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Camping In The Rain? How To Prepare

With the weatherman calling for rain, Clint gathers the essential gear for preparing the campsite for rain on the Field Trip: Great River Road.Setting Up Camp For Rain

Ever notice among your friends or co-workers the campers exhibit certain traits that make them standout? One sure sign he or she is headed on a camping adventure in the weekend ahead is the increasing frequency with which a weather app is up on the phone. And you can tell if the forecast is not good, because they’ll check different apps to see if one is more optimistic than another.

But what does it matter? No matter how often you check; no matter whose forecast you follow, the weather is going to do what it’s going to do. Mark Twain had it pegged more than a century before the smart phone, “Everybody talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.”

In today’s crazy busy world, few of us have the luxury of changing an itinerary or postponing a trip. If we don’t do it when it’s planned, it won’t happen. A little thing like rain can’t be allowed to stand in the way.

The alternative to cancelling or postponing is going prepared to deal with wet weather. You need knowledge and the right gear.

Your first stop in preparing for a wet weekend of tent camping is the hardware store. Your shopping list includes:

  • Tarps – several of them in varying sizes. At least two of them should be at least as large as the footprint of your tent. A couple of small 6’x8’ or 8’x10’ sizes are really handy, too.
  • Rope – something small diameter but strong like para-cord will work fine for most needs. You can buy it in almost any length, but get more than you possibly think you’ll need. In fact, invest in an entire roll. It lasts forever and this certainly won’t be your last camping trip in the rain. With a bulk supply you can cut exactly the lengths you need as they are needed.
  • Bungee Cords – these are God’s second-greatest gift to camping. (We’ll get to the greatest gift in a second.) Bungees are invaluable when it comes to securing tarps, making lines taut, and battening down gear from being blow to the next campsite … or campground. You can never have enough bungees in your camping gear.
  • Duct Tape – the aforementioned greatest gift. Wet weather, dry weather, hot weather, cold weather … doesn’t matter. Bring a couple rolls of duct tape on every camping trip. Its uses are limited only by your imagination … and sitting inside a tent, listening to the rain … you’ll get pretty creative.
  • Contractor’s Garbage Bags – spend the extra bucks and get a box or a roll of the really strong, really big garbage bags. No, they’re not the greenest thing on the planet, but if it makes you feel better dry them out and reuse them after they’ve protected your gear … or even your kid who needed an impromptu rain poncho.

Location, Location, Location

Try to choose a campsite with a location for a tent that’s on high ground with good drainage in each direction. Stay away from river and creek bottoms, even lake shores.

Times Two

The two large tarps you brought along are both going to serve as ground clothes. One will go under the floor of your tent and the other will go inside, on top of the floor of your tent. IMPORTANT – fold the tarp that goes on the ground so it’s slightly smaller than the footprint of your tent. You want its edges a few inches inside the perimeter of the tent floor all the way around. That way it won’t catch rain and channel it under the tent. The tarp inside the tent adds another layer of moisture barrier and when the sun does come out all you have to do his pull it out, dry it and sweep away the collected mud and dirt. That’s way easier than cleaning the tent floor on your knees, when the tent is set up, and it’s still damp.Under Cover

Put everything you don’t want wet either in a garbage bag sealed with duct tape or under a secured tarp. If you really don’t want it wet, do both! That’s the best way to handle firewood.

Get It Off the Ground

Obviously you’ll cover everything to protect it+ from the falling precipitation, but gear gets wet (at least soggy, gross, and damp) by pulling moisture out of the wet ground, too. Most campsites have a picnic table. Since you probably won’t be sitting around it in the rain, use it as your high and dry platform. Anything you won’t be taking in the tent – bag it, organize it on the picnic table top and seats, and secure a tarp over the top of it. It’s high and dry.

When the rain ends, you’ll have stuff you want to hang out in the sun to dry. Why not get ahead of the game and string clothes lines as you set up camp, then you an use them during the rain to hang bagged and sealed gear to keep it off the ground?

Don’t Forget the Car

The driest, cleanest, most secure spot in your campsite during a rainstorm is going to be the inside of your car. That’s where you’re valuables can ride out the storm. In preparation for forecasted rain, think ahead and park the car as close to the tent as possible. If it storms during the night, young campers may feel safest in the car, and that’s fine. Let them sleep there. You want their memories to be good ones so they’ll ask to go camping again.

Weather apps make pinpointing incoming rain so much more precise than a forecast from 50 miles away.
When the forecast is for rain, the 50 Campfires Team keeps the Field Trip: Great River Road Nissan Armada parked close and handy to the tent.

 

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