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Old 09-02-2019, 02:39 PM   #1
forest dweller
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Tips on how to stay dry making and breaking camp when it rains while backpacking?

Tips on how to stay dry making and breaking camp when it rains while backpacking?

I just got back from a 2 day and a 4 day backpacking trip in Banff with my wife...and the weather forecast for the entire week was fantastic, but on the very last night all hell broke loose before arriving at the backcountry campground, and it continued to pour. The campground we were supposed to stay at was near a little shelter - the "Halfway Hut" in the Skoki area...it's a PERFECT little shelter but you aren't supposed to camp there. It was late and we weren't going to damage anything so I decided to throw down a tarp and throw our pads and sleeping bags down and just get up early enough so that we would be out of the way once other backpackers started to pass through in the morning.

I have been backpacking for many years but I only get to go once or twice a year...so there are still many "tricks of the trade" I can learn.

What if there is no choice but to set up or break down, in a puddle, in the pouring rain? What are some tricks you guys do to minimize / limit getting wet, especially getting vital things wet?

I love backpacking, but I wouldn't want a storm or storms, especially early in the trip, ruining the trip and setting a bad tone for the remainder of the trip. How do you stay dry?
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Old 09-02-2019, 03:03 PM   #2
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Keep a good rain jacket, tarp, and cordage handy & easily accessible in your backpack. A pack cover can also be helpful, and a good sharp knife to make wood shavings & fire sticks. Been caught in a downpour many times but was always able to get a fire going & dry out any wet clothing & gear.
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Old 09-02-2019, 03:20 PM   #3
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Ill second that get a tarp up I hammock so it means you can set up/take down out of the rain. Consider a fly first tent, I don't backpack with mine (too heavy ) but it does mean the inner tent stays dry.
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Old 09-02-2019, 04:38 PM   #4
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https://youtu.be/XFYadZntF00
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:20 PM   #5
forest dweller
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Thanks Justin...that's a great tip for setting up in rain in the northeastern US... I'll have to figure out a method for setting up in a place like Banff where there may not be too many trees directly near where you are camping, or they may be of the tighter evergreen variety. Might just have to have rain jackets and ponchos while storing backpacks under a tarp....dealing with a little bit of water penetration, taking care to keep clothing and sleeping bags dry.
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:53 PM   #6
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None of these are necessarily facts, just my opinion.

I guess the first thing is to adopt a bit of a zen (or resigned!) attitude. When it rains when you are backpacking, you are going to get wet. You just are. What is important is that you stay warm enough.

For setting up, the two major things would be having your tent quickly accessible without having to expose much of your pack contents to the elements and having setup dialed in so you can get the tent up quickly. This matters more so or less, depending on the style of tent (i.e. do you need to set up a full mesh inner before you can protect with the fly.). Site selection can come into play, some are more protected than others, and while you can't always choose, it should be a consideration.

The reverse would be true for packing up: get everything into your pack while you are inside the tent and then hustle to get that puppy disassembled while you pack is under the best cover available nearby.

For packing styles, I have moved to a pack liner in place of pack cover and have been in some serious storms with good results. I use:https://www.amazon.com/Hefty-Trash-C.../dp/B002BXRGQA. Basically you put it in your pack, put everything you need to stay dry in it, roll the top down and tuck it into the front of the pack.

I wiped out in the Whites crossing Franconia Brook (Lincoln Brook? no map in front of me) and submerged most of my person and all of my pack and everything stayed dry.

In colder weather i put my down sleeping bag/jacket in a dry bag and hat, gloves, and thermal top and bottom in another and then they go in the liner. Overkill for sure, but not much of a weight penalty.

For multiple days of rain - I put on wet clothes in the morning. Wet tent goes inside the pack, but outside the liner and after I set it up I wipe it down best i can with bandana/camp towel.

And for fires, here in the NE - birch bark as starter. With enough birch bark you can set water on fire! (not my line, but pretty great). Dead and down, of course. I usually will pick some up while hiking and stick in the water bottle holders of my pack, even though I light a fire less than 10% of nights out.
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Old 09-02-2019, 07:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by forest dweller View Post
Thanks Justin...that's a great tip for setting up in rain in the northeastern US... I'll have to figure out a method for setting up in a place like Banff where there may not be too many trees directly near where you are camping, or they may be of the tighter evergreen variety. Might just have to have rain jackets and ponchos while storing backpacks under a tarp....dealing with a little bit of water penetration, taking care to keep clothing and sleeping bags dry.
Iíve never been to Banff but sometimes itís all part of the adventure & experience & something you may look back upon with fond memories one day. Sometimes getting stuck in a downpour can be the highlight of a trip, but as LRL (& Rob) mentions itís mostly about staying warm & avoiding hypothermia, which can be a completely different scenario during colder temps.
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Old 09-03-2019, 03:06 PM   #8
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Similar to Justin's post:
CCS Tarp "Ridge Line Stuff Sack", and tarp tips
https://youtu.be/GqlFP8C_z10
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Old 12-03-2019, 12:34 PM   #9
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I know this thread is a few months old but I wanted to chime in. In a nutshell: I agree with the other posters- tarps are the solution you're looking for.

I've found that even if I'm carrying a tent, it's often worth the added weight to also carry a tarp if there's any chance of rain in the forecast prior to a trip. This gives you dry space to pack up/unpack while out of the rain, as well as dry space to cook, eat, and generally hang out that isn't inside the tent. Depending on the site and the forecast, I'll either set up the tarp independently of the tent, or overhanging the tent.

This is especially true when backpacking with a group- in which case I'll often even grab a larger tarp (10x15 or even 15x20) for the entire group to benefit from. Even though it will weigh more, it can be passed around among the group members so that no one is shouldering the burden the entire hike. (On our annual "Duck Hole" trips, where the group size averages about 8 people, we'll often carry 2 group tarps- a smaller one for gear storage and a larger one for hanging out under.)

If I'm base camping for several nights, and it's an easy hike in- I might go all out and carry in 2 large tarps in addition to a tent- one to pitch over my tent for added dryness, and one to pitch independently of the tent for use while cooking, hanging out, etc. With base camping especially it can be really nice to have all that added comfort, even in the backcountry. I've even been known to haul into the backcountry a tent, 2 tarps, and a bug house to set up under the second tarp if it's a longer trip during bug season!

Conversely, if I'm trying to pack light to facilitate putting in serious miles while relocating camp each day, then I'm honestly likely to forgo the tent entirely and just take the tarp. I've generally found that I tend to stay a lot drier under a tarp alone than in a tent alone. It's easy enough to pack everything up out of the rain, and take the tarp down last before setting out for the day. For solo use, an 8x10 tarp works OK if you set it up low (use p-cord for a ridgeline and to stake out corners). A 10x12 tarp is a little bit heavier but gives you more room underneath.

With regards to brands- I almost exclusively use hardware store tarps. Ultralight tarps, IMO, aren't generally worth the added costs ($100+ vs $20) when the weight savings are minimal (mere ounces). And a hardware store tarp will last you for 100+ nights in the woods easily if you take care of it (with the occasional duct tape repair). And also, you feel a lot less emotional pain when one of your idiot friends manages to burn a hole in a hardware store tarp vs a tarp you spend hundreds of dollars on.
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Old 12-03-2019, 07:56 PM   #10
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Great advice from everyone. I have gone to trash compactor bags inside the pack - one with the top and bottom quilts in it and one with my clothes. The hammock is inside too, right at the top of the main compartment. My tarp is under the brain of the pack for quick deployment when I reach the campsite. I deploy the pack cover for a downpour or heavy rain.
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