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You’ve made all the preparations up until the day you go camping with your kids. You look at the window, and the sky is dark, the thunder is rolling in, and you see the rain in the distance. This can be a quick recipe for getting you to fold and stay at home for the weekend. Who wants to go camping in the rain with kids?
Any bad weather camping with kids can be difficult if you aren’t ready for it. There are plenty of camping in the rain hacks that will ensure that your trip isn’t ruined by the wet weather. In fact, a lot of the time, I’ve found rain camping with kids to be one of my favorite types of camping. It creates an experience that’s definitely going to be remembered.
Prepare For Camping In The Rain With Kids
Camping in the rain with kids starts before you even leave the house, unless you want it to be a miserable time. Any family camping trip requires adequate preparation, but wet camping demands a whole extra list of preparations to be done. Rainy weather will change the way you pack, as well as the way you prepare your kids to go outside in the rain. To get the best experience, you need to frontload your kids with the fact that it’s going to rain. Let them know that it will be raining while camping so that they can mentally prepare.
Start by checking the forecast in detail for the time you’ll be out. Like they said, the weatherman is the only one who keeps a job when they’re always wrong. So, be ready for the rain to possibly be worse than expected. On the other hand, it could always be sunnier!
Also, talk to your kids about your expectations. At home, I let my kids run wild out in the rain, but when we’re camping, I generally don’t. At home, I know that the kids can always come inside and warm up, but that’s generally not the case while we’re camping. Talking about rules for the rain up front (how wet kids can get, gear storage, and where shoes go), can eliminate a lot of frustration at the family campsite.
Clothing For Bad Weather Camping With Kids
When it starts raining while camping, the temperature is going to drop with it. You’ll need to make sure you pack enough warm clothing to stay warm in a tent or under a tarp. In addition to warm clothing, if you’re going to be adventuring out in the rain, which I highly recommend, bring loads of clothes to change into afterwards. We once took our kids on a camping trip where a light rain, turned to a massive downpour and we woke up freezing in the morning. If you’re planning a camping trip in the rain, layers will be your best friend.
PRO TIP: Always have a stash of cheap rain ponchos on hand whenever you camp!
The layering system is gold when it comes to camping, and especially camping in the rain. Bring high-quality base layers that keep you warm and dry. These merino wool base layers are our go-to for kids. It keeps them warm even if it’s soaking wet, so it’s well worth the investment. It also dries surprisingly fast while wearing it.
Good wool socks will also be a lifesaver for camping with kids in the rain!
Another great idea for packing is a clothesline to dry wet clothes on. Put this under the extra tarp that you brought, build up a fire, and those clothes dry just as fast as they would in your dryer at home.
A good rain jacket and rain pants will go a long way, and this is one of the best kids rain jackets we’ve found (that also packs up really small). It makes it easier to go out into the rain and explore if you know you’ll be dry underneath the jacket. Rain jackets and pants don’t do a great job of protecting your feet. Wet feet can be dangerous out there so you need to make sure you’re equipped with some quality waterproof boots. Head here for some great waterproof hiking shoes for kids .
Games For A Wet Camping Trip
Keeping kids happy and occupied on a rainy camping trip can be a bit of a challenge. It will take a bit of extra planning and preparation on the part of mom and dad, as well as some creativity. If you don’t plan ahead, your kids will literally be bouncing off the walls of the tent while you contemplate heading to the nearest Hilton. We’ve found that games are the best way to distract our kids during a rainy camping trip.
- Take a hike through the rain. See if kids can spot any fresh animal tracks in the mud.
- Go on a scavenger hunt drive, if it’s really coming down. Find a back road through the forest where you can drive nice and slow and let the kids see what they can see through the car window.
- Bust out the card games. Our kids actually love camping in the rain since that means lots of extra family game time. Our favorite card games are this, this, this, and this.
- Bring some books. While older kids can get lost in a good chapter book, these Where’s Waldo and Eye Spy books have been lifesavers with our younger kids on a rainy day.
Waterproofing Your Camping Gear For Wet Weather
Ziploc bags just became your new best friend for family camping in the rain. They are the absolute best pick for all things outdoors when you want to keep things dry. My phone, my wallet, my books, my journal, a lot of my food, and just everything gets zipped up and stays safe from the weather. Waterproof camping gear can be expensive, so finding ways to make that price drop is key.
Come prepared with enough Ziplocs to keep everything dry. While quart size bags are good for small items, gallon and even 2 gallon bags are best for kids gear. These are a great resource to have in addition to bigger black contractor trash bags for your clothes. If you’re going with a car, obviously utilize the car. If you’re going out a bit further, these cheap plastic bags will do the trick.
Preparation Checklist For Rainy Camping
- Check the forecast daily so you’ll be ready to enjoy any moments of sunshine
- Bring extra warm clothing for everyone (since temps drop in the rain)
- Keep your firewood somewhere it will stay dry (the car trunk is great for this)
- Bring some clothesline to dry wet clothes on
- Make sure everyone has waterproof shoes or boots and a good rain jacket
- Dress in layers, and don’t forget high quality base layers (merino wool are our favorites for kids)
- Pack an extra tarp (we love this huge one).
- Have a designated space for wet gear, so it doesn’t get dry gear damp
- Bring some card games in case it’s raining too hard to explore
How To Set Up A Tent In The Rain
One of the worst experiences I’ve had camping was waking up after a wild storm and finding myself on a lonely island that was my sleeping pad amidst a sea of water in my tent. I made bad decisions, and I never will again.
