10 tips for camping in the rain

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This weekend we went camping up in Ngare Ndare Forest, despite the ominous weather. We’ve been camping in the rain before, but I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous about this trip, given the flooding we experienced in Nairobi on Friday. But you never know with the weather in Kenya – you might have torrential downpours in one spot, and be dry as a bone just a mile or so away. So we decided to pack up our gear and take our chances with camping in the rain.

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Let me skip to the end – we had a lovely weekend. And yes, it did rain. But we took a few precautions to help make sure we had a fun, dry weekend, despite the weather. Here are our best tips for having lots of fun and staying dry while camping in the rain!

1- Plastic bags are your friends. We brought LOADS of plastic bags – from zip-locks to plastic shopping bags to trash bags. We used small zip locks to keep our matches dry (SO important), and used the shopping bags and trash bags to contain wet clothing, and especially wet shoes. For me, the most challenging part of camping in the rain is going in and out of your tent and dealing with wet, muddy gumboots!

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2- Pitch in the right spot. Upon arrival, we scouted the entire clearing and carefully chose a spot to pitch our tent. We looked for flat, level ground, and avoided depressions or dips that might turn into puddles in a downpour.

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3- Watch out for puddles. We always use a groundcover beneath our tent, which is mainly used to protect the tent floor from wear and tear, and from being torn or punctured by sticks or rocks. We were very careful when we laid out our tent on top of the groundcover that there were no parts of the tarp sticking out beyond the footprint of the tent, else it would act as a big water collection system and collect rainwater under the tent, which would make camping in the rain a pretty miserable experience.

4- Keep your tent dry and cosy. Once our tent was up, we put down a couple of water-resistant picnic blankets inside, on the floor of the tent, both for insulation and to help absorb any condensation in the tent. These worked like a charm!

5- Don’t touch! We made a very clear rule with the kids (and Jesse, who has been known to contravene this rule) – NO TOUCHING THE WALLS OF THE TENT. Touching the walls of a tent when it’s wet outside will just get you drenched inside the tent. Big no-no. Also, make sure when you pitch your tent that your rain fly does not touch the roof of your tent at all, else water will drip from the fly through your roof and into your tent, perhaps right onto your child’s head in the middle of the night. (ASK ME HOW I KNOW.)

6- Pack some indoor fun. We packed plenty of distractions in case we got stuck in our tent waiting out the rain for a while. This can come in especially handy when camping with kids. We packed Claire’s Memory game, a bin full of arts and crafts, travel Scrabble, and a charged-up laptop with a couple of family movies on it. In the end, we didn’t really need it, but it would have come in handy if we had a lot of rain during the day.

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7- Make sure you can start a fire. We brought some fire-starter balls I found at a Christmas Fair one year, and also some old newspapers to use as kindling. I have to say, the rangers in Ngare Ndare were pretty amazing and helped us start a fire using the dry wood found around the campsite. I thought the wood was drenched, but these guys have mad skills. In the event you don’t have super MacGyver rangers helping you, some dry newspaper can come in really handy to use as kindling when the available wood is wet.

8- Hang up your raincoat. Our tent comes with a divider that we never really use, but we put it up on this trip and used it as a makeshift clothesline for any damp gear we didn’t want on the floor of the tent overnight. Great for hanging raincoats!

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9- Make a mudroom. One thing we didn’t do that I wish we HAD done was to pitch a tarp outside the entrance of our tent. Our tent doesn’t have a vestibule, so if it’s raining outside, there’s no place try to stand while removing muddy shoes and raincoats. Next time, we’ll definitely pitch a tarp to use as a mudroom for all of our wet, mucky gear.

10- Master the art of the tarp. Luckily, it wasn’t raining when we set up camp, but if it had been, then pitching a large tarp over the area where you’ll pitch your tent can help to keep your tent dry until you get it up and get the rainfly on.

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Wet weather doesn’t have to mean a ruined outdoor experience – rather, it can actually be part of the adventure! Life is too short (and the rainy season is too long) to stay home in fear of a few raindrops. I hope these tips help you stay happy and dry when the rains start to fall!

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7 Responses to 10 tips for camping in the rain

  1. Shiru says:

    You really are one in a million! I curled up in my house the entire weekend because of the rain.
    Good job, i really enjoy your blog,it makes me feel like i have experienced these places already 🙂

    • Mama Mgeni says:

      Thanks! I hope the blog also inspires you to get out there and visit some of these amazing places yourself! 🙂

  2. Mariana says:

    Thanks for the tips. We are planning on going camping in August (10 kids and a bunch of adults) what places would you recommend? Somewhere the boys can do the camping and the girls can stay not far off but not in tents (have some squirmish ladies in the bunch)

    • Mama Mgeni says:

      We usually do bush camping, but if some of your crew don’t want to spend the night in tents, you’re best off with official campsites attached to hotels / lodges. Some to try – Twiga Lodge (Tiwi Beach), Sanctuary Farm (Naivasha), Carnelly’s (Naivasha), Robert’s Camp (Baringo). Good luck!

      • Fred says:

        This is so great, thank you. We’re keen to start bush camping but don’t know where to begin. Or where is / isn’t safe. How do you get into the wilds in Kenya with the kids, without being reckless?

        • Mama Mgeni says:

          Hi Fred! There are so many great places to go bush camping in Kenya. Our favorites are Mount Suswa, Gatamaiyo Forest, and (most recently) Ngare Ndare Forest. If you want details on where to go, who to contact, etc, check here, here and here. Also, The Kenyan Camper has an amazing blog about wild camping in Kenya!

        • Mama Mgeni says:

          Also, I think the most important thing when bush camping is making sure you have permission from the landowners (or, in the case of conservancies or parks, the rangers) to camp there. They should provide you with guides and night guards (for a fee, of course), to provide security from wild animals and the like. I’ve added a tab for camping to the blog menu – check it out! We’ve been camping at each of these spots with our kids, and they’ve enjoyed every minute! Good luck!

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