Traits of a Rainy Day Tent
Rainflys & Tub Style Floors
A tent with a rainfly is like a tent within a tent. The rainfly acts as an outer waterproof/ water resistant barrier to help keep the rain away from the actual tent. Ideally it should be kept out of direct contact with the tent material, as contact will promote the transfer of water to your belongings on the interior. Anyone ever been startled awake by a 4 year old scream crying because they just woke up in a soggy wet sleeping bag? I shudder just thinking about it. A good rainfly is worth its weight in gold, and beats trying to hastily rig up tarps or retreating to the car for the next 14 hours straight. A tub, or bathtub, style floor will also go the extra mile to keep the water off of your belongings. This floor style carries the waterproof floor material partially up the tent wall, usually 8 -12 inches, and keeps much of the rain dripping off of the roof from mixing with the mud and soaking through the tent sidewall.
With 4, or more, people stuck inside a tent on a rainy day, the humidity inside the tent is going to shoot up rather quickly. You'll be trying to play cards only to have one suddenly disappear... to be found an hour later stuck to the side of little Trent's clammy leg. You won't be able to stop the rainstorm, or your breathing for that matter either, but you can choose a tent that has at least 2 screened windows on opposite walls. Or equally effective, a vented dome top with a ground vent that's shielded by the rainfly or a vestibule. Any combination that allows for the movement of air will be a great benefit.
Vestibule & Screened Porch
Many tents are now available with a vestibule... a semi-sheltered area over the door opening that is formed by an extension of the rainfly. These work quite well to shield the door from direct exposure to the rain. A Vestibule is also very handy to take off and leave wet and muddy shoes, soaked clothing, and to stash anything else that is waterproof to free up room for the stir-crazy occupants trapped inside the tent. Some of the larger, "cabin" style, family camping tents now come with a screened porch. If the rain isn't too torrential, these screened porches are awesome for allowing the family to spread out a bit till the rain lets up. Not only does it let your family physically spread out, it may go a long way to promoting mom and dads emotional well-being as it allows them a few minutes of relative peace while the kids occupy their own time at play nearby, safely out of the weather.
Alright, some of these are not on the Old School "roughing it" list, but lets face it, few of us set out on this rainy weekend adventure to be Davy Crockett or Lewis & Clark. There are tents currently on the market that have built-in LED lights and fans, powered by readily available, rechargeable DC sources. No more kicking over the lantern or attempting to hold the flashlight in your mouth while you shuffle the cards and help your daughter into her hoodie at the same time! Most tents have some form of pockets for interior storage, but did you know that there are now tents with closets? Yep, you read that correctly. These specially designed, "bump out" closet areas free up valuable floor space on a rain-filled day, giving you more room to maneuver around the sea of humanity stuck in the tent with you.
Seems that many of the 12 year olds are almost 6' tall these days? If you're stuck inside of a tent all day, or worse, ALL weekend due to rain, the ceiling height of the tent is going to become extra important. Your body is going to naturally want to stand up at some point, and it's rather uncomfortable if you're 6' tall and the tent is only 5' 8"! Selection used to be somewhat limited for tall tent campers, but has recently blossomed with quite a large number of tents with ceiling heights at 5' 10" or greater. I would also suggest looking into a cabin style camping tent rather than a dome, as the former will offer more room to move about at the taller head room.
So if you're new to tent camping, looking to retire or upgrade your existing tent, or busy compiling your Christmas camping wish list, consider these traits in a new tent. Doing so, before you're trapped inside with the whole family during an extended downpour, might go a long way to a more enjoyable weekend outing... and to maintaining your ongoing sense of sanity