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Of ponchos and tarps - your rainy camping checklist

June 7, 2012
by Laura Canning | guides | seasonal

Pffft. What did we just say about socks?

We’re obsessed with wet weather this week, as the dampness of the Jubilee celebrations winds down and as the rain beats relentlessly against the window. We’ve plenty of tips for rainy camping with kids , but if you want a more general guide or tips on what to bring with you, read on. And as always, plastic resealable bags.

  • Did we say socks? We’re going to. SOCKS . And say it again – for the love of the rain gods, the first item on any wet weather packing checklist has to be socks. Thick pairs, inside the tent pairs, knee high pairs for under Wellies… just bring plenty of socks. This even – or especially – applies if the weather forecast says the sun will be splitting the stones for your week away, as you don’t want to be stuck with only the thin socks you wore on the journey and a pair of useless (and wet) flip flops. We speak from bitter experience here.
  • Waterproof gear is an obvious one, but don’t be fooled into thinking that means you can get away with a thin peach-coloured poncho bought at the last minute from the service station. You’ll need the full shebang if you’re planning to camp in wet weather (or camp) – waterproof trousers, jacket with hood, and Wellies or already-tested waterproof boots, as well as something you can quickly pull on when you arrive to stop you from getting wet while you pitch the tent. You can get waterproof gear cheaply enough nowadays online and you don’t even have to worry (too much) about looking like a geek – just take the outer layers off when you get to the pub.
  • Tent : yes, we know you know to bring a tent, but check before leaving that the tent is waterproof, especially if you haven’t used it for a while. Pitch it in the back garden, take the hose to it then climb inside to see if there are any leaks. These are normally easy enough to fix with seam sealer, self-adhesive tent patches, reproofing kits or even needle and thread for small holes.
  • Tent (again) : If you’re buying a tent for the first time, try and get one with a porch area where everyone can shed the waterproofs after getting back to base. (Please do not use the fact that you don’t want to get the inside of the tent wet as an excuse to strip down in public to your underwear. Again, we speak from bitter experience.) Keep all waterproof and outdoor gear in the porch, add a flattened cardboard box as a doormat so feet are nice and dry before going into the tent, and keep a towel handy there for drying off hair if need be.
  • Extra groundsheet : Put this under the tent for added protection against damp. You can also use extra blankets under sleeping bags to make sure everything’s kept dry.
  • Tarps : Bring at least one or two tarps and stakes/rope if you have room. You can use a tarp under your tent instead of the extra groundsheet – just make sure it’s fully tucked in underneath as any parts sticking out will create a funnel and bring water inside. Or you can put one up over your tent to keep the rain off, or one outside to act as a shelter while you try and get the campfire lit.
  • Sticks and clothesline : In happy weather, a clothesline is normally stretched between a couple of trees, but here it be raining. Put up a tarp outside the tent and erect a clothesline under it using a couple of sticks so that clothes can dry. If the air is really damp clothes might not get as bone dry as they should, but they’ll warm up within a few minutes of putting them on.
  • Extra backpack/day bag : Backpacks can be hard to get dry, especially if it’s still raining and you have to keep them inside the tent overnight. A damp backpack isn’t going to be too much of a problem for carrying things like bottles of water, but for maps, notebooks, pens, cameras and the like it can get a little too steamy inside. If you’re able to bring a spare, do. You can even pack it inside the other backpack. Genius.
  • Er, pee bottle : Or ‘portable urinal’, as Amazon more politely calls it. We’re not (just) being lazy with this one, we swear…trips back and forth to the toilet block at night when it’s raining are inevitably going to bring some rain back into the tent, so unless you’re at a very early stage in your relationship these are a godsend. Just be sure to get one each so there’s no fighting over it. (Ewww.)
  • Laptop/DVD player/books/games : You can be as hardy as you like camping in wet weather and determinedly trekking the hills and dales around you in a downpour, but there will be a time when you and your former loved ones are confined to canvas barracks only a foot or two away from each other. For hours. Entertainment is your saviour here, or will at least keep you out of prison.

And, as we said in the rainy camping with kids blog, if your camping trip normally involves cooking on a campfire , bring plenty of food that doesn’t need to be cooked or heated up – or at the very least add a cheap restaurant or chippy meal to the budget. It may be raining, but you should always have chips. And whisky. It keeps you warm.