There’s nothing more soul sapping than being wet inside your tent while camping in rain, especially heavy rain!
Take it from someone who’s experienced wet camping one too many times.
Most recently after struggling to fall asleep in a wet sleeping bag, I decided no more!
I’ve taken all my years of outdoor experience and that of my camping buddies, to compile 15 foolproof tips (that never fail) on how to stay dry while camping in rain.
Let’s get started.
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Understanding The Weather
Before setting out on your outdoor adventure, it’s important that you know what the weather will be doing for the duration of your camping trip.
This is pretty simple and I’m sure we have all done this before, it’s called: watching the weather.
However, there is another weather prediction app I like to use that not only predicts the rain, but also accurately predicts the wind.
The app is called Windfinder.
Rain is one thing, but rain accompanied with strong wind is something entirely different.
Using Windfinder you’ll want to avoid camping in any conditions that look like this.
Well, those are tropical cyclone conditions. Ok, maybe I’ve used a fairly extreme example, but a general rule of thumb is to try and avoid camping in wind speeds greater than 25 knots.
In these conditions, rain will be able to penetrate your tent from all angles and a basic rain tarp will offer you no use.
- Tip 1 – Avoid camping in rain with wind speeds that reach over 25 knots.
Waterproof Your Tent
No matter how “waterproof” your tent manufacturers claim it to be, leakages will always be possible in heavy rain.
To add some extra waterproofing abilities to your tent, I’d recommend using this seam sealer from Gear Aid – thousands of reviews cannot lie.
Take this review from Amazon for example: “Worked well for waterproofing some DIY additions I made to my camping tarp. Had a hard time finding something designed to work with polyurethane coating instead of silicone coating, saw this recommended on a camping website somewhere and it does indeed work well with the material.”
- Tip 2 – Waterproof the seams of your tent with Gear Aids seam sealer.
Camp in a Protected Location
Trees are not only great for sleeping in hammocks, they also offer natural protection from the rain and wind.
Try pick a camping site that has some trees overhead or is at least surrounded by some bush.
Once in Spain, Leoni and I camped through hurricane conditions with wind speeds reaching over 80 miles an hour. Without the surrounding trees for protection, camping in rain with such strong winds would have devastated out tent!
(Please note: camping around trees in such strong wind can be dangerous, make sure you check for any dead trees surrounding your camp.)
- Tip 3 – Camp in a protected area
Choose The Right Tent
There’s no doubt that a four seasons tent like the Geertop Backpacking Tent, is going to offer you protection from the rain.
If you know you’ll be camping in the rain at some point, then it makes no sense investing in a basic summer tent. If you are caught out in some super rainy conditions with this type of tent, you’ll be sorry, plain and simple.
Invest in a decent double layered four seasons tent and follow each one of these tips and you are good to go!
- Tip 4 – Invest in a double layered waterproof four seasons tent.
Protect Your Tent With a Rain Tarp
Rain tarps are an excellent way to further protect your tent while camping in rain.
Make sure you follow tip one and two before setting up your rain tarp though.
A high quality rain tarp like the one from Free Soldier is going to offer you excellent protection from all angles. Rain will have to penetrate the tarp (unlikely) before reaching your double layered waterproof tent.
I think it’s safe to say you are going to be stone dry all night every night with this type of set up.
- Tip 5 – Protect your tent from the elements with a high quality rain tarp.
Pack Waterproof Clothing
Waterproof clothing is a must, especially the essential items such as shoes and jackets.
Your main aim should be to keep your base layers dry. That way before you enter your tent you can take off the wet “shell” clothing and be left arm and comfy in dry clothes.
By now you are well protected from the rain outside, but the last thing you want is to bring the rain with you.
Check out some waterproof clothing over here.
- Tip 6 – Bring along some waterproof clothing (shoes and jackets).
Create a Rainproof Area for your Clothes and Food
Again this is where a rain tarp comes in handy so I recommend you bring along two on your camping trip.
It’s important to have a dry area for your clothes. Anything that gets wet should not be crumpled up and thrown into the dark corner of your tent (unless you like the smell of mildew of course).
You rather want to hang your wet clothing on a clothes line under your tarp so they can dry.
As for your cooking area, I do not think I need to explain why it’s probably best to have a rain shelter. Hint: rain and fire do not go well together.
- Tip 7 – Use a rain tarp to protect your cooking/clothes drying area.
Add an Extra Layer of Insulation
When the ground is wet and cold you are going to want to add an extra layer of protection.
I recommend simply using a closed cell foam pad to put underneath your sleeping pad. This extra layer of protection is going to insulate your from the cold ground.
Read another one of my articles: keeping warm in a tent for some more information on this topic.
If you’ve got the space you can also look into an elevated sleeping cot, this way you can avoid the cold ground all together.
- Tip 8 – Use an extra layer of insulation under your sleeping pad.
Keep Your Firewood Dry
The easiest way to do this while camping in the rain, is to move your firewood underneath your car.
If you do not have a car with you, I’d recommend using one of your raincoats or tarps to cover your firewood.
This way once the rain has stopped, you’ll have some bone-dry wood to make a crackling hot fire.
- Tip 9 – Keep firewood dry underneath your car or under a rain jacket.
Start a Campfire in the Rain
Now that you have some dry wood from our previous tip, getting a fire started in light rain is actually not too hard.
Especially if you use a product called Instafire. This is an eco-friendly version of firelighters made from recycled wood, volcanic rock, and a new, patented blend of food-grade paraffin wax.
Once lit Instafire burns for 25 minutes and will sustain winds up to 30 mph, burning up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add some of your dry wood on top of this and you’ll have solid campfire, even in light rainy conditions.
