It's Raining it's Pouring. Is SoloCamping a Rain-or-Shine Gig?
Updated: Jan 2, 2021
What do I do if it rains?
I live in the Pacific Northwest. If we didn't do things in the rain, we wouldn't do things.
Yes, good warm summery weather~ or coolish spring, crisp fall~ is ideal. But we don't always get ideal in life. Part of the deal is to, well... deal. And there are rewards.
I've had a number of people ask me, well, why would you plan to go camping when it's raining? The answer is, except for the occasional spontaneous catch-a-cancellation weekend, camping reservations have to be made 6 months or more in advance ~ especially for long weekends, or summer weekends + weekdays...long before you know the weather. And the weather here is unpredictable; you can get downpours in August.
SO... it's 10 days out of your trip, and the weather predicted is rain. That can mean sprinkles, light showers, or full-on faucet. You've got 3 options; Bag It, Get Out, or Get In. I've done all three, and variations. Just know this - Rain doesn't HAVE to mean it's a no-go. The Adventure, as always, is up to you.
I'll tell you mine, in A Tale Of Three Trips.
Trip #1: Get Out - Go and Camp, and Daytrip~ Lake Sylvia, June 2020
The forecast was for light rain the day before I arrived, with a break on my arrival date during set-up hours, a small chance of potential light showers throughout the weekend. I decided to go for it. A disclaimer - I've never had to set up in the rain, and I think it wouldn't be much fun. Rain during set-up is a cause for pause. You are wet, your gear is wet, etc. It's a commercial for one of those pop-up shelters to put up first, potentially over the picnic table, and at least have a semi-dry staging area and cooking area. I JUST got one... I'll let you know how it goes this coming season. :)
I arrived to damp but not wet ground. This was my first time reserving a "Primitive" campsite. That means your car is not parked where your campsite is. It was purported to be several yards away. It turned out to be MANY MANY yards away, in the middle of a fairly steep hill. But that is a tale for another time... the important thing - get the tent and rainfly gear down there quickly, and set that up; then the firewood stored under the picnic bench for maximum shelter, with a tarp over that and the cooking gear; then the inside-the-tent stuff brought down and inside. This was JUST accomplished when the rain started. It seemed like a good time for a cozy tent nap, with book and Trader Joe's cupcake. And you know what? It was.
There was enough of a rain break that night to cook dinner and eat at the table, before the rain set in for the night. No campfire time. I looked out at the lake from under the shelter of trees, and listened as the frogs and cicadas began singing the evening in. I went to bed, read some more with my lantern, and slept well with the sound of the rain on my tent rainfly gently pitter pattering.
The next day was rain off and on, sometimes heavy, sometimes light, with breaks. I grew restless, so packed a picnic lunch and took the car and drove around the area for a number of hours (charging the phone/camera, added bonus) and photo-safari-ing, even visiting other campsites and checking out good sites for another future trip. Later in the day, back in camp, it cleared enough to go on a hike on nearby trails ~ intermittent showers couldn't diminish the beauty of the trails and my surroundings. I was very glad I ventured out, even with a slip in the mud down a steep part of the trail. It cleared again for dinner and a quick campfire.
The last day, I was fortunate again, in that I didn't have to tear down camp in the rain. I think that would be miserable, probably even more so than setting up in the rain. Everything wet, needing airing out when home, compounding the return unpacking tasks. It was MANY trips to the car in the mud, being primitive campsite and all. But the trip overall? Definitely worth it.
Trip #2: Stay In - Go and Camp, and enact Plan B~ Fort Flagler, September 2019
The forecast was partially sunny ~ full steam ahead! Set up and the next day were lovely, sunny spells and partial clouds. Lovely campfires, hikes on the beach, sweet outdoors time that was everything solocamping should be.
Early Saturday, with departure due by 1:00 pm on Sunday, the forecast changed. Rain was supposed to set in at 10 pm, and continued showers through the entire next day. I watched the chances go from 40% to 90%, and considered my options. I really didn't relish the idea of packing up in the rain. So, I decided... less than 24 hours after setting it up, I took down my tent and camp except for 1 night's campfire wood and the stove, repacked the car all on 1 side and in the passenger seat, and made a "nest" of bedding in my Kia Soul. The plan was to sleep in the car~ if the rain did not appear, I could easily access wood and the camp kitchen to have the morning I'd planned regardless. If it did indeed rain all night, all I had to do to pack up was roll up my nest, put in the campstove, and head out.
I had a lovely evening with clear skies, dinner under the stars, and a nice fire.
As I crawled into my car-bed at 10:00, the first drops started hitting the car.
It did indeed rain all night, and rather hard. I did not sleep terribly well - my car's folded down seats are not terribly flat. And hard rain on the metal car roof that is about 18" above your ear is LOUD. But was I glad I had both (a) gone camping that weekend, and (b) enacted Plan B re pre-packing up on account of rain? Absolutely. Big bonus at Fort Flagler; there is a small cafe-general store down on the beach that had espresso; coffee was VERY much needed.
Trip #3: Bag It - Abandon & Camp Another Day: Lake Wenatchee, October 2020
Below is a picture of what I'd been dreaming of when I made this reservation, because this trip didn't happen. As forest fires raged in other forested areas, putting a burn ban in effect (no campfires) and filling the air with smoke; the forecast was for rain the whole week before (much mud, soggy campground and trails even if clear) I was still waffling... until rain showed as continuing throughout my camp weekend, and temperatures for daytime dipped into the high 50's. That's a bit brisk for me. So, 8 days out, I weighed my options on fees for rescheduling elsewhere, or for the future, vs penalties for cancelling, and cancelled.
I still missed it, when the weekend came. But as rain poured outside my living room, was still glad for my decision.
So - rain. It doesn't have to rain on your solocamping parade. BUT~ as always, solocamping is about YOU. Make the decision that is comfortable for you, in the circumstances. Sometimes we are up for a challenge, or a bit of winging it, weather-wise. Sometimes, we are not. Either is good solocamping practice.
"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow