Downpours to drizzle: Weathering a rainy camping trip
Glass-half-full campers may say that listening to the rain pitter-pat on their tents is the best way to fall asleep, but a muddy campsite, wet clothes and a smudgy fire can go a long way toward dampening your camping experience. A rain suit and gaiters are great for hiking in the rain, but not the best solutions for campsite comfort.
The right gear
Choose a tent site on higher ground in case steady rain causes creeks to rise or water to create streams in unexpected places. Avoid setting up under a tree because leaves and branches will continue dripping after the rain has stopped. Products like Nikwax water-repellent spray keep the interior of the tent dry. Pack a pair of fast-drying mesh slippers to wear around camp and keep your hiking boots in a dry place. Add a layer – either a camping pad or your sleeping bag’s bivy sack – between the tent floor and the sleeping bag for extra insulation from the wet ground. Choose a synthetic sleeping bag that will dry out more quickly than one filled with down.
Set up an outdoor living space protected by a tarp or two attached to trees with bungee cords. Spread another tarp on the ground and fire up the lantern or hang battery-powered LED lights. Hang a clothesline under a tarp to dry your wet clothes rather than tucking them into a duffel bag where they won’t dry, but will get moldy. Make shoe forms out of crumpled newspapers to stuff into your hiking boots overnight. The paper will wick out some of the moisture. Use strips of duct tape or cotton balls soaked in Vaseline to start fires when the kindling is wet and store firewood in a plastic trash bag.
A walk in the rain
Staying dry while remaining comfortable is the aim of experienced hikers when out in the rain. A rain suit keeps clothing dry, but if the weather is warm, it can hold in perspiration. A rain poncho allows the clothing on your upper body to breathe. Wear layers under your rain gear, beginning with wool or polyester. Avoid cotton – once it’s wet, it stays wet. Put hand warmers in the toes of your hiking boots before heading out for the day and pack spare socks, slacks and a shirt in a plastic contractor bag to keep them dry for a quick change after a hike in the rain.
Other tips to consider
Rocks are slippery and muddy ground can be treacherous in the rain. Choose hiking shoes or boots with good ankle support and soles that grip. When camping or hiking on public land, ask the ranger about weather conditions to watch out for. For example, deadly flash floods are common in desert slot canyons. Be lightning smart – odds are, if you can hear thunder you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. If thunderstorms pop up while you're hiking, stay off ridges and away from open fields. At the campsite, stay away from electricity conductors, such as wet items and metal objects.