Campers: How do you dry out when you're totally drenched

7:37 a.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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This is for beginners (backpackers, paddlers) who for whatever reason find themselves soaked to the skin and are wondering how to dry themselves off in camp.

I'm wondering about this because I went on a classic Southeast day hike the other day -- first half I was totally soaked from sweat, second half I was totally soaked from rain and wet vegetation on the trail. (read all about it if you're curious: )

This was a day hike in a state park w/ very little need of advanced rain gear. I put my poncho on and gutted it out through the rain, got back to the car wet from head to to, and wondered: what on earth would I do if I'd been out backpacking like this?

Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare, you end up soaked anyway. How did you handle it?

10:32 a.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I strip down dry off with my pack towel and put dry cloths on and dry the wet ones. But thats me and im use to it because im a rain magnet and if its not raining im usually sweeting pretty heavy.

10:47 a.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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In a soaking rain while hiking when it is difficult to remain totally dry, the most important thing is to try to keep warm. Usually the best way to do that is to keep on hiking. The next most important thing is to try to have dry clothes in your pack to change into when you have settled into camp. Therefore, it is important to have those extra clothes packed in a waterproof bag, even if it is a common plastic garbage bag. Packs even with a rain cover are not waterproof. I try to keep my shelter, usually a tarp, close to the top of my pack or in an outside pocket where I can get to it quickly in the rain. Put your shelter up first before you change into dry clothes.

In the rain, I might keep hiking in shorts and save my rainpants to wear for warmth in camp.

If your rain jacket is not long enough to cover your shorts, consider a rain gear skirt like the Etowah "Wrap".

The hardest part will be the next morning when you have to put those wet clothes back on. brrrr. But you have to do that, if you want to keep those dry clothes you changed into dry for the next time. That includes your socks. Put those wet socks back on in the morning, or you soon will end up with two pairs of wet socks instead of just one. Same for your t-shirt, etc.

I take special care to keep my sleeping bag dry.

Compactor bags make nice pack liners. They are thicker than your average trash bag.

1:55 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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As Rambler's post implies, the big problem is when you are on a long trip and have to deal with day after day of wet. The worst experience that way that Barb and I had was the summer we bicycled through Scandinavia. We camped the entire trip - no hostels. But unlike a backcountry trip, we were able to stay at some campgrounds with facilities to shower and with laundromats. The first week out of Oslo and into Sweden saw rain every day. If you think you get wet hiking, try biking in continual rain. We were able to keep our sleeping bags dry and as Rambler says, kept a couple sets of dry clothes that we would wear in the tent. The hardest part was getting up in the morning, preparing breakfast, packing, then exiting into the rain, packing the tent, and getting on the bikes and on the road. Once we got warmed up (and soaked to the skin again), it wasn't too bad. Rain gear doesn't work well on a bike - mud and rain always seem to get thrown up on you from the wheels under ponchos, and you get really sweaty really fast with a full rain suit. Basically, it's just "deal with it" - grin and bear it like our ancient ancestors.

We lived in Mississippi for 10 years, where you either had 90/90 weather and were dripping wet even without rain if you were moving (we quickly learned why Southern folk move slow - if you move fast like N'Yahkers, you get super hot and super sweaty, even in the best-wicking clothes). And since it rains a lot, you get soaked from the rain. Yeah, you can do as Rambler suggests - keep a dry set or two of clothes in the pack. But you get hot and sweaty just sitting in the tent in the shade of the trees. So you learn to live with it. Luckily, it's usually warm enough that you don't have to worry about hypothermia. So "just sweat it out". A poncho works a lot better in those conditions than a full rain suit, or even a rain parka. Same thing applies in tropical rain forests such as we encountered in Tanzania and Central America.

In cooler climes, then it is important to have layers that provide some insulation even when wet (fleece, Primaloft), but still allow for plenty of ventilation. The synthetics like fleece and Primaloft do not hold much water and can be wrung out in the vestibule of your tent, then will dry somewhat overnight. A shell that is wp/b (eVent or GoreTex, definitely NOT PreCip) and has pit zips helps, as do shell pants with full side zips that allow some ventilation along the legs. Ponchos allow plenty of ventilation, but allow cold rain to soak what you are wearing underneath, if there is any wind blowing.

