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5 Tips for Staying Dry on Your Next Backpacking Trip

2/6/18 by Matt Wastradowski

Spring is a wonderful time of year: Leaves are growing back on trees, wildflowers bloom in the mountains, birds start chirping again, and backpacking season begins anew. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel as if Mother Nature forgot that last fact—especially when you’re trudging through miles of relentless rain to your campsite for the night.

We get that spring weather can be finicky and unpredictable, but that’s no reason to stay home and away from the great outdoors. If you’re looking to get a jumpstart on the spring backpacking season, here’s a look at how to prepare, how to stay dry, and how to sleep comfortably—no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

1. Plan Ahead

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Check the seams of your tent and bags before heading out on your first trip of the season. Marmot / ZACH DOLEAC

Whether it’s checking your pack for leaks or stocking up on rain-resistant storage, here’s a quick rundown of what to plan and prepare for.

First thing’s first—Don’t wait until you’re on the trail to learn whether your waterproof pack’s stitching is ripped or fraying, and don’t assume your tent is up to the challenge. Before you leave, check over every inch of your pack and tent in search of defects. You might even grab a spray bottle and spray along the seams while looking for leaks. It doesn’t take more than a five-minute rain shower to soak your clothes for days.

Beyond making sure your backpack itself is ready, pick up a waterproof pack cover, which acts like a hat for your pack and should limit the rain that seeps in.

You’ll also want to consider a waterproof stuff sack to protect gear that *must *stay dry, like matches, pajamas, first aid kids, and headlamps. Typically made of nylon, stuff sacks come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs and use buckles or drawstrings to keep gear dry.

While you’re at it, toss your food into plastic food storage bags for added protection. And if you can find a waterproof map for where you’re headed, all the better.

2. Leave the Cotton at Home

There may be no fiber less suited to soggy conditions than cotton. The popular material doesn’t wick away sweat and can take hours to dry, leaving you cold and damp for extended periods of time. Instead, rely on wool and polyester. The breathable materials prevent moisture from building up—including sweat and rain—and they promote active airflow that stops or slows overheating.

And if you do start overheating? Slow down, take more breaks, and open the vents on your waterproof gear.

3. Grab the Right Clothing

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You’ll want to get a high-quality waterproof shell for your spring adventures. Marmot / ZACH DOLEAC

If not cotton, what should you wear on your backpacking trip?

If you want to get really serious about staying dry, check out products made with Marmot’s EVODry technology. The all-new line is rated 20K for waterproofing (which means it will stay waterproof up to 20,000 mm of water pressure) and 20k for breathability. The water-repellent treatment is applied to the garment’s fibers at a molecular level, which means the line delivers a rare combination of protection against rain and support for your workout. Not just that, but Marmot works in the manufacturing process to reduce carbon emissions, as well as water, energy, and chemical use, giving you the peace of mind that your gear was made with the environment in mind.

Start with hard-shell jackets and pants. The hard, waterproof outer layer will keep rain at bay, and its breathability features should include pit zips and adjustable wristbands (not to mention jacket hoods) that help regulate body temperature.

Use lightweight tights, tees, and shirts underneath. No matter how well ventilated, you’ll warm up in your rain jacket. Go with lightweight or midweight materials underneath, and look for moisture-wicking materials that promote air ventilation and breathability (such as polyester) to help with temperature regulation.

Don’t forget your feet. There’s no way around it: Your feet will get wet. You can mitigate the dampness, however, by choosing the correct footwear. Waterproof shoes or boots (especially when paired with waterproof gaiters) can keep you mostly dry, but mesh footwear allows water to drain and evaporate more quickly—if mild conditions allow for it.

4. Take Advantage of Pack Storage

The more you open and access your pack, the wetter the insides will get. Start each morning with a mental checklist of what you’ll need that day, including snacks, water, a map, or compass. Keep those items in a separate storage pouch, away from the rest of your gear, to keep your pack interior dry.

5. Know Where to Pitch Your Tent

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Try to find higher ground to pitch your tent—just in case it starts raining at night. Marmot / ZACH DOLEAC

Knowing where to pitch your tent can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and taking a bath at 3 a.m. Here’s what to know:

Look for level ground. Don’t pitch your tent in a sunken area, on a hillside (no matter how small the incline), close to a fast-rising riverbank, or anywhere water can flow into (or pool under) your tent.

Take cover. Whenever possible, try to pitch your tent under a tree or covering that’s sheltered from the rain. Even if you’re not completely protected from the rain, every inch of cover helps.

Keep your vestibule in mind. If using a tent vestibule, consider how rainfall might impact its efficacy. Is it downwind, where rain might be blown into the protective area? Is it in a place that will keep your clothes dry? Whatever you do, store your wet gear in your vestibule, not in your (hopefully dry) tent.

Rain doesn’t have to ruin your trip. With a little preparation and EVODry technology, you’ll be set for adventure, no matter what happens.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.