Camping in the rain! A subject on which I am an expert! Boy Scout troops in Western Washington learn how to camp in the rain. As a friend told me when I first moved here, "If you wait for it to stop raining, you'll never go camping." If you aren't willing to do what it takes to be prepared for rain, don't camp when it's wet.
The key to camping in the rain is to never get wet. If your issues are on things like how to dry out clothes and shoes, you've already lost the war.
1. Get and use good rain gear. Waterproof/breathable is good but expensive. Waterproof but non-breathable is not quite as good but a lot cheaper. Rain jackets or parka shells combined with rain pants are a lot better than a poncho. No one in our troop uses a poncho for anything other than completing a ten essentials checklist at Camporee.
2. Get and use a good rain hat. I wouldn't go camping without my Seattle Sombrero. Both my sons have $20 REI Seattle Sombrero look-alikes.
3. Your footwear should be water resistant. Leather boots are good, especially if coated with water resistant stuff. My boots are Goretex lined, which is not so good for Texas in summer, but just the thing for bad weather camping.
4. If the rainfly on your tent does not go all the way to the ground (within two or three inches) it's not going to keep you dry. I spent $220 on a tent five years ago. It's still watertight. You can get a really good tent for $150, and sometimes a good one on sale for $75. Cheap tents are good for backyard sleepovers, but they won't keep you dry. Look for a tent that has factory-taped seams. I would tell you to check out the cost-benefit ratio of the Alps Mountaineering Taurus 2AL at www.scoutdirect.com
, but I wouldn't want to sound like I was recommending a model of tent that I've purchased 16 of (for my troop).
5. If it is raining when you setup camp, the first thing you set up is the tarp. Once the tarp is up, you set up your freestanding tents (your tents are freestanding, right?) under the tarp, cover them with a fly, then carry them to the campsite you've chosen for them. Alternately you could pitch the tent underneath a tarp held by some other Scouts, but it's much harder. Remember, the only way to dry a wet tent in the rain is to never let it get wet in the first place.
6. Boots never come inside the tent. They belong outside the tent in the vestibule (your tents have vestibules, right?) along with your rain coat and rain boots.
7. No need to simplify your menu. Once you get a tarp flying, you have a dry place to cook. Tarps are your friend.
8. Our troop carries a half-dozen cheap 6-foot aluminum poles to help rig out our rain tarps. When backpacking, take a lightweight tarp and use your trekking poles to help rig it out. You can do a lot with some parachute cord and a tarp.
9. Unless you are in a bad campsite, you should be able to find someplace that is less muddy. Look for grass, heavy needles or leaves on the ground, or next to a large tree (I think the roots help stablilize the ground.) Higher spots usually don't get as muddy. Think like water -- look for places where it will run rather than stand.
10. Your tent footprint (a tarp under the tent) should be exactly the same size of the tent. Otherwise the tarp will become a private lake for your tent. I do sometimes carry a small piece of plastic to make a "doormat" inside my vestibule.
That's all I can think of now. Remember, of you don't get wet, you don't have to dry out. Bring tarps.