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Rainy Day Van Life: What You Should Know Before You Go

February 13, 2017

Rainy Day Van Life: What You Should Know Before You Go


We’ve had a lot of great luck with camping in our van so far, but we had a couple of rainy nights at the camp we’re at right now, and a couple in Louisville when we were there in November. And it’s definitely not all adorably rainy Instagrams, it’s messy, a little smelly, and really easy to get mud everywhere. To avoid feeling like you’re not ever totally dried off, I have a few tips we’ve picked up.

Towels. Lots of towels.

I never realized that having extra towels is a huge plus, but having an extra two outside of what we used for the shower came in handy to wipe feet off before hopping in the van and generally keeping everything dry. At worst, they take up a bit of space, but even if you don’t end up in a rainy situation, you can use them as bike padding, or extra blankets on chilly nights.

Don’t let water get in!

Water is the enemy and once it worms its way in your van, via wet feet, wet clothes, whatever… you’re not going to dry it out until it stops raining. So whatever you do, try to avoid getting water in the van. I recommend deciding on a door to always climb in (preferably the front passenger one), drying feet and hands and switching clothes there, and then crawling into the back—especially if you have a tight space like our setup.


Tarps are your friends

As you can see in the top photo, we didn’t have a fancy canopy situation, though that’s on our “Want” list. But with a tarp and a couple ropes, we were able to make a really ugly but usable canopy that really helped keep our stuff dry and created a work spot for us during the really rainy parts of the day. At night, we were able to keep our bikes dry underneath it, and it made cooking possible. When the sun did come out—blazing hot—we could use the tarp as a shade as well. For under $10, you can’t really justify not having one!

Have a cooling plan

(One that doesn’t involve windows open.) Our mistake was originally planning to just have the windows open as a cooling strategy, with just a mesh fabric to keep bugs out. When it’s raining sideways, that doesn’t work, but it was still pretty stuffy in the van. The solution? That tarp, again. Hung out across the front of the van, we had it set so it blocked rain from getting in both cracked open windows, giving us a nice cross-breeze with none of the moisture.

Have an umbrella

When you’re a #VanLife person, having an umbrella might not seem super outdoorsy or cool. But to be honest, an umbrella and a pair of galoshes in crappy weather turns a bad day tolerable, and a walk to a washroom or into a restaurant no longer requires a change of clothes once you get back to the van. Doesn’t need to be a nice one, but having one can turn the day around.

Air out ASAP!

As soon as the sun comes out, use a piece of rope to make a makeshift clothesline and get your blankets, wet clothes, towels and tarps airing out. The less chance wet stuff has to sit, the better the smell and the lower the odds of mildew taking over your seats and interior fabrics. Also open the windows of the van to aerate the interior as much as possible.

I know these all seem like simple tricks, but I definitely messed up our first rainy trip in Virginia, and it was not a pleasant experience. 

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