The Pacific Northwest can be particularly damp during late winter and early spring. However, a bit of rain doesn’t have to ruin your parade. With a little planning and preparation, you can embark on an exciting outdoor adventure come rain or shine. In fact, backpacking in the rain can add a fun challenge to your regular hiking expeditions. These tips for taking a backpacking trip in the rain will help prepare you for anything Mother Nature throws your way.
Weather can be quite fickle, even on the best of days, and you never know when a light drizzle will transform into a torrential downpour. As such, it’s important that you prepare for a variety of different weather conditions. Check weather reports religiously in the days leading up to your backpacking expedition. While these forecasts will not always be entirely accurate, they will provide a good prediction for the type of weather you’ll encounter on your trip and will help you pack accordingly. Consider packing a few emergency items as well. The forecast may only predict a light drizzle, but you’ll be glad you packed a back-up parka and umbrella when a sudden thunderstorm hits. Planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected will ensure that you stay comfortable throughout the entirety of your expedition.
One of the best tips for taking a backpacking trip in the rain is to dress in layers. Even if the weather is on the warmer side, it will be in your best interest to dress in layers. You can easily add and remove them as needed and as the weather shifts, but dressing in layers will ensure that you’re prepared for anything. A good rule of thumb is to outfit yourself in three layers: a comfortable base layer, an insulated mid-layer, and a protective outer layer. The outermost layer will provide your first line of protection against the elements and should be used to block out wind and rain. The mid-layer will keep you warm even in the face of particularly cold winds and rain. Synthetic materials work best for insulation in damper climates, as they retain their warmth when wet better than natural materials. Your innermost layer should be light and comfortable and should be made of a material that wicks sweat away from the body. This will help you feel warmer and more comfortable even in the face of a furious rainstorm.
Not all backpacks are conducive to a wet-weather hiking expedition. Set yourself up for success and stow your belongings in a durable, weather-resistant backpack. Most outdoor backpack brands boast waterproof packs with multiple pockets perfectly designed for an outdoor adventure. Pack your kit carefully and take special care to store particularly important items, such as maps and cell phones, in additional waterproof bags. Consider packing an extra set of clothing in a sealed bag as well and placing it at the bottom of your pack, just in case things get a little too wet for your liking. Some outdoor backpacks are even equipped with an additional waterproof pack cover, which adds an extra layer of protection against the elements.
A warm and hearty meal can be a great pick-me-up when hiking in the rain, but preparing the meal is often easier said than done. During the course of your backpacking trip, there will likely be instances when building a fire is simply out of the question. In such situations, it’s best to have a few pre-made back-up meals that can don’t require the use of a fire. Hummus wraps or a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich are simple options that can be easily stored in a backpack and will keep well over a long period of time.
Backpacking in the rain can add a fun challenge to your regular hiking adventures. Even if you feel well-equipped to handle harsher hiking conditions, it’s important that you remain on your guard and heed weather warnings. Trails can become slippery with just a little rain, and a significant downpour could even close some trails entirely. Be sure to check trail updates and closures before embarking on your journey and heed warnings seriously. Ignoring warnings and trekking down a trail that’s significantly impacted by rain can introduce unnecessary risks to your backpacking excursion.
At the end of a long day trekking through wind and rain, the best thing you can do is unwind in a warm and dry tent. Therefore, it’s important to take extra care when setting up your campsite each night. Try to choose a site that’s located on higher ground and protected by surrounding trees when possible. The air will be drier the higher you are, and condensation will be less likely to form on the inside of your tent. Opening the ventilation flaps on your tent will also help reduce condensation inside the tent. Setting up camp under tree cover will help block wind and rain from your tent, helping to keep your campsite warm and dry. You should also consider using a tent footprint when setting up camp. A tent footprint is a large tarp that is placed underneath a tent to provide an added layer of protection between the tent and the earth. This will keep water from seeping into your tent through the ground and will prevent your tent from sinking into the earth. It will also be in your best interest to orient the tent door away from the direction of wind and rain. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and these little precautions will help set you up for success during your backpacking trip.
As we’ve stated, weather can be quite fickle, especially during early spring. Therefore, it’s important to take weather changes with a grain of salt and remain flexible in your backpacking plans. The sun may be elusive and may only remain for a brief while, but it’s important that you take full advantage of the moments when the sun does shine. Unfurl your sleeping bags and lay out any damp clothing to dry. Drying out your belongings periodically will help preserve their integrity over the long haul and will decrease the amount of time they’ll need to dry each night. This will also be a good time to build a fire and warm up if necessary.
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