Set up a tent in the rain.

1:10 a.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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I should know how to do this, but does anyone have a good way to set up tents in the rain. I almost always get caught in the evening rain showers and my current method of setting up the tent as fast as humanly possible is not impressing my wife. It is a double walled tent with a mesh interior. I don't have the money or desire to find a new fancy tent like a Hilleberg or a Bibler.

What do all the trailspace experts do to keep their tents dry while setting up?

2:06 a.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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Couple thoughts,

-Since there are two of you, and if you are expecting to be in a forested area, put a lightweight tarp up first. Set the tent up under the tarp, the tent could later be moved 100' upwind from the tarp, and the tarp area could now become your kitchen, if it rains every day at supper time a tarp can be real handy for cooking. That would form two sides of the ole' camp triangle, the third being a bear bag or canister if needed.

-Get a double wall tent with zip out panels, instead of solid mesh, (solid mesh? You know what I mean I hope) which is what I have, a 3-4 season convertible with zip out panels. Mine is dry during set up, and when ready just zip out the panels. The panels and zippers do add a tiny bit of weight though.

-Consider a single wall tent.

-Let her try it, and you complain. (just joking of course)

6:20 a.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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Practice, teamwork. If both inner and outer are dry, it might be worth just setting it up and letting the inner get wet, as it should dry out fast. You could lay the outer over the inner and work underneath; this is harder the more poles you have to sleeve, however.

If you're setting it up with your wife watching, then let her have a go, especially in the rain. She might decide that it is time for a tent with solid walls inside or one of the fancy outer-first tents.

If that doesn't work, do what I do: shout orders and get angry, take even longer, then feel bad afterwards for losing your temper and blame the whole thing on the stupid wind and rain. Good luck.

8:24 a.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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I call it the "eight second rodeo calf-roping contest" and when you finish you throw up your hands and see who gets the best time.

Here are some options:

** When it is really raining hard, I get to my campsite and lean up my covered pack against a tree and if it's a real gully washer wait it out squatting on the ground by my pack in my rain gear. Deluges generally don't last longer than about 30 minutes so you can wait them out. When it lightens up, set up.

** In a rain I pull out and connect my poles first, then I lay out my stakes, and the last thing I do is bring out my tent and unroll it. Here's where speed is important, along with learned movements. Some people can put the tent fly over the canopy and put in the poles this way, usually I just go very fast and get the body up and then throw over the fly. It's all over in about one minute.

** Once the fly is up you can worry about the pegs unless it is very windy. A high wind with rain will slow everything down a notch since you're battling flapping tent nylon and having to use stakes in the beginning to secure tent body first, and then comes the fly. Hilleberg dispenses with most of the above since the fly is put up first(and last), keeping the inner tent dry.

8:49 a.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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If you have a clip type tent, you can set it up from the inside, sort-of.

Quickly lay your ground sheet down. Lay pack, poles (compressed) and tent (still rolled) on top.

Sit down and pull your rain fly over you and everything else. extend poles and hook them into opposing corners of the fly and ground sheet. Now that the poles are up, you have a lightweight shelter in which to work in.

Center the tent and start to clip it into the poles from the top down. The rain fly should allow you some extra room to work around the outside of the tent to get the last couple of clips.

Get in and move the poles to the corner grommets of the tent. Stake when the rain stops.

This isn't a fool proof system. You will get little damp. This, like most other camping skills, takes sunny day practice to perfect. It is, however, one way to help eliminate the "hundred-yard-dash panic" by allowing you work calmly and semi sheltered.

A through hiker I met rolled his sleeping bag INSIDE his tent when traveling for this very reason. the bag was never exposed to the elements.

8:57 a.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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Here's a video of how one person does it. It'll pretty much explain what I described in my previous post. The principal is the same, but he spends unnecessary time outside the shelter.

