Tips for Backpacking in the Rain
Rainfall, it’s an inevitable encounter when you’re backpacking. Going in unprepared may lead to trips coming up short or facing an extremely dreadful experience with wet and muddy clothes, prune-y skin, and close encounters to hypothermia.
HOWEVER, if you’re prepared for it, backpacking in the rain might be one of best times to go into the woods. With less crowds, crisper air, dream-like settings, and soothing sounds of raindrops that will make nights in your tent serene.
We’re going to provide some tips so you can be prepared and become a backpacking guru for this type of weather:
- Packing the right gear
- Trail Hazards
- Campsite location
Packing the Right Gear
If you’re expecting rain, don’t be afraid to pack more clothes than needed. Having an extra set of dry clothes can lift spirits up and help you go further.
Here are some clothes that we would suggest bringing:
- Baselayer – Be sure to pack material that can wick-moisture well and keep your body insulated. Wool or synthetic polyester blends are highly recommended as they perform well when wet. Stay away from cotton layers as they take long to dry, and if continued to be worn while wet, can seriously drop your body temperature and make it susceptible to hypothermia.
- Toplayer – This is likely to be a hardshell jacket if backpacking in the fall or winter seasons. Because DWR(durable water repellent) tends to deteriorate overtime from wear and wash, make sure you test your rain jacket for its water repellency. If water doesn’t bead and roll off the jacket, it may be time retreat the fabric or buy a new one.
- Footwear – Terrain will be often slippery and muddy, so find a waterproof shoe or boot with deep lugged soles for better traction. Because waterproof shoes and boots tend to have less ventilation, moisture from sweat is prone to build up inside. Bring an extra set of shoes to wear when camping to give your boots time to dry.
- Rain Pants – The best rain pants are those that have a double layer that have an elastic band that tapers down to your ankle.
- Gaiters – Gaiters can help protect your pants and socks from getting wet. Although optional, you’ll thank yourself later if you encounter a large puddle.
- Rain Hats – Look for water repellent hats with a wide brim or long bill to keep your face dry
- Ponchos – Work well as extra protection in keeping the clothes you have on dry
Aside from clothes, your backpack, gear, and food are likely to get wet. Most backpacks aren’t designed to be waterproof. Even if they are, zippers and flaps can let water in eventually. To shield your gear from getting wet, bring a rain cover that is sized to cover your backpack. Most backpacks will normally come with one.
Store important gear in dry sacks. You want to make sure vital pieces of gear such as your down sleeping bag, clothes, maps, food, and cell phones do not get wet. If you don’t have a dry sack, zip lock bags are a good substitute.
Stopping for a snack is usually out of the question in rain. So, when packing, make sure you keep your snacks close and accessible.
It can be dangerous trekking through the backcountry, so be on the lookout and take the steps to avoid these situations.
- Crossing creeks – Heavy rain can cause creeks to run faster than normal, so be sure to unbuckle your hipbelt when crossing to free yourself from your backpack in the case of tripping or falling into the current.
- Flash Floods – Check your forecast and be on the lookout for accessible higher ground
- Tumbling Branches or Tree Limbs – Although trees can be great at protecting you from rain, be careful and keep an eye out for dead trees.
- Dehydration - You may not feel as thirsty in cold weather because your body’s chemistry impairs your mind’s ability to tell when you are dehydrated in the rain, so it’s extremely important to stay hydrated.
(Photo Credits: Amazon Customer aw)
Location is key to making sure your nights are peaceful.
- Find a spot that is considered high above ground
- Avoid sloping hills
- Stay away from soft and mossy floors
- Look for sites under trees as they can provide extra warmth and protection. Having setup around trees will also allow for you to set up a tarp for drying out clothes or shielding your tent.
- Position your tent doors away from wind to avoid rain being blown inside
- Use your footprint for extra protection when setting up in sodden soil
(Photo Credits: Jason Platz)
It’s scientifically proven that sunlight has an effect on a person’s mood. Your spirits are more lifted when there is sunlight. But when you’re out in backwoods where rain can sometimes last for weeks, you might feel mentally fatigued or even depressed. Stop by the nearest town to give yourself a break from the rain. Most individuals are so motivated to keep trekking that they lose sight of what was the most important reason why they backpacked in the first place—enjoyment. Find shelter at a hostel or motel and use this chance to recover your body and your gear.
If the weather turns around and the sun is out, use this opportunity to hang dry your wet clothes. Drying your wet clothes in the sun will prevent mold and mildew which will ultimately ruin your gear.
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