Staying Dry in Rainy Weather

By: Andrew Jerram

Let's face it, we can handle heat, cold, and even the dust of Chickamauga, but rain has a way of seriously putting a damper, (pardon the pun) on any event. Unfortunately, many campaigners have a nasty tendency on bugging out in the case of rain in favor of the local motel, Sutlers tent, or even their own home. This has quite a few different bad side effects, and so some effort should be applied to resolving it.

One problem is simply that it's the single most inauthentic thing you can do as a campaigner. Not sleeping at an event makes you no different than the fellow with the propane heater in his wall tent, because you have proved that you can not get by with what you carry on your back. Another problem is that when you do this, you immediately draw the ire of those reenactors who have become campaigners. And honestly, you increase the likelihood that they won't ever make the switch because they see that you can't stay dry, so "why don't I just stick to the A-Frame?"

Now, I understand the argument of "I have to get up and go to work on Monday." It is a valid argument for me too, since as a college student, missing more than one or two classes can result in a severely poor grade. So how do we stay dry, (and not sick) when it rains at an event?? Daytime isn't too bad, an oilcloth or poncho along with a good slouch hat will help you immensely. Sleeping however, is an entirely different matter. In a severe, driving rain, there is often no way to avoid getting a little wet. In this case, I would suggest finding the best shelter possible, and doing the best you can. In most situations however, it IS possible to stay dry in the rain. I am going to proceed on the assumption of a few things, 1)a poncho or an oilcloth, 2)an ALL WOOL blanket that is hopefully big enough to double, and 3) a piece of canvas, shelter half, or an extra oilcloth or poncho. (2 waterproofs, 1 blanket)

The first key to staying dry is to pick the location. You should be looking for a piece of ground where the water will not run. Even if no rain is imminent, care should be taken to avoid ditches, depressions, and low-lying areas. Another feature that is helpful if available, is a large tree with wide, overhanging branches. The lower the branches are to the ground, the better because the wind will not blow as much rain your way. Modern survival guides say that hemlocks are the best for sleeping under, along with oaks, and other wide leafed trees. If you do have a shelter half, try and hook up with a
pard to make a shelter tent and to share waterproofs with. Pooling resources is a very good thing!! If you can get three in the shelter tent, invite over another fellow. His waterproof can make an end piece in a driving rain. (That's how we stayed dry at Resaca this past weekend.)

The second key is to try and accumulate some ground cover under your bed. In other words, the more space between you and the ground, the less chance of a sever soaking. Leaves, pine straw, and hay all make good ground pads.

So what happens if you're in an open field with no trees for shelter, and no poles available to set up the shelter? There is an original picture I have see of a dog tent made over a guy line strung between two muskets. The owners fixed bayonets, stabbed them in the ground, and strung the line between the hammers. In the event of no line, the grommet/hole can be placed over the nipple and the hammer lowered.

The worst case scenario is being in a field, with no one to share resources. (or nobody likes you!) In this case, you probably are going to get a little bit wet. To minimize the drying time in the morning, find some high ground, brush up some ground cover, and lay the first waterproof layer, (shelter half) on the ground cover. wrap yourself in the wool blanket, and then cover yourself with the last waterproof layer and pray it's a good one. If you're not supple/short enough to get your head underneath the poncho, then take your felt hat and lay it over your face. Hopefully, you can stay a lot drier than most people think If you are as prone to movement as I am, then it is a good idea to get some small sticks and stake down three or four corners of the oilcloth.

Some final tips:
1)Make your preparations early. It's a whole lot easier to notice that you're lying in an old creek bed in the daylight!
2)Wool is warm even when it's wet so try to avoid cotton quilts
3)If it's raining, I sleep with my uniform and shoes on so if I start getting wet, I can get up and change something without having to fiddle with shoelaces. 4) If you don't have a shelter tent, try a large piece of painter's canvas. It's usually a little lighter and it has the advantage of being customizable so if you're 7'1", you can get a longer piece than the shelter tents that were designed for the 5'3" infantryman of 1864. In addition, there is a lot of reference to the "tattered pieces of canvas and carpet used for shelter..."
5)Pooling resources is THE best way to stay dry. The much maligned shelter tent is a good way to stay dry. If you share resources with at least one other fellow, than you have an extra waterproof with which to block off one end of the shelter tent (nearest your head)