These days, though, my main solution is go places with low humidity and cool weather. There, a full wp/b suit (parka plus bibs) works just fine to keep the sweating down and it's too cold for rain, so you just brush the snow off. .... hmmm, Easter Island is somewhat warm and rainy. Glad we are taking the luxury of staying in a hotel and getting transported around in a bus.

4:51 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I once got totally soaked on a blue-sky spring day from freshly fallen snow melting and dripping off the trees-- might as well have been hosing rain, except there was a beautiful blue sky up there and enough sun getting through the trees and enough hard work going on to keep me feeling warm. I was on a fast and light one-night ski traverse in the White Mountains (NH) and had no spare clothes. I just put on my pile jacket as I made camp, eventually crawled into my synthetic sleeping bag in my still-damp wool knickers, polypros, and socks, and slept them dry. A little uncomfortable at first, but I was tired enough where I slept pretty soundly. Score one for synthetic bags!

8:13 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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A trick I have come across is to use a candle lantern. When I finally get to camp I set up my tent and run a little clothesline in the top and hang up my wet clothes. and close up all the mesh except for the top vents. And after about an hour or two I have some dry clothes. If they are really really soaked then it can take 3-4 hours especially if its still a downpour/super humid.

This is very nice in the winter because you can also preheat your dry clothes, which is very very nice =). This also works wonders to preheat your tent in general, and to dry up any condensation inside the tent. Most candle lanterns use a candle that will burn for 9 hours.

Now, alot of you may say it is foolish to use a candle lantern inside a tent less you burn your tent down and not have a shelter. Well I put my candle lantern inside of one of my cooking pots so that if by some weird chance it were to fall over it is contained.

Not only do they dry your clothes, but they preheat your tent, dry your tent, and give you a nice light source! And weigh very little.

10:30 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I like it, I have contemplated on getting a candle lantern for some time. I have a Snow Peak Giga Lantern I carry sometimes which IMO will not work as you state even remotely safe. Maybe I will pick up a candle lantern and test it out for cold weather which will be here soon enough "because I am a rain magnet" winter summer spring or fall it doesn't matter.

11:02 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I second and totally back the benefits of a candle lantern. Not much good for more than a realding light, ana a marker for the midnight pit stop. I love those things.

11:16 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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Its on my list of gear to get.

6:35 a.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Yeah the light they put off is well... expected of a candle. But, on a dark night in the woods they put off a decent amount of light, though its limited to a range of about 4ft or so.. I use mine for all of my different camp chores, as well as a reading light. One piece of gear I don't leave home without, especially during the winter. I do have an led headlamp, but I save that for use while traveling when dark, or in emergencies.

9:23 a.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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I have also been intending to get a candle lantern. Any reccommendations on durable yet light ones? The only ones I have seen have been quite heavy, so I haven't bought one yet. I have thought about making one myself, but haven't made the time either.

10:59 a.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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I've used a candle lantern for years (and years), though it does tend to stay home more often these days; they aren't light. Well, that ARE light, but they are sort of heavy. :-)

I've used them quite a bit in the Tetons, especially in the winter. They do warm up the tent a bit and are especially nice in a snow cave. It's amazing how much heat a single candle will put out. I remember several trips where the temps would be at or below zero and the wind was blowing, but inside the snow cave it was warm enough to take off the parka.

Recommended if you don't mind adding the extra weight to your pack.

2:58 p.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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I went the cheap route and bought a coleman one from walmart. It weighs like 10-12oz or so I would guess. . The coleman one does not collapse. I know the ones from EMS and REI both collapse. Not sure how much those weigh either. They all take the same size candles though. I have had my coleman one for about 5 years now, if it ever breaks I would probally buy a collapsible one.

