Only true adventurers can say that they’ve camped and hiked in the rain. There’s nothing tougher than braving the elements to finish a day’s journey.
Prepare yourself for your journey through the rain by reading through some of our best tips and tricks.
Find the ideal campsite
Pitch the campsite in a location with a little elevation that's not too near a river or a lake. Waking up to three inches of water during a downpour isn't the best wake up call. It's even better if you pitch your tent facing the morning sun — if you're hiking in an area with a different time zone than you, the sun will reset your circadian rhythm and coax you out of your sleeping bag on those cold, rainy mornings. Also, don't set up camp under a tree. It may seem like a good idea because trees provide protection and all, but even after the rain has stopped, excess water will keep falling from the leaves. Additionally, strong winds might swoop up branches and drop them on your tents while you're asleep.
Lights aren't just aesthetic; they're also functional!
Set the mood and ambiance by putting up lights on the trees surrounding the campsite. There's something romantic about seeing warm lights glow in the rain — provided that they're waterproof — and enjoy the views from inside your tent, all while having a great night with your fellow campers. Aside from that, having lights around your campsite keeps you safe from a list of dangers and hazards that come with camping in the rain; like warding off bandits or aiding in visibility.
Cotton is a no-go for the rainy season
Your clothes should be as close to your skin as possible. Cotton allows for the buildup of sweat and moisture and the absorption of rainwater. This water creates a barrier between your skin and your clothes giving you chills. Opt for moisture-wicking materials such as nylon, wool, or polyester. Cotton underwear isn’t a good option either. In case of hypothermia, they’re the first thing that the search and rescue team will cut off your body if there’s a possibility that you’re developing hypothermia.
Synthetic insulation inside your jacket
Down jackets lose their insulating properties when they get wet. Sherpas may be great in the snow, but not so much for rainy weather. Water-resistant insulators are your best bet in case you get caught in the rain. Its hydrophobic coating will act as both a raincoat and insulator.
Have your rain cap on you at all times
Rain hoods do a poor job at keeping water out of your eyes. Your hood is just an accessory to keep your rain hat dry. Your rain hat is the star of the show. Keep your hair dry and wrap it in a waterproof turban underneath your raincoat.
Find water repellent solutions and rainproof everything!
You’ll find all kinds of wax sticks or balms at the hardware. For your items that aren’t waterproof, such as pouches or socks, rub the solution all over them. It’s a fast and smart way to make them water resistant.
Find the right shoes
We’ve talked about this before in one of our previous articles, finding the right shoes is key to a successful hike. Don’t cheap out on your shoes because you put your feet at risk of blisters.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Take your time when looking for the proper hiking shoes/boots and insoles. Give yourself a few months to buy different pairs and test them on "mini-hikes." The last thing you want is to have uncomfortable shoes during your journey because your boots will set the tone of your trek.
Your hiking boots should be snug, not too loose, not too tight. Loose shoes will cause you to trip and fall all over the place, which could result in severe injury. Tight shoes cause blisters and cut off the circulation in your feet.
Follow what hikers call the "thumb rule" also known as leaving a half thumbs worth of space to give your feet room to swell. You're going against gravity when you hike downhill, and you don't want your toes jamming against the foot box. This could cause a myriad of problems such as blisters, hot spots, black toes, and ingrown nails. Make sure there's enough room in your shoes for your toes not to wrinkle and fold while trying to gain traction.
Additionally, your shoes should be waterproof and moisture-wicking. It should have the ability to keep any dampness out of your shoe to avoid getting a foot fungus or blisters during your hike.
Like all hikes, bring a pair of gaiters
Gaiters go over your shoes and the hem of your pants to keep debris out of your shoes. If there are two things you want your feet to avoid is moisture and debris. The idea of wearing gaiters is to give added protection and lining for your lower extremities when hiking in wet conditions or through damp terrain. It will help keep your socks, and therefore your feet and boots dry. Gaiters are an essential part of your hiking gear.
Keep your dry clothes safe from the rain
Invest in heavy duty vacuum sealed bags to keep your clothes safe inside your pack. Keep your clothes in a dry bag and absolutely do not open the bag until you’re safe inside your tent. Having a set of dry clothes to change into will do wonders for your level of camping comfort and for your health. A midday change after a downpour to dry socks and sweater will lift your spirits and deter hypothermia. Also, it’s essential that you dry out your camping and hiking gear after every trip. Hang them out in the sun to dry to kill the potential mildew and mold from growing, which could ultimately ruin your gear.
It’s easier to stay dry than to dry off
In the event of a downpour, find a place to keep dry and stay there until you’re absolutely sure it won’t rain anymore. The worst thing you can do on a camping trip is to walk around in wet clothes. Unless you can say with absolute certainty that the sun will be hot enough to dry your clothes out, don’t risk it. Especially the ladies. A multitude of things could happen to you if you walk around with wet clothes such as getting hypothermia, pneumonia, athletes foot, a yeast infection, etc.
Monitor the weather the whole day
Most trails don’t have Wi-Fi readily available. But if you so happen to have data on your phone, use the weather forecast to determine the pace of your hike. Hikes weren’t made to be done in the rain, unless completely necessary, because it’s dangerous. If you have a weather app, use it. Time your breaks during the rainstorms. After all, nothing soothes us to sleep better than the pitter-patter of raindrops on the ground.
Keep an eye out for lightning
First of all, the odds of lightning striking you are one in 700,000 — if you really think about it, it’s a zero. Lightning strikes the tallest thing it can find, and you are definitely not taller than any of the trees you encounter. But if you’re caught in an open field or in the desert, get as low to the ground as possible and don’t move until the storm is over. Anyway, back to what we were saying, keep an eye out for lightning. It’s one of nature’s most beautiful phenomenon often shrouded by light pollution in the city. You get front row seats to this electrifying performance.
Do not sacrifice your safety for the sake of reaching your destination
If the rain becomes too much, stay where you are. Now is not the time to be a thrill seeker. Safety first!
Create an outdoor living room
When the day's pursuits are over, don't allow your fellow campers to retreat into their respective tents—create an outdoor living space. Create a rain shelter by stringing a tarp to two adjacent trees or stick some poles in the ground and attach it to that. Then set up chairs, switch the lights on, bring out the beer and nuts, and get some music and games going. A game of charades, perhaps?
Here’s a bonus: Is it impossible to light a fire in the rain? No, it’s not!
Things you need to light a fire in the rain:
Step 1: Collect tinder. Pine needles dry easily another option is tree bark — there’s almost always one dry side. (Or always have your own Fire starter on hand)
Step 2: Find kindling and fuel wood. Look for an area with natural cover to find dry wood — a leaning rock, fallen tree, or the lower branches of an evergreen.
Step 3: Make sure your wood is dry enough. For kindling, try to snap it; it should easily break. For branches, split them with a knife to find dry wood inside.
Step 4: Once you’ve collected wood, find a location for your fire. Underneath a large tree as a good choice, or string a tarp between trees.
Step 5: Create a bed for your fire. Separate it from the wet ground using tree bark or constructing a bed from branches.
Step 6: Build the lay. Make a pile of tinder, then create a teepee over it with kindling, and a larger teepee around that with your fuel wood.
Step 7: With your storm-proof matches, light the tinder from underneath. Carefully blow on it and watch your fire grow.
Step 8: Set kindling and fuel logs next to fire. The heat dries them out and keeps the fire going.
We hope you enjoy your camping trip! There will be more hitches in the road provided the many obstacles you need to get through but don’t let the rain dampen your fun. And remember, stay dry!