12:01 p.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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Theres the XYZ thingy that someone mentioned. If theres a strong wind and rain, yer just outa luck without a tent designed for it. Some places you have to tie the tent down so it doesn't blow away while you set it up. If you can find a tree that's sort of dry underneath you can partially erect the tent there, or just set it up under a tree, again depending. I have pitched my tent right next to a fir with branches that point down and had a completely dry camping space during a storm. If its windy you won't have much luck getting under the fly as you set it up. You can try putting in the poles with the tent upside down so the bottom gets the rain, then as you flip it upright, the wife throws the fly over it. All of this assumes that you did bring good rain gear and you are wearing it.

hmm maybe sort of stretch the tent out the longway but keep it sort of scrunched up sideways with the bottom wrapped over it. Now put in the left front and left rear stake. Then attach the fly to the front and rear stake. Now have the wife pull the fly over where the tent will go and hold it over the tent, then set up the inner tent and then fasten the right side of the fly over it.

Or, plan ahead if its a mesh tent. At home stretch out the tent and put the fly inside it. When you get to camp pitch the tent and the rain will go through the mesh onto the fly. When the tent is set up, carefully extract the fly and flip it over the tent.

Never do anything without a plan. The more drastically that failure will affect your trip, the longer you spend planning BEFORE you make a move. Once you have a plan in place, do not hesitate as you execute it.

Jim S

12:19 p.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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JimS: "There's the XYZ thingy that someone mentioned."

Yup, that would be me. I hate algebra and don't know Cartesian graphs from toothpaste, but visualizing how weather conditions can go south for a backpacker is easy to do when seen on a simple vertical X line(snowload or rain intensity?) and a horizontal Y line(air temperature?) and an added lateral line Z(wind speed?). Yawn, in other words, the system you're in breaks down and the "stool hits the floor fan".

Fun to think about when sitting in a tent during a snowstorm, not so fun when you're "off the scale" and trying to set up a hurried tent.

3:29 p.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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Tents with lots of mesh are intended for camping in seasons with little or no rain, such as the Sierra, Rockies, Alps, Cascades where in the summer, rain occurs for 2 hours starting about 2 to 3PM. In those cases, you start your daily hike no later than 6AM and arrive at your campsite at 1PM, set up the tent, and get inside before the daily 2PM thunderstorm.

In other areas, you either get a tent that has mesh only on the doors (with a panel that zips closed) or one of the pseudo-3-season tents with mesh that is covered by zipped panels. Or better yet, get a Bibler or Hilleberg that you essentially set up from the inside.

For snow, you don't get a tent with mesh panels anyway.

Then again, that's why you carry a waterproof bivy - if the tent is wet, you camp inside the tent in your bivy sack.

But, what's the problem with getting a little water on you anyway? You don't really want dry skin, do you?

7:31 p.m. on February 28, 2010 (EST)
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I agree with Trout on this. I always bring a tarp when I'm out. If its raining or about to, I'm usually in my rain gear or scrambling to get it on. I set up my tarp then my tent. When and if the weather subsides, I will move my tent. Too many times I have been caught buy those unexpected "sun showers". I keep my tarp in my lid of my backpack for easy access. I have literally, in 30 seconds, dropped my pack pulled it out and huddled underneath it. Sometimes solo and sometimes with 3 other people. Soon as my raingear is on, the tarp gets pitched and my tent set-up is nice and dry.

8:13 a.m. on March 1, 2010 (EST)
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I just put the tent up the normal way and let a bit of water get inside. I carry a small towel with me routinely and just use that to mop up whatever water that gets through the tent fabric before the fly goes on. This is not an elegant solution but it does work pretty well. I, too, will wait out any really hard rain just sitting by my pack with my rain gear on.

9:13 a.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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"Wait out the deluge." Yup. Even in a day-long downpour, there are periods of relatively less rain. Snag the next one that comes by.

"Set up the tarp first." Yup. Gives you something to sit under while waiting out the deluge, too.