- Tip 10 – Use Instafire to make campfires in the rain.
Use a Rug at your Tent Entry
This tip should not be overlooked. Something as simple as keeping a rug at your tents entrance will greatly increase your comfort level whilst camping in rain.
Remember when things get wet, things get muddy.
The last thing you want to do is bring that mud inside of your tent.
An entrance rug will allow you to wipe of your shoes before stepping inside of your tent.
- Tip 11 – Put a rug at the entrance of your tent.
Create a Covered Entrance to Your Tent
Another cool tip for when you camp in the rain, is to have a separate covered entrance infronmt of your tent.
This area is perfect to keep ypour wet shoes and any other smaller items you dont actually want inside your sleeping area.
Some tents come with this entrance built into their design.
If you don’t have one of these tents you can use the Free Soldier rain tarp to recreate this.
- Tip 12 – Create a covered entrance to your tent.
Use Some Hand Warmers
Hand warmers are great to put inside your shoes or to simply just hold in your hands.
Keeping your hands warm is essential to complete many of the tasks required while camping. For example cooking or tying knots are close to impossible with freezing hands.
Pop some hand warmers in your jacket pockets and whenever you feel the cold rainy weather getting to your hands, you know what to do!
- Tip 13 – Put some hand warmers in your pockets
Light up your Campsite
Something I love doing is lighting up my campsite, especially in the rain, I absolutely love the reflection effect!
One idea is to attach reflectors to the trees surrounding your tent, this way if your return to camp in the dark you’ll know where you’re at.
Once you are settled, I recommend lighting tea candles and putting them inside mason jars, you can thank me later!
- Tip 14 – Light up your campsite.
Use Ziplock Bags for Electronics
For extra protection against the rain, I recommend ziplocking all your important electronics.
The last thing you want while camping in rain is for your new DSLR camera to get wet and bust.
Stay safe, ziplock them!
- Tip 15 – Ziplock important electronics.
Best 5 Waterproof Tents for Camping in Rain
1. Geertop Waterproof 4 Seasons Tent – $110,99
Amazon Review: “Considering Iceland’s wild weather, I really had to have faith buying this 4 season tent online being our only shelter for this trip. Happily we had no problems in wind and rain, as we stayed dry and warm and were happy with its easy set up from mountain to beach settings.
Plenty of room for two with gear inside and in the vestibule and we slept well despite changeable weather. There were plenty of opportunities for failure, but I found it comfortable and secure and had a great trip without any tent issues. Will need to test in deep snow on next adventure!” – Gregg
2. Moonlence Waterproof tent – $79,99
Amazon review: “I took this out over thanksgiving for about 4 days and it rained practically the entire time fluctuating between drizzle and heavy rain but never a solid downpour, so I can’t speak to that. This bad boy held up and kept all our gear dry while we were out hiking all day. We did have some tree coverage so that may have helped keep the rain off as well but even still I was impressed.
I bought the 2 person tent and it was perfect for 2 people but one night we even managed to cram a third in the tent. Not terribly comfy but we stayed extra warm despite the cold temps!
When the tent packs up(which is fairly easy to do and even easier to set up) it compacts to about the length of my forearm so it fits in my day pack nicely.
Overall I am pleased with it, especially for the price. I would have liked if it was even smaller, but again I got the 2 person tent so you’re carrying enough tent for multiples. Recommend!” – D Miller
3. Coleman Sundome tent – $69,99
Amazon Review: “My girlfriend and I just got back from Electric Forest. It was my first time using this tent. It was super windy and was raining buckets to the point where there were inches of standing water outside the tent (see photo). Without even treating it with camp dry or any sealant, we were bone dry and cozy in this tent for five days, and we only had the rain fly on and a tarp that covered about half the tent. It is a freaking TANK!
Been camping my whole life and never had a tent this waterproof. It’s also super breathable even with the rain fly and a tarp; the little vent near the bottom is a great feature.
Do yourself a favor and get this tent and a big tarp to go over it, and maybe a drop cloth to protect the bottom, and I promise you’ll be dry in any storm. Plus, bonus points for being super easy to set up, and tall enough to stand in! Can’t wait to use this tent again, it’s better than any of the more expensive tents I’ve ever used.” – Molly
4. Hewolf Waterproof Tent – $89,99
Amazon review: “This tent was just what I needed for camping. Large enough for my cot and very cozy. It was a bit hard to figure out all the steps but then it was super easy for 1 person to put it up. It kept me and my bedding completely dry during a heavy rain. I definitely recommend this tent.” – Paula
5. Featherstone Waterproof Tent – $109,99
Amazon review: “I’m just getting into camping and backpacking and I found this tent at a great value and being an amateur, I made the purchase. This tent has been so good to me! It comes with everything you need (poles, stakes, ground cloth, guy lines, rain fly).
I had no problems with condensation, high winds, heavy rain, or any other weather related issues. You can’t see through the rainfly from outside so you have plenty of privacy and space on the inside.” – Amazon Customer
If you prepare well, camping in rain can be extremely rejuvenating. In my opinion it’s one of the best ways to reconnect with nature and forget about all the modern day stresses back at home.
You have one life, get outside your comfort zone and experience all that nature has to offer!
For those of you who have experience camping in heavy rain and wind, I’d love for you to share your memory with the rest of us in the comments section below 🙂
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Kyle was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. In his spare time he kitesurfs with whales, gets attacked by jellyfish, SUP’s with great white sharks and rescues seals. He is not a best selling author like every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there but loves to write nevertheless. Especially about climate science and animals.