How To Set Up Tent In Rain: Everything You Need To Know

by Jason | Last Updated:   November 8th, 2022
How To Set Up Tent In Rain: Everything You Need To Know

I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where you arrive at your campsite only to find it’s raining… hard. And the real problem is that 80% of people don’t know how to set up tent in rain.

Imagine it now:

You’ve pulled up to the campsite, the rain is pouring down, and you need to get your tent up quickly. But, by the time you pull everything out, it’s all soaking wet, and you’re in for a very cold night.

It doesn’t sound great, does it?

Well, luckily, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about setting your tent up in the rain and so much more.

So don’t go anywhere!

How Do You Keep A Tent Dry In The Rain? 10 Tips You Need To Follow

As you can imagine, camping in the rain doesn’t make the ideal trip, but it’s not a deal breaker. 

You can do many things to make your camping trip more manageable if the heavens open at the worst time.

And in this section, I’m going to give you some tips for keeping your tent dry in the rain:

#1 Wait For The Weather To Clear

One of the best and most obvious pieces of advice I can give you is to wait for the weather to settle down. 

Think to yourself, do you really need your tent right now, or can it wait for an hour or so? 

If there’s a chance that the rain might stop in an hour, you might want to consider waiting out the storm. 

And, of course, this isn’t always the case; we have no idea what the weather wants to do half the time, even with detailed weather reports.

If rain makes its way into your tent when you’re setting it up, it’s going to be a rough night, so try and wait it out and see what happens.

#2 Take Precautions If There’s Lighting & Thunder

Anyone keen on camping has probably been told to stay away from trees when you’re in a lightning storm.

And while this is definitely the right advice when you’re on the edge of a forest or near a single tree, it’s not the case if you’re deep in the woods.

In fact, when you’re camping deep in the forest, you actually reduce the chances of being hit by a lightning bolt.

But why is this?

Lightning usually targets the tallest object it can find, and there’s no designated high spot in a forest. 

#3 Use The Trees To Your Advantage

Using the trees to your advantage can be beneficial if it’s raining, but it also poses certain risks that you need to be aware of. 

In heavy rain, there’s always a chance of dead branches falling off the trees and onto your tent, so you must vet the area first.

Look overhead to see if there are any loose or dead branches directly overhead. There’s less chance of a living branch falling, but it’s not unheard of in heavy rain, so it’s something you need to think about.

#4 Build A Sheltered Area

If it doesn’t look like the rain is going anywhere, it might be worth building a rain cover to set up your tent and minimize the chances of getting wet.

The best thing about building a shelter to set up your tent is that it can serve two purposes:

  1. Keep you dry while you set up your tent
  2. It serves as an outdoor area to hang out

Using a large tarp, a few bungee cords, and the trees in the area, you’ll be able to set up a location that will keep you and your tent dry while you set it up. 

#5 Practice Keeping The Inside Of Your Tent Dry

Practicing keeping your tent dry can go a long way when the time comes when you actually have to set up the tent in the rain.

Single-layer tents are good to go, so if you own one, this section doesn’t really apply to you. But if you have a double-layer tent, you should listen closely!

Double-layer tents usually have mesh roofs/walls, which can be a huge problem when it’s raining.

For that reason, I’ve listed a few tips you can use to help keep your tent dry while it’s raining:

  1. Use A Tarp To Set Up Underneath: A tarp will provide you with welcomed protection from the rain.
  2. Separate Each Part: If you keep everything separate, you can quickly pick the parts you need without taking everything out of the bag.
  3. Keep Doors, And Windows Zipped: Trying to close the door when everything is crumbled up is challenging. So make a habit of zipping everything up before packing the tent.
  4. Make Sure The Rain Fly Faces Up: You only want to expose the waterproof side of the tent exposed to the rain, so make sure it’s facing the right way.
  5. Bring A Towel: If you have a few microfiber cloths, you’ll be able to rub any water off the tent which has managed to sneak inside.
  6. Practice Makes Perfect: If you have a new tent, make sure you practice putting it up before you leave. If you knock the setup time down to 10 minutes, you’ll save yourself from getting too wet.

#6 Check For Leaks Before Your Trip

One of the biggest problems people face when they are camping in the rain is discovering they have a leak or the tent needs waterproofing.

And unfortunately, most people don’t realize until it’s too late, which is why you need to check your tent for leaks regularly.

I’ve written an article about how to waterproof your tent here, which details what to look for and what you need to use, so I won’t get into that here.

