You might love walking in the rain, but it doesn’t mean you enjoy being stuck in the rain while camping. If you are in a situation where you are camping out of necessity, getting caught unprepared for rain storms can lead to illness and many other problems.
Survival camping in the rain does not require much equipment, but you will still need to know what to do to get the most out of the basics you should already have in your everyday carry (EDC) bag.
Important Items to Have Onhand
Whether you are camping in an open field, a forest, or some other outdoor setting, you need basic items onhand. Ideally, these items (and others) should be with you at all times, regardless of where you go, so you could use them for your survival.
If you already have them in your pocket book or some other wearable EDC (they take up about 1 liter of space or the size of a medium fanny pack), then you are well on your way to being fully capable of camping comfortably and safely in the rain.
- Your EDC bag should be waterproof. Failing that, everything in the bag should be kept in Ziploc freezer bags or some other waterproof container.
- A printed instruction book – you can use anything from laminated index cards to a small notebook for storing important information on how to start fires, treat medical emergencies, purify water, and build a basic shelter. You can start with the basic topics in this article, and then build on the information to address other scenarios. Do not forget you can also print diagrams and other pictures from online resources and include them in the book.
- A knife
- Waterproof matches, tinder cloth, and tea lights
- Screwdriver kit
- File or emory boards
- Sewing kit
- Bandages, gauze, tweezers, cotton swabs, tissues, and tape
- Antibacterial ointment
- Medicines and herbs in accordance with your needs. Do not forget you can divide salves and powders into straws and seal both ends for single use packages.
- Rubbing alcohol or swabs
- Petroleum jelly
- Heavy duty construction bags
- Plastic shopping bags
- Rice (approximately 2 cups stored in a waterproof bag)
- Small packets of salt, sugar, electrolyte, and nutrition bars
- Water purifying straws
- Solar powered battery charger
- Dish towel
- Pair of socks
- Electronic devices in accordance with personal needs and preferences
While you may be more concerned about getting away from all the rain, it is very important to make sure you remain safe from lightning.
Here are some basic tips:
- Don’t use an umbrella or anything else metallic that will draw lightning to you.
- If you have a tent, make sure it does not conduct electricity.
- Don’t camp under trees or areas where lightning may jump onto you.
- Try to stay in areas where shrubs or low growth is of uniform height
- Don’t go to the high ground or any area where lightning will try to use you as the fastest path to the ground
- Remain in the trench or safe area for at least ½ after you no longer see lightning or hear thunder.
- Stay away from water, especially in ponds, mud puddles, or any other standing water. Even if lightning does not hit you, but does hit the water, it will still shock you and may kill you.
- If you try to wait out the storm in a ditch or other depression in the ground, make sure water is not flowing in it. You may have to abandon the ditch if you see water starting to build up or flow. In this situation, stay as close to the ground as you can while moving to another area of safety.
Avoiding Flash Floods and Related Hazards
In some ways, staying safe from floods and mudslides while camping in the rain is just the opposite of staying safe from lightening. When it comes to floods, you will be seeking the high ground as much as possible.
The best way to avoid problems with flash floods and mudslides is to be familiar with the area you are in. Stay away from areas where flooding and mudslides occur.
If you are not familiar with the area, then make sure you know the signs of areas where floods and slides are likely. This might include studying signs of previous floods in creek beds, rock patterns, and other indicators that problems may develop during a rainstorm.
With a few hours and suitable natural resources, you can build a shelter that will last for several days and be waterproof. This includes making small A-frame shelters from saplings as well as using vines and other materials for thatching and walls.
Video first seen on Haven.
If you do not have tarp on hand to build simple shelters, you can still bind together large leaves or grasses to make a mat. This includes using rushes and reeds found near the edge of ponds and streams. Insofar as short term shelters, just about anything will do as long as you can braid or knot it to keep the pieces together.
Once you have a basic mat built, you can plug up any holes in the structure with a mixture of grass and mud. Alternatively, if there are pine trees nearby, you can collect the sap and make pitch out of it.
If you happen to find a small hill and have more time, you can also create a small dugout shelter. Just make sure that you fortify the walls and have a suitable exit in case the structure floods or leaks in the rain.
If the rain hits suddenly, you can use a large size construction bag as a poncho until you find a place sheltered enough to build a fire. Keep at least one bag ready for this purpose.
Just cut a hole for your head to fit through the bottom of the bag and then pull the bag on when needed. When cutting arm holes, make sure there is enough plastic to drape wide over your shoulders so that rain doesn’t drip into the sides of the bag.
If there is a breeze, or you must move around to accomplish some other task, simply use some paracord to tie the bag closer to your body.
Starting and Maintaining a Fire
From drying out clothes to keeping animals away, being able to build a fire in the rain is the most important thing you can do. If you are carrying waterproof matches, tinder cloth, and tea lights, most of the work of finding suitable burn materials will already be done. All you will need to do is find some dry wood for the fire.
This may include anything from saplings to the inner material of fallen tree trunks. To start a fire with what you have:
- Use the waterproof matches to ignite the tinder cloth. Some people also use cotton balls or dryer lint soaked in petroleum jelly for this purpose.
- A tea light will provide necessary fuel until smaller bits of kindling catch fire. If you do not have a tea light, try using a pine cone.
