleaning recommendations on their website (i.e. or in the instructions that came with the tent. You can go a bit further than the typical manufacturer's instructions by soaking the moldy area in a mild solution of bleach, or Lysol, and water. You will need to repeat soaking in the solution, followed by a thorough rinsing in fresh water, several times. Good luck!

      • UhmYeah, it’s a good idea!Jeeze, is spanking seruiosly that underrated today? It is NOT abuse. It’s punishment. And when a boy actually has the nerve to slap his own mother, that kid needs more than a spanking. He needs to be grounded, in his room, with nothing but his bed for 2 weeks.I hate to sound harsh, but that kid is already down a horrible path. If no one takes action now, he’ll be kicking women before he’s 15. No one is going to call child services because you’re punishing your child. Especially considering he’s taking the first hit.

      • I thought it might also be useful information to know that you should always “air out” your tent before storing it away. If it is still wet out at your campsite when you leave, than wait until you get home and there’s a break in the weather. Set it up for 1/2 day with all the windows and doors open. The drier air will dry up any moisture that was left behind and will prevent it from getting mold or smelling musty the next time you want to use it.

  16. Hi, I am from Upstate New York and when we camp we know we are going to get at least one day of rain. We have to plan for that as much as we plan the clothes or food we take. But, it is fun and it is beautiful here so it is worth it. We tent camp as well as RV it. They have great easy-up shelters that are not too pricey now but you are right about the tarps. We even use them on new tents that have a fly. Great advise and Happy camping.

    • Thanks, Caroline. We have used one of those pop-up canopies, on a few summer camping trips, for some shade over the picnic table and it also came in handy during a small train shower in Oregon, this fall. We do not use it much, but it sure is handy when you need it.

    • Absolutely, Russ – all of the major brands use quality materials and most have taped seams and a full-length rain fly that goes all the way to the ground. I prefer a design with a vestibule area that shelters the entrance-door from rain and provides a transition area for removing shoes and jackets.

    • Absolutely, Russ – all of the major brands use quality materials and most have taped seams and a full-length rain fly that goes all the way to the ground. I prefer a design with a vestibule area that shelters the entrance-door from rain and provides a transition area for removing shoes and jackets.

  17. Good advice.

    A way to make the tarp option easier to adjust and size is the use of EasyKlip tarp clips. Especially important when you need to make a quick tarp adjustment to improve rain coverage as these are instantly slipped on and give a super strong grip. Makes using cords or bungees simple, regardless of the size of the tarp.

    Very handy to have in your backpack for just such an occasion.

  18. Roy,
    I remember camping in the rain like yesterday. War Zone D, 1967 Vietnam, in an over grown French Rubber Plantation.
    The good thing was that the bad guys did not hit us because of the rain.

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