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How to Camp in the Rain and Enjoy It

A little over a year ago, my family helped me name this blog during a camping trip.  Today, I have a special treat for you- a guest post from my mom!  She's been a wife to one for 36 years, a mom of five children for 34 years, a grandma to five for 8 years, and a pharmacy tech for 35 years.  She loves camping, gardening, sewing, remodeling, and spending time with her family.  You can follow her on none of the social media platforms.  This is her second guest post on my blog!

Oh, and as a bonus, some the pictures from today have been taken by one of my sisters.  She loves photography and does all my kids milestone pictures.  You can also not follow her on any social media outlets, but please follow me (Facebook <> Instagram <> Pinterest).

When we think of camping, we all think of the warm, sunny days of summer, but that's not always the case for most parts of the country.  Some people bail at the first sign of bad weather, but we've never cancelled a trip or left early.  We often plan our camping trips and hope for the best.

One summer, I studied the Farmer's Almanac, and picked only the best weekends for camping.  We had such great weather that at end of the summer we were disappointed we didn't have any rainy camping.  When the sun shines, we tend to scatter all over the campground to hike, swim, bike, canoe, fish, and explore.  When it rains, we draw closer together and spend more time storytelling, playing games, and cooking.

I've never been a Girl Scout, but being prepared is the key to all camping trips.  Here's my tips for enjoying your camping trip even when the sky darkens and the rains come.

Pack for Wet and Cold Weather Every Trip

I have a pair of jeans, a set of thermals (to wear under clothes), a long sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt that stay in my camping suitcase all the time.  When you're packing for a trip and you're already hot because it's 90 degrees outside, you're very likely to forget to bring them.  Keeping them packed (wash and repack after you get home) helps you remember.  For families with younger children, consider having a "just in case" bag with these items for every family member (and foot pjs for the kids).

You should also have at least one pair of warm socks and waterproof shoes.  Keens are amazing, comfortable, and worth investing in for adults.  When my kids were little, we bought neutral-colored hiking boots, so that we could pass them down.  I think every pair was still in great shape after 5 children wore them.

You can invest in rain gear, but if you're toasting by the fire, it may melt.  I bought myself FroggToggs this year, but managed fine for 30 years without them.  Garbage bags make good ponchos in a pinch.  (An umbrella can be helpful for walking to your tent or to the outhouse)

Setting Up a Tarp

The first thing we set up after opening the tent trailer is the picnic area.  Rain or shine, the table is the center of campsite life.  We start by surveying the surrounding trees, since most places have a fixed table and you have to work with what you can get.

We spread a 10' by 12' tarp out over the picnic table.  Be sure to write on the corners of your tarps with permanent marker what size they are so you don't have to guess.  If you have a variety of sizes (and you should), it makes it easier to find what you're looking for.  We attach long ropes to each corner of the tarp, then toss the end of the rope over a tree branch about 10' up the trunk, using a small rock (beware of hitting yourself or others) or weighted bag (like this one from Sherrill's website).  Once all four ropes are in the trees, start hoisting the tarp until it's taut and positioned over the picnic table- NOT over the fire pit.

A pop up picnic tent can serve the same function as the tarp, but we've found that it's too small to cover as much of the table and surrounding area as we'd like.  We also like not having more tent poles to trip over!

Video for Visual Learners

Pro Tip- Use glow sticks to mark out places
where people are likely to trip like big
rocks, curbs, roots, or tent stakes.

But What If It Doesn't Rain?

Maybe you're thinking that sounds like a lot of work when it might not rain.  Consider all the advantages of hanging a tarp when it's hot outside.  For example, when you've been swimming all day, but now you're frying under the sun at the dinner table!  The butter is now a puddle.  Your ice cold soda is fast approaching boiling point.  Shade is good.

Bird poop, falling needle or leaves, and ash from the fire will settle on the tarp instead of the table.  When you go to bed, the dew will settle on the tarp and not on the game box or book you left outside.

We use the silver tarps, which have a brown side and a silver side.  The silver side goes down toward the picnic table so the lantern light is reflected back.  The extra light makes it easier to see when playing late night games.  Mosquito candles and Thermacell linger under the tarp, too.

Preparing for Rain

The obvious advantage of the tarp is for the expected or unexpected rain.  If you're walking from your ten to the tarped area, you can stay relatively dry all weekend (once again, an umbrella is a nice addition).  When hanging your tarp, choose a corner to be the "run off" corner.  Usually the natural low spot is at the edge of your site.  If the tarp is holding water, hook a rope to the run off corner and draw it down toward the ground.  Use a tent stake to keep it lowered, so the tarp doesn't become heavy and tear.

The other big must for preparing for rain is to use and stake out the rain fly on the tent.  Draw it tight so that it doesn't touch the tent and shed water.  Do not allow your gear inside the tent to lean against the wall or it will cause leaking.  This includes your sleeping bag!

Also, if the weekend is particularly rainy, we'll also add extra tarps over the tent and under it.  If you put a tarp between yourself and the ground, tuck it under the footprint of the tent so it doesn't stick out at all.  A tarp that sticks out from under a tent will become a lake (ask me how I know!).

Rarely will it rain every minute of a camping trip; although, we have had trips like that.  We have camped when it pounded rain so hard that we couldn't hear each other.  We had a 4th of July weekend that sleeted and the pile of snow on the tarp at the "run off corner" was 18 inches deep.  We've had trips where we had to set up the equipment in the yard at home and let it dry.  In all these trips, we still enjoyed ourselves.

Many hands make light work.  Teach your kids early that everyone works until everyone can play.  Involve them in setting up camp, taking it down, and, on occasion, repeating it at home.  Don't skip setting up the wet tents at home if you wan to use your equipment again!

Keeping Yourselves Entertained

You can't swim, canoe, hike, or bike in the rain, so what do you do all weekend!  Everyone has different ideas about what is fun, so we have a variety of activities on hand.  We have a game box (another good thing to put in your camping boxes) that includes cards, word games, board games, dice games, and a chess board.  It's not uncommon to have 2 or 3 different games going at the same time at the picnic table.

Some of our favorite items are Bop-It, Bonanza, Rummikub, Dominoes, and Bananagrams.  We bought a book of 100 card games and have learned new games at camp.  Most board games don't usually work well camping, unless you play inside a tent; although many games also include a card or dice version that we enjoy.  Be sure you have games that the young ones can play like Left, Right, Center (or homemade ones in an Altoid tin).  Coloring for all ages is nice to have available as well.

There are games that can be played with nothing but your imagination, like Would You Rather, "I'm Going on a Trip...," I-Spy, etc.  Or just get to know each other with questions like "how did you get that scar?"  Asking questions can go as lighthearted or as deep as the mood strikes.  (If nothing else works, start a debate).  Many in our group bring knitting, macrame, and other crafts.  We try to remain unplugged with our paperback books and making our own music.

You CAN Enjoy Rain Camping!

Nothing is more relaxing and refreshing than listening to the rain.  Most of our city housing doesn't allow for the enjoyment of rain.  In fact, people pay money to listen to the rain using a sound machine.  Enjoy it, embrace the variety, and pray for sunshine on at least the last morning of camp.  It's worth lingering over the coffee on the last morning if it means you don't have to set up wet equipment at home.

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