While backpacking in the rain can be fun, it does require careful planning. It’s easy to get wet and cold, have to deal with a soggy tent, and wake up feeling miserable. But with proper planning, you can make it work.
In this article, we’ll show you how.
Before you leave for your trip, do the following:
Understand the Forecast and Weather Conditions
Before planning a trip, consult reliable weather sources to understand the conditions you’ll be hiking in. Use websites, apps, or specialized devices to get accurate forecasts.
Having an idea of possible rainfall levels, wind speed, and the overall temperature will help you better prepare for the journey.
Remember, however, that rain patterns can be unpredictable and can vary greatly depending on the region you’re visiting. Familiarize yourself with the expected rain patterns, such as heavy rainfall in the afternoon or light showers throughout the day.
Choose the Right Gear
Picking the appropriate gear is absolutely essential when hiking in the rain. You’ll want to protect yourself from getting wet and cold, which can increase your risk for hypothermia, and your gear from getting soaked in the rain.
The most important items are those that will protect you from the elements, and these include:
- Waterproof backpack: Invest in a high-quality waterproof backpack to protect your belongings from getting wet. A backpack cover is also an option for added protection. Make sure your backpack is comfortable and adequately sized to hold all of your gear.
- Rainproof clothing: Wear clothing made from quick-drying or water-resistant materials, such as Gore-Tex or other specialized fabrics. A good rain jacket and pants will help you stay dry during your hike. Stay away from cotton or denim, as they absorb water and take longer to dry.
- Waterproof footwear: Choose waterproof hiking boots or shoes to prevent water from soaking through. Your footwear should also have good traction to help you navigate slippery surfaces and muddy trails.
Pack Essential Items
- Basic first aid kit: Carry a first aid kit that includes items such as band-aids, gauze, antiseptic wipes, pain relief medication, and blister treatment. Injuries can happen, and having the necessary supplies can help you stay safe during your trip.
- Navigation tools: Pack updated maps, a compass, and a GPS device for efficient route-finding. Navigation can be more difficult in rain, so be ready by having the right tools at hand.
- Snacks and food supplies: Bring waterproof containers for snacks and meals. Opt for lightweight, energy-dense foods like nuts, dried fruits, and energy bars. Include hot beverages or meals, which can provide warmth on colder days.
- Waterproofing essentials: Use plastic bags or dry bags to separate wet and dry gear. Keep essential items such as electronics, spare clothes, and sleeping bags in waterproof cases or sealed bags.
During The Hike
The part of a backpacking trip where you’re truly tested is during the hike. In the rain, regular challenges may become even trickier, but with these strategies, you can navigate the adventure cycle smoothly.
Find Your Route
Finding your route becomes a craft of its own during a rainy hiking trip. Navigating slippery trails requires the intentional placement of each step. Carefully examine the path ahead to identify any obstacles, calculating your best approach to navigating them.
Maintain a steady pace and always be ready to quickly adapt to changing conditions. Use trekking poles, as they can provide you with additional points of contact, improving your stability on slick ground.
Crossing swollen rivers or streams requires extra precaution. If you can, avoid it entirely. But when you can’t, make sure you’re crossing at the most shallow part.
Use a stick or pole to test the water depth and stability of the river bed before you proceed, and consider unhooking your backpack straps for quick release if a fall occurs. Always face upstream when crossing, taking sideway steps to maintain stability.
Maintain Body Temperature
Staying dry is the key to preserving your warmth. A reliable waterproof layer of clothing can protect you from becoming wet, and therefore cold, in the first place. Wear moisture-wicking clothing underneath to keep your skin dry and help in temperature regulation.
Despite all precautions, hypothermia can strike if your body temperature gets too low. Recognize the symptoms: intense shivering, confusion, and fatigue among others.
If it sets in, take immediate action. Get out of the rain and wind, change into dry clothes if possible and use warm drinks or food to help raise your body temperature. Contact emergency services if symptoms persist or worsen.
Handle Wet Gear Appropriately
Store wet gear separately in waterproof gear sacks to prevent dampness from spreading to your other gear. If your gear gets wet despite your best attempts, wring out what you can as soon as you can to prevent water from accumulating.
Drying wet gear can be a challenge when you’re on the move, but it’s not impossible. During breaks in rain, use the opportunity to air out your tents, sleeping bags, or clothes by hanging them on trees or spreading them on rocks.
