Tips for Camping in the Rain
Sometimes rain cannot be avoided on a camping trip. Since I’m in California, we go to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the summertime, but it often rains, and sometimes it rains a lot.
When I first started canoeing, my canoe club had a camping trip on Memorial Day weekend. Even though rain was predicted for the weekend, we decided to proceed with the trip. After all, you tend to get wet canoeing, so what’s a little more water?
It poured so much the river rose to the point it was unsafe to canoe, but everyone still wanted to camp and hang out. We put tarps up, but I still got pretty wet and cold. Most everyone else stayed warm and dry. What? I vowed to be warm and dry the next time I camped in the rain.
Wet Weather Gear
The types of clothes and gear are probably most important to staying warm and dry. On the canoe trip, I was wearing cotton in camp. That’s a big NO when it is raining. When cotton gets wet, there’s no insulation and it takes a long time to dry. To stay warm and dry, dress in layers.
Here are some rainy day clothing tips:
- Base Layer: Synthetic wicking fabrics or wool. Wool works great, but there’s some newer lightweight materials now. One of the first things I got after the rainy canoe camping trip is the Patagonia Capilene top and bottoms. These are great to wear when it’s cold and hot since they wick moisture away from your skin. This material is so durable that I still have the same top and bottom that I have worn many trips over.
- Insulation Layer: Fleece or wool are commonly used for insulation. If it is really cold, another overlayer can be added. A small company that makes great fleece products is Lochsa Connection. You can get fleece to cover you from head to toe...one stop fleece shop.
- Overlayer: PrimaLoft is quite popular as it keeps you warm and isn’t bulky. Goose down is still used, though it doesn’t insulate that well when it’s wet. There are down jackets that have a water-resistant fabric on the outside that does a great job keeping the down dry.
- Rain Gear: A breathable rain jacket is a must-have. It’s worth investing in a good rain jacket that has the ability to close up around your wrists, neck, and waist. Gore-tex has been around since the 1970’s, but there are other breathable durable materials out there now.
- Hands, Feet, Head, and Neck: You can lose a lot of heat from your head, so wear a fleece or wool cap. Make sure your feet are dry.
- Bring an emergency change of clothes in a sealable plastic bag or dry bag.
Tent and Tarps
We were camping in Denali in Alaska for 3 days and it poured pretty much non-stop the whole time. My tent kept me dry...I’m so proud of the tent! Having the right tent is a key factor in staying dry. Here are some tips:
Quick assembly: It was raining when we got to the campsite so we had to put our tents up in the rain. It’s good to have a tent you don’t have to fumble around and has a lot of parts.
Large vestibule: A vestibule is really nice to have when it is raining so you can quickly get your gear out of the rain.
Right size: The right size tent will keep you warmer. More room in a tent can be nice, but then there’s more air space to heat up. I’d rather have a smaller tent with a separate vestibule. The other important factor is the tent profile. A lower profile tent can be warmer and easier to put up in the wind.
Ventilation: Condensation inside the tent can get things pretty wet especially when it is raining outside. Keep air circulating in the tent so condensation does not build up. If this does start to happen, move your gear away from the tent walls so it can dry out and your gear stays dry.
- Waterproofed seams: Prior to your trip, make sure you waterproof the seams and if it is an older tent, make sure it is still waterproof. I usually do this once at the beginning of the season, but if I am going on an extended trip, it is good to check the tent again.
- Tarps: these are necessary to stay dry if you are cooking in the rain. Make sure you bring rope and poles if required for assembly.
It was still raining in Denali when we packed up so everything was pretty wet. We had a layover day at a motel in Fairbanks so we borrowed hair dryers to get the gear at least so it wasn’t sopping wet.
Cooking in the Rain
Since we knew it was going to rain on the canoe trip, we were able to plan quick assemble meals at home. We made foil packet meals that could be placed directly on coals. We also made homemade fire starters so we had no problem getting a campfire going. Once there were hot coals, the foil packets went in and about 20 minutes later, dinner was ready.
We had hot water going a lot of the time for people to drink and stay hydrated. When it is cold and wet, you may not feel like drinking cold water, so warm tea or warm water is nice to drink.
Bring food that doesn’t require cooking. Energy bars, dried fruit, and nuts are good to munch on and help to keep your energy up.
Camping when the weather is raining can have added dangers. Be aware of your surroundings. You may not want to camp next to a hill that is unstable when it gets soaking wet. On the canoe trip, we took a look at the river and assessed it wasn’t safe to go for a paddle. We also made sure we camped far enough away from the river in case it did rise.
Be careful walking on rocks and on even ground. It can be slippery when wet.
Keep an eye on your fellow campers. Know the signs of hypothermia. If someone is demonstrating these signs, get them warmed up or to medical help if needed.
Use common sense and know when to call it quits and go home.