How to Keep Your Tent Dry While Camping in the Rain

While there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of rain on a camping trip, you definitely want to do your best to keep the inside of your tent as dry as you possibly can. 

After all, it may be the only place you can go to get away from the cold, wet rain. 

And trust me, you don’t want to be hiking or backpacking in the rain all day, just to have to relax and sleep in a wet tent at night. 

Coming from someone who’s had the personal liberty of sleeping in a wet tent myself, it’s not a fun way to end the night. 

So what steps should you take to help keep your tent dry as possible while camping in the rain?

Let’s find out below.

Invest in a Waterproof Tent

Investing in the right tent could mean the difference between being soaking wet or being completely dry. 

But what kind of tent is going to help keep you dry?   

For starters, you need to buy a tent that is built to be waterproof. Not water-resistant, but waterproof. Water-resistant tents will only repel a small amount of water, whereas waterproof tents should be able to keep you dry even if you are in the middle of a tropical storm.

Most waterproof tents come with a rainfly, which is essentially a tarp that is draped over the top of your tent. Make sure to buy a tent that comes with a rainfly that extends beyond the opening of the tent. This way you won’t have to worry about any water dripping into your tent when you have the entrance opened.

Investing in a tent with a vestibule is also helpful when it’s raining, as it will give you a place to change out of your wet clothes before you get into your dry tent. 

If you’re not sure what a vestibule is, it’s simply a part of the rainfly that extends out and over the opening and/or sides of your tent.

Another important feature that you want to look out for when buying a tent that will withstand the rain is a bathtub bottom. A bathtub bottom is where the material on the floor of your tent goes up the side of your tent somewhere around 3 to 6 in to create a bathtub-like effect. This creates a barrier to prevent water from running into your tent when it’s raining and the ground is heavily wet. 

Reapply Waterproof Sealant and Coating 

Even if you own a waterproof tent, you still need to reapply a waterproof sealant and coating to your tent every so often to ensure that it remains waterproof. 

There are three products you’ll need to buy if you want to re-waterproof your tent: seam sealer, fabric sealer, and water repellent spray.

Seam sealer (also referred to as seam sealant) is a waterproof sealant that’s used to prevent water from dripping through the seams of a tent. A seam is where the fabric of the tent is stitched together.

Fabric sealer, on the other hand, is a waterproof sealant that can be used on the inside of your rainfly or on the floor of your tent. By using fabric sealer you’re simply reapplying a new urethane coating in place of the old one. This product should only be used if you notice the previous coating flaking off on the inside of your rainfly or on the floor of your tent.

Water repellent spray is used to reapply a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outside of the rainfly on the tent. You’ll want to use this product when you notice that rain isn’t beading up on the outside of your rainfly anymore. 

Set Up In a Good Location

Setting up in a good location is extremely important if you want to keep the inside of your tent dry whenever it’s raining.

So what exactly is a good location?

Listed below are six tips that will ensure you set up camp in a good location.

  • Set up on high ground so water will run downhill from the tent
  • Set up your tent on a slight angle so that water won’t gather underneath the floor of the tent
  • Try to set up your tent so that the entranceway is facing away from the wind
  • Don’t set up camp near a body of water (think of where water will go when it floods) 
  • Make sure to pay attention to the trees above you when setting up camp. Look for any possible branches (widowmakers) that could fall on top of your head when you’re sleeping or relaxing in camp
  • Avoid setting up camp at the highest geographical point when there’s lightning and thunder

Simply follow these six tips listed above and you will be sure to set up your tent in a good location. 

Use a Plastic Ground Sheet 

Another helpful tip for keeping your tent as dry as possible is to use a plastic ground sheet.

A ground sheet (also referred to as a ground cloth or groundfly) is a waterproof plastic tarp that is typically placed underneath the floor of your tent to act as a barrier between the ground and your tent. 

While the main benefit of using a ground sheet is to prevent water on the ground from seeping through the floor of your tent, the ground sheet also helps to provide warmth (by adding an extra layer between you and the ground) and extends the lifespan of the bottom of your tent by preventing abrasions from rocks, twigs, etc. 

However, if you decide to place a ground sheet underneath your tent, you need to make sure that your ground sheet doesn’t extend beyond the floor of your tent. An easy way to accomplish this is to make the ground sheet 1 inch shorter than the diameter of your tent.

So if the bottom of your tent is 7’ x 7’, then you want your ground sheet to be 6’11” x 6’11”. 