If I am going to an area heavy with bugs I will bring along a citronella candle for it also which is nice to have. (they sell the regular candles and the citronella ones, and both have a 9 hour burn time)

6:25 p.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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I don’t mean to be the wet blanket, but a candle puts out only about 80 watts of heat, compared to ~ 100 watts of heat emitted by an average size person. Humans perspire and expire moisture, thus will contribute to any condensation problem in a tent. Regardless, candles do not dry a tent, per se. If the tent was air tight the moisture would have nowhere to go, and remain in the tent. Thus tent mainly dry out from the effect of circulating air, replacing the humid air inside with less humid external air. Heat can expedite dehumidification, but a candle contributes a relatively modest amount of heat, compared to other sources, the sun or a camp stove for example. I would not, however, advise using a camp stove inside a tent for this or any other reason.

Candle heat emission:

Human heat emission:

7:22 p.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Well for the heat sources available to us , I do believe a candle comes out on top. I agree that its not a crazy amount of heat, but it does get the job done. All I have to say is that at the end of the day the clothes hanging in my mountain 25 are dry, my tent is warm and cozy, and before I pack my tent up my tent's condensation if any was present is dry. I do leave part of the upper vent on my tent open for moisture to escape.

Q camp stove would probally work better...but I would rather have an intact tent! lol

8:46 p.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Last time I was totally drenched was during my bicycle tour across Alaska in August 2006 when it rained every other day. I usually just let the wind dry me out as I pedaled on after it would quit raining. I liked the rainy days better than the non-rainy days cause when it didn't rain the mosquitos ate me alive if I stopped pedaling.

8:37 a.m. on June 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Though a human body puts out more heat than a candle, the heat from your body is coupled with humidity from perspiration, and as pertains to this thread, additional water from rain, etc. The Candle however, does not. Consider that the total heat output of a body, which is only slightly more than a candle, is also spread out over a very large area in contrast to a concentrated single point. This creates an immediate sense of warmth, physically and psychologically. Also, if a person has become cold, especially the outside surfaces of their body and extremities, the heat produced by the body takes some time to "reheat" those frigid extremities before the actual output of 100 watts will have as much effect on the ambient temperature inside the tent. And probably the most significant effect is caused by the focused single point of heat as well. It creates an instant "chimney" flow of heated air in the tent, which accelerates the exchange from humid to dry air. That heated flow of air is then passing out of the top of the tent, drying the clothes hanging above much faster.

2:16 p.m. on June 16, 2010 (EDT)
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hmmm, from several posts above, it sounds like there are a few concepts relating to humidity, water vapor content, and related topics that are not well understood. Well, I knew that from when I used to teach survey physical science (which included a section on meteorology) as one of the "bread and butter" courses (gotta generate income for departments like Physics, Astronomy, and such that don't have a lot of majors).

Anyway, The perceived "dryness" of the air (aka "relative humidity") is dependent on two things - the amount of water vapor in the air and the amount of water vapor that the air can hold when saturated. The rate at which something (like wet clothes and wet sleeping bags) dries depends on the relative humidity. The amount of water vapor the air can hold when saturated is dependent on the temperature - warmer air can hold more water vapor.

So - heat the air, and the relative humidity decreases, which increases the evaporation rate and shortens the drying time. (yeah, everybody knows that).

When drying off in a tent, there is another factor. If the tent were sealed (a tent made of purely plastic sheeting, for example), heating the inside of the tent lowers the relative humidity (since the holding capacity of the air increases with temperature), which would allow the liquid water in your clothes to evaporate into the air faster, spreading the water as vapor throughout the tent (I am ignoring how you heat the tent to avoid the "trivial" issues of oxygen depletion, carbon monoxide buildup, lighting the tent material on fire, etc). The relative humidity gets lowered to, say. 50%. Aha! you and your clothes are now dry, so turn off the source of heat. Tent walls are not very good insulators (whether my hypothetical plastic sheeting or nylon), so if it is cold outside (say, 40 deg F), the inside air will cool down more or less quickly. This drop in temperature increases the relative humidity, which means that the water vapor will start condensing back to liquid, and you are wet again. Some here may be old enough to remember when we used to use plastic tube tents as a substitute for paying big bucks for tents - though that practice was abandoned after several deaths from suffocation, notably a couple of them in one night in the Mammoth ski resort parking lot. On a subfreezing night, the walls would become coated with a layer of ice, and on warmer nights, the walls would become covered with condensation that would rain back on the occupants.

