Rainy days are all part and parcel of the camping experience and they needn’t interfere with your camping plans. In fact, as long as you’re well prepared, the sound of rainfall can quite often add a new dimension to how you relate to the environment in which you’re in.
The four main areas of consideration and adjustment you will have to make are shelter, comfort, cooking and entertainment.
Firstly, before you even venture out with your tent, if it’s new, you should test it to see if it’s rain-worthy. Hose it down before your trip and crawl inside to check for leaks. If you discover any, then you can apply specialist seam sealer to the leaky areas. Although, if your tent is a fairly recent purchase, then there should be no issues with leakage. This is because all modern tents should have a sufficiently high hydrostatic head, making them waterproof even in very heavy rain.
Once you’re at the site, check the lay of the land and don’t pitch your tent where you can see any evidence of previous water runoff and don’t pitch it at the bottom of a slope. Try to find level ground. If it’s raining when you arrive and if you have a large tarp with you, fix that up first which will keep you dry when you pitch your tent underneath it. However, don’t bother with a tarp if it’s at the expense of then having to camp too close to trees or underneath them. Although your instincts might tell you that the tree canopy will provide you with additional protection from the rain, once the rain stops, you’ll soon get frustrated by the constant dripping of rainwater from the leaves. More seriously, however, is the possibility of putting yourself and others in danger should the rain escalate into a thunderstorm which could bring down a tree and don’t forget that trees attract lightning.
If it is raining when you arrive and a tarp isn’t a practical solution, it’s best to wait until the rain eases if you have an alternative form of shelter, such as a car and, if you know a storm is on its way, pack up and live to camp another day, unless you have no other alternative.
Rain is often accompanied by wind so make sure that your tent and fly sheet is staked down well and use a natural windbreak when choosing where to pitch your tent to give you added shelter.
If the weather forecast is for rain, make sure you bring the appropriate clothing. Plenty of extra socks are essential and bring rubber or rain-proof shoes or boots which you don’t mind ruining if it’s muddy. If you’re coming by car, it makes sense to bring an extra sleeping bag along with any additional wet weather items. You can leave the extra gear in the car where you know it’s going to stay dry. Ponchos or cagoules, and lightweight rainproof trousers will protect your clothing from getting wet. These are much better than relying on an umbrella, which may keep you drier overall but will hamper your ability to carry out any campsite tasks and, if it’s stormy and windy, they can get easily blown inside out and can even be a lightning hazard.
Once inside your tent, keep all of your gear away from the camp walls and make sure not to touch the walls of the tent. This is generally good advice even on sunny days as tents tend to get wet from dew in the morning.
Stow any items you think you’ll need in the tent for that evening and next morning so that no one has to make a mad dash in the rain back to the car to get them. If possible, store all your belongings in plastic resealable (ziplock) bags.
If you intend cooking on a camping stove, your plans will still be the same and you can carry on as soon as the rain has dissipated. However, if the rain’s set in, you should never use a stove inside a tent, especially inside a smaller tent and you should make do with sandwiches and cold food instead. Using a stove inside the tent is highly dangerous and it’s not worth the risk. If, however, you were planning on building a campfire, you should try to bring extra supplies of wood with you before travelling if you expect rain or else you’ll also have to resort to cold food and/or sandwiches. If the rain is heavy and persistent, you’ll not be able to find wood dry enough to get a fire going and, even if you’ve brought dry wood with you, it can be a fruitless task trying to light it and keep it going so you need to be adaptable when considering meals.
If the weather means you are restricted to staying in your tent, entertainment is likely to be the most frustrating aspect of the conditions, especially if you have young children. Bring ‘rainy day’ board games with you and some playing cards and anything else that you know which will occupy the children….at least for a while! Whilst being ‘cooped up’ in your tent isn’t going to be a whole lot of fun, it can be a good time to bond with your children. It can also be a good time to educate them so it can be useful to bring along some field guides and share them with the kids. The birds and animals are still going to be out in the rain so it might be a good opportunity for your kids to identify any birds, insects, trees and wildflowers they can see from the comfort of the tent entrance.
Whilst incessant rain for more than a day can reduce the pleasure and enjoyment of a camping trip, a brief period of rain can offer a whole new ‘take’ on understanding nature, wildlife and the environment around you and, as long as you’re prepared and stay as dry and warm as possible, rainy days should never ruin a camping trip. It’s only nature and, after all, you’ve chosen to experience the outdoors so why not make the most of it?