- There are several different ways to stack the logs when building a fire . Try out different methods before you are caught in the rain to see which one you are most comfortable with.
Get Dry and Stay Dry
Once you have a decent fire going, dry out your clothes and remove as much dampness as possible from your skin. This is especially important if you are prone to taking chills, or catch colds easily.
If you have a small towel on hand, use that to dry off, and then use the fire to dry out your clothes.
Unless you have a shelter, staying dry can be difficult as long as it is still raining. A plastic bag poncho will still keep the worst of the rain off you, but it can also block off the movement of sweat away from your skin. As a result, you must be very careful to pay attention to when your clothes feel damp, or open the bag up to allow it to vent from time to time. Needless to say, you will not be able to use the bag as a covering when sitting by the fire.
Drying Out Electronic Devices
Unless you are camping during a complete social collapse, you might obtain cell service as long as your phone works. In addition, you may also need your phone to access other information, especially if you don’t have a set of printed notes with you.
If your cell phone or solar power charging kit got wet, start off by removing as much moisture as you can with cotton swabs and tissues. Do not forget to remove the battery and dry as much as you can in the battery compartment.
Be careful when drying off the gold contacts located on the battery as you do not want to inadvertently short it out. From there, if the device doesn’t start working when you reinstall the battery, store it in a bag of rice for 24 – 36 hours.
The rice will, hopefully, absorb enough moisture so that your device will work properly again.
Navigating in the Rain
Many people that go camping stay in one place while it is raining. While this may have advantages insofar as keeping a fire going and having a reliable shelter, it may not work in a survival situation.
If you must reach a distant location in a short period of time, you may not have hours or days to waste sitting in one location. You will also need food and water fairly quickly. Even if you aren’t going to move very far away from the campsite, you may still need to find your way around and back to it.
When navigating in the rain, keep in mind a few things.
Use Laminated Maps
If you are traveling a distance, laminate your maps on both sides, with the edges sealed, and keep them in a waterproof bag.
There are few things worse than thinking your map is waterproof, only to lay it down on a damp surface and see it get soaked from the bottom. By the same token, a map that does not have sealed edges can also pick up moisture very quickly and carry it into the printed area.
Write Down Your Position
Always write down compass readings while moving away from the campsite, to have a better chance of backtracking to find your previous location. Remember, even if you only go a few feet away from the campsite, it can be very easy to get confused and wind up going in the wrong direction.
Leave Trail Markers
You can use anything from patterns of stones on the ground making arrows to carving markers in trees to help you find your way back to the campsite or some other area of interest.
Use a Walking Stick
In order to reduce the risk of falling or incurring other injuries, use a walking stick while it is raining and the ground is wet. Wet leaves with hidden mud under them can easily cause you to slip and fall, especially if you are traveling along a decline and hidden rocks slip out from under your feet.
Using a walking stick will also help you avoid stepping on snakes or other creatures that might be hiding in the leaves. If you are not a seasoned hiker or aren’t paying enough attention to where you put your feet, it is very easy to get startled, lose your balance, and wind up with sprains, cuts, bruises, or broken bones.
Put the Fire Out Before Leaving
Even if you are planning to return to the campsite, put the fire out before you go. It is never a good idea to leave a fire unattended regardless of the weather or how assured you feel that you will return in time to take care of a problem. It simply isn’t worth the risk to keep a fire going if you don’t have eyes on it at all times and are ready to put it out if something goes wrong.
Signaling Without Electronic Devices
Unfortunately, if it is raining, you will not be able to use a mirror to capture light from the sun and signal for help. If your cell phone isn’t working, that leaves using sound and smoke.
Here are some things you can try to draw helpers to your site:
- Use the fire to generate a smoke signal. Make sure the fire is in an open area where as much smoke as possible will be seen by others.
- Make a whistle from reeds or other hard, hollow stems. You can also use your knife to carve out a whistle that may send sound further out.
- If you have been hunting, take skins from fish or animals and stretch them over a hollowed out tree stump. Next, simply beat on the skins to create a drum sound.
- Make a bullroarer or similar device – these devices have been used for thousands of years and in cultures all over the world to send information over long distances. They are little more than thin pieces of wood attached to a rope. As the wood is spun, it makes a sound that can be heard for miles around.
Managing Illness and Injuries
Overall, there isn’t much difference between managing illnesses in the rain and when the weather is clear. You will still need to keep wounds clean and dry.
If you have a sprained ankle or broken bone, you will still use the same methods to isolate them in order to prevent further damage. That all being said, when it rains, you may want to take some extra precautions to avoid getting sick.
For example, if you are comfortable with using garlic, ginger, or other herbs that reduce inflammation and kill off a wide range of bacteria, you may want to take them to stave off an infection.
Camping in the rain can come with a set of special challenges that you may not give much thought when the sun is shining. Even people that have gone camping before may not always think about keeping a set of tools in their EDC that can be used in case they are stuck in a situation where they must camp outdoors for survival purposes.
Today, you can look over your EDC gear and see if you have everything you need to survive camping for a day or more in the rain. If you do, then you will be well served by practicing your skills the next time it rains.
Even if you camp out in your backyard for a few hours, it will give you some good ideas about what skills you need to hone as well as how best to use the gear that you have on hand. Use any opportunity to practice your survival skills as this can save your life one day!
This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.