You planned out your camping trip, packed all your gear, and then looked at the forecast for the weekend – cloudy with 100% chance of rain. You’re so excited for your trip that the last thing you want to do is cancel, but can you still have a fun, successful trip? The answer is yes – read our complete list of tips for hiking and camping in the rain to make the most out of your outdoor adventure!
Learn how to plan & prepare for your own overnight hiking adventure.
TIP #1: PICK THE RIGHT SITE FOR YOUR TENT
A huge part of a successful (and dry) camping trip starts from the very beginning – picking the right site to pitch your tent. If possible, pick an area that’s already dry. Avoid any ground that’s too soft or looks like it’s caving in, as you can bet that’ll be the first spot that fills up with water once it starts raining.
If you think you might be in for a storm, avoid areas that can result in possible storm damage. This means avoiding spots with large branches that may fall down if it gets windy and rainy, which can be very dangerous if you’re in the tent below it. You’ll also want to avoid being on a slope where water might come down into your tent or near a river that might flood from the rainstorm.
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TIP #2: PITCH A STURDY TENT
Once you pick the right site to camp for the weekend, you should have a solid place for your tent to be pitched for your trip. After following the instructions for the basic setup of your tent, make sure the rain fly is tight but away from the actual walls of the tent. This will let any rain that comes down get filtered out to the side of your tent instead of pouring directly in it, which will defeat the purpose.
While rain flies that come with the tent are useful, having an extra tarp over your tent or even the whole campsite will be even more useful in keeping the area as dry as possible. Tie a few large, sturdy tarps between trees around your campsite to protect where your tent and your eating area are so you’ll stay as dry as you can during heavy rainstorms. Camping experts REI recommend putting a tarpaulin tarp over your tent to create a sturdy “roof” that you can store gear you don’t want to get wet or change out of damp clothing in.
TIP #3: KEEP THE INSIDE OF YOUR TENT DRY
While protecting the outside of the tent is important, don’t forget about keeping the inside of your tent dry as well. Take steps such as keeping it plenty ventilated to prevent condensation from forming, as well as putting a ground cloth inside your tent instead of outside. This way water won’t form and come inside your tent by seeping through, plus you’ll have an added layer of protection from the wet ground beneath you.
After a day of hiking in the rain, take off any wet clothing underneath a tarp outside and put it in a dry bag before entering your tent. This reduces the chance of bringing any moisture into your tent, as essentials like sleeping bags and sleeping bag liners will have a hard time drying if they get wet at all. They’re also much more likely to start forming mold if they’re not able to dry out.
You can keep any wet pieces of clothing in a waterproof box or bag and hang them out to dry when you return home. Take off any accessories as well such as hats or shoes, and keep them in a dry bag until you get home. The goal is to keep your tent as clean and dry as possible, as it’s most likely going to be the only place you can dry off during your trip.
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TIP #4: DRESS FOR THE WEATHER
If there’s any chance you might be hiking or camping in rainy conditions, don’t take a chance by not having waterproof gear. Layering your clothing is essential for staying dry and warm while in wet and cold conditions.
You’ll want to get dressed first by putting on a pair of thermal long underwear and base layers that are breathable to keep you warm. Then you’ll but mid layers like a down jacket, vest or fleece on. Then cover up with a waterproof rain jacket and rain pants.
Your choice for footwear will depend on how far you’re walking and whether you’re okay with your feet getting wet or not. For shorter hikes where you know you’ll be trudging through puddles, you might want to invest in a stiffer pair of rain boots to keep your feet dry. Longer treks will require a more comfortable pair of shoes, so although your feet will get more wet, wear trail runners to prevent getting blisters. You’ll also want to look at getting a good pair of hiking socks to keep your feet warm and comfy while hiking.
According to the Appalachian Mountain Club, don’t underestimate the power of garbage bags – they can cover everything effectively in a matter of seconds. You can use a garbage bag as an inside liner in your backpack, put it over your backpack if it’s not waterproof, and separate all your wet clothing when you get back to camp later.
You can also use a waterproof backpack cover to keep your gear dry. These covers also keep you back clean and dry if you have to set it down on wet ground.
TIP #5: WATCH WHERE YOU’RE WALKING
Hiking in the rain can make for some pretty slippery conditions, so it’s important to always look where you’re stepping first. The Washington Trails Association recommends avoiding trails where you’ll be going over slick rocks when there’s a downpour. It’s also important to be aware of any drainages that are steep by snowfields or along the sides of the mountain.
Knowing your route before you go will help you plan in advance in case anything happens. If you know there’s some low-lying rivers on the path and it’s been raining for a while, keep in mind that they might flood and have an alternative route to go on. If the river hasn’t flooded but is higher than normal, carefully look around to consider if it’s still safe to cross. Read our guide on how to cross a river to learn more about this useful hiking skill.