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How to Survive Camping in the Rain

If you’re going camping, you’ll eventually need to make plans for camping in the rain. You’ll need to know how to stay dry, when to get wet and have plenty of rainy day activities for the kids.

Camping in the rain can actually be a lot of fun! Worm collecting, puddle splashing, rainbow watching, blanket snuggling, there is a lot you can do with your family while waiting out a rainstorm in your tent!

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Tips for Staying Dry

First things first, camping in the rain is much more fun when you control if you choose to get wet. Trying to snuggle or sleep in a leaky tent is not any fun. So spend some time figuring out what gear you’ll need to stay as dry as possible.

Seam Seal Tent

Keeping your tent dry should be your top priority. If you have a cheaper tent, you may want to waterproof it and seam seal it before you go camping. Buy a seam sealer and go over all of the seams with it, especially the ones on the roof of the tent. Read your tent’s instructions on whether or not it needs to be waterproofed or not. 

Then once that is dry, spray a waterproofer onto the whole tent. The Coleman tent Momma Critter started out camping with was seam sealed but not waterproofed and never leaked in the rain. The 2 Marmot tents we own now have never been seam sealed or waterproofed and have gone through some crazy storms and haven’t leaked. 

Our suggestion would be to spend the money on a quality tent (Marmot, North Face, Kelty) that is already seam-sealed and waterproof.  These tents also tend to have a full rainfly instead of a partial or no rain fly.

Look at the Weather

It’s best to know before you leave if you’re going to have a gentle shower or a full-on thunderstorm. If it’s going to storm 3 out of 4 days, we’d probably cancel the camping trip. If you’re going to get 2 gentle showers while there, we’d still go as we’ve had some awesome times camping in the rain. 

Have a plan for inclement weather before you go, that way you can either stay home or go and make the best of a rainy camping trip. Momma Critter is still bitter about the time fellow campers opted to leave before breakfast because of a slight sprinkle of rain.

Bring Rain Fly and Tarps

If you have a tent with a good rainfly, you’ll be amazed at how dry you’ll stay during rainstorms. We love our Marmot 6p Limestone tent, the rainfly is amazing.

Be aware of items touching the edges of the tent, but if you have a good rain fly this isn’t as essential.  You never know when you’ll end up camping in the rain, so always bring the rainfly.

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If you don’t have a rainfly I’d suggest putting a tarp above your tent to keep rain off your tent. Angle the tarp to the downhill side of the tent so when the water rolls off of the tarp it’s not going to go under your tent. Make sure it’s not touching the top of the tent or it will quickly leak inside your tent. 

If you have to set up your tent in the rain, set up a tarp first. Make the tarp higher than your tent and then set up your tent under it. Even if you don’t want to leave the tarp over your tent for the whole trip, this is the best way to set up a tent while it’s already raining. 

The best option for setting up a tent while it’s raining is to get a instant tent or a pop up tent. They literally go up in minutes.

Playing cards under a tarp while it's raining

If your tent doesn’t have a footprint, you can always fold a tarp underneath your tent to keep the tent floor dry. Always fold any excess tarp all the way under your tent. If you leave it sticking out, it will just pool water and funnel it under your tent.

Using some kind of tent floor padding is also a good way to make sure your feet stay dry and cozy in your tent.

Bring a Screen Tent

Being cooped up in one tent the whole time it’s raining can make any family a bit stir-crazy. We love our Clam screen tent. It’s huge, it can fit a picnic table inside it and with the sides on it keeps the rain out no problem.  

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CLAM Quick-Set Pavilion
  • SPACIOUS CANOPY SHELTER: 12.5 x 12.5-foot canopy, 7.8 feet at center height; Accommodates up to 8 people or can fit a picnic table and a few camp chairs.
  • ADAPTABLE SHELTER: Heavy-duty removable floor and built-in wind panels that roll up, down, and zip on the sides.


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Screen tents are great for many fun family activities during a light shower. 

Buy Quality Rain Gear

If you’re going to continue camping in the wet weather, you’ll need quality rain gear. We have rain jackets and pants for the adults and a regular rain coat, rain pants and rain boots for the Tiny Critter.

Kids LOVE playing in the rain, so it’s always worth it to have a good rain suit for them. We keep an eye our for bargains on rain gear since he grows so fast.

In a pinch a dollar store poncho or trash bags will keep your child dry in wet weather.

