A few years ago, after suffering through numerous rainstorms while camping in our tent, we decided to invest in a good rain shelter.  We chose the The Northface Docking Station and haven’t once regretted it.

The Northface Docking Station in camp.

The Docking Station is easy to set up.  Poles and grommet tabs are color-coded and heavy duty hooks make attaching the poles to the shelter a breeze.  It has a perimeter floor, and four roll-up doors.  In the photo above you can see that we have the front and back doors open and the side ones closed.  The doors all have hooks that attach to loops in the corners of the tent.  The bottom hooks can be pulled tight to ensure rain stays out. The shelter comes with steel stakes so that it can be firmly secured to the ground.

If you have a large family you can separately purchase 2-person or 4-person docks that attach to the sides of the docking station:

And if you really want to go all-out, you can also get a mesh liner for the “living” room:

Photos courtesy of TheNorthFace.com

What I love most about this shelter is its versatility.  Sure, you can seat 6 people comfortably with a table inside, but you can do much more.  You can store kitchen boxes, bikes, chairs, and clothing when you leave camp, in case it rains while you’re gone.  You can use it as a changing room so that you don’t have to stand on one foot in a pit toilet to change clothes, or attempt to put on bike shorts or hiking shorts while lying on your sleeping bag.

Even if it isn’t raining, the shelter is great for providing shade and protection from the wind.  On some camping trips we’ve even had friends sleep in it.

Saturday, as it was raining cats and dogs outside and Oh-Be-Joyful creek was rising, we all sat in the shelter warm and dry.  Many times that evening, and Sunday morning as we used it as a dry resting spot while packing up in the rain, we said, “I’m so glad we have this shelter.”

The one (slight) negative is that, after 12 hours of rain, the tabs/loops in the center of the shelter (where one would attach the sold-separately mesh liner) began to drip water.  There are several seams through there and they had finally gotten so saturated that water was dripping off of the loops onto the ground in the center of the shelter.  Still, that was a very minor issue compared to the dry haven it provided during that torrential summer monsoon.

Your Turn: How do you stay dry when the rain starts falling on your camping trip?

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