A double rainbow over a lake with cloudy skies

Don't let the rain dampen your tent-camping spirit

Locals and visitors alike love Western Washington for its rivers, forests, lakes and… rain.

OK, most people don't love the rain. But, with a hearty spirit, the right gear and a little prep work, the state's famous precipitation doesn't have to ruin your camping vacation.

First off, you don't have to actually camp to enjoy a rainy night out! Several Washington state parks offer cabins, yurts and vacation homes - guaranteed keep you cozy and dry in all weather. RVers also have the right idea by bringing their own roof and heat.

But let's say you're all fired up for tenting it! Staying dry is the ultimate goal. Ditto for staying warm. Even with your car 10 feet away, you can still get hypothermic, or at least cold and miserable.

A campsite with tent and tarp overhead
These campers at Fort Townsend have hung their tarp and are ready for rain.

Here are some pro tips for putting down stakes:

  • Once in your tent, open the vents to prevent condensation. This may seem counterintuitive, but trust us. Rain outside the tent is much better than moisture inside!
  • Place the tent footprint or tarp inside (not under) your tent to keep ground moisture at bay.
  • Pitch your tent in a flat or rounded spot, not in a divot or concave area. Otherwise, you could wake up in a puddle.
  • String tarps between trees, or use weighted, free-standing canopies for extra shelter. This adds a living room and kitchen to your site. (Rangers recommend webbing over rope when hanging tarps between trees.)
  • Place overhead tarps or canopies seven to eight feet above the fire pit when making a campfire. Your lungs will thank you.
  • Find out whether the park has kitchen shelters, and whether those shelters have fireplaces. You may still get a campfire, even if's too wet to start one at your site.
  • Check with the park about heated bathrooms, hot showers and electricity for blow drying hair. Having wet hair overnight is no fun in November – and we're not talking frizz or bedhead!
A colorful campfire closeup
A roaring campfire can brighten the darkest of nights.


Unlike backpacking, car camping means you can bring all your gear! These are a few items Western Washingtonians swear by for rain camping success:

  • Rolls of trash bags
  • Multiple sets of layered non-cotton clothing, waterproof rain jackets and pants. (Gortex is the bomb, and wool base layers stay warmish when wet.)
  • Synthetic sleeping bags and puffy jackets. Cotton and down are toasty when dry, but useless when wet.
  • Extra socks, mittens and shoes.
  • Headlamp/flashlight, extra batteries, games, books and downloaded entertainment. When it gets dark at 4:30, you'll want a few evening activities!
  • Duct tape and dryer lint soaked in Vaseline - two all-weather fire starters.
  • Hand/foot warmers and adhesive heating pads.
  • And remember that blow dryer if the bathroom has electricity!
A person sticks their head out of their tent door with a beverage mug. A 2nd tent in the background
Great gear can help you stay dry, but tarps, canopies and hot beverages make for budget-friendly workarounds.

Sign up for alerts

Even the toughest park has limits, and sometimes campgrounds close due to flooding or downed trees after storms. Sign up for park alerts, check for updates and make sure your camping spot is open!

Some wild and wooly wet weather parks we recommend:

Grayland Beach – Snuggle up in a yurt, your RV or a sturdy tent at this beach park south of Aberdeen, and watch storm clouds roll in off the ocean!

Bogachiel – They don't call it the Olympic Peninsula rainforest for nothing! Set up your tent tarp or canopy, and take in the fairy forest of mosses, lichen, mushrooms and big trees.

Ike-Kinswa – Set in a lowland rainforest near US12, 20 miles east of I-5, Ike Kinswa gives you the option to tent camp or pile your whole crew into one of the park's reservable heated cabins.

Millersylvania – A campground and picnic shelters in a stand of old-growth near Olympia makes this the perfect place for a rain gear shakedown.

Find other year-round parks!

Final thought:

Pack your cheeriest attitude for this trip. Rain camping can be Type 2 fun, but it's an experience you'll never forget!

Cabins, Adirondack shelters, vacation homes and yurts like this one pictured below at Grayland Beach give you many options for wet weather “camping.”

The top of a yurt visible from behind a bush with a stone path in the foreground

Originally published September 27, 2022

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