Hacks for Camping in the Rain

If you want to make camping in the rain fun, you can. It just takes a little planning and a good attitude. Having activities prepared before hand is essential to keep boredom away!

Rainy Day Tent Camping Activities:

If you’re stuck in the tent during an unexpected storm, it pays to pack things to do. Having your whole family in the tent with no games will quickly turn into a soggy, sad disaster.

We literally bring things JUST for a rainy day, because when you’re a kid, nothing is as exciting as a new game or toy.

In the tent:

If it’s going to be a short sprinkle while we’re camping, we go into the tent and try out some games and activities that we’ve literally saved for a rainy day. Grab a lantern and break out a family favorite board game!

Once we played a mini-board game that came with a kid’s meal we bought on the drive to camp. It was a silly cheap game that kept falling apart, but Tiny Critter had so much fun playing it because it was new.

Here are our suggestions for activities for camping in the rain with kids.

Games:

  • Counting Campers

Our family loves all kinds of games, but this camping game is one of Tiny Critter’s favorites. You don’t need to be able to read, only to recognize numbers and count. It’s super fun to play a camping themed game while hiding out from a storm in your tent!

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  • Travel versions of games

Travel versions of popular games are a great choice for rainy days in the tent. All kinds of classic games can be found in a travel version. 

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  • Card Games

Card games are perfect to play when you’re camping in the rain. You don’t need any extra room to play cards, and you can even play while snuggled up in your sleeping bag! Grab a variety pack and never run out of options!

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  • Dominos

If you have a table you can play on in your normal tent or screen tent, dominos can be a great way to pass the time while waiting for the rain to stop. Campers of all ages love dominos! 

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  • Magnatiles 

I haven’t met a kid yet who didn’t like magnatiles. Tiny Critter is always talking about the creations he makes with them at school. They don’t take up a lot of room and they can be used over and over again. 

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  • Dice games

Dice games take up little to no room and are easily played in a tent. Yahtzee, Tenzi or Bunko are all amazing games.

  • Story Dice

Like the other dice games, story dice take nearly no room. However, they can be a big hit. We’ve used ours multiple times this year and with a young kid you can get some pretty funny epic tales! The dice have pictures on them and the idea is to roll them and make up a story that incorporates all of the pictures.

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  • Reading a Book

Not much beats snuggling in your tent and curling up with a good book. Something about camping in the rain and a sleeping bag and I could read all day. 

We always have books with us on our camping adventures. It’s how we wind down in the evenings. You can do the same and these books are really doing double duty. A few of our favorite camping and storm related books are:

  • The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm
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  • The Gruffalo
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  • Just Me and My Dad (IT HAS A LITTLE CRITTER!!!)
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  • Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll
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Write in a camp journal

Some folks really like looking back at all they fun they had. Pictures are nice, videos are great, but you can’t catch all the fun on either. Take time to write down the funny things said or done, you won’t regret it.

Using your imagination:

  • Telling Stories

If you’ve read enough books (and memorized some like momma and daddy critter), have an imagination (like tiny critter), or just recall some good stories from your own adventures. Sit back and tell a story. It’s a great way to pass the time and keep the family entertained.

  • Word play games

We play the Alphabet game. Someone starts and says I’m going camping and I’m bringing an Axe! Then the next person says I’m going camping and I’m bringing an Axe and a Backpack! The next person repeats the A, and B items and adds on their own that starts with C and so on! This game usually gets everyone laughing in no time as everyone helps to remember the order of things!

  • Coloring Book

Pick up a coloring book just for camping and keep it with your camp stuff. This way your kids can have something special to look forward to in the stormy times. In this case, pick whatever you think is most interesting for your critterz.

Don’t forget to pack crayons for the coloring book! Coloring or drawing is always a good way to stay busy and calm if your little ones are bothered by storms.

  • Paint with Water
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There are awesome water-only paint books so no crayons are needed. No paint, no mess! Perfect for those times you might be stuck in the tent and need to get some artistic inspirations going.

  • Sing a song (or all of the songs)

Every family knows some camp songs they like… sing ‘em, dance a bit.. in the tent you can dance like no one is watching, because they’re not! If you don’t know any good camp songs, check out our repeat after me camp songs so everyone can learn the words together!

For added fantastic fun (if you planned ahead)… while singing and dancing, maybe some glow sticks are in order.

