Camping in Bad Weather

Nobody sets off on a camping trip wanting bad weather. If you are camping anywhere in the British Isles however, it’s inevitable that before long – as a camper you may be caught in a downpour or high winds.

Such is the climate in this part of Europe, that even in July or August, you could encounter winds of up to 70 mph or heavy rains and floods.

Choosing a Camp Site

If you’re relatively new to camping, do some research before setting out. You should be able to find reviews of campsites and establish whether they’re prone to flooding or set in exposed places where wind might be a problem.

At the Site

Once you’re at a site you may or may not have a choice of where you pitch your tent. If you feel your pitch is completely unsuitable speak to the site owner/manager and ask to be moved. Here are some tips to keep your tent in one piece and keep yourselves as warm and dry as possible:

Choosing a Pitch

Your choice of pitch can have a big influence on your tent’s performance in poor weather conditions. If you arrive on a beautiful, still summer day, what may seem like the perfect pitch could turn into a mud bath as soon as it rains. Here’s what to look for:

  • A flat surface – check where any water might drain away and for hollows in the ground where water might ‘lie’
  • If you’re near a river or stream check that you are at a higher level and try to imagine your tent’s postion in the event of the river flooding or bursting its banks.
  • Try and find out where any wind might come from – don’t pitch your tent into the wind and look for an area that provides a barrier against wind such as a hedge, fence or bushes.

If it Rains

If it rains heavily you’ll be walking mud in and out of your tent. If you have a sewn-in groundsheet, reserve an area near the door where you can put shoes and wet items. You won’t be able to dry things easily if the rains persists, so plan for extra clothing unless there’s a laundrette on your site.

If your Tent Leaks

There’s not much you can do immediately if your tent roof leaks – even if you have patching material or waterproofing spray, the tent material needs to be really dry before you can apply it. Use dirty clothing or towels to mop up as much as you can and prevent anything else getting wet.

If Water Seeps in Underneath the Tent

If you don’t have an attached groundsheet and water has seeped in, you’ll need to ensure all your belongings are raised off the ground – you can build makeshift racks with sticks and string, upturned buckets or laundry baskets etc. Next check out why the water is coming in – you might be able to block it or dig a small trench to divert the water away (check with the site owner before doing this).

As soon as the rain clears, get your wet belongings outside to air and dry as much as possible.

Always pack a waterproof coat and wellies or waterproof walking boots. Once a campsite has been rained on it can quickly become very muddy and you’ll avoid foot problems (“trench foot” has been a problem at festivals over recent years) by keeping them nice and dry.


Strong winds can rip a tent – so ensure you pitch in as protected an area as possible. If you have room to pack a windbreak, this can offer some protection and you can move it around depending on the wind direction. Similarly, if you have a car, you could park your car to try and buffer some of the wind too. As the wind picks up, check all your guy ropes and pegs are firmly in. Pack some good quality string (or spare guy ropes) and extra pegs, so you can knock in some extra guys if needed.

Staying Warm

Nights can get very cold even in summer, especially in windy weather. The first thing to remember, to avoid getting too cold, is to stay dry, so air your sleeping bag if you can – to dry away sweat or dampness and remove all wet clothing before going to bed. Pack extra jumpers or fleeces for cold evenings. Hats and gloves will protect you from losing body heat and may be necessary in spring or autumn. If you’re camping in winter, you’ll need to take additional precautions – this topic is dealt with elsewhere on this site.

Don’t Despair!

It’s easy to become despondent if you’re camping in several days of persistent rain. Don’t let it put you off camping – it really doesn’t always rain – even in Britain. Here are some ways to cope with rainy/windy weather when you’re camping:

a) Put on your waterproofs and go for a long walk, you might be surprised by some of the wildlife that comes out when it rains.
b) Head for a pub, restaurant or café where you can get some hot food, you’ll feel you’ve deserved it after a long, wet walk.
c) Light your lantern or torch to brighten up your tent, wrap up in blankets or your sleeping bags and get a out a board game or pack of cards.
d) If your stove is safe to use inside the tent, cook some soup or hot chocolate and play word games or charades.
e) If you have your car, why not go to the pictures and enjoy a film before heading back and snuggling into a warm sleeping bag?
f) Check out the local indoor attractions before you go camping, you should find some rainy day options that don’t cost the earth if you do your research in advance.

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Camping Expert