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Backpacking In The Rain

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Backpacking is a great way to spend time outdoors, but it’s easy to feel disheartened when you check the weather forecast and it’s about to rain.

If you don’t have the right equipment for backpacking in the rain, it can quickly put a dampener on your entire trip.

In this article, I will cover some important information about backpacking in the rain, including tips and the equipment you should take with you on your trip. 

Keep reading to find out more. 


Equipment you’ll need for backpacking in the rain

When Backpacking in the rain you need to consider gearing up with all the best items to protect you from the elements.


Hiking boots or shoes 

Hiking boots in the rain

First, you will need a good pair of lightweight hiking boots or lightweight hiking shoes for your backpacking trips. You cannot underestimate the inconvenience of feeling uncomfortable or worse, developing blisters because of ill-fitting boots. 

When fitting and purchasing hiking footwear make sure they are either a half size or full size larger than you would usually wear, your feet will swell when hiking all day. Also ensure they have been worn in and properly fit your feet. If your footwear is crap you will find out when you spend a couple of days hiking in the rain.

It is essential that you understand how to prevent blisters when backpacking as excess friction, poor fitting boots and wet feet are a leading cause of blisters.


Waterproof Rain Jacket 

If you know it’s due to rain, packing an ultralight rain jacket is absolutely essential! The thickness of the coat will depend on the climate that you’re backpacking in, but it’s crucial that it is fully waterproof. 

If your clothes become sodden, your body temperature will quickly decrease and this could escalate into a larger problem if you can’t get warm again.

Staying dry and warm is a preventative measure that is important for your safety when you are backpacking for a significant period of time. 


Waterproof Rain Pants 

You will also need to pack waterproof ultralight rain pants. If it’s raining heavily, the rain is going to be running off your waterproof jacket right onto your pants, so you need to ensure that you are wearing rain pants to help keep the bottom half of your body dry.

Rain pants also can be tucked over your boots, so you’re properly protected from the elements.


Lightweight Hiking Umbrella

Backpacking in the rain

When I first used a lightweight hiking umbrella it changed my view on taking an umbrella into the backcountry. They protect you from the rain and are especially suited to hiking in warmer weather when rain jackets and rain pants would cause you to sweat too much. They also work really well at protecting you against the sun when hiking in the desert. They are a favorite of ultralight thru hikers.


Waterproof backpack rain cover

Backpacking in the rain

In addition to keeping yourself dry, you will also need to keep your possessions dry! A Waterproof Rain Cover is great for ensuring that all of your important belongings remain dry when you’re backpacking for the day.

Some backpacks come with these attached to the backpack itself, but if yours doesn’t, it’s a well-worth investment that you should purchase. I have used them on and off over the years and now I prefer to use an Ultralight Hiking Umbrella.


High quality tent

Hiking in the rain

You cannot underestimate how important it is to use the best ultralight tent that you can afford. It is your home away from home! It needs to be wind and waterproof to ensure that you are able to rest as best as you can.

In addition to this, it will be your escape from the elements after a long day of backpacking in the rain, so it needs to remain dry.

Aside from the equipment that you’ll need, you will also need to make sure that you take the appropriate steps to ensure that you have the best experience in the rain.


Tips for backpacking in the rain 

Write a list 

Being prepared is fundamental when it comes to poor weather conditions. Before packing your backpack, make sure that you write a list of the essentials.

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Protect your gear 

As I mentioned above, it’s fundamental that you protect your gear from the rain. You should always make sure that your priority is to keep your sleeping bag and clothing items as dry as possible.

Once they are soaked through, your trip could be just a little bit miserable! You could invest in a dry bag for your electronics and other valuables, such as your phone, camera, and wallet but I prefer a simple ziplock bag.

You should also try to open your backpack as little as possible when it’s raining outside. Only take off the waterproof rain cover and open your backpack when it is absolutely necessary.


Choose the right route 

As much as it’s important to prepare for the elements, it’s also important to choose the right route and plan it properly. Planning your trips around the weather is important, as some routes will be harder in the rain.

For instance, if you know you’re going to be walking near a large river, it’s probably best to pick a drier day or opt for a different route to ensure your safety.

Another thing to consider is that even if the rain stops, wet vegetation and dripping trees could still impact your walking experience. Wider and exposed trails are best post-rainstorm.


Tell Someone where you are going

In the mid 1990s I was hiking in a remote mountain area of New Zealand. The trail involved crossing a very wide but (normally) shallow river. Torrential Rain arrived on day 2 of the trek. After a couple of days being stuck in a mountain hut with rain and snow outside I was stuck. I couldn’t go over the mountain pass ahead due to snow and I couldn’t retreat back as the river I had crossed days earlier was in flood.

Fortunately, I left my trip intentions with local Park Rangers. When I managed to make it back to the swollen river they were there with a Jet Boat to rescue me. Had I not notified someone of my trip it could have been the sort of trip that you read about in Newspapers.


Carry a PLB or Satellite Messenger

It is a good idea to carry a PLB or Satellite Messenger when backpacking. These items are no longer super expensive and can be a life saver when the weather turns nasty.


Layer up

When backpacking in the rain, it’s crucial that you layer up! Begin with base layers made out of synthetic or polyester material, but definitely don’t opt for cotton. It’s like a sponge when you add rain into the mix!

Your top layer needs to be both waterproof and breathable, as the more layers you wear, the more you’re likely to sweat as you walk.


Pick your camping spot wisely 

Stehiken camping in the rain

When you’re backpacking in the rain, choosing a camping spot wisely is incredibly important to ensure you remain dry throughout the night.

You firstly will need to find a flat spot for the comfiest sleep, but you will also need to look around the area first. Are there sloping hills around it?

Are you on a downhill? Does the ground feel soft? Considering these factors will ensure you do not wake up in a pool of water.


Bring Camp Clothes

Consider bringing a dry pair of clothing that will only be worn at camp. Usually all you need is a pair of baselayers and a pair of dry socks. Get into your camp clothes and into your sleeping bag as soon as you have set up the tent. You can then chill out, boil some water and drink your favorite hot beverage. These items weight next to nothing and can be worn of needed when hiking if the weather clears up.

Some people also bring a lightweight pair of hiking sandals or camp shoes.

Note that it is best to put on your wet clothes in the morning and hike in them rather than wear your only set of dry clothes.


How to dry your gear at camp

Here is a tip I learned while in Alaska.

When you get to camp and have set up your tent and are wearing your dry camp clothes you can boil some water. Fill a Nalgene Bottle with boiling water. Only do this with a Nalgene Bottle, I would not recommend this any other plastic water bottle. The wrap the wet gear around the bottle and watch the steam evaporate. This method works very well at drying out clothing that is wet and as a bonus you can use the warm water for tea, just be sure to add the tea bag!


Dry your gear when you get home

Storing all your expensive hiking gear when it is wet is a sure way to destroy it. Dry the tent, air out the sleeping bag and dry your hiking footwear thoroughly before storing them. If your raingear, sleeping bag or down jacket is dirty, now might be a good time to wash them. Read more about How to Wash a Down Jacket and How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag.

Next Read:
Best Ultralight Rain Jackets for Backpacking
Best Ultralight Rain Pants for Backpacking
Best Ultralight Hiking Umbrellas

Best Waterproof Hiking Boots
Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes
Best PLB for Backpacking

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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