Near this time last year we published a post about camping when it rains.  This post has a lot of great information for exactly that–camping when it rains.  If you’re backpacking, however, there a few more specific tips that can help you have a successful trip.  After all, getting soaking wet in the backcountry is no laughing matter.  It can lead to hypothermia and even death.  With that in mind…

If it starts raining while you’re out in the backcountry:

1. Keep rain gear and a cover for your backpack handy. 

These are items that should be stored either right in the top of your pack or in a stretchy pocket on the outside of your pack.  When rain and hail start falling in the high country you need to get rain gear (jacket and pants if you have them) on you and then on your backpack as quickly as possible.  If you’ve got to take half the stuff out of your pack and dig around for your rain coat, you’re going to end up wet and cold.  This is never a good combination.


A raincover will protect your backpack and all your gear during a storm.

2. Start your trip by lining your backpack with a trash compactor bag and then stuffing your sleeping bag in the bottom of it.

Please do not, under any circumstances, carry your sleeping bag on the outside of your pack.  If you get wet and cold, this sleeping bag is one of the few things that will keep you alive and warm.  The last thing you want to do is get it wet!

If it starts raining as you’re approaching a place to camp, or if you can tell it’s about to rain…

3. Get your tent set up as quickly as possible and covered with your rain fly.

This tent is your shelter from the storm. You want it set up and have it ready for use as quickly as possible.  If it’s pouring rain, then perhaps try stringing a tarp over the tent, if you have one, while you set it up.  Even if you can just throw up one clothes line and then toss the fly over it, you’ll have some room to work on the tent out of the worst of the weather.  You can always move the tent once the rain calms down if you need to.

4. Be prepared to skip cooking. 

We’ve had more than one trip in which we encountered a rainy night and were unable to cook. Sure, for one night a Clif bar might suffice, but if you end up in rainy conditions for more than a day, you’re going to want something else to eat.  Some suggestions:

  • Any dehydrated dessert.  Desserts only require cold water, and they’ll put you in a good mood.
  • Mountain House’s dehydrated chicken salad.  This stuff is really good and again, only requires cold water.  It tastes like dinner: savory, salty.

Just be careful if you’re eating in your tent to not get any food on your sleeping bag, etc.  If you can sit in the vestibule and eat, that’s probably a wise move.


Of course, if it’s hailing you probably won’t find yourself sitting in the vestibule for long!

5. Have something to do.

If you get stuck in your tent for hours on end because of a rain storm, you’re going to need something to do.  A deck of cards doesn’t weigh much and can provide at least some entertainment.  A book is good, or even dice and a few sheets of Yahtzee game forms will work!

Finally, and maybe most importantly, stay warm. Put on extra clothes, get in your sleeping bag, and try your best not to get chilled. The rain will pass, and you want to be ready to enjoy the rest of your adventure!

# Comments

  • James Tracy

    Can I add a 6th? Check the forecast. Managing the rain is easier when you have an idea that it is coming. Allows you to plan your trip better too.

    • mtbikerchick

      That’s a great, simple to remember tip! You’re right too; if you know rain is a possibility it definitely makes planning easier and helps you manage expectations.

      • James Tracy

        I usually keep some combination of a lightning detector, weather radio, and weather station on me while hiking for that reason.

  • danemls07

    Great tips and your all right. I am new to this site but I’m very happy and thankfull for all the great tips and information. Thank you.

  • AJ Heil

    Love the quick hits here! I think that you’ve nailed the biggest ones for while on trail. I always try to be prepared for the worst, even though it adds a few pounds of weight, eh?

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