If you don't carry a tarp, there are still options. You could, for instance, jerry-rig your rain fly over the pitch site using paracord (you do carry a bunch of paracord right?). Then when the main body is pitched, drop the rain fly down and proceed as normal. Well, more or less normal. Or, use the ground sheet for a fly. For most modern tents, using a groundsheet is a belt-and-suspenders approach: the "bathtub floor" that is built into most tents these days is water proof enough, and grit-resistant enough, that whether you need a groundsheet or not is up for grabs. I use one, largely out of habit, with my Timberline. I don't, because Henry Shires said "don't bother", with my Contrail. If you have a groundsheet, and use it for a tarp to set up under, you are not likely to ruin your tent because you didn't use it for a night or two, all other things being equal.

Finally, don't worry about a bit of moisture. Good tents are designed to handle moisture -- they handle considerable moisture even when you set up under a sunny sky. It's called condensation. What's that stat? One pint of water per person per night, just from exhaling during sleep -- not to mention however much more you may breathe during non-sleep activities inside your tent. In a good tent, that does not just condense on the inside of your tent and end up in puddles on the floor -- the tent is designed to move it up and out. No, I would not want my tent to get sloppy wet while setting up, but some moisture is no problem -- the tent will fix it in short order once you are inside. The small towel to mop up, mentioned by Pika, may come in handy if you do have any little puddles. Sham-wows work great, if you can just forget the silly commercials.

8:44 p.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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I do my tent very much like the video that f klock has posted. Piec of advice if you are going to do it that way.... Practice it at home a couple times.

10:16 p.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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Here's a video of how one person does it.

Actually, I had to laugh a lot at that video. The big problem with the video is that virtually everything he does is unseen, inside the fly (sort of like the escape artists - they get trussed up in the straight jacket and/or chains, hide in a cabinet or drape a curtain around the tank of water, then emerge much later, all freed from their bonds, with the secret of how they escaped still safe).

There are only certain tents for which this will work, namely tents with hooks ("clips", as some companies call them) or velcro. Setting up in wet weather also works for tents that you set up from the inside, like most Biblers and Integral Designs. Jim S and I have set up our Biblers from the inside in storms on a number of occasions, though Jim uses a slightly different technique than I do. He "puts the Eldorado on" sort of like a poncho, then places the poles while standing up, then laying the assembled tent down and getting out to place the pegs. I place the pegs at the corners first, then crawl into the "deflated tent" and place the poles in place.

Although I haven't tried it, I believe I could set up my Trango 3.1 in a similar manner, but without using a footprint. I will have to try it sometime. The problem with the Trango's fly is that it clips to the tiedowns of the main tent and does not have an easy way to hold the poles in place. I have some ideas of how to get around this.

A "sleeve" tent is another matter. The North Face VE 24 and 25 use sleeves for the main poles, so you would somehow have to feed the poles through the sleeves before setting the poles into the grommets in the floor or groundsheet.

10:18 p.m. on March 2, 2010 (EST)
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..One pint of water per person per night, just from exhaling during sleep -- not to mention however much more you may breathe during non-sleep activities inside your tent. ...

Actually, it is more like a liter of water between breathing and the normal perspiration during the night.

10:50 a.m. on March 4, 2010 (EST)
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Brerarnold said:

..One pint of water per person per night, just from exhaling during sleep -- not to mention however much more you may breathe during non-sleep activities inside your tent. ...

Actually, it is more like a liter of water between breathing and the normal perspiration during the night.

Thanks, Bill -- I had a feeling I was guessing low, but did not have the statistics at hand. Always glad to stand corrected.

11:52 a.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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I selected my tent (Stephensons) with the idea of a quick set up in good or bad weather. It is a 'single wall' so there is not the hassle of a separate rain fly flapping in the wind.

It is amazing how fast a tent can be set up with two well motivated and energized participants trying to beat the obviously imminent rain bearing down. My tent uses two tunnels/sleeves for collapsed sets of poles. It is just a matter of threading the poles though - and can be done in a wailing storm by simply standing on the tent while doing it. The 2 man tent takes three stakes (3 person uses 4). Even with one person nailing in the back stake and putting in the two front takes perhaps 15 seconds to have a shelter up once the poles are in. The outside and me are wet. Inside of tent is long as you remember to have closed the door when packing up that morning.

If it appears to be a big blow, then the 4 ends can be re-enforced with more stakes.

