Camping in the Rain? No problem!

What do you do if the camping trip you booked a few months ago, will now be cold and rainy?  OSG leaders were asked this question, and they had a whole lot of suggestions!  Below, are tips from our leaders from all across the country!

  • Bring 3 or 4 extra tarps. I find that they are better than most footprints at keeping the rain out.
    I also usually set up a spare tent with a sleeping bag somewhere so if someone springs a leak they have a place to go.
    Bring more hot chocolate than you’d planned. No. More than that.
    Plan to get out of camp and walk around in the trees.
  • Yes to hot cocoa. Also, bring soup! A cup of soup is warming and makes people happy.
  • Propane fire pit(s)
  • I buy a Costco box of the hand warmers every fall for Scouts; throw a couple into any questionable sleeping bag and kids will be toasty warm through the night
  • With Otters, I often plan to do forts with tarps in the woods. You can use tarps instead of blankets, have them practice their knots, and then we hang out under them and play games and read stories.
  • Forts are also fun with older kids! Build shelters, stick a stuffed animal in them and see how dry they are in the morning!
  • Tell everyone to pack their sets of clothes in zip lock bags- so they stay dry until they put them on. Pj’s in their own bag too. And also they need to pack extra dry socks in the bags too. We also often set up a pop up shelter- we now own several- but setting one up over a picnic table makes a dry space to both eat and do activities with everyone out of the tents. I think the first year we discovered a leader had one due to some other event.
  • Kids are often happy to do activities in the rain- hiking, tag and hide and go seek all still work in the rain- if it isn’t a down pour. So, as long as everyone has appropriate rain gear, you don’t have to stay in tents.
  • Spare tents and spare sleeping bags. Even in good weather a bed wetting incident can be smoothly dealt with if you have an extra packed, but in wet weather (especially on a first camp) you may be dealing with equipment that isn’t quite up to wet weather.
  • I would think about taking tarps,rope, etc., and trying to rig up an additional undercover area….Also, clear plastic painter’s drop cloths from the hardware store are fantastic for staking out over individual tents when it’s rainy.
  • If anyone has pop-up canopies, they are great for providing dry(ish) outdoor gathering spaces. Just need to ensure they’re sheltered from the wind and/or secured well with guylines and beefy stakes or heavy anchors. They’re also good for putting over a tent that needs more waterproofing.
  • Tell them scouts LOVE rain. My kids heard somebody say that (I think it was Chance) at a camp out and it stuck.
  • Rain PANTS and wool socks also helped my Otter enjoy the rain more.
  • Tell families to bring towels, like hand towels and smaller bath towels. You’ll want something to dry off with before changing into PJs for bed and you end up getting wet when taking off rain gear or wet boots. Also, some shower caps from the dollar store. Kids want to keep their muddy shoes outside the tent so as to not get the tent muddy…but then their shoes get rained on and too wet to wear. One way to deal with that is to put the shoes in shower caps or a designated bin of some sort inside the tent. I also bring bath mats to act as area rugs inside my tent. I am a bit of a glamper, but I like having something soft and dry to put my feet on if I’m out of shoes, especially in the middle of the night when I have to get up for any reason.
  • We found having extra popup tents to be a lifesaver. They not only go over tables for activities during the day but can be moved over a leaky tent when it’s late and you realize someone’s shelter is becoming a lake. I suggest bringing extra rain layers and fleece jackets too. Inevitably a kid only had a cotton sweatshirt and is miserable (even thought we’ve had the no cotton in the rain/snow conversation a million times.)
  • I’ve found that many kids are happy to play in the rain and be wet, as long as there is a way to get warm when they are done. Dry clothes, warm by the fire, hot cocoa/tea/cider/etc. can make all the difference! Also, if I’m worried about my kids getting cold at night, I have them put a fleece or those big, dumb acrylic blankets that they insist on having millions of, inside their sleeping bag, but I have them wear cotton pajamas.
    My kids could live in their rain boots all winter, sometimes I put my own wool socks over their socks to help keep their feet warmer.
  • Not a gear tip, but a general camping tip… watch where you pitch your tents! You don’t want to be down in a hollow where all the rain pools and gathers. Water can easily get between a footprint and the tent floor in situations like this and then everyone is miserable. Ask me how I know this fact…
  • A bellow helps keep the fire going in the rain!
  • One thing I didn’t see others mentioned is having a solid plan for dealing with lightning. In our group, we have at least two leaders who are designated to monitor radar and weather alerts. At the opening of camp safety briefing, detail what the plan is if there’s lightning, where the safe shelter area is and how the decision to move to safe shelter will be communicated.
  • Rain pants and rain jackets are ideal. Also important to avoid cotton. I saw the sign on Mountain Washington as a teenager and never forgot it (cotton kills, at least up there it does.). Wet cotton is cold. Wet wool or synthetic fleece is not exactly comfortable, but it’s still warm, and has a better chance of drying out than those thick cotton sweatshirts kids love these days.
  • My advice is you have the power to change or to end the event early if the environment is no longer safe for the group to stay and to enjoy. Even the World Organization of Scouting Movement recently canceled their World Scout Jamboree in South Korea because of the weather. Losing a night of camping reservation is still worth more than someone get hurt.


Can you tell Outdoor Service Guides get rained on a lot? Rain alone is not a reason to cancel a trip.  However, it is a reason to prepare yourselves and your group.  Hopefully, these tips make you and your guides more prepared to have a great camping trip, no matter what the weather!

And, as the last tip mentions, be comfortable canceling if the weather really is dangerous.  Floods, tornadoes, and blizzards are reasons to cancel.

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