Setting up your family tent for rain during the night is an art form and you can keep yourself perfectly dry by taking the right steps. First things first, if your tent is super old, you may need to re-waterproof it. This is a simple spray that gives you extra waterproof protection without much effort.
Checking in on your tent means checking the rainfly. If it’s in good condition, you’re set for the night. Unfortunately, even the highest quality tent can be beat down by a real storm. To combat that, you need to position your tent correctly.
Knowing how to pitch a tent in the rain is a necessary skill to have before heading out camping in the rain. First, choose a site that’s on higher ground where puddles won’t form. The bottoms of tents are typically pretty waterproof, but not completely. They’ll create a buffer, not a full barrier. Help this by placing a ground pad that’s the same size or slightly smaller than the tent underneath before setting it up.
Make sure that your tent is stretched out tight when you set up and that all the guy-lines around the outside of the tent are on and pulled tight!
Your door is a weak point when it comes to water. You’ll open and close this door throughout the night or just when you get in. That opens the tent up to more water. If you place your tent so the door faces slightly downhill, the rain will have less chance of flowing in or falling in when you enter and exit the tent.
Two other quick hacks are to not touch the sides of the tent and put a mat in the tent vestibule outside the tent for muddy shoes. Touching the sides will bring the tent body into contact with the rainfly. When that happens, water somehow magically comes inside and then you’re wet. A doormat will be great for keeping mud out of where you sleep. No one likes it when people wear shoes to bed anyways.
Also, when setting up your tarp or footprint, make sure that it doesn’t extent beyond the walls of the tent, since that will allow water to get trapped between your tarp and the floor, inevitably leaving you soaked. We learned this the hard way by coming back to our campsite after a rainstorm and finding a lake inside our tent (thankfully, our gear was all still in the car).
Tent Checklist for Rain Camping
- Make sure that your tent has good waterproofing
- Take a tent with a good rain fly, and secure it tightly
- Choose your tent site wisely (so that it’s on higher ground and no water will flow into it)
- Have your door face slightly downhill
- Make sure to put a ground pad under the tent, that’s the same size or slightly smaller than the tent. A tarp will work for this.
- Don’t touch the sides of the tent
- Place a mat outside of your tent for muddy shoes
Starting A Fire In The Rain
Starting a campfire in the rain is always a bit of a challenge, but if your gear and kids camping clothing are wet, you’re going to need a way to dry it out, and a campfire is the best way. Also, a roaring campfire is also one of the best ways to warm up on a cold day of camping in the rain with kids.
Plan ahead and always have some of these waterproof fire starters in with your camping gear. They will save you so much time and frustration as you start a fire in the rain, that you’ll always want to have them on hand.
Cooking Camp Food In The Rain
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you want happy kids, fill their stomachs with delicious food. When a tasty treat hits the mouth of a child, the thoughts of rain and discomfort disappear out the window faster than you can realize.
To start with, use the extra tarp that you brought along as a sheltered dining hall. You can have the kids help set it up. Make it fun by using logs and rocks from around to create a castle-worthy dining table that would make Hogwarts students jealous. This will be a fun activity while you cook and eat.
There are a couple of ways you can successfully use food to distract your kids from the foul weather. One of the best ways is to pre cook meals before heading out. It saves you the stress of cooking in the rain and all you need to do is reheat the meals. They’re ready when stomachs start grumbling and moods start going sour.
Another great way to use sugar and hot drinks to entice your kids and banish the grumpy moods. Hot cocoa brings smiles to everyone’s faces, and if you bring enough of it you’ll turn camping in a storm into camping with hot cocoa…in a storm.
Food Checklist For Bad Weather
- Set up a covered eating area (with a tarp or a canopy)
- Pre Cook parts of your meals, especially the meats – that way you can eat them any time, but know that they’ll taste best warm
- Bring plenty of hot cocoa
Don’t Forget A Sleeping Pad
If it does start to rain, one of the fastest ways to get wet in your tent is from water seeping up from below. A proper ground pad or tarp can go a long way to help prevent that. In addition, never camp in the rain without a sleeping pad underneath you. This will keep you warmer, more comfortable and also keep you dry if water does get in your tent.
Check out our review of the best kids sleeping pads for camping to help you choose the best one!
Camping In The Rain Doesn’t Have To Be Bad
Bad weather camping with kids doesn’t need to mean unpleasant camping. The rain brings a certain type of beauty to the forest that’s hard to appreciate at times. Getting your kids out in the rain is just one more way to get them to love the outdoors as much as you do.
By thoroughly preparing and doing your due diligence, you eventually make camping in the rain fun. You learn how to keep your tent dry inside, how to adventure in the rain, and how to make the best campfire in the rain. Eventually, the rain just becomes an afterthought. It’s background music to the kids’ adventurous and fun-filled life in the woods for your family camping trip.
Absolutely! Just come prepared with waterproof outerwear for the kids, and make sure that your tent is prepared to handle the wet weather, with a fresh coat of waterproofing spray before you leave home.
The most important piece of camping gear to bring if it’s going to rain is a large waterproof tarp (or two). They’re great for makeshift shelters, as an extra layer of waterproofing on your tent, and as a dry ground cover in the rain.
The best thing that you can do to keep your tent dry in the rain, is to make sure it’s well waterproofed before you leave home. Putting your tent on higher ground, facing your tent door the proper direction, and not allowing gear to touch the tent walls are all important as well.