Wet-weather camping

If you do cycle touring in the UK, and you usually camp along the way, sooner or later you’ll end up camping in the rain. After all, the UK is luscious and green because of the rain we get, so you can’t really complain.

Of course, not all wet-weather camping is the same. It depends on many things, beginning with how long you’ll be camping for. If it’s simply overnight, it’s not much of an issue, but if longer-term, you’ll need a good strategy to follow.

Your options

If you’ll only be camping on formal campsites, you can expect facilities like washing machines and dryers. That means, even if all your kit got wet, you can have the ability to dry it out. However, when wild camping, you won’t have that luxury, and your plans need to change.

Sleeping

Regardless which type of camping you do, prevention is better than cure. In simple terms, start by ensuring that your sleeping bag remains dry! Unless you’re absolutely confident that your panniers will remain dry, even during the heaviest of rain, carry your sleeping bag inside a dry bag (or even a bin bag).

Trust me – you will not have a good sleep in a damp, or wet sleeping bag! Also, when entering your tent, keep wet clothes away from everything you want to remain dry. Remember, if you’re camped on a slight slope, water runs downhill. The solution is to keep wet gear at the downhill end of your tent.

Multi-day wet-weather camping

If you’re simply camping for one night, things are easy! Once you have your tent up, and you can get out of the rain, strip off your wet clothes, dry your body, and get dressed in dry clothes. It is almost always a good idea to have a separate dry bag, to place your wet kit in, before it goes back inside your panniers. That way, your other kit in the pannier won’t get wet. Just wring out most of the water first, before putting it in the dry bag.

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However, things change when you’ll be wild camping for multiple rainy nights. Remember, you won’t have any way of drying your clothes, so the best strategy to adopt is to split your clothes into wet clothes you’ll wear outside, and dry clothes for inside the tent.

Keep the wet outside

As far as you can manage, try to keep your dripping wet kit outside the tent. I’ve stripped off outside my tent before, leaving the clothes I cycled in that day draped over my bicycle. Knowing you have warm, dry clothes to get dressed in once inside your tent can improve your mood significantly.

If the forecast is for multiple days of rain, the next morning you should simply put your already sopping-wet clothes back on, and save the dry clothes. No, it isn’t pleasant to put on cold, wet clothes, but at least they will have been rinsed by the rain overnight.

Remember, if faced with multiple rainy days, it’s pointless getting all your dry clothes wet, so keep the wet clothes for use outside the tent, and dry clothes for inside.

Drying kit

Let’s face it – cycle touring in the UK isn’t exactly like cycling through Outer Mongolia. Sooner or later you will pass by a laundromat. When you do, and you have a load of wet gear, pop them into a dryer, before setting off again. Besides, it’ll be a good excuse to get in from the rain, and rest your legs a bit.

Wet kit left in a drybag for too long will soon start to smell, and simply drying it won’t fix it. Once it’s smelling, stick it in a washing machine first. Later, you’ll be glad you did (but the other people in the next coffee shop will appreciate it even more!)

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Cooking

IMPORTANT: NEVER COOK INSIDE YOUR TENT! People have died from doing that! If you need to cook, or make a hot brew, do so outside.

Here’s where my favourite wet-weather bit of kit comes into play – essential for cooking, and more. It’s a revolutionary piece of kit that is almost always absent from all must-take camping packing lists, and it’s an umbrella.

I have an umbrella that folds up really small, and it’s often helped me stay dry, while I’m boiling water for that all-important first cup of coffee for the day. My tent doesn’t have much of a porch at all, but the umbrella means that’s no big deal.

Mine is one of those umbrellas that unfold at the push of a button, and that’s super handy, as I just stick one arm out the tent, press the button, and have shelter to step out under.

Stay positive

Rain is just water. Once you accept that (while outside) you’ll get a soaking, and surrender to the rain, you can start enjoying it. Knowing you’ll be warm and dry inside your tent certainly helps.

Just remember that it won’t always rain, and sooner or later the sun will come out again. When it does, you can peg wet clothes onto your luggage, so it can dry as you’re riding. Just peg the clothes on securely, as you don’t want to lose it. You also don’t want it tangling in the wheels.

Whenever you can, once the sun comes out, stop and unpack your tent. You don’t want to be camping in a damp tent if you can at all avoid it, so do spread it out in the sun to dry when you have the chance to do so.

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Enjoy it!

Rain shouldn’t ruin a cycle tour. With a few simple strategies in place, you can still enjoy camping in wet weather.

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