When you set out into the great outdoors for a backpacking adventure, there are plenty of things you want to keep in mind. You want to watch your pace, make sure your pack is well-equipped with everything you need, and make sure you stop with enough time every night to set up camp.
You always need to watch the weather, and seasoned backpackers know that if you aren’t prepared for rain, it can derail your entire trip. That’s why it’s important to learn how to go backpacking in the rain before you even step foot on the trail.
Backpacking in the rain doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are some things that you’ll want to do to make the experience more enjoyable. Here’s a comprehensive guide that will teach you how to go backpacking in the rain, and still enjoy yourself!
Get a rain cover for your hiking backpack
Every experienced backpacker who’s had the pleasure of trekking through the rain will tell you that you need to get a cover for your pack. These covers are often made of synthetic materials that are waterproof or water resistant. A pack cover will wrap entirely around your pack so your pack and all of its essential contents stay dry.
Pack covers are often inexpensive, durable, and ultra lightweight. You can find them online or at any camping store. If you get caught out in the rain unexpectedly, then you can always substitute a garbage bag or tarp in place of a pack cover. It’ll still work to keep your pack dry in a pinch!
💡 Note: When you’re done with your rainy backpacking trip, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes properly cleaning your backpack.
Choose your clothes carefully
Choosing the right clothes for a backpacking trip in the rain is crucial. Here are some tips that will help you choose the right clothes to wear from head to toe when you go backpacking in the rain.
Don’t forget the layers
Most backpackers will have three layers when they set out on the trail. There’s your base layer, mid-layer, and the final layer, which is usually a heavy jacket. When you know you’ll be backpacking in the rain, you should make sure that the layers you’re wearing are fit for that weather.
A lot of hikers and backpackers choose to wear wool or cotton clothing for their base or mid-layers because they keep you warm and wick away sweat. However, these materials will become incredibly uncomfortable when damp. Wool and cotton will absorb rain water quickly and weigh you down. They’ll also take days to dry, which means backpacking in damp clothing.
Instead, stick to polyester and synthetic blends when you’re backpacking in the rain. If you’re going to be backpacking in the rain during warm weather, then a long-sleeved shirt would be a great option for your base layer.
For your final layer, make sure that you choose an efficient rain jacket with a hood. You’d be surprised at the difference a hood can make! It will keep water from running down the back of your neck and soaking your clothes.
Get yourself some rain gear
Of course, if you’re going to be backpacking in the rain, then you should be prepared with rain gear. This includes your rain jacket, rain pants, rain boots, and pack cover. You should set out with your rain clothes on, even if it hasn’t started raining yet.
Rain storms can come on suddenly and take even the most experienced backpacker by surprise. You don’t want to be stuck digging through your pack to get your rain boots on during a torrential downpour!
Backpacking in the rain means being prepared ahead of time, so set yourself up for success by dressing for the weather before it even hits.
Wear the proper footwear
A durable pair of rain boots would serve you well, but there are other options for backpacking in the rain. You could get a pair of waterproof boots that are made of synthetic materials, and they should hold up just as well.
You may have a favorite pair of hiking boots you wear on every backpacking trip but aren’t usually suitable for rainy weather. Some people love to wear classic leather boots while backpacking, and you don’t necessarily have to put them away when it rains.
There are water-repellent barriers you can purchase and apply to your boots. This will prevent water from soaking into them and keep them from becoming damaged. This is a great purchase for backpacking in the rain, and can be applied to virtually any material to help repel water- even your clothes!
How to stay warm when hiking in the rain
Backpacking in the rain can chill you to the bone, even during the summer. If the water soaks through your clothes and sits on your skin, then your body temperature will drop, and could even lead to hypothermia. The best way to prevent this is to plan on how to stay warm.
The first step to keeping warm is to find ways to keep dry. Wearing layers that are made of quick-drying, synthetic materials is a good start to staying warm. Having an efficient rain jacket and rain boots is also going to be crucial to staying warm.
You’ll also want to think about how you can keep yourself warm when you stop for the night. Imagine if you’ve been backpacking through the rain all day, and when you finally stop to make camp for the night, the rain continues. How will you keep yourself dry and warm in this situation?
There are a few different solutions to this predicament. Many people would consider starting a fire in this situation, but if you’re in the middle of a heavy rainstorm, then this may not be possible.
You’ll need to find alternative ways to dry off and stay warm. Anytime you go backpacking in the rain you should bring along a couple of microfiber travel towels.
These towels are super lightweight, roll up tiny, and often come in a waterproof pouch. You can use these towels to dry off at night before changing into a dry set of clothes.
Then, you can hang the towel up in your tent, and it should be dry again by morning! These microfiber towels are truly a lifesaver for backpackers when it’s raining and if you don’t have one yet, you should get one.
Once you’re dried off, the chill in the air from the rain can still be hard to shake off. You don’t want to spend the night shivering, and a great option is to bring along a battery-powered heater.
There are plenty of battery-powered heaters that are designed specifically for campers and backpackers, but they will add some weight to your pack. Still, carrying around an extra 10lbs is preferable to shivering all night!
You could also bring along some emergency blankets. These emergency blankets often look and sound like tinfoil, but they’re actually made of a material called mylar. These blankets are often used by rescue teams because they’re so efficient at reflecting body heat back to a person.
All you need to do is wrap yourself up in one of these blankets, snuggle down into your sleeping bag, and you’ll be set for the night. These blankets fold up super small so they won’t take up much room in your pack. They’re practically weightless, and they could mean the difference between finishing your backpacking trip or seeking medical help for hypothermia.
Make sure your feet are warm
When you’ve been backpacking through the rain for a day or two, it can really do a number on your feet. Even if you’re wearing rain boots or applying a water repellent barrier to your hiking boots, it’s still possible for your feet to get wet.
If you’re trekking through puddles or intense rainstorms, then your feet could be soaked in several minutes. Leaving your feet wet for too long can cause fungus or a painful rash to develop.
That’s why it’s important to take the time to dry your feet thoroughly each night. Get them out of their wet socks and boots, and let them air out. You can use a microfiber towel to get them dry, but giving them some air is important too.
Make sure you always have a pair of dry socks to change into before you set out the following day. If you’re going to be backpacking in the rain for several days, then you should bring along some vaseline or a moisturizing lotion. You can rub that into your feet at night once they’ve dried out and it’ll help keep the skin from becoming damaged.
💡 Note: We’ve written another article covering how to wear hiking boots in the snow. It’s pretty much the same concept as hiking in the rain.
Eat enough during the day
Oftentimes, when backpackers get caught in the rain, they feel a sense of urgency. You may feel the need to pick up your pace, skip your mid-day meal, and hurry through the rain until you can set up camp and get out of the rain.
This is a mistake that many backpackers make the first time they get caught in the rain, and it’s actually going to make you feel even colder. Instead of skipping your midday meal, you should eat more while backpacking in the rain.
Eating more will give your body more calories and fat, which will then turn into heat. It’s simple science, but not always easy to put into practice.
Instead of trying to stop during the rainstorm to find somewhere to sit down and eat, you should keep energy bars and other quick snacks in easily accessible places like your pockets. This way, you can munch on your snacks as you’re backpacking. It will help you stay warm and give you the energy you need to power through the weather.
Backpacking is a great activity and an amazing way to see what the natural world has to offer. If you’ve never backpacked during the rain before, then it can seem like a miserable situation, but it doesn’t have to be. Wearing the right clothing, finding ways to stay warm, and keeping your body fueled will help you get the most out of your backpacking trip when it’s raining.