How to Survive Camping In The Rain in a Tent (And Stay Dry)

A rainstorm can turn a camping trip into an adventure or a miserable wash-out. (Sometimes both.) With smartphone apps and detailed radar, it’s easy enough to track bad weather as it speeds towards you but what happens when it arrives? Most people who have spent any time camping have tales of leaky tents and soggy sleeping bags. It might seem like getting wet is an inevitable part of sleeping on the ground outdoors, but fortunately, it’s not. Based on years of camping experience, we’re sharing our best advice and camping in the rain hacks on how to survive a rainstorm—and stay dry.

The key to staying dry while camping—especially when a tent is involved—is a mix of both thoughtful strategy and quality gear. To truly stay dry and ride out a storm, you need both. (For instance, a top-of-the-line tent won’t do you any good if you set it up at the bottom of a hill or within a few yards of a stream.) Remember that no matter the weather report, you should always be rain-ready when you’re camping and pack the necessary gear. In most parts of the country, summer weather is unstable and it pays to be prepared. Here’s how to do just that:

Use a weather-resistant tent.

This first tip seems obvious but not all tents are equally weather-resistant. Less obvious is that there are ways to determine how waterproof a tent might be. We’ve listed some of our favorite weather-resistant tents at the end of this article but here are factors that can make the difference between a leaky tent and a watertight one:

  • Shape: A boxy tent or a design that doesn’t have steep angles is more likely to collect water. Choose a tent shape that will cause the water to flow off (and away from) the tent.
  • Floor:The material that the tent floor is made from should be thicker and more rugged than the rest of the tent. The sturdier this material, the less likely it is to leak.
  • Seams: Taped seams keep water from seeping between the places where the tent fabric is sewn together. In the manufacturing process, a strip of plastic material is often melted along the inside of the seam. You can spot taped seams from inside a tent. If a manufacturer labels a tent (or clothing) as waterproof, it will have taped seams.
  • Rain-fly: A rain-fly (or rain cover) is an additional piece of fabric that covers a tent, is staked to the ground, and allows rain to flow away from the tent itself. As far as staying dry is concerned, it’s the most important piece of equipment a tent camper can have. Unfortunately, the cheapest tents usually come with the flimsiest—and smallest—rain covers. If a rain-fly looks like a small hat for your tent, it’s not going to keep things dry.

Or, make your existing tent more weather-resistant.

Tents—especially waterproof ones—can be expensive and sometimes buying a new one just isn’t an option. With that in mind, there are a few things that can make your tent more weather-resistant:

  • Make a tent liner. There’s an ongoing debate about whether a tarp should be placed underneath a tent or inside of it but we’re going to side with the Boy Scouts on this one and say inside. Use a tarp or piece of builder’s plastic to create a liner for the bottom of your tent. Make sure that the liner extends up the sides of the tent by a few inches on all sides.
  • Add a better rain-fly. Purchase a separate rain-fly that fits your tent. If you don’t like how it restricts light and airflow, use it only when the weather forecast predicts rain.
  • Use waterproofing spray. Even waterproof tents don’t stay that way forever. Eventually the waterproof coating on the outside of the fabric breaks down. If your tent’s waterproof coating wears off, or if it didn’t have it in the first place, you can apply this coating yourself.
  • Seal the seams. Another DIY method for waterproofing is to seal the seams of your tent with silicone seam sealer. This can be a labor-intensive process but it’s also a more budget-friendly (and earth-friendly) alternative to buying a new tent.

Choose your campsite wisely.

If the forecast calls for wet weather, try to choose a campsite that’s least likely to flood or have water running through it. If you’ve already booked the site, you can still use these tips to find the best place to set up a tent within your campsite:

  • Keep your distance from water. Don’t set up your tent near the edge of a lake, river, stream, or dry stream bed that might fill with water during a flash flood. According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, tents should always be set up at least 200 feet from water anyway.
  • Pay attention to elevation. Pitch your tent on the highest part of the campsite (but not so high that you’re a prime target for lightning) in a place where there’s level ground. That way, water won’t collect near your tent.
  • Avoid trees and vegetation. Don’t set up your tent in a place where branches and leaves will touch or brush against it. When it rains, these will funnel water to the tent.

camping in the rain with coffee

Now that we’ve covered strategy, here’s our round-up of gear and supplies that will help you be a happy camper, no matter the weather. First up is our list of the top weather-resistant tents.

Weather-Resistant Tents

NTK Colorado GT Camping Tent

This family-sized tent is made from 100% waterproof material, includes a full rain-fly, and accommodates up to 9 people.

NTK Colorado GT 8 to 9 Person Outdoor Dome Family Camping Tent 100% Waterproof, Easy Assembly, Durable Fabric Full Coverage Rainfly - Micro Mosquito Mesh
  • DESIGNED FOR QUICK & EASY ASSEMBLY – Fully assemble and disassemble the Colorado GT 9 - 8 person instant tent with little to no effort; With only 3 lightweight, reinforced fiberglass color coded poles, our tents for camping weigh 20.7 lbs with a comfortable floor size of 10x12 ft and a 6.07 ft center height
  • DOUBLE LAYER FULL COVERAGE RAINFLY – Protect yourself from sunlight, rain, and humid weather with the 100% waterproof 190T polyester rainfly of our Colorado camping tents; The 2500 mm water column rainfly provides full coverage on all 4 sides while the heat-seamed thermoplastic coating offers UV protection
  • BREATHABLE MICRO MESH – Featuring ultra-thin polyester micro-mesh fabric on all 3 sides, the roof, and a wide door the air will easily flow through it; Built for the Brazilian Amazon, the Colorado 3-season dome family tent will keep you comfortable and protected from heat, rain, and wind
  • LONG-LASTING & HEAVY DUTY – Extra thick Nano-flex fiberglass poles interconnect with double gold chrome plated ferrule hardware and strong elastic, offering a sturdy construction; This high-performance NTK big tent also has a carry bag with reinforced oxford fabric, extra thick straps, and heavy-duty zippers
  • ALL-WEATHER PROTECTION – This family camping tent is made of polyethylene with a silver-coated inner layer to prevent leaks; The flooring has a unique bathtub-style construction barrier designed to ensure so you won’t wake up in a puddle

Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent

Kelty’s streamlined Salida model comes with a full rain-fly and is available in 1, 2, and 4 person sizes.