Take a nap

Ok, for Daddy critter this one is never done on purpose (though it happens). Now, Momma critter has taken a nap while the other two told stories…it seemed to work out super well! Napping while a gentle rain is tapping on the tent is quite peaceful. Nature’s white noise machine!

Last Resort, Movie Night:

We understand that for some, watching movies on a screen defeats the purpose a bit when it comes to camping. However, if you’re out of ideas and things are desperate, this can still work and save the day.

If you’re suddenly having to come up with rainy day camping activities, Netflix and other apps allow you to download shows before you leave, we suggest having a few pre-loaded. Use them as you need, no judging here.

Our pick is a kid friendly tablet like the Kindle Fire for kids. It’s more rugged so it’ll hold up to camping life a bit better than a delicate laptop or smart phone.

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Snacks:

What takes up time and can be fun while rewarding at the same time… a SNACK-TIVITY!!! These are perfect in a screen tent or under a tarp. Some quick ones we can think of:

Cereal necklace, circle cereal strung on an orange pipe cleaner
  • Food Necklaces (fruit loops, apple jacks, cherrios, etc on a string or pipe cleaner for easy snacking)
  • Ants on a Log (peanut butter, celery, raisins)
  • Pistachios (good and takes some time to work through!)
  • S’mores if you can sneak it between the rain storms

While doing your snacktivity, maybe warm up with some hot chocolate or cider. Be sure to eat and have snacks in your screen tent for safety. No one wants wild animals sneaking into your tent.

Leave the tent:

If you’re tired of being in the tent for long hours and the rainy weather just won’t stop, try some of these options to get you through a rainy afternoon while camping:

Stay dry:

If it’s a cool rain or you’re just not interested in getting wet, here are ideas on how to survive while staying dry.

Drive into town

  • If you’re near a historic town maybe you can hop over and see the sites. We’ve ended up at some small restaurants and had some great meals/seen some interesting stores while making our way around small towns.

Eat at a cafe

  • Especially if you need to get out of the tent. It’s nice to get into place if it’s been raining all night/morning and you can pick up a late breakfast/lunch to get those spirits back up. I really do recommend taking a chance on those small town restaurants. They always are more likely to be memorable than the chains while on a trip.

Visit a local museum

  • Maybe there is a museum or some attraction you’ve been meaning to hit up in the area. Now is your chance, give it a go and see what the fuss is all about. You may end up seeing the world’s largest ball of twine!

Scenic drive

  • Usually around a park there are pretty drives. Even in the rain (unless it’s a downpour) it can be very pretty to see. I know most folks don’t think that bad weather is that great to be in but it’s honestly just another part of nature we can appreciate.

Nature center

  • Most parks have a nature center to explore. They have neat facts about the area you’re in. More ideas of what you can do at the park AND usually some level of animal life for the kiddos to get excited about. Even when it’s not raining we always stop by the nature center!

Campfire

  • Maybe you have a screen tent (no, NOT over the fire pit) and you can sneak between the raindrops and get a fire lit. I don’t know why, but it’s always a fun challenge to keep a fire going in the rain, just to see if you can start it and keep it rolling until the rain stops. Plus, then you have great coals for all those tinfoil dinners… or after dinner treats.

Be sure to keep some dry wood under a tarp or in your car if you’re car camping.

Screen Tent

If your site has the room, a screen tent can be pretty fantastic to enable more space for more fun. It keeps you outside a bit more and lets the whole family stretch a bit. We have a great one we really enjoy.

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Get wet:

If the rain is warm with no lightning, running around in the water is an amazing activity for kids of ALL ages. Get some waterproof boots and go explore the wet great outdoors!

Splash in puddles

Bring your rain boots and go jump in puddles! I’m sure you packed an extra set of clothes, so if the water isn’t too cold, go jump around. Our Tiny Critter LOVES splashing in puddles, so a little rain while camping makes his day. 

Fishing

If it’s raining and you’re catching fish, you know what you don’t care about anymore? That’s right, being WET! It doesn’t matter if you’re having a grand time pulling in fish after fish. If you can find yourself a great spot for a bunch of hungry sunnies, that tiny critter will be ecstatic. Some fish are more active in a light rain!

Go swimming

If you’re camping by a lake or swimmable river, going swimming while it’s gently raining is fun. (Make sure there is no lightning) As long as you’re already wet, you might as well have more splashy fun. 

Don’t forget the buckets and shovels, wet sand can make for some nice sand castles. 

