Rain is a part of the gig for some outdoors enthusiasts. Campers enjoying the Pacific Northwest or the southeastern United States, for example, are all but guaranteed to experience rain on spring and summer trips. And tropical explorers are likely to experience rain on a more-or-less daily basis.
But no matter where your adventures take you, you’ll surely spend a few days huddled in your tent if you go camping often and long enough.
Rain certainly does put a damper on things, but it is important to remember that a rainy day at camp still beats a picture-perfect day at work. So, you’ll want to learn a few ways to make the best of things when the weather isn’t cooperating with your plans to sunbathe and swim all afternoon.
1) Card, Word and Interpersonal Games
Games have been the rainy-day activity of choice for years, and they remain some of the best ways to pass the time when the weather sours. Just be sure to bring games that match the ages and personalities of the campers.
A deck of cards is small and lightweight, and it gives you the chance to play a variety of games, including poker (trail mix makes great currency), gin and hearts, which are good for couples or groups, as well as solitary games like, uh, solitaire. You can also bring along a travel chess, checkers or backgammon set if you’d prefer.
But you needn’t bring anything to play some games – there are a variety of games that can be played with nothing more than another person or two. This includes things like I Spy, Truth or Dare, Never Have I Ever and 20 Questions.
2) Go Fishing
People spend their entire lives trying to determine the best weather conditions for catching fish, and consensus among the fishing community is somewhat elusive. However, most experienced anglers agree on one thing: Rainy weather often stimulates fish to feed. This is especially true during the dog days of summer when the rain cools things off for a while. Rain also washes bugs and other delicious delicacies into the water, and many fish are on the prowl, looking for an easy meal.
Yes, you will get wet while fishing in the rain – you’ll be surrounded by water on all sides, so it’s pretty inevitable unless you bring a top-notch rain suit. However, if you plan properly, and the temperatures are not too low, a little rain needn’t stop you – just be sure to seek shelter if lighting starts.
Rainy weather also makes it extremely easy to catch worms for bait, if you are so inclined. The saturated soil forces them to the surface, where they make easy pickings.
3) Soak in the Sounds of Nature
Rainy days often elicit some of the most interesting sounds nature has to offer. Some birds will begin calling and cavorting when it starts to sprinkle, and frogs often come out of the woodwork, as they defend territories and seek out mates.
It can be fun to just listen to all of their calls, but if you are so inclined, you can learn to identify different species by their calls. Many universities, museums and zoos provide frog-call identification resources for free; just be sure to select a resource that details the species native to the area you are visiting.
4) Repair Broken Gear
No matter how long you’ve been camping or how careful you are, equipment malfunctions occur on most trips. Zippers will become stuck, valves can become clogged with dirt and seams can split. But when the weather is nice and the itinerary full, you’ll often stay busy and have trouble finding the time to fix these types of problems.
But a rainy afternoon gives you a great opportunity to set up a little repair shop in your tent and address broken gear. You can also perform routine maintenance at these times, such as lubricating moving parts and cleaning out gears. Just be sure that you know how to carry out any repairs before you take apart your stove or water purifier – you don’t want to make matters worse.
5) Dive into Your Map or GPS
Even if you are camping in a park you’ve visited a dozen times before, you can probably still learn more about the area and increase your familiarity with it by examining a map of the region for 15 or 20 minutes. This not only provides obvious value in terms of safety, it can help you better enjoy your trip too.
For example, you may notice a hillside that provides a great view, or you may find a quicker route back to the trailhead. Rainy days also give you a great chance to mark waypoints, calculate the distance between different areas or do a little housecleaning (removing old waypoints, etc.) with your GPS unit.
Rainy days are great for cracking open a book, grabbing a handful of snacks and kicking back in your tent. You can read about anything you’d like, but definitely try to keep it recreational. Don’t spend your time in the forest reading about work or news stories – read something that puts a smile on your face and helps you embrace the escape camping provides.
You can bring along a traditional book or two if you prefer to read in old-school fashion. But, if you are a true bookworm, and want to bring along tens of thousands of words on the trail, you’ll probably find that a digital book reader is a better option.
However, weight-obsessed hikers may find that real books present a unique opportunity: You can burn the pages as you go. Paper is great for starting fires, and it will lighten your load as the trip progresses. If you enjoyed the book, you can always buy a new copy when you get back to civilization.
7) Travel to Your Next Location
If you have appropriate rain gear (for your body and your pack) you can always hike to your next location in the rain. Hiking during the rain can be more comfortable if the temperatures are soaring, and if the rain is likely to be short-lived, it will help you make better use of your time. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy better weather once you arrive at your new campsite.
You obviously don’t want to try this in lightning storms or when the winds are strong but hiking in a light rain can actually be pretty fun. Just be sure to use care if the trails become muddy – you don’t want to slip and fall if the trail turns into a slippery mess.
8) Enjoy Some Music
There aren’t many activities that can’t be made more enjoyable with a few tunes, and rainy days at camp certainly qualify. A pair of earbuds and your cell phone or MP3 player will allow you to zone out a bit and relax while waiting for the rain to stop, and it will give you some time for reflection and contemplation.
You can also make your own music if you like. It’s easy to pack a harmonica or recorder in your pack, and if you don’t mind the extra weight, you could even bring an acoustic guitar or banjo (you can even find “travel” versions of these instruments in some cases). You’ll have to confine your concert to your tent to protect your instrument, but the music you make should still be loud enough for others in your campsite to hear.
Rainy days are rarely ideal, but with a little effort and imagination, you can make the best of things and still have fun when the weather is poor. Just be sure to give some thought to potential rainy-day activities before hitting the trail, so that you can bring along anything you may think will be fun.