Pitching your tent in the rain without getting soaked

There is nothing worse than trying to set your tent up in the rain. Especially when you have kids who want everything now and are bored of waiting.

Here are a few tips that will help you keep your tent dry in rainy weather.

Check the HH level of your tent to confirm how waterproof it is. Use a lightweight tarp to create a shelter using trees or hedges before setting your tent up. Check surroundings to build natural protection and not set your tent up at the base of a slope where water will collect. Make a plan before you leave and practice setting up your tent before you go. Ask for early access to your campsite to give you time to set your camp up before darkness sets in. Use a groundsheet/footprint under your tent.

How waterproof is your tent?

When you purchase a tent it is important to ensure that it is waterproof. Check the HH rating, as this will provide you with the waterproof resistance of your tent.

Not purchased your tent yet or not sure of the water-resistance rating, read our article on ‘Understanding how waterproof your tent is?’. 

If you are camping in an older tent test the water resistance by setting up in your garden and spraying it with water.  You can re-waterproof your tent by using Nikwax.

Check out Amazon Nikwax TX-Direct and other tent waterproofing products.

What tent is easier to set up in the rain – single or double-walled tents?

Single-walled tents are easier to put up in the rain, as you only have one section so this will reduce your set up time by half. Whereas double-walled tents once you have the first section setup you still have the rain fly to place over your tent. This can be difficult especially as you want the first main shell of your tent to keep dry but if there is some wind, the rain fly will be flapping around in the wind making it more difficult.

Make a plan before you leave home for your trip

Nobody likes to be unprepared when they go away whether for a night or several nights. It is always best to be prepared to pitch in the rain.

Make a list of everything you will need, especially any additional equipment. Also when you pack your car, make sure that the main essentials are easily located, so you do not have to pull everything out. This will avoid other items getting soaked unnecessarily.

Test run rainy tent set up before your trip

Keep practicing so that you are fully happy with putting your tent up in the rain. Practice makes perfect. It is important that you can put your tent up quickly and correctly. Especially if you are doing this on your own.

Make it fun and have your kids with the hose pipe gently spraying you when you are putting the tent up.

Early check-in at your campsite

Many campsites offer the opportunity to check in early, but there will be an additional fee. At times this additional fee is worth it, especially If the rain is heavy.  So if the weather forecast looks bleak see if you can book yourself in early.

Arriving early will give you the chance to set your tarp up to protect the ground. There is nothing worse than wondering if you are making the correct choice in waiting out the rain to set your tent up. Especially with children and you want them to settle in early for the night. You don’t want to be pitching your tent in the dark with grumpy kids.

Selecting your campsite area

If you are booked onto a campsite you are normally allocated a pitch, but occasionally you can choose where you want to set your camp up.

Selecting your pitch ideally should have natural windbreak, not at the base of a slope as this is where water will gather.

The idea is to select a pitch that can help you keep your family and yourself as dry as possible.

Setting up a lightweight tarp in rain before pitching your tent

Keeping a lightweight tarp with you will benefit you as you can use this to add additional shelter whilst you pitch your tent. This will help to stop a majority of your tent getting wet as you erect it.

Ideally you can secure your tarp to trees or higher hedges with paracord. To stop the tarp from sagging in the center use poles and secure with guy ropes. It is important that the middle is supported and pitched higher so that the rain pours to the edge of the tarp.

You can also use the tarp to add additional shelter once your tent is erected. With the tarp in place, this will give you all shelter whilst you wait for the rain to stop.

Wait until heavy rain has stopped

There is nothing worse than trying to put a tent up in the pouring rain. If it is really raining heavily, be patient. Set up your tarp shelter where you want to pitch to reduce the soaked ground area, but do not rush to set your tent up.

If it is raining heavily as does not seem like it is going to stop then you may not have a choice. Going for a walk after you have secured your property and setting the boundaries for them is the ideal time. This will stop the boredom setting in, and reduce your stress levels.

Lay a tarp/groundsheet to protect the base of your tent

Even if your tent has a sewn in groundsheet, lay a tarp or groundsheet first.  This will protect the underside of your tent not only from the damp ground but also to keep it clean. Adding a groundsheet will also give you additional insulation.

Ensure that the groundsheet is not larger than the base of your tent. If this is the case, fold the edges as rain will gather and seep under your tent. This will defeat the objective of having a separate groundsheet/tarp.

Adding additional waterproofing

Once your tent is up and you have shelter created, you can increase the waterproofing of your tent by using a strong tarp to cover your tent.

Make sure that it covers all over your tent, additional guy ropes and pegs to keep it in place. This will help to avoid any water leaks.

If you do not want to cover your tent with a tarp you can use your tarp to create an additional shelter that is attached to your tent. This is ideal if you have a zipped doorway that opens directly to the elements and is slopped. Allowing water to freely enter your tent.

Keep doors and vents closed

When putting your tent up in the rain, make sure that your doors and vents are closed. This will stop your tent from getting wet inside before you have finished setting up.

When you pack your tent away you unzip doors to allow the air to escape and making it easier to fold back into the storage bag. So before you leave if possible close your doors or have this as the first priority when you lay your tent out to pitch when raining.

Wear suitable clothing

There is nothing worse than trying to put a tent up in the rain and feeling wet and cold yourself. If you are like me you will become snappy, and not very patient.

Make sure that you are wearing plenty of warm clothes, waterproof jacket, and wellies. Or at least shoes that are waterproof.

Have a change of clothes that are easy to reach once you have set your camp up. Keep a bag for all of your wet clothes. I keep a hot water bottle handy so that I can get warm quickly once I have finished.

How to keep the inside of your tent dry during your stay

Once everything is all set up, you want to keep the inside of the tent as dry as possible, especially after all of your hard work trying to keep it dry when you have put it up.

If I can’t keep dry and clean inside, I at least want to set some rules for keeping the inside of the tent as dry and clean as possible. With kids it is hard, as they rush in and don’t think about muddy shoes or wellies, wet clothes.

Keeping a sponge handy to easily soak up any water. Plus having a food matt or a foam matt by the entrance is ideal to stop water soaking the inside of your tent. Keep a garden bucket handy to put wellies and dirty shoes. It is an ideal way to contain water and also keep the mud in one place.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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