Relaxing in a dry tent, sipping hot coffee, and listening to the pitter-patter of rain embodies tranquillity.
But before charging off into the next storm front, understand that wet weather camping brings challenges. Getting soaked in an afternoon rain before heading home for a hot shower is no big deal. That same situation can become dire if you have to sleep outside.
At a minimum, have a rain shell/jacket. They won't keep you dry forever but will buy you time and are essential to a basic layering system.
Top tips to deal with wet weather while camping
Choosing the right tent
The first step to having a successful camping trip in the rain is to choose the right tent. Look for a tent made of waterproof or water-resistant material with a rainfly covering the entire tent.
Check the tent's Hydrostatic Head Rating (HH Rating) to let you know how water resistant the tent is.
A Hydrostatic Head of 3000mm means that a tent fabric could hold a column of water that is 3000mm tall.
A good tent should also have a sturdy frame and strong pegs to keep it firmly in place.
If you want to upgrade on all-around weather resistance and comfort, then roof tents have gained popularity over the last few years. Sitting on top of your vehicle away from the mud, with a comfy foam mattress and a typical HH Rating of 3000mm, has made it a convenient choice.
Mindful Tent Placement
As with cold weather, sheltering your tent behind or under barriers can be incredibly helpful in deflecting inclement weather. But sometimes, a potential shelter can hide other concerns.
At its worst, wet weather can bring flooding. Or a soaked tent floor in the middle of the night, at its most inconvenient. In addition to these potential pitfalls, inspect the ground where you want to place your tent:
Is it a low-lying bowl shape or elevated with drainage?
Does it look like water has run through it before
Are there watermarks in the dirt?
The benefits of a tarp
Rain is disruptive to cooking food and relaxing with friends after a long day outdoors. The versatile tarp can be used as an emergency shelter, ground cover, and water collector.
Consider a tarp even if you're car camping and have an awning. It allows you to extend the size of your cover or block the wind. It doesn't have to be fancy. A simple hardware store tarp will suffice. There are ultralight options for backpackers, but you will pay for the privilege.
Pro-tip: Always bring a paracord and stakes for your tarp.
Staying warm & dry
When camping in the rain, it's important to stay warm, so bring warm layers of clothing, a good sleeping bag, and a waterproof blanket.
Use a camping stove to make hot drinks and warm food. Use insulated coffee mugs to help make your warm beverages last! And avoid spending too much time in wet clothes!
Use a bag liner to keep your clothes dry
Who doesn't want dry clothes when they're cold and wet? Not only does it elevate your mood, but it can also be life-saving when temperatures drop.
Slithering into a rain-soaked sleeping bag is guaranteed misery. When wet, down feathers lose their loft and thus their warmth.
Most backpacks are not waterproof, so hikers should store their clothes, sleep system, and electronics in a waterproof bag liner.
Pro-tip: Heavy-duty garbage bags are a cheap alternative to dry bags and bag liners. Nervous about a hole? Double bag it.
The Alan Rogers Team
Every year our team of expert assessors visit hundreds of campsites throughout Europe, in search of the best.
Alan Rogers started with the specific aim of providing people with the necessary information to make an informed decision about their holiday destination. Today we still do that.
The information we provide now takes many forms, not just printed guides. One element that has not changed is our expertise.