When There’s a Hole In the Rainfly

What do you do when there is a hole in the rainfly in the middle of a camping trip in the middle of a rain storm? https://wp.me/p5hM3U-4n

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What do you do if you’re camping, preparing for incoming heavy rain and suddenly tear discover there’s a hole in the rainfly?

Panic? Pack-up and go home? Wish really hard it hadn’t ripped while you were tightening it over your tent?

When this happened to us in October, 2014 we were on day zero of a camping trip at Cades Cove campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a gorgeous fall day. But the wind was picking up and the weather forecast told us that there was a major storm system incoming. We were planning to spend five nights inside the park. All of them included some rain predictions.

So we set about making camp for a rain storm. REI Kingdom 8 tent set-up on top of the footprint? Check. Garage attachment installed and staked to provide a shelter for gear, dog crate and food? Check. Rain fly attached, staked and cinched so no rain can come flying into the tent’s mesh (a common problem with this tent as far as we’re concerned) in the wind? ….

“Luke? Why is there a hole in the rainfly?”

First he tried to repair it with some tape. But we quickly discovered that tape — even tape that goes the distance in the military — doesn’t adhere to tent fabric very well. Next we busted out what can only be described as Ye Olde Blue Tarp and a few bungie cords.

(Even REI doesn’t have a suggestion for this particular problem.)

All was well. And then it started raining.

Ever heard rain on a tarp in a tent during a major rainstorm? This video gives you a pretty good idea of how it sounds (plus shows you another problem we had during our fun time in the rain):

YouTube video

That tarp was a fail.

Luke told me the next morning after six hours of steady downpour, as rain dripped onto my cot through the tarp and I contemplated putting our REI rainwall jackets on while inside the tent, that he nabbed the tarp from his parents. They bought it, he thinks, about 20 years earlier — in 1994. It’s only previous task on any of our trips had been emergency rain protection for gear strapped to the back of our Ford Explorer.

“Using 20-year-old equipment may be a mistake,” he said.


The hole in the rainfly was just the beginning of our comedy of tent problems during our stay at Cades Cove. We swapped the tarp later in the day with a green, $10 or so replacement tarp from the camp store. It was even louder. But at least it didn’t have a hole in it. Then there was the flooding under the tent, the river of water that flowed through the garage attachment and the fact that when it is that wet out nothing is going to dry anywhere.

Short of driving out of the campground (not practical for us in that instance) to buy a new fly, there isn’t much you can do for a hole in your rainfly while you’re out in nature. We learned a valuable lesson about keeping a decent tarp (say, less than 20 years old) folded in our camping supply bin. Next time? We’ll be ready.

Also: this was a great excuse to use that REI product guarantee. New Kingdom 8 tent in the house!

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