OUTDOOR BASICS

Backpacking In The Rain: Everything You Need To Know And Tips To Keep You Dry

Backpacking In The Rain
Jessica Bayne
Written by Jessica Bayne

Backpacking enthusiasts don’t let hail, rain, sleet or snow stop them from doing the activity they love the most. Backpacking in all types of weather is actually enjoyable. When it is raining, the path is not dusty and there are less people on the trail.

When it is snowing, the scenery can be peaceful and breathtaking. However, we know that backpacking in the rain or other similar weather conditions can be difficult. But don’t worry because we have some tips for you that can make backpacking in this type of condition easier.

Wet weather backpacking is not everyone’s idea of fun in the outdoors. It’s cold, wet and visibility will be reduced. If you’re not prepared, this trip can quickly become one of the most miserable activities in your lifetime. Backpacking in the rain is a great way to avoid crowds.

Backpacking in the Rain

You are also most likely to see wildlife and you can experience nature in a completely different way. Wet weather adventure takes a lot of time to perfect but it can be a lot of fun especially if you know how to prepare for it.

In this article we will give out tips on how you can thrive on wet weather conditions. Knowing how to prepare and what to expect can make your backpacking trip memorable and fun despite the rain. Here are some things you need to know about backpacking in the rain and how you can stay dry.

It’s All About The Gear

Don’t let rain drag down your spirits. Backpacking when it’s raining outside is actually a great way to have the trail and the beauty of nature all for own. It’s less likely to be crowded on the trail when it rains so you can witness a different side to nature.

Backpacking Alone

But enjoying nature and having a peaceful trek can be hard when it’s pouring. Fortunately, the right backpacking gear can make things easier.

Clothing

It’s easy to ignore the weather when you’re dressed properly. If you plan to go backpacking and there’s a chance of rain, make sure that you’re wearing the correct backpacking clothes and shoes. In some cases, soft shell jackets won’t be enough to keep you dry.

Opt for hard shell jackets for full waterproof protection. Avoid clothing materials made from cotton. This is especially true for next-to-skin layers because it does not wick away moisture. Try moisture wicking fabric like wool or synthetic fabric. This should keep you warm and comfortable under your jacket.

Hiking Jacket

If you already have waterproof gear for backpacking, review the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating before taking it along with you. To check see if drops of water roll up and roll off. If it does not you need to renew the DWR coating to restore its performance.

Your feet should also be dry and warm. It is best to opt for waterproof footwear in case the temperature drops. Non-waterproof mesh shoes or boots work well in mind conditions but you might need deep lug soles to deal with mid and for better traction to deal with slippery logs and logs.

Waterproof Boots

Image credit: m.outdoorrevival.com

Rain pants are good options for backpacking in the rain but if you want more breathability you should pack gaiters to protect your socks and the top of your footwear from moisture and wetness. You will also need to think about bringing an extra pair of pants.

Pack Protection

Your pack also needs to stay dry so that you can use the contents at camp. Most backpacks are made from waterproof materials however; their seams are not sealed so your stuff and supplies can still get wet. If your backpack does not have one, use a pack rain cover to protect it from the rain. You can also buy a rain cover if yours does not have one. Another option is to wrap your backpack in a trash bag to keep the contents dry.

Backpack Rain Protection

You can also use a pack liner for the contents of your backpack. If you don’t have one, you can use smaller plastic bags or trash compactor bags for your gear. Backpacks have numerous pockets and your stash can get wet. You can use smaller Zipock bags to keep small items dry in your pockets.

Cover all your essential gear such as sleeping bags, clothing, gadgets and food in lightweight dry sacks (or plastic bags). The stuff sack of your sleeping bag is great at compression but most of them are not waterproof so rain can still seep in and make your bed wet. Protect it by stuffing it inside a dry sack or a trash compactor bag for easy carrying. A waterproof gadget case will provide better protection for cellphones, GPS devices and tablets.

Identify Trail Hazards

One of the most common reasons why a lot of people avoid backpacking when it’s pouring outside is because of trail hazards. A storm system for example can pose great health risks and added dangers on the trail. You need to get ready for it and avoid unwanted complications.

Person in a Rain

If it’s raining; check and monitor the weather conditions before deciding whether you need to hike or not. If you don’t need to move camp, you can stay dry inside your tent and rid out the bad weather. Just make sure that your tent is secure and all important gear and food is stored inside the tent. If it is windy outside, make sure to sweep the area of debris to prevent them from puncturing your tent.

If you do need to move, make sure that your shoes have deep lugs so that you can easily maneuver mud and slippery surfaces. Even if you’re wearing the appropriate footwear you still need to be extra careful to avoid slips or falling face first in the mud. Trekking poles are also a good idea for hiking in the rain.

One of the dangers of backpacking in the rainy season is swollen rivers and creeks. Water tends to rise quickly and will run higher and faster. Unbuckle your hip belt before crossing so that you can quickly let go of your pack in case you slip into fast moving water. When backpacking in canyon country, always check the forecast and always be on the lookout for higher ground.

