Tips for camping in the rain

Don't let a little rain spoil your camping trip. Here's what you need to know

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With winter nearly in the rear view, a string of rainy spring months awaits before the sun-filled days of summer. Because of this, many of you may already be second-guessing your decision to go camping this weekend or are currently bemoaning the lack of your favorite outdoor activity until the weather clears up.

Still, rain shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the great outdoors. With the perfect rain jacket and a little additional planning, you can camp comfortably regardless of the weather conditions. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your rainy-day adventures.

Check the weather

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Vaclav Volrab / 123RF

The best way to avoid camping in the rain is to avoid the rain altogether. If the idea of cooking in a constant drizzle or walking around with damp socks isn’t really your thing, make sure to check the latest weather report via one of our preferred apps before setting out on your next trip. While this might mean a lot of canceled or rescheduled outings due to weather, you’ll be far less likely to get caught outside during a storm and that’s definitely worth something.

Choose the right place to make camp

If you do decide to brave the rain, camping is still an enjoyable pastime but it’s important to put some thought into how and where you set up camp. Take note of the highest point in any given area and if you can, pitch your tent there. That way, if it does start to rain, water will pool in divots and run freely downhill and not into your tent. Avoid setting up too close to rivers and lakes as well because when the rain really starts coming down, bodies of water can flood and drench your belongings.

Plastic for days!

Plastic will be your best friend when you need to keep something dry on the trail. From ponchos and trash bags to keep you and your equipment dry, to tarps and plastic sandwich bags for more versatility, make sure you pack a lot of plastic if rain is on the docket. If laid flat or folded, plastic shouldn’t take up a lot of space in your pack but is a real lifesaver and provides comfort when you really need it. Put tarps on the ground and hang them from trees to create dry areas in your camp — do make sure they are at least eight feet above your campfire or stove, though.

Bring waterproof shoes and extra socks

One of the worst parts about doing anything active in the rain is the risk of getting your feet wet. Not only can moist socks or shoes make your whole body feel colder, it also makes you more likely to get blisters. Invest in a solid pair of waterproof or water-resistant shoes and make sure to bring a few extra pairs of socks. Your feet will thank you.

Avoid cotton clothing

Despite your best laid plans to stay dry, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. If you end up without shelter and accidentally get wet, it’s crucial to stay warm. Wear lots of layers — like one of these base layers — and make sure none are cotton. While comfortable and lightweight during the summer, once wet, cotton loses its insulating properties while also taking a long time to dry. Opt instead for polyester or wool layers.

Hand warmers aren’t just for skiing

Gloves and hand warmers go a long way to making you feel more comfortable in a downpour. Small and easy-to-use, hand warmers are also very versatile. Despite their name, they can be used for more than just your hands. Put them in your shoes or inside your jacket for added comfort.

Put your clothes in your sleeping bag

Nothing is more inviting than a warm bed. Whether you’re at home or in the forest, the idea of climbing out of a cozy bed or sleeping bag into the cold makes even the most optimistic person a little sour. If that also means putting on cold or damp clothing, that’s even worse. To make your morning outside a bit more enjoyable while you make your coffee or tea, put your clothes for the next day in your sleeping bag to keep them warm. The heat from your body speeds up the drying process and makes getting out of a bed just a touch easier.

Keep the fire going

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To save yourself a lot of trouble and potential discomfort, make sure to keep your fire burning as long as possible. Wrap dry firewood in trash bags or stock up on newspaper to use as kindling to be sure you’re never without a source of heat. Hot food or beverages also do a lot for morale and the ability to warm up or dry your wet supplies will make or break your rainy-day camping trip.

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