You can also fill up the squirt guns and have a water fight! Everyone wins when everyone is equally wet at the end!
We love these squirt guns, they’re really easy for everyone in the family to use.

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Squirt Guns
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Play in the water/build a dam

Anywhere there is water running down a road, there is a way to make a dam. Grab sticks, build a dam across the running water. Your kids will have so much fun that they won’t even notice they’re learning about physics!

At Camp, After the Rain:

Once it stops raining, you’ll want to get back to camping if you still have daylight hours left. Here are a few good things to do once the rain stops.

  • Look for worms

Tiny Critter loves looking for worms and helping them get back to the grass. We have contests to see who can “save” the most worms.

  • Open windows in tent

You’ll want some ventilation in your tent once the rain is over. Things inside a tent can get pretty humid quite quickly. Opening the windows will help to prevent everything from feeling damp.

  • Start fire

Keep your wood in a dry spot, like under the picnic table for a light rain, or under an extra tarp or in the car for a harder rain storm. Then when the rain is done, you can start a good fire.

  • Dry clothes

If any of your clothes got wet, be sure to hang wet clothes on a clothes line to start drying them out. I always pack extra clothes for this reason, as wearing wet clothes is always a miserable experience.

If you can, avoid wearing cotton clothes, because they take forever to dry. Many outdoor clothing companies make awesome quick dry clothes that wick moisture and are perfect for camping in.

At Home With Wet Camping Gear:

After wading through high rivers (water runoff), crossing vast lakes (puddles), fighting sea serpents (earthworms), and wrestling gnomes (kids) you have arisen from a glorious adventure triumphant! The good news, you’re home and you survived camping in the rain! 

The bad news, all of your camping gear is damp, wet, or soaked. And, if you want to go on a camping adventure again (without mold/mildew/smell that is), you need to take care of that gear.

Below is a list of what you need to do. We’ve put it in an order we tend to do it in because it seems more efficient but work it all in however makes sense for you.

*Warning: Don’t wait on this. It doesn’t take long for things to smell, mildew to set in, etc. Please do this the day you get back. You’ll never regret it. If you don’t… there may be regret in your future.

Laundry – Get a load in the wash. Thankfully you can toss a load in and walk away for a bit which gives you time to get on to the next thing.

Camp Kitchen – Get a load in the dishwasher. Sure you may not do this every time but take it as an opportunity to air out that camp kitchen and keep it nice. Again, toss it in and move on!

Tent – Pop the tent up. If it’s still raining, consider setting it up in the garage or even the house. You don’t even have to put it all the way up (although we usually do) because you’re just trying to dry it out. If your tent is muddy, you may want to wash it quick before the mud gets dried on.

Hiking Boots – Check the instructions, some hiking boots can be washed in the washing machine. If not, use a cloth to wipe off any mud and then lay your boots on their side to fully dry out.

Regardless of how you do it, just make sure it’s fully dry when you put it back and you’re set to go for the next trip. If you can get the tent out in the sun, they dry quickly.

Also, you don’t have to stake it all down (but don’t let it blow away either) because you’ll want to flip it so you dry out the bottom too! When you flip the tent to dry the bottom, make sure you have one edge staked down.

Sleeping Bag – If you’re storing your sleeping bags correctly you are already at least pulling them out of the compression sack and putting them into a bigger bag so you don’t over compress the fill to keep the bag in good condition.

We tend to hang ours up so, if you do this too, you probably only need to put your gear away as normal. If not, hang the bags up for the day, hang them outside if it’s dry, in a closet, or even over your shower rod.

If you don’t have space to hang them and it’s still raining, lay them out on the floor and flip them after a couple hours. (Hint: You can put a fan on any equipment so it dries faster).

Sleeping Mat/Pillow – Easy. Do the same thing you’d do for your sleeping bag. Hang it, lay it out, get it dry, put it away and you are good for the next one. 

Misc Gear – Get all your gear dry. The only way to keep things nice (in spite of the tiny critter… we can’t have nice things, I know… but we never stop trying!) is to take care of it. If the flashlights are wet, open them up. Dry it out, all of it.

The last thing anyone wants is to start packing for the next adventure only to find something doesn’t work or is in major need of a deep clean. That kind of surprise will wreak havoc on the excitement for the next trip.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Now pack up your rain gear and go scurry around!

Happy Camping!

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