Staying Sane in Pouring Rain

Few things are more demoralizing on a backpacking trip than multiple days of sustained rain. No matter what you do, you're going to get wet. Your boots and socks will get wet. More and more of your gear will get wet. And, quite likely, your mood will start to get a bit wet as well.

There's only so much you can do on the trail besides soldier on and wait for the sun to reappear (and, oh, few moments are as glorious), but there is one thing I always do to help make things a little more tolerable. I make sure I have a dry night's sleep inside my tent.

First, of course, you need to pitch your tent appropriately to keep water from seeping in. Don't set up camp in a depression where water can pool underneath. Keep the rain fly taut, staked out away from your tent body, and make sure that it doesn't sag against the tent body. Retension the fly periodically; it will sag as it gets wet, especially if it's made from silnylon. Open all available vents to minimize interior condensation. Keep your soaking wet rain gear and other clothing in the vestibule rather than bringing it (and all that moisture) inside with you.

Set up your sleeping pad. If it's damp, wipe it dry as much as possible. If it's only a three-quarter length pad, lay out a dry garbage bag at the foot of the pad to keep the tail of your sleeping bag off the tent floor.

Now it's time for perhaps my most treasured items. I carry a dry pair of socks and a lightweight long underwear top and bottom in a waterproof garbage bag or large zip-lock, which I only use when I'm inside the tent. They provide warmth and blissfully dry comfort after a day of saturation and provide a buffer against the clinging annoyance of a damp nylon sleeping bag lining (another inevitability after days of rain).

After changing, I pull out my sleeping bag. (I always stuff mine inside a garbage bag inside the stuff sack to ensure that it stays as dry as possible.) I position it carefully on my dry pad, climb inside, savor the experience, enjoy a good night's sleep, and awake rested and refreshed, ready to face another day of  soakage.

Do you have any favorite tips or techniques for dealing with prolonged rain on the trail? Please share!

“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

Photo: Flicker Commons; m.ann.n