When we plan camping trips, it’s always in the hope of blue skies.
If you prepare for rain and chilly days, though, you can extend your camping season…and stay comfortable.
Here’s our guide to making the most of being outdoors in a tent, campervan or caravan…whatever the weather.
Latest update: November 2020
Setting up camp in the rain
If you’ve been checking the forecast before you go, you’ll have a sense of what to expect and you can prepare.
Often, though, you might arrive in sunshine and get a surprise soaking. Here are some tips for choosing your pitch and setting up if it’s raining or if rain threatens.
Look at the rain running off that SOLAR light! The awning and tarp are keeping us dry, though.
Skip to the loos
Choose a pitch fairly close to the toilets. It can get pretty miserable putting on jackets and wellies every time you want to go to the loo, have a shower or do some washing up.
Make it easier by not having far to go. Having your own toilet is handy too. We’ve got some recommendations for portable camping toilets that will take up no space at all.
Don’t pitch in a ditch
You obviously won’t camp in a dip that could collect rainwater…that goes without saying, but flat ground isn’t great either.
The best is a very slight slope and your door positioned facing downhill. Is there somewhere with natural shelter – like in the lee of a wall? Trees are good cover, but water will drip on you long after the rain has stopped.
The magic of tarps and shelters
If it’s raining when you arrive, wait for a break in the clouds or create a quick protected spot with a tarpaulin to keep your camping gear dry while you set up.
It may seem a bit obsessive, but practise a tarp set-up ready for these occasions. It makes a big difference if you don’t have to fumble with poles and guy ropes because you know exactly how to pitch the tarp.
You can find more in our tarp article. Use tarp as extra cover for a tent or as an awning/extension for a campervan or caravan. Use it to cover bikes or create a cooking area. Take adaptable tarp poles to make it easy whatever the situation.
A quick erect gazebo or shelter is great for wet conditions. Throw it up in a couple of minutes to make pitching your tent or unpacking more comfortable. For the rest of your stay, you’ve then also got extra dry space and a cooking area your tent or campervan is all set-up. Lots of recommendations in our multipurpose shelter article.
The Unigear tarp poles are the best we’ve found. They’ll give you between 40 and 240cm of height and are made with lightweight (800g in total) but strong aircraft aluminium. They also have some good bits of design to add strength and make it easier to set up. Around £40 for a set of two.
Umbrellas for shelter?
One of our readers told us they used a fishing brolly instead of a tarp. It’s a great tip.
Know your tent or campervan inside-out
If you know exactly what you’re doing, pitching or setting up will be faster and you’ll be inside and warm in a twinkling.
So, practise if you haven’t already learnt the ins and outs of your equipment.
If you’re in a tent, the outside fabric should be tight, by the way, so use pegs and guys. This will ensure it doesn’t flap around in the wind and makes it as waterproof as possible.
Sealing yourself in against the elements is sensible, of course, but it can also lead to condensation. Give yourself some ventilation and keep a soft cloth around to wipe away condensation before it soaks sleeping bags or clothes.
TOP TIP: Remember to guy tarps with elasticated or bungee rope so that they don’t get carried off in a wind.
Use drybags, ziploc bags or packing cubes to pack clothes, food and bits and pieces.
It’s much easier to keep wet things away from dry this way. Take bin bags for bigger pieces of camping equipment like a tent or awning.
If your tent, awning or camping gear is wet when it’s time to pack up, don’t worry too much. If you’re going straight home, you can dry things out when you get back.
Don’t leave damp camping equipment folded up for too long, though, or it’ll get smelly and could even start to rot.
Clothes for wet weather camping
It goes without saying – you need a good raincoat, walking jacket/anorak or poncho
The best rainwear is breathable and quick-drying. Ponchos are useful because you can often fit your rucksack underneath as well as yourself.
We like these Vaude Valero ponchos with sleeves. They come in a range of sizes (ponchos often are one-size only that swamps smaller folk).
Decathlon has a great range of ponchos too, like this £18 poncho that can fit your backpack underneath.
