13 Top Tips for Camping in the Rain

One surprise outing during our wettest summer camp was to the local laundrette
One surprise outing during our wettest summer camp was to the local laundrette

This year we had our wettest-ever Scout summer camp. It’s not one of those awards which one looks back on with any smiles or pride, other than the thought that “we made it” through the camp.

Although rain isn’t welcome during any type of camping, it’s inevitable here in the UK. Some of the prettiest places in the UK are in the top 10 wettest places.

So it’s worth being prepared. Here are some top tips about camping in the rain. I’ve split the tips into two sections – kit related, and at-camp related.

Packing kit

  • Decent boots will keep feet dry, but sometimes wellies are best
    Decent boots will keep feet dry, but sometimes wellies are best

    Always use a rucksack liner. Get into the habit of putting a black rubbish bag into your rucksack before anything else.

  • Pack your kit into Ziploc bags. For a short camp, put each day’s worth of clothes (underwear, t-shirts, etc.) into a separate Ziploc bag. For a longer camp, put groups of clothes into Ziploc – e.g. all your socks, all t-shirts, etc. Keep the bags and reuse them for the next camp.
  • Take plenty of spare socks if you’re expecting wet weather. I take 3 pairs per day. If camping with children, make sure they take 4 pairs per day. Make sure they bring at least 2 pairs of underwear per day. Put spares in a Ziploc bag in their day sacks or outer pockets of their main rucksack. Once at camp, I always tell the adults and kids to change socks as soon as they are wet. Nothing saps morale like soaked socks or underwear.
  • Sometimes wellies are better than hiking boots. If you’re camping (not hiking) and expecting poor weather, throw a pair of wellies in, especially for the kids, whose hiking boots are unlikely to be completely waterproof.
  • Before camp, polish or reproof your boots. Everyone has their own preference for this. On my Scarpa hiking boots, I just use standard shoe polish and they remain waterproof.
  • Bring extra plastic carrier bags. I stuff half a dozen carrier bags into an outside rucksack pocket. They always come in useful for soaked clothes, or rubbish. They weight almost nothing and are free.

At camp

  • 8 days of constant raining makes camping more challenging
    8 days of constant raining makes camping more challenging

    Unless it’s really cold, try to wear shorts. Nothing dries as quickly as your skin, and you won’t sweat from the inside, leading to nasty smells or chaffing.

  • Pitch your tent perfectly. Arriving on site and rushing your tent might lead to a miserable night of a leaking tent. Use all the guy lines – don’t be lazy by missing some out. All the guy lines should be at a 45 or 90 degree angle, and you shouldn’t have any creases in your tent.
  • Consider moving the tent if the mud around the tent becomes sludge, or soup-like.
  • Before going camping, have a nearby indoor activity in mind if the weather gets really bad. We always try to find a local swimming pool or water park near wherever we stay. It needs to be something that will last a few hours – bowling or a nearby cafe is unlikely to shelter you for more than an hour or two.
  • Drink plenty of hot drinks. Hot drinks are great for morale – especially the adults. If possible, have an urn or a kettle hot all the time. I have a tiny caffeine tolerance, so I take some herbal teas and decaf teas & coffees when we go away – even if we’re going relatively lightweight hiking.
  • If you’re using fires, try to have dry wood on standby. Once you have collected some wood, keep some under a groundsheet or even in a tent. Definitely keep lots of dry kindling in a plastic bag in a tent. A fire usually lifts spirits during the rain, but it can dampen spirits (pun intended) if everyone is frustrated trying to get the fire lit in the first place.
  • After camp, make sure you dry all your kit thoroughly. Spread out sleeping bags for a couple of days, and make sure your tents are bone dry before storing them.

Let me know if you have any other tips.

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