Kelty Salida Camping and Backpacking Tent, 2 Person
  • Backpack-friendly compact folding poles, Gearloft loops, Color coded clip and fly attachment.Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm
  • Roll top cube carry bag, Easy set up, Free standing, Fabric/mesh tent walls
  • Kelty hug clip, Easy entry D door, Internal storage pockets, Fully seam taped construction
  • Seasons: 3, Number of doors: 1, Number of vestibules: 1, Number of poles: 2, Capacity: 2
  • Floor area: 30.5 ft² / 2.83 m², Vestibule area: 10 ft² / .93 m².Wall material: 68D Polyester, 40D No-See-Um Mesh,Floor material: 68D Nylon, 1800 mm

Marmot Limelight Tent

If you’re looking for a compact tent that’s still spacious, you might want to try this 3-person model from Marmot. It comes with a full rain-fly and ground cover.

MARMOT Limelight 3P
  • Marmot Limelight 3 Person Tent Cinder Rust

ALPS Mountaineering Tent

This 4-person tent has factory-sealed seams and a ventilated full rain-fly.

ALPS Mountaineering 5422607 Taurus 4 Person Tent, Sage/Rust
  • There's no assembly frustration with our Taurus Tent series; this free-standing, fiberglass two-pole design can be setup in no time
  • Polyester tent fly resists water and UV damage while adding two vestibules for extra storage and space
  • Mesh roof, two entryways and a zippered window on each door offers easy access and great ventilation
  • Fully equipped with #8 zippers, mesh storage pockets, gear loft, aluminum stakes and guy ropes
  • Base Size: 7'6 x 8'6, Center Height: 52", Total Weight: 10 lbs. 8 oz., Color: Sage/Rust

Waterproofing Accessories

If buying a new tent isn’t in your future, here are the products you’ll need to make do with what you already have. With a little time and effort, you can transform your tent into a sleeping space that stands up to wet weather.

Kalinco Waterproof Camping Tarp

If you can’t find a rain-fly that fits your specific tent, you can rig up a waterproof tarp above your tent for extra protection. This extra-large version from Kalinco is waterproof and comes with stakes and ropes.

KALINCO 10X10FT/10X15FT,Tent Tarp, Hammock Tarp, pu Waterproof Camping tarp Tent Rain Fly Picnic Mat Survival Shelter Sunshade(Coffee)
  • [MULTIFUNCTION TARP]The camping tarp is a multi-functional shelter which have many different ways to use and perfectly suitable for Climbing,Camping,Fishing,Travelling and party etc. You can unfold the camping tarp and lay it on ground use as picnic mat. Also can use the pegs and ropes to set up as the sun canopy or rain tarp.
  • WATERPROOF: The waterproof camping tarp tent is made from 210T polyester with PU 3000mm waterproof coating, and has a taped central seam, quick-drying fabric ideal for rain flies because it will not fail under stress.
  • EASY TO CARRY and USE: Compactly in its carrying bag, making it convenient to travel. Unfold the camping tarp and lay it on ground use as tent footprint; with the stakes and ropes when take it as sun canopy or rainfly.
  • [Durable and Ultra Light] this material is designed to be light, flexible and strong enough to prevent wear and puncture. The tarp consists of six stakes, six ropes and a handbag. The nails are made of aluminum. It's very strong and doesn't rust. When you start a new travel plan, this tent tarp is your best choice.
  • [Refund and Warranty]We provide 60 days exchange service warranty from the date of purchase if the item is defective.If the item's damage or malfunction caused by delivery or be under normal use. You will be offer for a return.Please contact us freely if you have any issues.We will reply you within 24 hours.

Kiwi Camp Dry Water Repellent

There are a number of waterproofing sprays on the market but this version is easy-to-use and recommended for tents.

KIWI Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellant 10.5 Ounce (Pack of 2)
  • KIWI Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Protect provides a tough, long lasting and breathable water protection that becomes odorless when dry
  • Ideal for tents, tarps, boots, hunting apparel, outdoor gear, boat covers and patio furniture
  • Treated material stays odor free after drying
  • Keeps water out while still allowing article to breathe
  • Silicone bonds to leather/fabric to create an extremely tough water barrier

Gear Aid Tent Seam Sealant

This seam sealant comes with an applicator brush and will remain flexible after it dries.

Gear Aid Seam Grip FC Fast Cure Sealant for Nylon and Polyester Tents, Tarps, Awnings, Clear, 2 oz
  • Seal up to 60 ft of seams on tents, tarps and awnings with this water-based seam sealant; cures in 2 hours at room temperature
  • Use it on various outdoor fabrics including nylon, polyester, and canvas; previously known as Seam Sure
  • Apply this long-lasting seal that is nearly invisible and flexes with fabric; available in 2 fl oz bottle
  • Treat gear using the included applicator brush to make application quick and easy
  • Packaging may vary