Most tents are made with the main body of very breathable nylon, or perhaps mesh in the currently fashionable version of "3-season" tents. So the heated air will flow out through the walls of the tent (or the uncovered mesh door of a real 4-season or expedition tent). The outside cooler replacement air is of lower water vapor content (hence lower relative humidity), so you can actually make progress in getting and staying dry.

In areas of 90/90 weather (such as Mississippi where Barb and I lived for 10 years, or the Gulf Coast, or tropical climes), raising the temperature enough to drop the relative humidity creates a losing situation. Luckily, most of the time even in rainstorms, the relative humidity is much less than 90%, often no more than 50-60% (that is, until the rain stops and the sun comes out, evaporating all the puddles and running the water vapor content up to the 90+% level again).

Yeah, candles help some. But they do have the same problems of any flame - open flame source increases risk of igniting synthetic materials, especially silnylon; flames from candles and stoves deplete oxygen, replacing it with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Standard disclaimer: DO NOT DO THE FOLLOWING DESCRIBED PROCEDURE - professional mountaineers in desperate situations in blizzards only.

It is possible to safely use a stove in a tent. As Jim S has posted from time to time, using a stove in the tent increases the rate of drying of clothing. However, the tent must be well ventilated. Risk of serious injury or death is high (example, the oft-cited, ill-fated Wilcox expedition on Denali in the mid-60s - read In the Hall of the Mountain King for details, but basically, while cooking in a tent and refueling a stove with a second one operating, the resulting ignition caused the tent, a sleeping bag, and a couple of down parkas to vanish in about 10 seconds).

2:54 p.m. on June 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks Bill,

I didn't go into all of that as I assumed that as prerequisite info. I sometimes forget to make sure I state the foundational suppositions before discussing the subsequent subjects in question.

4:21 p.m. on June 16, 2010 (EDT)
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..This creates an immediate sense of warmth, physically and psychologically...

While psychological effects are soothing, they can be misleading. A shot of whiskey makes me "feel" warm, but in fact it dilates skin capillaries, causing the body to lose heat more rapidly. A candle may soothe our sense of chill, but it actually provides very little warmth. Try this experiment in your back yard next winter: Take a 100 watt light bulb and place it in a tent. Note the temperature rise is minor, about 5 degrees. If a breeze is blowing, the affect is even less.

Also, if a person has become cold, especially the outside surfaces of their body and extremities, the heat produced by the body takes some time to "reheat" those frigid extremities before the actual output of 100 watts will have as much effect on the ambient temperature inside the tent.

Practically all advise about re-warming a chilled, hypothermic, hiker suggests getting the person into a tent and covered with insulating layers (e.g. sleeping bag, perhaps shared with another individual) to generate warmth, while nothing is mentioned about lighting a candle in the tent. The body is plenty capable of radiating heat, even when chilled. The sensation of warmth a tent affords is primarily from reducing convection caused by flowing air.

And probably the most significant effect is caused by the focused single point of heat as well. It creates an instant "chimney" flow of heated air in the tent, which accelerates the exchange from humid to dry air.

As it is, the candle will only move air around inside the tent; the candle itself does not remove the water volume - residing in whatever form - from inside the tent. If you want the air or articles inside a tent to be dryer, the air must be exchanged with drier external air. Breezes circulating around a tent are the primary mechanism that exchanges air inside a tent, but in doing so the breeze also removes most of the heat generated by occupants and other nominal heat sources. These convection issues are why un-insulated water containers freeze inside a tent in cold weather, despite cramming three people inside a two man tent along with two candle lanterns. Thus items hanging inside a tent dry primarily due to convention generated by air circulation, not heat, and air circulation is primarily generated by nature, not a candle or tent occupants.

10:47 a.m. on June 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed, I do believe you misinterpreted most everything I said.