#7 Pick An Elevated Campsite With Drainage

One of the best precautions you can take when camping in the rain is choosing your camping spot carefully.

To find the best camping spot in the rain, you need to think about three things:

  1. Where The Water Is Going To Flow: Water will always flow to the lowest point, so look around and visualize where the water will go. You can usually spot the signs by looking for debris buildup, soil erosion, moss, and plants that prefer wet environments.
  2. Are You In A Low Spot: Look at the land and decide whether you’re in a low spot where the water might gather. Ideally, you want to be somewhere higher up, so the rain runs away from your tent instead of pooling around you.
  3. Will The Soil Drain The Water: One of the most challenging things you need to consider is whether the soil will drain the water. Rain can’t drain through rocks and finds it very difficult to drain through clay. Try pushing a stake into the ground; if it goes in and comes out clean, the soil should be good to camp on.

If you’re new to camping, this might sound a bit complicated, but as you get more experience, things get easier. Remember, high ground, with good soil, and the drainage runs away from your tent. 

#8 Learn How To Use Your Ground Sheet Correctly 

Most people think the groundsheet is designed to keep water out of your tent, but that’s not the case.

The primary purpose of the ground sheet is to protect your tent from punctures and mud on the floor. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help keep the water out if you have a hole.

Using your tent’s footprint will make it easier to clean and prevent holes from appearing at the bottom of your tent, which will keep the water out.

If you don’t have a groundsheet, I’d highly recommend getting a tarp if you’re looking for a budget option or an actual footprint.

As for using it correctly, here’s the tip:

First, think about how your tent is designed. The flysheet is designed to make the water run off the edge of your tent. So, what would happen if the footprint was hanging past the edge of the tent?

That’s right!

All the rain will run off the tent and collect on the groundsheet, so it will not drain away from your tent. And this leads to people sleeping in a puddle of water, eventually destroying the waterproofing layer.

When you’re using a groundsheet, you need to ensure none of the edges are overhanging your tent.

#9 Consider Whether You’re Using The Right Tent

If you often find yourself camping in heavy rain, you should consider whether you’ve got the right tent for the job.

Double-layered tents don’t make people’s lives easier when setting the tent up in the rain, which is why you have a few choices to make:

Single Wall Tents

Single-layer tents can be an excellent option for people camping in the rain more often than not. They are…

  • Cheaper 
  • Easier to set up
  • Waterproof
  • And lightweight

But a single-wall tent has one big problem! The ventilation is almost non-existent, making camping in humid/wet weather a nightmare.

So, you need to think carefully about whether this will be the best option for your problems. If you’re not sure, don’t worry, I have a few more options for you.

Fast Pitch, Floorless, Exterior Pole Tents

While most people should opt for a double-wall tent, there are some options that will work better when the weather is terrible.

So, in this section, I will explain a few of the options you have:

Fast-Pitch Tents: Fast-pitch tents take a couple of minutes to set up, which can be great in the rain. There are many different styles of fast-pitch tents on the market. Some have poles already attached, and some are rainfly that drape over poles.

Floorless Tents: Floorless tents are pretty similar to quick-pitch tents, except they take longer to set up. 

Exterior Pole Tents: They are double-walled tents, but the poles run on the outside instead of the inside. This means the inside of your tent doesn’t get exposed to the rain much and makes it easier to set up.

#10 Think About Condensation

The last tip on my list is to consider condensation when camping in the rain. There are two primary causes of condensation: 

  1. Interior Moisture
  2. Poor Ventilation 

If you’re planning on having a dry night, you need to know how to fix both possible issues to prevent a build-up.

Most double-wall tents work excellently in regards to providing ventilation. But you should still try opening the windows and doors when possible.

Getting rid of interior moisture is more complex than you might think. You should try wiping down the surfaces with a towel or dry sponge. You should also try to hang any rain gear under a tarp to avoid getting your sleeping bag wet.

How To Set Up A Tent In The Rain: Everything You Need To Know

Okay, I’ve talked you through some tips you can use to help keep your tent dry when setting it up in the rain. But we haven’t spoken too much about the steps you need to take.

In my opinion, there are two methods you should be thinking about using:

  1. The Fly First Method
  2. The Tarp Method

These techniques work perfectly to keep your tent dry while camping in the rain. But they will require some practice if you want a flawless performance when it matters the most.

Let’s take a closer look:

#1 The Fly First Method

As you can imagine, the “fly first” method involves setting up your flysheet first, so you can keep your inner section dry.

