How to Keep Your Tent Dry in the Rain

When you plan a camping trip, it’s nice to know that the days and nights will be mild and the skies will be clear the whole time. The reality is that it may rain unexpectedly and you need to be prepared. The last thing you want is to have a wet tent, a wet sleeping bag, or wet gear.

As I’ve been caught in the rain more than a few times myself, I’ve learned some important lessons on how to keep my tent dry when camping. The good news is that it’s easy to prepare for rain and there are several options to choose from. 

The simple fact is, you don’t have to get wet when it rains on your camping trip, and with these tips, you’ll stay nice and dry.

How to Keep Your Tent and Camping Gear Dry in the Rain

If you plan for rain, even if the weatherman predicts sunny skies, wet weather won’t dampen your trip. Here are some things you can follow to keep you and your gear dry during the next downpour.

Waterproof tent

Tent in rain

If you already have a tent or intend to buy a new tent for your trip, check the waterproof rating. Tent manufacturers use a Hydrostatic Head (HH) test to check how resistant a tent is to water. 

Lower HH numbers are less waterproof than higher numbers. But before you run out and buy one with the highest number you can find, consider what you need. Most 2-season and 3-season tents are 1,000 to 1,500 HH. This means they can withstand 1,000 to 1,500 millimeters of rain before they leak.

In most parts of the world and during the appropriate seasons, this will be enough to keep you dry.

If you expect heavy downpours, you’ll need a heavier 3-season tent or 4-season tent with 3,000 HH or higher. Please note that the floor of your tent will have a higher HH rating than the walls.

Also, you should keep in mind that the HH number is only one factor that makes a tent waterproof. Stitching, seams, and overall manufacturing also play a part in the tent’s ability to keep out the rain. 

Learn more on how to Waterproof your tent

Rain fly tent sheet

Even if you have a waterproof tent with a decent rating, you still cannot predict the weather. Also, your tent probably has flaps or mesh at the top which allows air to flow. This is great when it’s sunny, but it can leave you exposed to rain. 

If the skies open up, it’s a good idea to have a camping rain fly tent sheet.

A rain fly matches your tent material and it attaches to the outside to keep the rain out. Don’t keep the rain fly on at all times though, because it will make your tent stuffy. Instead, attach the rain fly when it looks like rain or in case of passing showers.

Here’s a demonstration of how to attach a camping rain fly:

Pro tip: After using your rain fly, pack it separately from your tent. This way, you won’t risk growing mold on your tent.

Packing rain-resistant gear

Camping in River side

Your tent’s all set and you know you’ll stay dry, but what about your gear? With everyone inside the tent during a rainstorm, all your gear may not fit in there with you. Therefore, it’s a smart idea to protect your stuff by bringing rain-resistant gear.

This way, when you need a dry towel or a pair of socks, they’re waiting for you once the weather clears up.

Here is some water-resistant gear you might want to consider packing:

If your gear or clothes get wet, hang a line between two trees once the rain stops and hang everything in the sun to dry. Also, dry everything off inside your tent and allow the sun to dry the outside. 

More: Check out the best dome tent here

Find the right camping spot

When looking for the perfect spot to pitch your tent, even if the forecast says there will be no rain, assume that it might rain anyway. Choose a slightly elevated flat spot which isn’t too close to a body of water. Water levels may rise during a storm and you don’t want water creeping towards your tent.

By choosing an elevated spot, the rain will naturally run away from your tent.

Also, don’t set your tent up beneath a tree. After rain stops, trees will continue dripping and you want your tent to dry off as soon as possible. In fact, make sure you set up in a place which faces the sunrise, if possible. Not only is this beautiful to look at, but it will dry off your tent in the morning from any dew or rain.

Tent in font of sunrise

Create an outdoor living room

Let’s assume that you don’t want to huddle inside your tent when it’s raining. After all, watching the rain can be both beautiful and soothing. In this case, you can set up an outdoor living room to protect you from the rain while allowing you to enjoy the atmosphere.

You can quickly set up an outdoor living room at your campsite with a tarp and some line for the roof. Underneath this, set up your chairs, a card table, your cooler, and a camping stove. Obviously, you don’t want an open fire in there, but setting up an outdoor space allows you to escape your tent and stretch your legs without getting wet.

Here’s how one person set up his outdoor living room with a camper. But even if you don’t have a camper, the result is exactly the same.

Add a bivvy bag

A bivvy bag or sack is short for bivouac sack. They’re useful when camping alone, but not if you’re camping with your friends or family, unless everyone has one. If you’re alone, a bivvy bag will keep you warm and dry during a rainstorm.

Bivvy bags are shaped like sleeping bags and have two levels of protection: a waterproof nylon coated shell and a lighter nylon ripstop breathable fabric. You can even bring one to put under your sleeping bag for some extra protection against wet ground and a little more warmth.

Even if you have a tent, a bivvy sack can be a great emergency shelter for you. Here’s how to set up your bivvy:

Staying Safe in the Rain

A little bit of rain never hurt anyone, but a lot of rain with thunder and lightning can be very dangerous when camping. Also, if it’s rainy and cold, there is hypothermia to worry about. Even the best-prepared campers can’t combat everything. So, here are some tips to keep you safe in the rain.

  • Use an additional tarp to provide an extra layer of protection from the rain
  • Make sure you’ve set and properly tied all your guy lines
  • Bring a ground cloth which is an appropriate size for your tent
  • Know the location of the ranger station

Although these tips are helpful to keep you safe in the rain, there are two instances which need special consideration.

Retreat inside

Where there’s thunder, there’s also lightning. If you’re caught in a thunderstorm when camping, the safest thing to do is retreat to your car or the nearest building. No tent will protect you from lightning and indoors is where you want to be. 

If you’ve hiked to your camping spot and there are no buildings or cars around, stay away from trees and take shelter in a cave or ravine. 

Seek high ground

When choosing your camping spot, you already chose a slightly elevated area away from any body of water, but if heavy rain persists, you may need to move.

Flooding can be a danger to any camper, so at the first signs of a flood, move to higher ground or evacuate the area, if possible. A flood can carry away your tent or you could get sick from sustained wetness and cold.

How do You Keep the Bottom of a Tent Dry in Snow?

As we mentioned, to keep the bottom of a tent dry, you should place a groundsheet of the correct size on the ground beneath your tent. This needs to be slightly bigger than the floor of your tent so that it doesn’t roll underneath. 

Be sure to place your tent on bare ground by brushing away any. If this isn’t possible and there is a lot of snow on the ground, make sure you have a 4-season tent to keep you warm.

For an additional layer of protection, you can also place a tarp on the floor inside your tent. Doing this will give you three layers of protection from the ground.

Stay Dry and Enjoy Your Camping Adventure

There’s nothing like spending time in the great outdoors and you can still do this even when it’s raining. As long as you stay safe, there’s no reason a little rain has to derail your plans. In fact, some rain can add an element of adventure to your camping journey. All you need is a bit of preparation to make your trip perfect.

Staying dry when camping isn’t as difficult as you might think. Simply follow our tips for packing and setup, and you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

Did you enjoy our list of tips about how to keep your tent dry in the rain? Please share this article with your camping friends! And if you have any other questions about how to keep dry, please share them in the comments.

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