The topic in question, and the aspects I was primarily addressing, were about drying off after getting wet. Particularly, I was speaking to humidity in the tent, and drying clothes. Of course, hypothermia and warming up are related and connected topics, which is why I obliquely touched on them, but they were not the primary focus.

Psychological state is important. If something provides improved morale/psychological/emotional state, without any negative side effects, and in this case some improvement in physical condition, then that is unequivocally a positive thing. Taking a shot of whiskey (or whisky) most definitely would be doing something that has a negative effect. Such is not the case with a candle. An increase of five degrees? That is significant in my book. each additional person or candle doubles the heat output into the tent. I don't know why anyone would want to scoff at that.

The basic physics that I mentioned about extremities needing to heat back up before they will begin radiating the full potential 100watts into exterior space is correct. You can't cheat physics.

Nothing I mentioned even remotely contradicts, negates, or suggests that a cold or hypothermic person should not follow proper methods (i.e.- get dry, insulate, use bodies, etc) to warm themselves up. If someone construed from what was stated that sitting drenched in front of a candle would be sufficient to warm them up, well, then they aren't going to be helped by any discussion here.

A candle will definitely do more that just move air and humidity around inside a tent. It is simple thermodynamics. Hot air rises. If you place a concentrated heat source in a single location in a body of cooler liquid or gas, it creates a tunnel draft proceeding up from that point. Presuming a tent is vented near the top, this will create a much accelerated exchange of humid to dry air inside the tent than with just a body. A body emanates close to the same amount of heat as a candle, but spread out of over many hundreds of times the same area, and cannot create the same concentrated updraft of air. Again, the topic and assertions had less to do with actually heating a tent many degrees, but of drying off, and as specifically mentioned and discussed, drying clothes and dehumidifying the interior of a tent. That heated exchange of air, passing over clothes and the interior of the tent will dry things out much faster than just the warmth from a single body.

Whether air circulation is created primarily by "nature", or not, entirely depends on the location and weather conditions where the tent is set up.

11:42 a.m. on June 17, 2010 (EDT)
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I usually swear a bunch about how "I should have prevented this from happening," then mope around until I can climb into my fartsack. The internal conflict creates stress, which raises my body temperature, while the moping invariably leads to shivering ;-)

Really though, the wet-clothes-inside-the-sleeping-bag method works well for me, even inside my down bags. A single night is usually enough to get them back to the "comfortably damp" stage. The trick is to NOT add more layers. If you bundle up inside your bag, attempting to generate more heat, you might just end up sweating to much, preventing anything from drying properly.

10:06 a.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed, I do believe you misinterpreted most everything I said.

Actually no, I didn’t misinterpret your opinion, I simply and respectfully disagree with it. I think a candle makes little more than a token contribution to drying out clothes in a tent, or as a space heater for tents. Furthermore I think better methods exist to speed drying of clothes.

For the time being let’s ignore the hypothermia issue, I only mentioned it to suggest a candle wasn’t a significant heat source; otherwise it would be integral to managing this condition in first aid training courses.

As for the physics involved generating a convection air current and whether or not 100 Watts of heat moves more air when it emanates from a small point versus a source the size of a human body, I cannot comment, I have long ago forgotten the manner this is calculated. I do know, however, a few degrees difference in temperatures at different elevations is what causes valley and summit winds, and the sources that drive these winds are much larger than a human body and move infinitely more air volume than any man made heat source. But assuming the tent has venting beyond that provided by a door, I can say simply opening the tent fly at the bottom by even a couple of inches will move way more air around and provide far greater exchange between the inside and outside air than a candle could ever accomplish, regardless if there is a breeze or not. The convection caused by thermal differentials between an empty tent interior and the outside air will accomplish this. A breeze will greatly amplify this effect. But if you open the tent you will also mostly cancel out any benefit a candle may provide, since it is actually the combined effect of the ground and tent walls that is responsible for creating most of the heat differential between the interior of the tent and the outside air. And if door is the only vent on the tent, simply opening it up more will also be superior to using a candle to move the air around.