Be creative and consider using your body heat to dry smaller items by placing them in your pockets or sleeping bags.
Setting Up Camp
Setting-up camp might be a tough task in rainy conditions, but with the right approach, you can create a comfortable campsite.
Here are some things you can do to make your campsite more comfortable and enjoyable.
Choose the Right Campsite
Look for a location that’s slightly elevated, as these spots are less likely to flood when it rains. Take note of the landscape: avoid places under large trees since their fallen branches could pose a danger in windy conditions.
Aside from that, the drip line from leaves might make the ground more damp. You might want to opt for a location under tree canopies, as they can serve as a natural umbrella and break rainfall.
A flatter spot will also provide more comfort when you rest for the night. Make sure to observe Leave No Trace principles by setting your camp at least 200 feet away from any body of water to protect the area ecosystem.
Also, keep in mind that the ideal campsite should have a good view of the surrounding area, so you can keep an eye out for any potential threats.
Ensure a Dry Sleeping Condition
It’s one thing to find a good camping ground, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to make sure that your sleeping area is dry.
To achieve this, start with a good quality tent that’s been seam-sealed and is equipped with a rain fly. Doubling your protection with a waterproof footprint or a tarp for the ground will also help to block cold and moisture from the ground.
When pitching your tent, ensure the rainfly is taut and sloped to encourage runoff, and the zippers are well secured to prevent leaks.
Consider a tent with a vestibule, as it allows you to store your wet gear outside while shielding it from the rain.
Invest in a good sleep system that includes a water-resistant sleeping bag and an insulated sleeping pad to retain warmth and resist dampness.
For ventilation and to combat condensation, open your tent vents even when it rains, provided they are well-shielded by the tent fly.
Despite the rain, you can still prepare your meals efficiently with a few adjustments. If you’ve packed a lightweight, portable stove, cooking in the rain becomes less of a hassle.
Choose quick-cooking, ready-to-eat meals that require just hot water to simplify your meal prep. Protect your cooking area from the rain by setting up a tarp overhead, as it will provide the needed shelter for you and your stove. Just be cautious to avoid a buildup of carbon monoxide and ensure your cooking spot is well-ventilated.
Place your cooking items in accessible, water-resistant containers for easy access. Remember to store your food safely away from your sleeping area, packed in bear-resistant containers if you are in bear country, to avoid attracting wildlife.
Safety Tips for Hiking in the Rain
Here are some safety tips to consider when hiking in rainy weather.
- Check the Forecast: Before leaving, be sure to check the latest weather forecast. This will inform you of any likely storms or severe weather you should anticipate.
- Avoid High Ground During Lightning: If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose a serious risk. When this happens, avoid high or exposed areas and seek shelter in lower-lying areas.
- Avoid Isolated Trees or Tall Objects: Lightning often strikes the tallest object around. It’s safer to stay away from tall or isolated trees during a thunderstorm.
- Wait Out the Lightning: If you can safely do so, it’s ideal to wait out a thunderstorm or lightning activity in a low-lying area or in your vehicle, if nearby.
- Avoid Water Bodies: Water bodies can transmit the electricity from a lightning strike farther out, so you’re more at risk if you’re in or near water during a thunderstorm.
- Use the 30/30 Rule: This rule says that if there are less than 30 seconds between a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder, seek shelter immediately. Also, wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before resuming your hike.
- Tell Someone Your Plan: Always tell someone your hiking plan and when you expect to return. This is particularly important when hiking in bad weather.
- Treat Your Feet: Keep your feet dry, as water and moisture can increase the risk of blisters and foot injuries. Prioritize waterproof footwear and carry extra pairs of socks. Also, use antifungal powders or creams as a precautionary measure if your feet are likely to remain damp for extended periods.
- Regulate Your Pace: Try not to rush. Wet trails can be slippery, increasing the chances of accidents and injuries.
- Hydrate and Eat: Even in cooler weather, it’s essential to hydrate and consume enough food to maintain your energy levels.
Backpacking in the rain offers its own unique thrill, despite the challenges it presents. With the appropriate preparation and the right gear, you can enjoy your backpacking trip as much as any other.
Always prioritize safety, embrace the experience, and enjoy your adventure.