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We are expecting rain on the first day of upcoming camping trip (but the rest is expected to be nice). We will be car camping at a state site. Anyone with any stories of their experience or tips on setting up while it's pouring?
Unfortunately, I've had a lot of experience setting up in the rain! My experiences have all been on backcountry through hikes, but the principals should remain the same as car camping.
1) Keep your key items DRY (sleeping bag, extra set of clothes, anything needed to make fire with, etc). For car camping, the obvious way to do this would be simply to leave these items in the car until your tent is set up.
2) Find a high point to make camp. Last thing you want is to wake up to a flooded area with water entering your tent. Try to find a spot where water will flow away from you.
3) Ideally, you'll have a tent that has the rain fly attached. This way the inside of the tent will stay as dry as possible. IF not, and you have a few extra hands, you can have a few people hold the rain fly over the tent as it is being set up. Try to wait it out in your car as long as possible to find a break in the rain to do this. BRING A TARP TO LAY UNDER YOUR TENT. This will help keep the water from seeping through. Most likely, the bottom of your tent is only water resistant, not water proof.
4) Bring trash bags to move your dry items from the vehicle to the tent. Bring anything you need to be inside the tent for a while to wait out the storm (food, water, cards, book, etc). You don't want to have to keep going in and out, tracking mud and water in with you each time. Once you're ready to set up the inside of the tent, remove your wet clothes and just throw them outside. Use the towels to dry up anything you could've tracked in with you.
5) Stay focused on only setting up what is necessary during the rain. Biggest advantage you have here is your vehicle. Stay inside as long as possible to see if there is a break in the weather, then be ready to set up your essential items.
6) KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOING TO GET WET. Having this mentality will often take the emotional side out of camping in the rain. Accept the elements and enjoy it rather than being frustrated.
Hope this helps, have fun!
To expand on the recommendation of having others in your group hold the rainfly over you while setting up the tent, if you can take that a step further and have a tarp that you can string up from the trees over your tent site, or even a pop-up shelter like you see at festivals and farmer's markets. Neither of those options is really feasible for backcountry camping, but should be doable for car-camping.
One other note, when putting down a tarp, or other tent footprint, make sure the edges are inside the perimeter of the tent body. Otherwise it will serve to funnel the rain and tent runoff directly under the tent. You want the tent body, or at least the rainfly, to extend beyond your footprint.
Good luck, and if you can't stay dry, embrace and enjoy the rain!
Was just going to make the same point about the tarp/footprint needing to be under the fly. Most modern tents do have a waterproof floor so unless yours isn't, I might even omit the tarp/footprint in order to get the tent up faster. Footprints while they do provide an addition water barrier are largely to stop abrasion by keeping the dirt and pointy things away from your tent allowing the floor of your tent to slide over the footprint rather than grind on a rock...generally less of an issue when it is wet...but it is a judgement call. I have always used a footprint.
Some 2 wall backpacking tents have a "fly first" feature which used the footprint so obviously in that case you might use the footprint to get the fly up before assembling the rest of the tent. My tent has this feature but I have never had to set up in heavy enough rain to warrant using it. Doing it in rain gear seems like it might be counter productive...a better use of it is a "fly last" take down if you have to pack up in the rain.
Another aspect of this is that well used campsites tend to compress and hollow creating a potential puddle. If you don't have a choice of site you might dig a small channel to ensure the water does not accumulate. Having an emergency shovel along helps. Obviously there could be problems with this depending on the kind of site so use your judgement and don't dig up the lawn.
no no no! we don't dig trenches anymore, anywhere! LNT!!
There is a campsite at cottonwood campground in GCNP which is more or less ruined by trenching.
@Philreedshikes That is a fair point bu I was talking car camping and organized/maintained campsites which are the antithesis of LNT in any case. And a small channel is not a "trench". I should have said to fill it back in before you leave though.
That said, if the campsite needed enough trenching to ruin it then it probably shouldn't have been a campsite in the first place and it is probably a good thing if it is no longer usable!
@stinemarie Such a great question! I just returned from two backpacking trips, both of which contained 1+ days of torrential rain. You've gotten some great advice so far, especially in regards to tent set-up, tent footprints/tarps, and choosing your tent's location!
Here are a couple of things I would add for car camping in the rain:
I tried to list some tips that I've picked up from experience and that other people haven't mentioned yet. Hope this helps, and good luck!
I have had to do this a couple of times on car camping trips. Even if not raining, the first thing I do, after donning my personal rain gear, is put up the dining fly. We have a very sturdy First Up fly. Once that is done, I then unload free-standing tent and ground cloth. I then set the tent up under the dining fly and attach the tent fly to the tent. I also attach the ground cloth to the bottom of the tent with large binder clips. Then, in a coordinated effort, we put the tent up in the proper location and very quickly stake out the fly and tent corners. We have a 3 season tent that stays very dry even in major storms and has a good sized vestibule for storing wet boots and rain gear. Finally, if we don't think the rain will end by nightfall, we move our sleeping bags, pads, etc into the tent. They are all in water repellent stuff sacks or compression bags so they don't get wet. We keep our food and cooking gear in large plastic totes, so we just move that under the dining fly.
I have a story!
In the 90's a friend and I drove down from a US Army Base in Germany where we were both civilian engineers taking care of the base infrastructure, to the Eiger Campground in Grindelwald, Switzerland and set up our tent, car camping and day hiking.
We also set up a large canopy over a picnic table.
We woke up the next morning to a driving rain storm and noticed an American station wagon a few sites away, which had arrived during the night and the rain storm.
We also noticed a partially collapsed, drenched tent, and saw the windows of the station wagon were all fogged up, indicating the occupants had slept in the car.
We then noticed, a guy get out of the car and trying to make some coffee or breakfast, or something, in the pouring rain, and getting even more drenched. His situation was pretty hopeless.
Well we were kicked back under our tarp having hot coffee and breakfast, so we invited him over, and later his wife and kids, and we fed them a great breakfast and hot drinks. This October weekend was pretty nippy.
They were SO HAPPY! They wound up getting a hotel (and some sleep) in Grindelwald, thanking us profusely as they departed.
Months later, back at the office, it was time for an annual construction contract inspection by the local CID (Army Criminal Investigation Division).
So who walks through my door?.....The drenched guy from the campground!
He was so happy to see me, I couldn't believe it! All he wanted to talk about is our kindness that day and how we saved his marriage! (Hyperbole, I hope) His wife was not a happy camper that day believe me!
Anyway we passed the inspection/non-inspection. Talk about Karma!