Camping in the rain can be both an inconvenience when camping, but when you’re on the trail, you don’t have much choice other than to tough it out. With that said, if you are prepared, you can stay dry in this situation.
So how do you camp in the rain? The short answer is, camping can be done in the rain with comfort if you have the proper gear. This gear includes clothing, shelter, and in some cases even gear to collect rainwater for purposes such as putting out your fire.
Here’s what we will cover to keep as dry as possible.
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One of the most important things to consider when camping in the rain is what type of clothing you’re wearing. In the summertime, it won’t matter so much as you won’t be at risk of illness due to temperature, but in the winter, it is critical to your health to have the proper clothing.
There are many options when deciding what rain gear is best for you. Some of the options include rain suits, rain jackets, rain pants, hats, and waterproof footwear.
Below we’ll delve a little deeper into the pros and cons of each type of clothing that will benefit you in the event of unexpected rain.
- Rain Suit. This will be a three-piece set that includes pants, jacket, and a hood. All three pieces are completely waterproof and can be worn over the clothing that you already have on.
- Pros: All in one set, you don’t have to purchase multiple things.
- Cons: Some options are a bit heavy and cumbersome. These pieces are usually not breathable, so you may get overheated in the warmer months.
- Shell is a technical term for a rain jacket. These jackets are designed to be worn over other shirts and jackets.
- Pros: Often offered with a breathable material that is still waterproof. These jackets are usually more packable and lightweight than rain suit jackets.
- Cons: If you choose a breathable option, such as Gore-Tex, the price is a bit steep.
- Rain Pants. These pants, similar to a shell, are designed to wear over other pants.
- Pros: Just like a shell, these pants are often offered with a breathable material that is still waterproof. These pants are usually more packable and lightweight than rain suit pants.
- Cons: Rain pants are usually a bit heavy and expensive. There are light options that are breathable, but they are usually very expensive.
- Rubber Rain Boots. These boots are completely waterproof, and normally come up to the middle of the shin.
- Pros: Completely waterproof, great for muddy terrain, no laces.
- Cons: These boots are not good for hiking, so you’ll have to carry the weight of a second pair of boots.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots. Waterproof hiking boots are designed to be both waterproof, and supportive enough to withstand long hikes.
- Pros: You only have to have the boots that are on your feet. These boots are also lighter weight than rubber rain boots.
- Cons: These boots usually only come up to the ankle, so your foot may still get wet in deep puddles. Hiking boots are also more expensive than rubber boots in most cases.
Most of the decisions you’ll make about which rain gear to get is going to fall on preference and how much you’re willing to carry. There are options for less than twenty dollars and some that cost hundreds.
A shelter is equally as important as what clothing you’re wearing. Whether tent or hammock camping, you need some type of shelter to keep you and your gear dry.
If you’re tent camping, you will need a rainfly and a tarp (or footprint). A rainfly is a fitted tarp that goes on top of the tent that is waterproof. This will cause water to bead-up on top of the tent and run off the side. You can use a standard lawn tarp as an alternative in a pinch, but it will be much heavier than a rainfly.
One major advantage of rain-flies for tents is that most tents include the rainfly when you purchase it. Although, the footprint is sold separately in most cases.
A footprint is a lightweight tarp that goes underneath your tent. These are designed to help extend the life of your tent, as well as add waterproofing to the bottom of the tent if the ground is already wet when you pitch the tent.
Although a bit heavier, lawn tarps make an excellent alternative to footprints, always make sure that your tarp or footprint does not stick out from under the tent. If it does, water will pool on the footprint or tarp and run under the tent.
When hammock camping, rain is just as much of an issue. You will need a rainfly that is designed to be used with hammocks. This type of rainfly is usually rectangular and will tie off to the tree that your hammock is tied to, as well as being staked on the four corners that go to the ground.
A lawn tarp is an alternative to rain-flies that are specifically for hammocks, but it is heavier and a bit more challenging to set up.
Quick tip: If you’re hammock camping in the rain, tie a shoelace to each end of your hammock. This will make water follow the shoelace down instead of going into the hammock. Although the rainfly will keep you dry, sometimes water will run down the straps for the hammock.
Staying safe when camping in the rain is always the top priority. There are several things to take into consideration. Flooding, slick rocks, and even lightning are all hazards to be prepared for.
Never camp in an area close to a body of water that is below the water level. Flash floods can occur in some areas due to heavy rain. Always read signs at trailheads, this is where warnings will be posted.
When hiking, always be aware of slick rocks and muddy areas, especially if you’re near a body of water. These rocks can grow algae and moss that will become extremely slippery when they’re wet.
If you hear thunder or see lightning, there are many things to be aware of such as falling trees, falling branches, lightning, and even fire. If possible, try to get to a safe place indoors if this type of storm occurs.
If you can’t get to a safe place inside, these are a few pointers to help keep you safe:
- Stay away from open fields. This will be the most dangerous place to be if there is lightning, as you will be the tallest thing in the field.
- Never camp near the tallest tree in a wooded area. This area is at a higher risk of a lightning strike. Lightning can be fatal up to ten meters from where the lightning hits, so you don’t want to be anywhere close to it.
- Stay away from high peaks and elevations. The higher up you are, the more the chances are of you getting hit by lightning. If you’re camping in an area like this, seek lower ground immediately.
Always be aware of rising waters. Many trails will involve river crossings when backpacking. Remember, as the water rises, currents get stronger and can be extremely dangerous. If possible, take a PFD (personal flotation device) with you if you know you will be crossing water.
There are many compact PFD options on the market that are lightweight and packable. These are worth every penny, as your life could depend on it. Some of these PFDs pack down so small that they can be worn as a bracelet and deployed if needed.
Dry bags are a roll-top bag that is designed to keep moisture sensitive gear dry. These are extremely useful if you plan to have things such as solar chargers, phone, or even a flashlight that isn’t waterproof. Keeping your gear in tip-top shape is very important, especially on long hikes.
You can purchase foldable fabric “kitchen sinks” that are made for backpacking. These are excellent for collecting rainwater. Although not necessarily safe to drink, you can collect this water for things such as putting out your campfire or rinsing dishes off.
If you use one of these sinks to clean dishes, always be sure to use biodegradable soap and bury any food scraps at least six inches below the ground. If you don’t do this, it could pose a threat to the local ecosystem and harm animals in the area. There are many biodegradable soap options designed specifically for camping.
Camping in the rain is often unexpected and having a plan of action is the best thing that you can do. Although you can’t stop the rain, you can be prepared for it. Always be sure that you have the correct gear and know the area that you’re camping in.
Knowing the area can help you find shelter when needed, as well as knowing which areas are more susceptible to flooding and other hazards such as slick walking surfaces.
There are countless gear options on the market to make camping in the rain safer and more enjoyable. Most of these gear options depend on your preference, so do your research on each piece of gear, read reviews, and compare!