The reason you don’t want your ground sheet to extend beyond the bottom of your tent is because any water that falls onto the ground sheet will move inwards and puddle up underneath the floor of your tent. 

You can also place a ground sheet inside of your tent that is slightly larger than the footprint of your tent to create the bathtub effect. This way if there is any water that seeps through the bottom of your tent it will simply stay underneath the ground sheet instead of getting your sleeping bag and other equipment all soaking wet.

Set Up Tent as Quickly as Possible

If you’re having to set up your tent in the rain then you need to get everything ready and set up as quickly as you possibly can. The longer you take the more likely you’ll get water on the inside of your tent. 

Cover Your Tent With a Tarp

You can add an extra layer between you and the rain by simply setting up a tarp directly over your tent.

A general rule of thumb is to get a tarp that’s around twice the size of the footprint of your tent. This will ensure that you have plenty of room to walk around outside of your tent, as well as give you extra protection from the rain. 

When setting up your tarp you want to make sure that it’s positioned in a way that the majority of the rain falls downhill from your tent. If it’s slanted in a way that most of the rain falls uphill from the tent, then you’ll simply be directing rainwater to travel underneath you.  

Having your tarp slanted will also help to prevent rainwater from pooling together on top of your tarp. Just make sure not to have your tarp too slanted or else a heavy gust of wind might pick up your tarp and carry it away.

In order to set up a tarp over your tent you’re going to need a fairly large tarp, a good amount of paracord (possibly 100 to 300 ft), and either lots of trees or a couple sets of trekking poles. Or possibly a combination of both.

Grommet savers are another useful feature you may want to have when setting up your tarp, as they help ensure that the grommets on the tarp stay in good shape when it’s nice and windy outside. 

Now sometimes you will have to get creative when setting up a tarp over your tent, but in my opinion, it’s definitely worth it if it’s going to be raining a lot.

Make Sure Your Tent Has Enough Ventilation

If your tent doesn’t have the right amount of ventilation then you will begin to notice condensation forming inside of your tent. 

Condensation forms inside of a tent when the heat from your body and your breath is warmer than the inside surface of your tent. And if any water gets inside of your tent, it will also eventually lead to condensation if it can’t find a way to escape.

For this reason, I sometimes open the entranceway of my tent just a little bit to crack it open for ventilation. Now if there are lots of bugs outside and you need to keep your tent closed, then you need to ensure that most of the mesh on your tent is allowed to breathe and is not covered by a rainfly or tarp.

Pack Your Gear in Plastic Bags

If you know it’s going to rain on your camping trip then you may want to bring along some garbage bags and some resealable plastic bags to help protect your gear from getting wet. 

Simply line the inside of your backpack with a plastic garbage bag and then pack all of your camping gear into their own resealable plastic bags. I typically separate my gear into different categories (such as electronics, food, and clothing) and put each in its own resealable plastic bag. This should ensure that none of your camping gear or equipment gets wet. 

Dress for the Weather

Not only do you need to keep the inside of your tent dry, but you also need to stay dry yourself. 

After all, there’s no point in getting into a dry tent when the clothes on your body are soaking wet. This will just lead to the water on your clothes evaporating and forming condensation in your tent.

So what kind of clothes should you wear if it’s going to rain on your camping trip?

I recommend that you wear waterproof clothing such as a rain jacket, rain pants and maybe even a poncho. Waterproof shoes and socks are also helpful as well, as there’s nothing worse than walking around all day in shoes and socks that are soaking wet. 

You also want to avoid wearing any type of cotton underneath your waterproof clothing, as it will soak up water unlike any other type of fabric. Instead, your best bet is to wear something more water-resistant such as Merino wool or polyester. 

If you think it’s going to rain multiple days on your camping trip, then you need to pack at least two sets of waterproof clothing. Just make sure that when you take off your first set of wet clothes you leave them outside of your tent to prevent moisture and condensation from forming inside.

I recommend setting up a clothesline outside of your tent and under your tarp to help with drying your clothes out. Especially if you have a fire built outside.

Build a Campfire

While a campfire might not necessarily help keep your tent dry, it can help with drying out your clothes and providing warmth. 

However, it’s important that you build your fire a good distance away from your tent and your tarp. I recommend setting up your tarp at least 7 ft over your fire to provide enough distance to keep your tarp from burning down. 

Now if there’s no way to set your tarp high enough over your fire to keep it from burning down, then you need to find other ways to cook your food and provide yourself warmth. I recommend investing in a wood or gas camping stove and maybe even some hand warmers.