The only problem with this tent is the cant of the opening. It allows some rain into the entry area as one enters or exits if the wind changes. A camp towel or tent chamois/sponge is always useful if kept handy.

6:59 p.m. on March 10, 2010 (EST)
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speacock says:

"It is amazing how fast a tent can be set up with two well motivated and energized participants trying to beat the obviously imminent rain bearing down."

HaHa, how right you are!

Maybe we should all practice at home with a couple big sprinklers going just to see how fast we really are. You know, just for fun.

7:03 p.m. on March 10, 2010 (EST)
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You need the really weird, creepy kid in the neighborhood that, with the devil's glee in his eye, running for the sprinklers and hooking up the hose as you frantically try to get the tent up and into it before he figures it out.

4:20 a.m. on March 11, 2010 (EST)
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Put on rain gear and set it up. Warmer months I just look up at the sky and say "the hell with it", get wet and go with it. My big tent is a Columbia Cougar Flatts II and when you are setting that big guy up sometimes ya just gotta get wet. Sham-wows work well. Just wring them out and start over. I don't know a fool-proof way. I have been a victim of the drink many times. Sometimes it just comes with the territory. Oh ya would be surprised what you can do with a garbage bag in the deluge. I keep them with me(multiples.) They can work as make-shift hip waders/gaiters, a poncho, or whatever your imagination wants them to be and weigh next to nothing and pack small. :)

10:37 p.m. on March 12, 2010 (EST)
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Hey this is great! Thanks so much!
I'll just summarize some of the key points to set up a tent in the rain for other beginners.

*Buy a single walled tent

*Use a tarp

*Set up fly first then tent under it

*Wait out the rain

*Buy better rain gear

*Set it up fast and don't be a wimp

*Wear your tent? Bill S, I think I need to see a video of that. :)

10:46 p.m. on March 13, 2010 (EST)
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I'm the wear your tent guy. See the green tent? Its a single walled Bibler Eldorado and this is how I set it up in a storm.

You find a spot and set your pack right where you want the front door to be,

then you unlash your tent from the outside of your pack so nothing else gets wet. You pull out the tent, place the poles at your feet, and pull the tent over your head and down to the ground over your pack. If there is a strong wind, stake the two front tie outs. Now take off your wet rain coat and what ever else you can and shake all the snow/rain off you so that it falls at your feet, and maybe use your towel to mop up.

Bend down pushing the floor of the tent down before you and sit inside the tent on the floor and using your towel again, pull the pack inside with you and set it down zipping the door most of the way. Take off boots and put into plastic bag and into back corner of tent. Reach out the tent door and flip the tent poles out and then pull them into the tent and put them in place. Zip the door up and spread the tent floor out. Later go out and finish staking the tent.

Jim S

2:45 a.m. on March 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Don't mean to be snarky, but if you know it will be raining in the evening, like clockwork, why not pitch the tent before night comes?

8:03 a.m. on March 18, 2010 (EDT)
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"Not impressing the wife," well what can be said?.

What is needed here is training. You need to put your good wife through a strict training regime and give her the opportunity to explore various ways of putting up a tent in the rain so that she can feel truly involved in the process and claim some kind of ownership over it. In this way she will not feel bored, excluded or left standing on the sidelines, she might even end up holding a guyline.

Of course this training would have to be done under your supervision in order that her 'experiments' could be carefully documented for appraisal after the various trials made. Try this out at home before your next joint expedition and if it is not raining a well placed lawn sprinkler or hosepipe could simulate rainy conditions so that there is an element of authenticity brought to the proceedings. Make sure you have a comfortable camping chair to sit on whilst watching her efforts and that you, and it, are placed outside of the area of simulated raininess as it is very difficult to take notes or cam cord the event for later reference when you are wet through. After a few tries at this your beloved will begin to get a sense of the problematics involved in a real life, non simulated, situation out in the wilds and will be only too willing to help when you are struggling with the problem in such a context. Either that or you will end up trekking out on your own but will have only yourself to worry about and will be able to dry out in relative peace and quiet.

