How Do You Take Down a Tent in the Rain?

Rainy day in woods

Camping is great. Sleeping in nature, with only the thin fabric of your tent between you and the night sky. But sometimes clouds will butt in and rain will come down. It may fall during your entire trek. So, how to stay dry, pack as little moisture with your tent and other stuff, and prevent mold from spoiling everything?

Taking down a tent in rainy weather can be hard even for experienced campers. To do this properly, make sure to pack all your equipment the right way and separate wet components, if possible. It is important to dry everything as quickly as possible to avoid mold growth.

Here are some tips, from taking a few hacks with you, packing on a rainy morning, and keeping the mildew away from your tent. And your house. Read our article to get the idea about folding a tent and packing in the rain, what hacks to take for a rain-drenched camping trip and how to handle drying and cleaning gear, and keeping mildew at bay.

The Difficulties of Camping In the Rain

Setting up and taking down a tent can be challenging for a camping novice. But even if you are a veteran camper, you may struggle to fold your tent and pack it in the rain and a wet surrounding. Yes, the pattering of rain on your tent as you slip into sleep overnight may be mesmerizing. But nobody likes to hear that sound knowing packing your wet equipment is next. 

Keeping your stuff dry is, obviously, important when camping or bivvying in the rain. While it is next to impossible to remain dry under an all-out shower, there are ways to keep some critical items away from water.

Packing efficiently on a rainy morning is a must, especially on multi-day treks. But folding and packing a tent can turn messy. Dirt, leaves, pine needles, and virtually everything else will stick to the equipment. So, it will take more to clean up and pack. At the same time, packing wet stuff and failing to dry it out as soon and as much as possible opens the door to mildew.

So, recheck the forecast. If the sun remains off the radar, you’ll know that your things will stay wet for some time. Prepare a packing timeline – the most valuable and most vulnerable stuff needs to go in first.

Pack your gear as you empty your tent. Use nylon trash bags for everything that must remain dry and store it all in the backpack. When done, put the cover over your gear, scan around for the driest place around and set it down as sheltered from the wet as possible.

Only then begin dealing with the tent itself.

Typical Tent Gear

Most modern tents comprise:

  • Flysheet, or rainfly. It is the waterproof outer layer of the tent. It insulates the inner tent from the wind and rain and protects it from damage that branches or terrain can inflict.
  • Inner tent, or inner shelter. That is the inner layer lining the living area, your sanctuary. It keeps the warmth inside and the world outside.
  • Groundsheet. A groundsheet is the floor of the tent. It insulates the tent from the ground.
  • Tent poles. The poles hold the tent in shape. They are pushed through sleeves sewn into the tent walls, so the fabric cannot slide over them and are usually interconnected at the top. In some models, they are attached via lines stretching outward. The lines are called guy ropes, and they are tied to pegs.
  • Pegs. Pegs are metal stakes that you push into the ground to hold the lines, and with them, the tent stretched and in place. Well-positioned pegs are vital in stormy weather as additional protection against overturning in the wind.
  • Footprint. The footprint is an additional sheet, usually of the same dimensions as the tent. Placed under the tent, it protects its floor from damage and provides extra insulation from the cold.

Most modern tents and some older models allow the removal of the inner shelter while the rest of the structure remains in place. It enables you to pack the inner structure while still sheltered from the rain. That ensures a dry interior the following night.

Pack the Wet Equipment Separately

Next, you need to unpeg, then pull off the flysheet and shake off the water vigorously each time you fold the sheet. Fold to allow captured water to drain. The less water remains inside, the less will go into the pack.

As you pack, compress every item as tightly as possible before storing it in the bag. If possible, pack the wet parts into a nylon bag to separate them from the dry inside. If that is not possible, keep the folded interior under the tent until the last moment. The last item for folding is the footprint – shake it well before packing.

On a weekend trip or if you can get indoors within 24 hours, cleaning and drying can wait that long. Mildew will not form that rapidly. But if you’re on a more extended tour and will be outdoors for several coming days, you will need to dry it on the go.

Tents in the wood on a rainy weather

Drying Stuff Whenever You Can

Sunshine will do the job quickly. Simply set the tent up, and the sun will do the job. Cleaning is also the easiest that way. But what if poor weather persists as you return home? In that case, the garage will do, a porch, a balcony, or even the bathroom – simply hang the material over the shower curtain holder.

You can shake off caked dirt, needles, leaves, and other stuff that remained stuck to your outer tent after it dries. Turn the tent inside out, shake, then turn it back and shake it again. Air out the poles and the inner tent, as well, to ensure that they dried.

Air Out Your Tent After Camping In the Rain

But remember that you will need to air out and dry the inside of the tent as well. While you slept, water vapor from your breath condensed on the cool inside wall. You can’t shake out that moisture.

If you’re on a multi-day trek, take the same steps, but it may be complicated by the weather. If the rain continues, take your wet things out of your backpack whenever you can. Dry them as much as possible while on the road or dry your clothes in a sleeping bag.

On longer stops, try to air your tent, as well. If the sun appears, use the opportunity to pull the tent out and dry as much as possible. A practiced camper needs just a few minutes to assemble the tent, and 30 minutes in the sun will take a lot of the moisture out. And it is critical because if mildew or other molds do appear, it could turn your future camping night into misery. 

How to Deal with Mold and Mildew When Camping

Even if you couldn’t dry out the tent properly for days and mildew does appear – don’t panic. There are things you can do to try and clean your tent out and remove the odor.

There are a handful of things you can use to get rid of the mold on your tent. First, you need to be sure that it is mildew and not something that looks like it.

Mildew spots are usually yellow, grey, or white. If there is enough, they will produce a nasty, musty stench. Mold usually shows up in black, blue, or green spots and is often fuzzy.

Try the simplest first: wash your tent well with soap and water. Use non-detergent soap without fragrance. Begin with a scrub: rub the mildew spots with a washcloth. Be gentle in order not to damage the fabric and its ability to resist water. Then repeat with soapy water, and finally rinse abundantly with clean water and, finally, allow your tent to dry.

If soap and water failed, mix one-quarter of vinegar with three-quarters of warm water in a cup, pour into a dispenser and spray moldy spots on the tent. Let the solution work in for a while, and scrub gently with a cloth. Don’t rinse; just allow the tent to dry.

Hopefully, that will do. However, be careful to clean your tent outside because mold can release spores and infest your house.

Final Thoughts on Camping In the Rain

And for the next camping trip, you may consider the following tips:

  • If rain is forecast, pack a large nylon tarp or even two. Place one underneath, adding protection from the water and mud from underneath. The second can go on top of the tent. If you set it up well, it will allow you to keep the window and door open, ventilate the interior and reduce condensation on the inner walls. And nylon is easy to clean and will provide a “safe” area for assembly and disassembly.
  • Pack a couple of sponges, too. They weigh next to nothing, take just about as much space compressed, and are great for soaking up water from your tent.
  • Take a roll of plastic clothesline. It takes seconds to stretch a few lines between the trees. With that, hanging stuff to dry and taking it off for packing will be far more comfortable and faster.
  • Select your campsite on an elevation and seek out any safe protection from the water. However, keep in mind that there are worse hazards than rain, from lightning, over falling trees, to landslides.

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