Wet weather camping – how to stay dry and happy

When we plan camping trips, it’s always in the hope of blue skies. Being prepared for rain and chilly days, though, means you can camp more often and stay comfortable. Here’s our guide to making the most of being outdoors in a tent, campervan or caravan whatever the weather.

And also have a look at our article on campervan camping in winter.


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.

In this picture, the hill gives some protection. Just as well, because that blue sky didn’t last for long!

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.

Not sure which shelter this is, but it looks like the Coleman Event Shelters. They come with optional sides too.
A simple sun- and rain-blocking tarp

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.

Remember to guy tarps with elasticated or bungee rope so that they don’t get carried off in a wind.

We like drybags you can see into, like this Exped one.

Clever packing

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

  • A poncho with arms is a good thing. This is by Vaude.

    A good raincoat, walking jacket/anorak or poncho should keep the rain off your clothes. The best are breathable and quick-drying.
  • 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 ones are available for men and women and don’t cost a lot. You might prefer to take a couple of pairs of quick-drying trousers 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. We use Nikwax, but there are others too.
  • Ponchos are useful because they you can often fit your rucksack underneath as well as yourself. We like the Vaude ponchos with sleeves (shown in red) or this blue poncho designed for horse-riding,
  • Cotton and denim take ages to dry. Thinner layers give you more options.
  • 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. Favourites are the lightweight neoprene Dirt Boots (the green ones here) in men’s and women’s sizes or the non-slip SensFoot chef clogs.
  • Take lots more socks than you can imagine ever needing!
  • A waterproof hat will make you feel invincible…really!

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).

These are the obvious basics for keeping yourself entertained indoors.

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 – we’re addicted. Strategic and tactile.

Dobble – speed matching game

Sussed – conversation and personality game

Yahtzee – dice game

Rummikub – a bit like gin rummy with tiles

Travel Monopoly – card-stealing fun

Backpacker – a travel travel game!!

Keeping warm

If it’s going to be both wet and cold, have a look at these articles….


Campsite cooking in the rain

Firepot freeze-dried meals (for the two nights after pole-lathing when we were too exhausted to cook). All-natural and plenty in the pouch.

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!

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!

If you are going to cook, 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.

Von Shef induction hob

It’s one of the reasons we like electric camping stove options when we have hook-up. An induction hob is a great idea and there are lots of other suggestions too.

It took three of us and some counting to ten to set up this awning on Diane and John’s vintage Eriba, but, boy, were we glad of it when the torrential rain started!

Outside in a gazebo, awning or tarp shelter, you’re going to need a decent windshield for your stove. They’re cheap to buy, but will save you frustration and mean you burn less gas.

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