The Rubbastuff poncho (and step-mum)
Here I am testing the Rubbastuff Pacmat poncho on a weird walk (and even weirder rest) with my step-mum.
This poncho is pretty perfect. Waterproof, soft inside, straps to keep it attached to bike handlebars or a pram handle, rolls up small, nice colours and you can spread it out for a picnic mat. Great.
You can stash your rucksack underneath, there are reflective bits for night-time…oh, and the hood works. It’s very adjustable and has a peak. Around £45.
Shoes are going to be on and off all the time. Wellies are the cheapest and most obvious wet weather footwear, but they’re not always easy to slip into.
We like waterproof gardening shoes or clogs for quick trips to the showers because they’re a lot easier to get into and lighter too. Don’t get the rubber ones – way too heavy.
Toffeln professional quality clogs and shoes are brilliant
Lightweight, waterproof, proper insoles and non-slip grips. Go for the higher-back clogs with back strap or the closed shoe. Both easy to get on, but won’t slip off your feet half-way to the toilet block. Around £40 and way better than Crocs. Oh, and men’s and women’s sizes plus lots of colours.
Waterproof trousers are good for hiking in the rain, but a bit of a pain when camping.
Unless you get some that are easy to put on, you’ll get soaked struggling into and out of them.
Mountain Warehouse waterproofs are available for men and women and don’t cost very much at all.
Or have a look at Decathlon for both overtrousers and for waterproofs that work well for running, cycling or climbing.
Regatta also have a big choice of affordable overtrousers, as well as water-repellent walking trousers for men and women.
Quick-drying is easier
A better solution is to take a couple of pairs of quick-drying trousers, like these smart-looking Craghopper Kiwi Pros, to change into.
And, if you can bear it, wear shorts because legs dry faster than anything!
If your outdoor clothes have lost some of their water-resistance, you can reproof them either in the washing machine or by hand.
A waterproof hat will make you feel invincible…really! There’s a huge range at Outdoor Gear and evenm more options at Sportshoes, who sell the fantastic Sealskinz range. Those, and the waterproof Dexshell beanies are our favourites for keeping the rain off.
Take lots more socks than you can imagine ever needing! Our favourites are Darn Tough and Horizon – both designed to last for years and very comfortable.
Campsite cooking in the rain
Cooking in the rain and wind can be a real challenge. This is where good organisation pays off.
Have all your food in ziploc bags or boxes, know where everything is and it’ll all seem a lot more fun!
Remember that it’s not safe to use a gas stove inside a tent or sealed-up campervan. You need very good ventilation. Use your awning or tarp shelter instead.
Outside in a gazebo, awning or tarp shelter, you’re going to need a decent windshield for your gas stove. They’re cheap to buy, but will save you frustration and mean you burn less gas.
BUT, if struggling is going to spoil your enjoyment of the rest of your stay, don’t feel you’ve failed if you escape to the pub or use some of our tasty cheats – bought-in meals that need barely any preparation but are FAR better than a pot noodle!
Stuck indoors – never bored
Playing cards, a portable chess set, travel games, plenty of books, maybe audiobooks on your phone or iPad (with headphones so you don’t annoy neighbours).
And how about using the time for something you’ve been meaning to do? Some sketching in a nice new notebook, working out the plot of your novel…even reading the paper cover to cover for once.
Here are some games we like that don’t take up much room.
Abalone is our current favourite game for two. Simple to learn, tactile, strategic, portable.
You simply aim to push six of your opponent’s pieces off the board by moving one, two or three of your own marbles. Sounds easy, but there are endless challenges and ways to improve your play. There are even tournaments…but we’re a long way from that!
Can you say “Open the bomb bay doors, Hal?” in a Swedish accent. You’ll soon find out you don’t know your Mumbai from your Mevagissey with this hilarious game of Accentuate for four or more.
Good old Yahtzee. So addictive I’ve been known to invent a solo game! Just five dice and scorecards, so super-portable.
It’s a bit like gin rummy with tiles and a good choice if all the word-based games aren’t your thing. If you get the travel version, you can take it on your next trip.