It has been raining hard on and off for the last several days. This resulted in a discussion about sleeping dry while camping in the rain. It’s surprising how little even experienced campers know about the subject, especially if they have generally camped during great weather or in drier locations. For them, the extent of their knowledge and preparedness comes down to depending on their tent alone to keep them dry.
Unless you want to end up with your gear soaked with water, soggy food, and wearing wet clothes, socks, and boots, here’s what you should know about sleeping dry.
There’s more to selecting a campsite than just a pretty view. You need to know how to How to Select a Campsite and have an understanding of how to build a drainage ditch around a tent if you suspect rain is in the forecast. Here are a few ideas to help you if you have to build a shelter in the rain and be sleeping dry even during a heavy downpour.
First, choose a high spot for your tent, and don’t pitch your tent in an indentation which will become a puddle if it rains. Make sure you have good drainage around your tent. Most newer tents are made tub-style, meaning the floor fabric comes up the wall several inches, even forming a lip at the door, with as few seams as possible. They claim that this will prevent water from coming into your tent even if you are sitting in a shallow puddle.
When we had tents without floors, the old-school style of directing rain away from your tent was to dig a ditch all around it. They tell me that this is no longer an acceptable practice for environmental reasons, and due to the style and materials of modern tents, no longer necessary.
I seriously question this, and in any type of a real survival situation, if rain is a problem, I will dig a shallow ditch around my tent and drain the water off to the downhill side. In the past, this method was taught by both the military and the boy scouts and is time-proven.
Personally, I’ve experienced a soaking wet tent, and it’s no fun. We have a Base Camp tent from REI, and although the overall quality is excellent, in no way is it waterproof, even with the rainfly if there’s enough rain.
So, if sleeping dry is a priority and rain is on the way, here’s how you can dig a drainage ditch around your tent.
- Dig the trench by cutting straight down just outside tent footprint. Do not dig in a V-shape. Slope the side away from the tent. Dig trench all around the tent
- Throw dirt from trench away from the tent; never throw it against the tent, for it will quickly rot the material.
- In most cases, do not dig trench more than 4 or 5 inches deep and in the shallowest place not over 3 inches. There should be enough slope in the trench so that the water will flow freely toward the outlet and not back up.
- To carry the water off, dig an outlet at the lowest point of the area and connect it to the trench which has been dug around the lent.
- When there is a possibility that the water may flow in from higher ground, dig a ditch to divert the water before it can reach the tent
Whether you are using a tent, tarp or another improvised shelter, if possible always point the opening downhill. If you live in an area that is subject to heavy rains and plan to camp out, have good tents and extra tarps.
If you look at the homeless camps during wet weather, most tents will have a tarp over them and often under them. If you put a tarp under your tent, be sure you fold the ends underneath so nothing is sticking out. If any part of the tarp is sticking out, it will funnel the water underneath your tent.
If you don’t have a sleeping pad or something to raise your sleeping bag off the ground, cut some brush or dry grass if it is available and put some padding between you and the ground.
If you live in an area that is subject to rainy weather, go camping in the rain. Try different types of shelters and see what works for you. Not too many years ago I went camping and used my old tent and a friend with me used his brand new 400 dollar tent. Guess which one leaked? The new one. Sleeping dry requires practice. Be sure and test your gear.