Camping in the Rain


“It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.”  -Dave Barry

Weather can be so unpredictable sometimes.  There may just be a small chance of rain in the forecast and that “chance” could be right over your campground.  For those of you who enjoy camping on a regular basis, you know that rain is just something that you need to be prepared for.  This post should give you some ideas of what to do when it rains while you are camping.  I will share some of my own experiences as well.

Preparation

Preparation for rain can be done even before you plan your campout.  If you have had your tent for a while, take some time to waterproof it.  Purchase some fabric waterproofing spray and just follow the instructions.  We waterproof our tent about every two years.  There are also products  you can purchase to reseal the seams, but in my experience, waterproofing the tent does a good enough job.  Check the forecast right before you leave.  Some parks even print out the local forecast and post it at the main office.  When packing for your trip, remember to bring your raincoat.  Sure, you might not even use it, but if you need it, then you have it.  Another thing you might want to pack if you are a sensitive sleeper is ear plugs.  A raindrop hitting the roof of your tent can be very loud and even louder with thousands of raindrops.  The sound may keep you up throughout the night if it rains a lot and having the ear plugs will help muffle the sound.  Preparation for the weather can really help make a campout more enjoyable, so be sure to take the time to do it.

The weekend I planned to go camping has rain in the forecast, now what?

I say, go camping anyway.  Bad weather often produces the best camping memories.  It is important to anticipate that you may not be able to do everything you originally planned.  It is important to have a backup plan and other activities that you can do if your trip gets rained out.  On a recent campout with my Boy Scout troop, we got hit hard with rain on one particular day.  The schedule that day was to wake up, make breakfast, and work on merit badges in the morning until lunch and afterwards we would go swimming.  A chance of rain was in the forecast, but I thought it was supposed to be in the evening.  After waking up the scouts at 6:30 am sharp, the first drops of rain started to fall.  It wasn’t long before there was a torrential downpour.  Every thing at camp was getting wet.  It was too wet to start a fire and every bench and chair we had was wet.  So, we decided that we needed to set up a shelter.  It turned out that we had everything we needed for a shelter, including and extra large tarp, but it wasn’t easy setting it up in the rain.  After we finally got that all setup then we began to work on breakfast. By the time we got the shelter set up and breakfast cooked and cleaned up, it was only about an hour or so before lunchtime.  I was ready to start working on a merit badge, but everything at camp was wet.  On a whim, I decided that we would go to another part of the park and use one of the picnic shelters.  It worked great for what we needed.  That afternoon, we passed on swimming because it was too cold, but we ended up having a great time playing card games.   Even though we had to completely ignore our schedule for the day, we ended up getting some things done and having a great time.

Camping in severe weather

Storms can make great photographic opportunities.

When staying outside among the elements (aka camping outside) weather becomes more of a factor than on your average day at home.  If you find yourself camping in severe weather, it is really important to be alert and find shelter.  In the Midwest, thunderstorms can be a bunch of rain or it could result in a tornado.  If you are not sure and it looks bad, err on the side of caution.  One of the worst storms that Mary and I got caught in was during a campout with friends over Memorial Day weekend.  Before we left home, we noticed that on Memorial Day there would be a chance of thunderstorms, but seeing as that would be our last day camping, we figured to we could pack up camp early that day and avoid them.  As it turned out, the storms came Sunday night while we were sleeping.  I awoke that night to the rain and a very loud crash of thunder.  We were in tents and our campsite was surrounded by large trees.  The last thing we wanted was a large branch to land on our site.  I peaked out of the tent to see how bad everything was and I saw a flash of lightning hit the ground not far from us.  The storm was right on top of us.  I called out to my friends and we made a dash to the car.  We had no idea how bad the storm was going to get or if there was any chance of a tornado.  When we got in the car we turned on the radio for information, but we couldn’t find any stations with a live DJ or a weather report.  We drove to the ranger station, but of course no one was there.  The ranger station had an open parking lot, so we just parked there for the night and all tried to sleep in the car.  It wasn’t ideal, but one tent was flooded and it was safer in the parking lot than underneath a bunch of trees.  As it turned out, our campsite was safe from any damage, it was just really wet.  After that campout, Mary and I invested in a weather radio and we have not been caught in a bad storm since.  Severe weather can be scary, but it helps to be prepared with a weather radio so you can know what is going on.  Also, pay attention to where you set up your tent.  Make sure you do not have any dead branches above you.  Avoid setting up your tent in any kind of dip in the ground.  Even if it is a very shallow dip, it will still be a place where water collects and as a result, cause puddles in your tent.

Remember, even if you are having a frustrating campout due to the weather, sometimes those trips result in the best stories to tell later.  Prepare yourself for the weather and have a great time camping.  If you get a little wet, it’s not the end of the world.  You will dry out… eventually.

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One Response to “Camping in the Rain”

  1. Rebeca says:

    You did not indicate how cold temureatpres will drop at night. I sleep overnight at zero degrees quite frequently. A tent retains some body heat. A zero-degree sleeping bag like the Marmot Never Summer, $ 300, helps retain heat. An insulated heating pad, such as the Big Agnes Dual Core, $ 110, helps retain heat and separate your body from the frozen ground beneath your tent. Boiling a few liters of water for Nalgene bottles to put inside your sleeping bag helps add heat. Eating a hot meal generates heat. Since three in the morning is usually the coldest temperature of a night, drinking a bottle filled with hot chocolate helps create heat.

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