1:38 a.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I'd just like to say that my wife is wonderful and is a great help to me camping. She is right there helping me the whole way. She is usually the one who can start a fire the fastest and I'm the one who can set up the tent the fastest. We don't need both these skills at the same time so we usually help each other out.
But with the new experience of having a two year old around, she will usually be helping him out as I fumble in the dark with the tent.

The fumbling in the dark in the rain is usually to my poor planning and trying to find the perfect camp spot. I'm working on it.

I a man... I can change... If I have too... I guess.

1:41 a.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Jim S,

I'm sorry about mistaking you for Bill.

Still I'd like to see a video, I looks like there is a button to embed those here. I think it would be a great review for the Bibler tents on trail space.

7:51 a.m. on April 2, 2010 (EDT)
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"I agree with Trout on this. I always bring a tarp when I'm out." Yeah. Me, too. And, I leave the tent at home.

"Wait for the lull" That reminds me of one of the first hikes with the kids. Coming to the campsite in a deluge (at least 1 mile from the car), I said. "It never rains this hard for long. Let's wait for the lull and we will set up the tent."

Well, the lull came quickly, but guess when the deluge returned? Yup. Right when the tent was laid out at its most vulnerable time. We were soon lugging all our soaked gear back to the car.

1:19 p.m. on April 2, 2010 (EDT)
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Don't mean to be snarky, but if you know it will be raining in the evening, like clockwork, why not pitch the tent before night comes?

Sometimes it rains during the day. Sometimes there are unforeseen delays on the trail so you arrive at the campsite after dark. Sometimes (GASP!) mistakes and blunders are made in the planning (noooo?!?!) or in navigation (really???).

On one of my trips to Philmont as adult advisor, I had advised the crew chief to get going early in the morning so we could reach the day's destination to set up camp (dining fly, tents, etc) before the regular-as-clockwork 2PM thunderstorms. This would require Jonathan to get up at 6AM, something he, a standard-issue Palo Alto 16 year old, was sure would cause illness, disease, and other dire consequences (he claimed to be allergic to early morning air or something like that). Remember, Boy Scouts in general is youth-led, a practice that is strongly enforced at Philmont. So even though the two of us who were adult advisors and a couple of the more experienced youth backpackers would be up before 6 and packed, ready for breakfast, and ready to hike by 6:30, for the first couple of days, Jonathan slept in at least until 7, plus took his time getting packed which meant not getting on the trail until after 9AM. Sure enough, as predicted, each of the first 3 days on the trail, we got caught in thunderstorms at 2PM, which delayed getting to camp and set up. The evening of the third day, he had a sudden epiphany - he announced that we would all be on the trail no later than 7! None of us believed it, until the next morning when he was up banging on pots before 6. That day, we made it to the next camp just as the storm started. He was even more emphatic that night. So from then on for the rest of the 10 days on the trail, we got to the day's destination and had the tents set up before the rains came.

Sometimes, it takes a lesson from Nature to learn good practices on the trail. And sometimes, Nature just goes ahead and dumps rain, snow, hail, and/or sleet, regardless of the time of day or time of year (nothing like a foot of snow in the middle of August in the Sierra or Rockies!). So you just deal with it.

5:35 p.m. on April 2, 2010 (EDT)
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In severe rain storms such as that raging outside my window in Vancouver, BC , at present I can set up my tents but they are the make not wanted by the OP. So, when I encounter rain and one does on the BC coast, I just whip out my Integral Designs Poncho and huddle under it, sitting on a Z-rest and using my pack for a backrest.

I have had many nice naps doing this and then set up my tent later, or, just sleep in my bivy. I have only ID and Hille. tents due to the pita factor in setting up a wet tent and will never buy anything else.

12:10 a.m. on April 3, 2010 (EDT)
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I have had many similar experiences like your Philmont trip. I grew up packing in the Uintas of Utah. You could almost set your clock by the 3:00 afternoon downpours during the summer. I've recently been going in the spring and fall and have had to adjust to the new seasonal time zones of the weather. These downpours seem to be happening right when I set up camp and try to start cooking dinner.

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