Post Summary: How To Camp In The Rain and Tips On Staying Dry Outside
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you know it rains about 9 months out of the year.
June-August is a glorious time when we finally see the sun, but that doesn’t mean the rain is completely gone!
We’ve learned the hard way that if you’re camping in the PNW, you must bring the proper rain equipment with you.
Example: We are driving down the Pacific Coast in a few days and camping along the way. I’ve been checking the weather, and guess what it looks like?
A lot of the following tips include everyday things you can ‘hack’ to fit your camping needs. Most of these things you can borrow from your neighbors, like tarps and tents.
Berty and I are young and fairly stingy, so we tried to be as thrifty as possible. Here are our tips on camping in the rain…
How To Survive Camping In The Rain
Note: This post contains affiliate links to useful tools to help you stay dry while camping. Any purchase made will help us stay dry too!
1. Set Up Your Tent On The Highest Surface
First thing’s first: Make sure to pick the proper location to set up your tent. Spend some time surveying your campsite, and predict where any water will runoff around the area. From there, set up your tent in the highest or driest location.
This can look like on a hill, under a tree, or in an area that’s protected somehow.
Setting your tent up on higher ground means there is less risk of flooding. It prevents water runoff from pooling under you as you sleep, and you’ll remain high and dry!
Note: This also applies when camping on the beach in Washington. The higher the ground, the drier you’ll be.
2. Pack A Tarp (or 2 or 3!)
Tarps are the quickest, cheapest way to waterproof any campsite. You can practice the best setup strategies at home before you go.
Make sure to angle it away from the places where you are eating and sleeping, ideally in a place that runs water away from your living areas.
If you are going to put a tarp under your tent, make sure to tuck in the edges so that water doesn’t pool into the center.
3. Create An Outdoor Living Space
Chances are, you won’t want to be sitting out at the picnic table in a complete downpour. In order to still enjoy camping in the rain, consider packing a canopy tent or screened house to extend your camping living space.
Set it up close to your sleeping area, and above a picnic table. This way, you can cook outside under the protection of your shelter.
4. Sleep Warm and Layer Up
One of the most important aspects of camping in the rain is to stay warm and stay dry. One way to do this is to choose a sleeping bag that is at least good for 3-seasons, and ideally water repellent. An alternative is to purchase a bivy sack, which is basically a waterproof outer lining for your sleeping bag.
Make sure to pack plenty of layers. Your inner lining should be of polyester or wool to wick sweat from your body. Mid-layers should retain heat like a down jacket or fleece sweater. Finally, an outer layer should be waterproof and windproof.
5. Warm Up Your Clothes In Your Sleeping Bag
There’s nothing worse than changing into freezing cold clothes early in the morning. To make changing more bearable, we pack our clothes in these compressible organizers and put them by our feet when we sleep. We wake up to pre-warmed clothes!
6. Elevate Yourself Off The Ground
The more you can lift yourself off the ground, the warmer you will stay when sleeping. Berty and I like to use a sleeping pad with our sleeping bags.
If you don’t have one, try stacking blankets or newspaper between you and the ground. Anything helps! We also found a link to setting up a tarp when using a hammock vs a tent. Super useful!
7. Tell Someone About Your Camping Itinerary
It’s important to take all safety precautions when camping, especially when you are camping in the rain. Make sure to leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust. Tell them when you’ll be back, and disclose any other important details like your car model, reservation numbers, or ticket confirmations.
If you are taking a solo camping trip, make sure to follow these handy solo camping tips to make your trip as safe as possible! A lot can happen to you when solo camping, and the risk is especially high when camping in the rain. Make sure to be prepared before your next Pacific Northwest camping trips!
8. Bring Proper Rain Gear
One way to combat the wet weather is by packing adequate rain gear.
Bring some rain boots or waterproof hiking boots to keep your feet dry. If you are planning to camp often in the PNW, it’s smart to invest in a quality raincoat as well.
For even more rain protection, consider packing gaiters to keep your socks and pants dry. Rain pants are also another great options, especially if you plan to go hiking in the rain.
9. Bring A Clothesline To Dry Wet Clothes
No matter how prepared for the rain you may be, chances are you’ll need to dry things out after a day of adventure.
Pack a portable clothesline with small clips like this one (or in our case, just string) and hang it under your tarp cover. If there is absolutely no dry place to air out your stuff, temporarily pack it and hang it out again when the sun comes out.
Just don’t pack it away for good when it’s still wet. Mildew is nobody’s friend. At the end of your trip, lay out your clothes and tent in a backyard, or over a railing to let it air dry completely.
10. Pack Plenty of Garbage Bags For Wet Items
Something didn’t fully dry? Pack it in a garbage bag to prevent it from getting all your other gear wet once it’s packed away. Just remember to take it out to fully dry later.
You can also use garbage bags as you camp in the rain. If you are camping in a tent, take off your shoes before entering, and stash them away in a garbage bag. Store this bag right outside your tent to keep your things dry!
11. Store Gear In Sealable Tubs
Just recently, we bought a large bin from Lowe’s to store all our camping gear. Turns out, it also doubles as convenient rain-proof storage!
Bins are especially helpful if you are sleeping out of your car. Moving them around to make room when you are going to bed exposes them to rain, and it’s important for your gear to be covered in transport!
Packing in plastic bins not only keeps your stuff dry but you can also re-pack and reuse the bins over and over again. Store things like your camping hygiene kit, camping meals, and miscellaneous backpacking gear in storage bins.
Read More: Our Essentials For Any Camping Trip
12. Make Meals The Main Event (The Cozier the Better!)
After a day of cold and wet (but fun!) outdoor activities, it is SO rewarding to return to warm, cozy food.
Your body needs to burn more calories to stay warm, so plan on packing hearty, rich meals to prep over the camp stove. Prepare as much as you can before your trip, so you don’t have to worry about chopping or slicing in the rain.
Think soups, stews, and anything that can warm you up and hydrate you fast!
Want to gear up for your own camping trip? It doesn’t have to be simply camping in the Pacific Northwest! We’ve made a super-easy checklist you can print out and use as you are packing! It’s totally free!
What tips do you have for camping in the rain? We’d love to hear more tips and tricks – leave us a comment below!
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