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Tent Setup in the Rain

From choosing a camping tent, to knowing how to set up a camp kitchen, and even camping tips for cooking, the more camping hints and tips you know the easier it will be. Please notice we did say the more you know, not the more you buy or bring.

Sometimes you enjoy doing it, but sometimes you just have to do it. Whether you are expecting rain or not, your tent should be set up as if it WILL rain. You just never know. There is a way to set up your tent and stay relatively comfortable.

Rainy days won’t bother you if you come prepared for your camping trip to the great outdoors. In fact, a little rain outside your tent is pretty calming and soothing, especially the smell of the wet ground. A waterproof tent will keep the moisture from entering.

When choosing your tent, it’s a good idea to pick one with inbuilt vents. Vents will keep the air flowing through the tent, eliminating the risk of condensation.

First, put on that rain poncho you packed. Keeps you warm but lets you move without a sweat. Get used to your poncho and its hood. You'll wear it most of the time in the rainy season.


Set up the tent on high ground. Take a look around your campsite before you set up the tent. Pick a spot that’s elevated, away from any slopes or hills. Don't pitch your tent in a hole which might become a puddle when it rains.

Avoid camping under heavy tree branches that could fall in a storm. Also, look around for any signs of previous flooding, such as narrow canyons and valleys.

Stay aware of your surroundings. Avoid those narrow areas and also be aware of the water levels of nearby rivers. Avoid camping at the highest geographical point when there’s lightning.

Put up your Tent in the Rain

Place a tarp over your tent in addition to the rainfly, either using the poles or tying it to the trees. Make sure you have some slope on either side so the rain runs off and does not create a pool on top of your tarp. This will be your best form of rain protection.

Then, once the tarp is place just set your tent up right underneath it. You can work comfortably, the tent will stay dry, and you will have that extra rain protection already taken care of.

Put a waterproof tarp underneath your tent. Make sure you fold the ends underneath so nothing is sticking out. If any part of the tarp is sticking out, it will funnel the water underneath your tent.

Keep a Dry Tent

Keeping the inside of the tent dry requires some attention. Pitch the tent/rainfly as taut as possible so it'll shed water properly. If you're in a single-wall tent, do not touch the wall of the tent, water will seep through. In a double-wall tent, don't push the inner wall of the tent to the outer wall, or the rain will seep through.

Keep your stuff away from the sides of the tent. Water will drip through in spots where there is something making contact with the walls. Any gear touching the walls of the tent will also get wet from condensation.

Condensation will make the inside of your tent wet unless you use a double-wall tent. The inner wall is the tent, and the outer wall is the rain fly.

When setting up the outer layer, it is really important that you stake down ALL the sides, including the corners and in the centers. Otherwise, the rain fly will droop from the pressure of the rain and the fly and inner tent wall will touch. This will cause condensation to form and your tent will get wet.

When we are leaving the site for the day and know it will rain, make sure the air mattress is in the center of the tent, not touching any walls, and put all of the gear on top of it, then toss a tarp over everything.

Your Tent

Getting a decent night’s rest is important when you’re hiking all day every day, so investing in a good quality tent is important. While borrowing a friend’s tent or using that old one you’ve had for years might save money, you don’t know what you’re getting performance wise so if you go this route make sure you test it out beforehand. Something good in the rain is important because there’s nothing worse than waking up in the night with a wet sleeping bag.

Your tent must have adequate ventilation when you are in it, or you will get condensation inside the tent. The rain tarp over the tent will usually shield the vent windows enough so you can open them without having the rain come in.

The floor of your tent should be a waterproof nylon material. Most newer tents are made tub-style, meaning the floor fabric comes up the wall several inches, even forming a lip at the door, with as few seams as possible. This is ideal as no water will leak into your tent this way.

The old-school style of directing rain away from your tent was to dig a ditch all around it. This is no longer an acceptable practice, and due to the style and materials of modern tents, no longer necessary.

Sleeping Bag

Having a sleeping bag with synthetic insulation comes in handy in wet conditions. Even if the bag gets damp by rain or condensation, it'll still keep you warm. Some clever sleeping bags wick away any moisture from inside to the outside.

A down bag, on the other hand, loses quite a bit of its loft when wet, and thus insulation. If you have a down bag, consider carrying it, and a dry change of clothes, in a dry bag where you know they'll stay dry no matter what. If a dry bag's not in your budget, use a garbage bag or even heavy-duty zip-close bags for the small stuff.

There are now sleeping bags available that keep you warm even when soaking wet by moving moisture from the inside to the outside. They let you go to sleep in wet clothes and wake up dry.

youtube.com/watch?v=YD3wA5Wrcmc (wiggys.com)

Sleeping Bag Liner

As it gets wet it will also start to get cold, so if you’re planning to camp in the rain it's a good idea to bring a sleeping bag liner made from quick drying nylon or polyester, not cotton. Placed inside your sleeping bag it adds valuable extra degrees of warmth and protects the sleeping bag from dirt. When it’s raining it’s likely to get muddy.

Dining Area

A dining fly sheet or tarp is a wonderful treat in the rain. It allows you some freedom to move around the campsite and spend time together, rather than have everybody holed in in their own tents, or everybody holed up in one tent!

Under a dining fly you can cook, relax, read, play games, or just sit back and watch the rain, while staying dry.


Never cook inside your tent! The fumes can kill you, and it's easier than you think to accidentally burn your only shelter down. Your options include cooking in the vestibule area, very carefully, since fire is still a risk, or setup up a cooking area underneath another tarp, away from your tent.

Avoid cooking near your tent in bear country. You should never sleep where you cook and eat. Cook in some other sheltered area, underneath an evergreen tree sometimes works, or cook under the extra tarp you hopefully brought.

You can bring multiple tarps and set them up over other areas, such as a dining area, too. Then you won’t be stuck in your tent during the rain.

Water Bottle

When you walk in the rain, it’s important to avoid dehydration. It may sound weird, but people often forget to drink when there is a high humidity level. Moreover, searching for water under the heavy rain can be a little bit challenging. That’s why you should have a water bottle or flask in your pocket.

Hot Beverages

It doesn’t matter whether you like cold weather or not, at the end of a rainy day you’ll dream of hot tea and a warm bed shared with your hiking friend. When camping in the rain, prepare a thermos with tea or hot chocolate. You’ll be grateful to yourself that you did so when you’re lying in a cold tent with freezing water dripping down the walls.

Packing up

If it is raining when you are taking down the camp, you can put your tent away wet or damp but it is imperative that you set up the tent immediately when you get home to dry. If you put away your tent wet, it will mold and will be ruined.