I find the best way to dry clothes is not a tent; it is out in the open, where the wind can have the greatest affect. If you are determined to dry out clothes, one can usually find a place other than a tent where the rain will not reach hanging garments. Lacking such a camp site feature, you can erect a tarp and suspend a clothes line under it for this purpose. When the sun comes out, remove the tarp or move the line so it is in direct sun.

Snow is another matter however, as it seems to invade any interior, given even the smallest of holes, not to mention flocks anything left out in the open. If it's cold I usually wear my damp articles until my body heat causes them to dry. I also try to avoid sweating, and wear minimal layers when I do sweat. (I’m the weirdo you passed shuffling uphill on skis wearing only a pair of running shorts, tights, and a Hawaiian shirt under a wind shell parka in 20 degree weather.) Alas, a few clothing articles don’t ever seem to dry, gaiters for example, but then what dampness resides there is not an issue. Gloves are the hardest winter article to get dry. I usually carry three pairs of inner gloves - one pair reserved for camp only - and alternate wearing the other two pairs, with one pair drying out stashed between my garments when not in use. Often when on snow trips involving rope or ice axe, one just has to accept their work gloves will always be somewhat damp, or resort to VB techniques to mitigate this issue.

pillowthread said:

I usually swear a bunch about how "I should have prevented this from happening," then mope around until I can climb into my fartsack. The internal conflict creates stress, which raises my body temperature, while the moping invariably leads to shivering ;-)

I try to avoid swearing, He generally just rains harder on me! Whiskey, good company, and some spot out of the rain to while away the time has been the recipe to some of the best bull sessions I remember.

11:26 a.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Most of my backpacking is done in the wet, woodsy Southeast. I have found that everything related to staying dry is more complicated than you think, and harder to accomplish in practice than in theory. Especially on longer trips.

Everyone will find a system that works for them, and in their environment, the question is how much will you learn the hard way?

For me experimentation has been a good bit of it. The following is what I do, and it works for me.

I carry a tarp, not a huge one, just something to compliment my tent or to use in my cooking area. It always seems to rain when I'm ready to cook supper, why is that? If no natural shelter is available, such as a cave or rock outcropping, I can set up the tarp for a shelter from the rain. I hike in heavily wooded areas so this works for me.

If I'm at the place where I plan to camp, and set up the tarp to change clothes under, I try to set it up in a place that can become my camp kitchen, then when I have dry clothes on I will set up the rest of my camp, if the rain has quit. Sometimes that is easier said than done.

In cool to cold weather, I carry a heavy micro fleece top & bottom, cap, and two pair of wool socks (one pair can act as mitts) in a water proof bag. I hold these in reserve for emergencies. My emergency clothes are in addition to the two sets I carry for daily wear, that way I always have dry clothes to put on if I get drenched, or fall during a stream crossing.

By doing this I can always get into some dry clothes, provided I can keep my emergency set dry. This does require me to keep at least one set of daily wear clothes dry, with the other drying if needed.

Depending on conditions I like to hang my clothes up to air dry, or in warm sunny weather lay them on large boulders in the sun, or if needed I will build a small fire. Having clothes that are quick drying is, of course, essential for multi day trips.

I do not have to contend with lots of snow blowing around, but I have been 'frozen in' a few times with sleet & ice. I'm still learning the best way to deal with that and have found the advise by other members here at Trailspace very helpful.

12:57 p.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Hay trout it sound's like you have a solid system, the weather is about the same for the most part here in the north east just a tad colder. I do some of the same I don't bring my tarp as much as I should though. I too keep a spare set of cloths (t-shirt, zip off paints, socks, skivvies) and always 2 to 3 (light wool) pare of extra socks, a extremely light weight & compact pair of silk long johns 2.5 - 3oz, nylon rain coat, sandals & hat + the paints, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt skivvies, sock hiking boots I ware. I figure the temps range im covered for is +100 to 30 deg wet or dry spring summer & fall and obviously for the winter its a little different.

