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

Camping_Tents_in_the_Woods by Jess Mann. jpg

Rain in the forecast? Waterproof your campsite with tarps before the downpour begins. Photo by Jess Mann

Sept. 12, 2018

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

OK, not everyone loves 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 on the rivers and lakes of Washington state parks. In fact, these lesser-known treasures make great camp spots, rain or shine:

Fort Townsend Historical State Park

Looking for a base near Port Townsend without the crowds? Book a site at Fort Townsend Historical State Park, 6 miles from town.

On the surface, Fort Townsend is a classic state park, with forested campgrounds and pebbly beach. But a closer look reveals a hidden past.

Built in 1856, Fort Townsend was a U.S. Army fort until a fire destroyed its barracks in 1895. One of Washington’s earliest coastal defense sites, Fort Townsend has all but returned to nature.

Walk the parade lawn to find interpretive plaques lining former Officers’ Row. Explore a historic torpedo tower that held state-of-the-art technology during World War II (and is now part of the group campground). Hit the beach for big sky views over Puget Sound.

torpedo warehouse

Traveling in numbers? The group campsite and torpedo storehouse at Fort Townsend Historical State Park provide a unique experience, rain or shine.

Ike Kinswa State Park

Wake up to the pitter-patter of rain, make your favorite hot beverage and stroll to a misty lake.

Ike Kinswa State Park sits in a lowland forest on Mayfield Lake amidst rolling farmlands. The park offers easy access via U.S. Highway 12, only 20 miles east of I-5. The park’s flat 1.5 mile trail will be perfect for your first (or your kids’ first) wet weather hike.

Or pile into one of the park’s heated cabins (reserve in advance), make that beverage in the microwave and drink it on the covered porch.


Not into braving the elements? Book a yurt or cabin — such as these at Ike Kinswa State Park — for a cozy vacation in any season.

Kanaskat- Palmer State Park

Most anglers don’t let the rain ruin their fishing, and the Green River at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park holds the promise — or at least a possibility — of trout.

The park’s 3 miles of hiking trails snake alongside the river, with views of the Green River Gorge’s narrow cataract and rushing rapids.

Set in the forest 45 minutes from Federal Way, Kanaskat-Palmer is made for rain camping. The park gets bonus points for its four picnic shelters, kitchen shelter and six (reservable) yurts, so you can cook, socialize and stay dry.

Kanaskat-Palmer kitchenshelter for rain blog

Soggy traveler tip: Look for state parks with reservable and first-come, first-served picnic and kitchen shelters like this one at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park. 

The Basics

Logistics:Rain camp with canopy Mwanner Wikimedia

And staying dry is the goal when it comes to camping in the rain. The pros have these tips for putting down stakes:

  • Once in your tent, open the vents to prevent condensation.
  • Place the footprint or tarp inside (not under) your tent to keep ground moisture at bay.  
  • String a couple tarps between trees. This adds a living room and kitchen to your site. Rangers recommend webbing rather than rope, or a weighted free-standing canopy. Checking with park staff before you tie anything to a tree is always a good idea.
  • Place tarps or canopies 7 to 8 feet above the fire pit when making a campfire.
  • Put wet clothes in your sleeping bag to be warmed and dried by your body heat.  

Simple, portable gear will keep campsites dry. Photo by Mwannner   


One joy of car camping is the ability to bring all your gear! These are a few items Western Washingtonians swear by for rain camping success:

  • Trash bags.
  • Layered clothing and hard shells. (Wool base layers stay warmish when wet. Cotton and down — including sleeping bags — are useless when wet.)
  • Extra wool socks.
  • Duct tape and dryer lint soaked in Vaseline — two all-weather fire starters.
  • Hand/foot warmers and adhesive heating pads.

Doubt your ability to set up a rain camp? Is your tent far from waterproof? Or are you just not that into it? Don’t shy away from state parks this winter! Book a cabin or yurt at Ike Kinswa, Kanaskat-Palmer and many other parks. Then break out the blankets, cards and cocoa, and listen to the rain tapping on the roof, knowing you’re snug and warm.

Do you have any tips for car camping in the rain? Have you done any all-weather camping in Washington state parks?
Share your story.