How to set up a Tent in the Rain? It starts at home

Many campers, especially backpackers, know to check the weather forecast in the region they are planning to spend their overnights before leaving home. But rain is invevitable. By always preparing before leaving your driveway, you can still conquer the challenges that come with it. In this article you will learn how to set up a tent in the rain and how to keep your gear dry.

How to set up a tent in the rain

Camping in rainy Weather: What you need to pack

Before loading your vehicle or backpack, think about what you will need to set up your tent should it rain once you reach the campsite. Some of these items are almost as brainless as pouring milk on your cereal if you camp a lot; they comprise some of your outdoor ten essentials.

Extra clothing and raingear

Though the sun may be baking the cab of your rig at home, you never know for certain what the weather will be bringing once you reach your distant destination far from the madding crowd, even if you checked forecasts. Always pack as if rain is a threat; bring raingear—from layers, to rain hats, to waterproof boots. Quick-dry, wicking inner layers prove best during the rain and after it, when hanging it to dry.

Your shelter – Tarp, Footprint and a Waterproof Tent

If you select a tent designed for speed when pitching it, you can deflect many of the challenges rain brings when setting up camp. Obviously, the faster you can erect your shelter, the fewer minutes you spend in the downpour. Single-wall tents do not require a rain fly—one less component to mess with—and better resist not only precipitation but the cold.

Choose a tent with as few poles as possible and one that doesn’t require you to look at instructions every time you pitch it. The simpler your tent, the shorter your time spent pitching it.

Also choose tents with an awning or vestibule under which to store items needing protection from rain, such as footwear.

Always pack a footprint (ground cover) to keep the bottom of any tent dry in damp ground conditions.

Also pack a tarp big enough to provide you and your party some cover from the rain under which to pitch your tent. If backpacking, you make the judgment call regarding the extra weight. You can tie the tarp from one tree to another and pitch the tent beneath it.

rain drops on a tent

Some who choose a tent with a rain fly will insert it inside the tent before rolling it back up for the trip ahead. When inserted to each corner of the tent interior, it keeps the inside floor dry from pesky drips that most certainly find their way into your tent once you start pitching it in the rain.

Some campers choose tents equipped with panels of fabric that zip over the mesh areas of a three-season tent before you leave home. Again, because of the extra weight, it is your call if backpacking.

5 Steps to set up your tent in the Rain

If you arrive at your chosen campsite and it is already raining, follow the below tips to set up the tent.

1. Put on all that waterproof gear

You may have exited your home with flip-flops or sandals, but lest you get a kick out of slipping, sliding and falling in the rain, put on your waterproof hiking boots. Then, the rain hat and rain-repelling shell.

2. Scrutinize the terrain

Rain actually poses an advantage, especially to the untrained camper’s eye: It shows you exactly where water stands or drains. Obviously, you want to pitch your shelter where rivulets or puddles don’t exist.

Choose the site for your tent wisely
Avoid areas where puddles can build up
photo by indigoprime, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Moreover, you want to locate your tent where rain water is minimized. The heavier the rain falls, the more and newer the rivulets or pools. If such structures exist, always pitch the tent on the lee side of a big boulder, a dense stand of trees or understory if not a bluff (i.e., earthen wall).

Also, choose the ground that appears highest at the campsite.

3. Erect the tarp first

Now that you’ve found the ideal spot given the downpour, pin your tarp up from tree to tree above the tent site. If you happen to be camping in desert terrain during spring or early summer freshets, trees prove hard to find.

Erect a tarp to protect your tent or to create a outdoor living room
Use a tarp to create a rainproof outdoor “living room” or to protect your tent
( photo by joelf, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 )

You may need to bring along light poles for your tarp. If the wind is strong, don’t erect the tarp too high or above the natural rain or wind buffer you found. You may have to hunch down a little bit when pitching your tent in this case, but it is better than spendng more time in the rain by fixing the tarp each time it flips loose.

4. Throw down the footprint

Once you found the highest level bit of ground, spread your tent’s footprint over it. Some footprints feature low sidewalls to keep rain at bay round the tent’s perimeter.

You can also dig a trench a couple feet or more around the perimeter if it looks like puddling can form there. Just make sure the trench is not below a slight slope.

5. Pitch the tent

Now pitch your tent on top of the footprint. As soon as your tent is up, throw your sleeping bag, dry clothes and footwear, as well as anything else that can be compromised by moisture—camera gear, electronic devices, gloves, stocking caps—inside the tent.

Want an easier approach for wet weather camping?

If you have room or the weight capacity, bring a wilderness hammock or even a bivouac along on your trip. These two game-savers often find their place as a main shelter among through-hikers, those who like to keep a clock on how fast they can finish extra-long trails or circumnavigations of mountains.

These types of shelters take much less time to set up than a tent. In the case of a hammock (make sure it includes a mosquito net and nylon rain flap), you will need trees of an appropriate distance to tie it up.

A bivvy, made of four-season material, simply lies on the ground and includes a head-covering compartment.

If using a hammock or bivvy, you can either duck into it until the rain lets up, to then pitch your main shelter, or simply remain there for your entire slumber until a hopefully drier morning arrives.

Conclusion

Camping can be fun even if it rains! We hope our tips will help you setting up a tent in the rain without losing your good spirits. To fight boredom while it’s raining, play some camping games! Also check out these useful camping hacks. Please let us know about your rainy camping adventures in the comments below.

Sources: REI | TGO Magazine

About the author

Chris Berger

Outdoor expert, avid hiker and camper in his late 30s. He also enjoys plenty of watersports activities. Enough of the third person talk :-) Me and my team have done extensive research for each article and can guarantee it will save you time and effort to find exactly what you need. I only recommend products I would recommend to my mom and closest friends.