1:21 a.m. on June 19, 2010 (EDT)
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This addresses one of the most common and most potentially dangerous problems out there, getting and staying dry. Tents often leak just like babies wet, and they are too small to dry things inside very effectively. Suggest artful use of largish (up to 8x10 foot) waterproof tarps in wet weather rather than tents because bugs are not such a problem in the rain or snow, but staying dry is a very critical problem. Tarps are lighter anyway and can be shaped as needed for shelter such as the classic lean-to towards a fire. You need more dry area and a big hot fire to help with removing moisture. Fire regulations are mostly moot on a rainy day, just find some dry wood under the logs or on the lower branches and pile it on. Stand back far enough to avoid smoke and embers, and let the radiant heat work its power. Optimize the reflectivity, distance from the flames, and roof slope to repel embers. This concurs with the comment,

"...find a place other than a tent where the rain will not reach hanging garments. Lacking such a camp site feature, you can erect a tarp and suspend a clothes line under it for this purpose. When the sun comes out, remove the tarp or move the line so it is in direct sun."

A tarp can be used with or without the tent. Some rainflys make good tarp tents. You need some grommets, cord, and poles of some sort to rig the shelter. I used to use old shower curtains too. Most remote forests need to remove some old dead-and-down wood anyway, so we may as well help on a rainy day. Hypothermia from wet clothes and gear is an emergency and needs a strong response. Wring things out and then Cook that moisture off as much as possible. Watch the steam rise. Have some tea and wait out the storm. Let the embers work all night if need be. Drying out is often more important than sleeping but try to do both. Kill the fire completely before leaving. It is all part of the adventure.

8:26 a.m. on June 25, 2010 (EDT)
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One of the very first times I went hiking in the Smokies, I was totally unprepared. All I had for "rain-gear" was a fly for my pack. I ended up getting stuck in an hour plus deluge which soaked me from head to toe (even with Gore-Tex boots on...LOL). Lesson learned: always carry some sort of rain protection (ie jacket, or poncho) and extra socks and underwear and t-shirt in a waterproof bag of some sort. I now have an Arc'teryx Theta AR, which has kept me dry in some pretty horrendous down pours in Eastern Tennessee, which I keep in my "quick-access" pocket of my pack and keep the other items in a large zip-loc type bag.

As for drying out, once I get my camp site setup, I get into my tent, and put on the dry stuff and read a book for a bit while drying/warming up. It may not be the best way, but it has worked for me.


2:47 a.m. on June 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Basically, I've learned what rambler, trouthunter, and D&G said. On the AT, for a few days in a row I was wet from sweat, mist, and rain, and the humidity was so high that nothing hung up overnight or even on my pack during the day would dry. I carried 2 identical REI synthetic baselayer shirts and a long-sleeved mid-weight (I guess) Underarmour baselayer. In addition to that I had a "waterproof/breatheable" rain jacket (one size larger), and an "emergency" Primaloft jacket (REI brand). I put the word "emergency" in quotes because it actually came in quite handy a few times. I would have had a fleece shirt had I not forgotten it ;-)

While hiking I was fine and dandy despite being wet. As soon as I got into camp I'd start to chill, sometimes to the point of numb hands, so I'd remove the wet shirt and put on the dry shirt. Depending on how cold I was, I would put on some combination of the Underarmour shirt, the rain jacket, or the magically warm Primaloft jacket. I also had a set of lightweight gloves I used a lot, both nights and mornings.

I usually strung a line and hung up my wet stuff, but nothing dried. So in the morning I'd get the treat of putting back on the cold, wet clothing. Sometimes I would put the Underarmour baselayer on over that until I warmed up sufficiently from hiking. It was surprisingly very resistant to getting wet (from sweat at least) and very quick drying. I'm not sure what the magic is, but I think it's the weave--there are clearly two layers and it's a bit "scratchy" even though it's not wool.

I quickly learned that it doesn't pay to get your second set of clothes wet if the first set has no chance of drying. Thankfully I had several zero days in places with washers and dryers ;-) but I think this system worked well for me.

In better/hotter weather, like on the LHHT, I could get into camp, wash my dirty set in my "portable washing machine" (a gallon jug with the top cut off) and hang it overnight and then on my pack and have it pretty much dry by the next night so I could repeat the process.


December 20, 2014
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