How To Build a Camp Site to Survive Wet Weather
I love the rain. It helps keep my garden watered, and of course gives us plenty to drink. But it's not always a good thing, especially when you're spending your time in the outdoors. Camping in wet weather is not for the faint hearted.
But it's not always up to you.
I've found mother nature to have a twisted sense of humor. Like last weekend. It was beautiful and sunny the entire week while I was tied up at work, and after heading off early Friday night the skies opened up and it rained pretty much non-stop the rest of the weekend.
Definitely not how I pictured a weekend camping. Though there was an upside.
I got to teach my kids all about wet weather camping. It's certainly not how I'd choose to go camping, but it's important you know what to do when you're caught outdoors in the rain. Because in a disaster you may not have a choice.
Here's how to not let a little rain ruin your next camping trip.
Have the right gear
Perhaps the most critical step is to ensure you've got the right items in your kit from the start. First, you need to have your shelter sorted. Prepare enough tarps and tents so you can keep the rain and wind from chilling you to the bone, and I'd also pack extra to use as groundsheets.
Next comes clothing. You will get wet, so it makes sense to have a backup set of clothes, and maybe even another pair of socks. You want to ensure you're warm enough, so beanies, gloves, and scarves are a good idea, but the key is to stay dry. Ensure you've got a waterproof jacket with a hood, waterproof pants, and boots that aren't going to leave your feet soaked after the first puddle you step in.
I'd also recommend throwing in an extra roll of plastic bags into your kit if you know it's going to be wet. There's always a use for plastic bags in the rain, from keeping your wet clothes separate, to protecting any important items from getting wet themselves.
Finally, don't forget the importance of food. In wet weather cooking on an open fire isn't very pleasant, if you can even get the fire started in the first place. Ensure you've got some backup food options that don't need to be cooked. Oh, and don't forget some indoor activities so you don't go insane. A book, a pack of cards, or whatever it is to keep yourself amused while it's bucketing down outside is worthwhile to have.
Double-check your tent is waterproof
I had a rather frustrating surprise on a trip I took earlier in the year, as bugs had gotten into one of my favorite tents and had chewed tiny holes in the base of it. So small that you would hardly notice them unless held up to the light, the realization only came in the middle of a downpour and water started seeing in through the holes.
Before heading out on a wet-weather camping trip, it's a good idea to test whether or not your gear is actually waterproof. If this involves setting your tent up in your backyard and turning the hose on it, do it. It's much easier to fix leaking seams or do a quick repair when you're at home.
Setup camp at the right spot
One of the smartest steps you can take when you get to a wet campground is to find the right area for your camp. I'd look for a small rise, and avoid any areas where there's pooling water. If you've got it, put a waterproof tarp down first, as an additional layer of protection against the water.
I'd also recommend finding a spot that has good drainage. You don't want the water collecting under your camp, and you certainly don't want a river running through the center once the skies open up. One trick I learnt back in my scout days is the benefits of building a trench for my tent.
Now many people will tell you this isn't necessary with the latest tents, and I agree. But if you've built a makeshift shelter, or are in an area with very heavy rainfall, a trench can help you stay dry.
It works like this. Take a good camping shovel, and about 1 to 2 feet from the outside of your tent, dig a shallow trench around your tent. It's like the moat around a castle you dig at the beach. Same concept, and as the rain falls and starts to run over the ground, it'll get caught in the trench and be funneled off to either side of your tent. Do this on a slight incline, and the base of your tent will stay dry no matter how heavy it's raining.
To protect against the falling rain, I will always setup another tarp directly above my tent, to divert some of the falling rain. This way, I can leave my tent windows open and get a little airflow through, without worrying that I'll be letting the rain pour in as soon as I open these. This is critical, and is one of the reasons I always carry a tarp with me in my bug out kit. Stop the rain getting through, and you'll be far more comfortable no matter what situation you've found yourself in.
Of course, camping in the rain isn't the most enjoyable experience, and if you're going for pleasure most people will throw in the towel after a day or two of heavy rain. I'm the same. But there's always the chance you've not got a choice. If you find yourself stuck in the outdoors in wet weather, you need to ensure you've got the right gear, and you know how to setup your camp so you're protected from the water. It might make all the difference in staying warm, and staying alive.