Backpacking Near the River

Hypothermia is a serious health threat especially if you’re miles away from civilization. Learn how to recognize the signs of hypothermia and what you can do to stop it. Wear wool or synthetic clothing that retains insulation even when they’re damp. Don’t forget to drink water and eat food regularly. It can be easy to forget about dehydration when it’s pouring out. Eat and drink while on the trail if you can’t stop.

Campsite Strategies

Choosing the right spot for a campsite can help your night become more comfortable. Try to look for higher, drier ground. Checks for sites under trees because this spot creates a warmer microclimate that produces lesser levels of condensation. Avoid camping under damaged limbs or trees because a gust of wind can knock down branches and bring them down on top of you. Orient your doorways away from the wind to prevent the rain from coming inside your tent.

For your tent, you need to be able to pitch your tent quickly. If this is a new tent, practice at home so that you can get the hang of it. Be wary of the fly-first pitch tent because it takes longer to than the standard tent-first pitch to put up. Use a footprint. This is an extra layer of protection between your tent floor and the wet ground and can make your night more comfortable.

Setting Tent in the Rain

Recruit rainfly holders. Ask your campmates to hold up the rainfly while you’re pitching the tent to prevent rain from getting into the main tent. Tighten your rainfly and secure the guys first before diving in. Open your vents to prevent condensation buildup. Open vents in opposing ends for better ventilation. Just don’t forget to check them regularly to make sure they’re not letting the rain in.

Take Time To Dry Out

When the weather gods smile at you and decide to let the sun out for a while, take the opportunity to dry out your gear. Make an impromptu clothes line with some rope and trees. String your wet clothing to let them dry out.

If it’s still raining, you can still make a clothes line but cover the area in tarp and other waterproof material so that you can still hang your clothes to dry. A midday change to dry pants, socks and shirt or base layers can help improve your spirits and ward off hypothermia.

People are Drying Clothes Outside

Image credit: rei.com

Keep a dry set of clothes inside a plastic bag and don’t open them until you’re inside the tent. Dry clothes can improve your mental health and do wonders for your comfort level.

Tips To Keep Dry

Now that we know how to get ready for a weekend of wet backpacking, it’s time to talk about tips that will keep you dry and sane in the soggy wilderness.

  1. Always make sure that you know the local weather forecast. If you’re backpacking for the weekend always have a NOAA weather radio so that you’ll know what to expect weather-wise. Knowing the weather will make it easier for you to make decisions with regards to your activities in the wilderness.
  2. When it first starts to rain or if it looks like it’s going to rain; take 5 minutes to ensure that your backpack is waterproof. Never assume that your backpack is waterproof even if it claims to be. Even the weakest showers can penetrate your backpacks seams and stitching.
  3. Pack covers don’t protect the back of your backpack. Water from your jacket will run down your pack and soak through the bag’s undercover. It’s usually better to focus on protecting the inside of your backpack by using plastic bags and bag liners to keep them dry.
  4. Avoid cotton and denim clothing for backpacking in the rain. These are moisture absorbent and heavy when wet.
  5. Use your jacket’s pit zips, wrist straps and main zippers to regulate body temperature. Leave some of them open to prevent overheating while on the trail. A lightweight rain shell with good ventilation is usually your best option.
  6. Pay close attention to your surroundings when trekking in the rain. Flashfloods, mudslides and rockslides are common during heavy rain.
  7. Test your shelter before camping in the rain. If it’s an old tent there might be holes or damage to tent and it can be too late to mend it in camp. If it’s a new tent you want to learn how to pitch it quickly so that you will be out of the rain faster.
  8. Bring blister supplies. Moisture makes feet more susceptible to blisters. Also make sure that you have multiple pairs of moisture wicking socks in your backpack.
  9. Always bring extra clothes. A spare set of clothes is one of the Ten Essentials of Backpacking. Never skimp on the amount of extra clothes especially if you’re trekking in wet or cold weather.
  10. Keep your map in a Ziplock bag. Many maps are waterproof but if yours isn’t it’s better to protect it from moisture.

Wrap Up

A backpacker with the right mindset can see the woods as a beautiful and peaceful place despite the rain. The reality is, if you’re a backpacker you will encounter rain during one of your trips. Knowing what to do and what gear to bring can make the trip bearable. Following these tips and suggestions can make your backpacking trip a more comfortable and drier one.

Backpacking With Umbrella

Backpacking in the rain can be an acquired taste but it’s your trip so it’s best to make it a happy one. It’s something you should try at least one in your life because the solitude, wildlife and mystical setting can become addicting.

Have you tried backpacking in the rain? What did you think about our backpacking tips and suggestions? Tell us be leaving your comments below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Bayne

Jessica Bayne

Jessica believes that the only things you need to explore the world are a good backpack and a bit of courage to make the first steps. She also loves the beauty of a sunset seen from the mountaintop and the delicious flavor of a meal prepped over the camping fire. Ready to start a new adventure at any given time, Jessica knows how to be prepared for any situation and understands how important is to find the right gear. She also knows a lot about the type of gear to have and how to choose the products you actually need.