@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 like to store all of my items in clear plastic bins in accordance to what I will need them for (inside the tent, cooking/eating, etc.). This is an easy way to stay organized, keep items from being broken/squished, and transport items from the car to the tent/shelter area without getting anything wet.
  • Since I already have the gear, I love to use my hammock and hammock rain cover when it's raining, as this will give me a dry place so sit. Since you are car camping, another way you can do this (if you have trees) is tie a tarp (just the basic one from Walmart or a similar store is fine) to four trees using chord/twine (make sure to leave these pieces long since you won't know how far apart the trees will be!) to create a rain shelter. Be sure to place the tarp at an angle (to encourage the water to slide off) and to buy twine that is built to withstand weight (as it will be holding up the tarp and the rain's weight). Also, if you suspect there might be wind, you can use an extra large tarp, tying the lower end of one half of it to the bottom of two trees to create a sort of wall against the rain being blown in by the wind. Then you can use camp chairs or a hammock to sit in under the shelter. I don't like being stuck in the car/tent, so this is what I tend to do so that I can still enjoy the rain/outdoors.
  • Have your rain gear easily accessible inside the car, so that you can put it on before you get out in the case that it's raining when you get to your site.
  • Bring dry firewood, kindling, and fire starter, and leave this in the car. In the off chance that there is a break in the weather, you can use this to build a fire in the designated fire pit to dry off/warm up.
  • BRING EXTRA CLOTHING! Odds are something is going to get wet, and the last thing you want is to have to wear/sleep in something that is soaked and cold.
  • Wait to set up your tent and place your stuff inside the tent if you still have time once you get to your campsite. This will allow you to wait and see if the rain lets up/stops. You can use this downtime to set up your hammock/chair and shelter. If you notice the rain dying down/stopping, use this time to set up your tent/sleeping bag/etc. Be sure to have these items as prepped as possible in advance, so that you can be super efficient, since the rain might start up again at any moment!
  • Once you are inside your tent for the night, be sure to keep your shoes under the rain fly of your tent so that they don't get rained on during the night.
  • If it's expected to rain, in addition to finding a high point for the tent, I actually like to find ground that is at a slight angle/hump, as this will also encourage the rain water to run past the tent, rather than gathering underneath the tent.
  • Bring towels! This is the luxury of car camping. Bring towels to dry off your cookware, your tent, yourself, etc. This is especially helpful if you will be camping for more than one night. Similarly, if you have trees, bring some string to make a clothes line. This way, if you are camping for more than one day and have a day in which the weather is good, you can hang any of your clothes/towels/tent parts that have gotten soaked.
  • Bring an extra pair of shoes, and be sure to have some sort of flip flop. When it's raining, I tend to just wear flip flops, as they dry easily. Just be aware that this will make your feet muddy, so bring a towel to clean off your feet before entering your tent!
  • Wear a hat with a visor - this helps keep the rain out of your eyes, which is sooooo helpful. Try to use a hat with material that dries quickly.
  • BRING BUY SPRAY! In many places, after the rain stops, bugs (especially mosquitoes) come out in full force looking for bloooood. Make sure to show those buggers their place!

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!


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