And the best thing is, it’s pretty simple to do, as you can see in this video:

Here are the steps you need to take to pitch your tent using the fly first:

  1. Make sure your tent parts are separated before you get to the camp spot; this will help you keep the pieces dry.
  2. Find the area you want to camp in. If your flysheet doesn’t use poles, you’ll need to find somewhere with trees.
  3. Attach your flysheet to the poles; if your tent doesn’t work like this, you can set your fly between trees to give you shelter to work under.
  4. Lie your groundsheet on the floor where you’re going to camp.
  5. Install your inner part of the tent.
  6. Attach the fly to the inner section.
  7. Clip the tent poles to the inner tent.

And there you have it; you have a nice dry tent to step into and avoid a night of dampness. 

#2 The Tarp Method

The tarp method involves you setting up a tarp that you can place your tent under to help keep it dry. The best thing about using this method is that leaving the tarp can provide extra protection from harsh elements.

It also gives you a dry place to set outside and socialize with the people you’re camping with.

I couldn’t find a video of someone setting up a tent under a tarp, but this video shows how someone set up a tarp over the top of their tent:

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to set the tarp up, and it will offer plenty of protection. Here are the steps I use:

  1. Keep all your gear covered or in the car while you set up the tarp where you want to camp.
  2. Pitch your tarp as recommended in the video above. Top tip: You can angle your tarp slightly to accommodate for sideways rain.
  3. Bring all your tent items under the tarp to keep them dry.
  4. Pitch your tent under the tarp as you usually would; just try to keep the rain off it.
  5. Place your ground sheet where you’re going to camp.
  6. Carefully carry your tent and stake it on the ground sheet.

It really is that easy, and if you follow the steps carefully, you’re guaranteed to have a dry night no matter how bad the weather is.

How To Put A Tent Away In The Rain

Setting up your tent in the rain isn’t the only problem you will be running into. There’s also a good chance you’ll have to take your tent down in the rain. And this presents its own challenges.

When taking your tent down in the rain, you want to follow the method you used to set it up, but in reverse.

But the most important thing you must remember is to separate the wet gear and dry parts. This will help you when you get back home and need to dry your tent:

How To Dry Your Tent

No matter what tent you’re using when camping, you need to make sure you dry it correctly if you want it to last.

Here’s the thing:

If you pack away your tent when it’s wet and leave it in storage, it will start to produce mold and mildew.

Darkness, dampness, and warmth are the ingredients that guarantee mold growth quickly, so you need to pay attention.

Ideally, you shouldn’t store a wet tent for more than twelve hours if you want to avoid mold to start growing.

So, when you get home after your camping trip, you’re going to need to dry everything off, and here’s how you do that:

  • When you get home, set up your tent in a dry location and hang your tarps and rainfly separately.
  • Check all the sides of the tent to ensure it’s not covered in mud; if so, you’ll need to clean it with a damp cloth.
  • Ideally, you want somewhere UV rays will hit it; it will help prevent mildew build-up. Just ensure you don’t leave it in the sun for too long; it will damage the UV coating.
  • Ensure your tent is dry from top to bottom.
  • Store your tent away rolled loosely in a mesh bag to keep the gear dry.

If you notice you’ve had any leaks in your tent, you should repair it before you pack everything away, so it’s all good for your next camping trip.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to increase the lifespan of your tent, meaning you won’t have to buy a new one for quite some time.

If you do find mold or mildew on your tent, this is how to clean it off your tent.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

Camping in rainy weather might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s understandable—no one likes to feel wet and cold all night.

The thing is:

If you do it properly, it’s not that bad; you just have to consider more things if you want to have a good time.

And if you follow this guide, I do not doubt that you’ll be able to have an enjoyable time without getting too wet at night.

You also must remember to bring your rain cover, rain pants, and anything else that keeps you dry. there’s no point in having a dry tent if all your clothes are sopping wet.

If you’re looking for more camping information, check out this article on how to camp in the rain and have a good time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Put Under Your Tent When It Rains?

A tent footprint is the best thing you can use under your tent when it’s raining. But, if you haven’t got one of them, you can always use tarps. It will help to prevent holes from forming in the bottom of your tent and provide an extra waterproof layer.

Do You Need A Tarp Under Your Tent When It Rains?

You don’t need to use a tarp, but you should definitely have something under your tent to prevent punctures to your tent. It will also help prevent moisture from seeping through the tent and wetting your camping rain gear.

Is It Worth Camping In The Rain?

Camping in the rain can definitely feel unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. You just need to put the right plans in place and know what you’re doing if you want to have a good time camping in the rain.

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Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.