The Importance of (Rain) Pants
And 9 other tips for how to stay dry when adventuring in a downpour
In the category of “least thought about but absolutely necessary gear,” rain pants come in right at the top. They’re not nearly as popular as rain jackets, but they’ll absolutely save your ass (see what we did there?) when things go south.
Think about it. When you’re on the trail, 10 miles deep, and the rain starts, it’s only a matter of time before your legs are wet and cold. The water starts seeping into the tops of your exposed boots, leaving you with cold feet with an increased chance for blisters. That wouldn’t happen, however, with something like the Marmot Minimalist GORE-TEX rain pants pulled over your cuffs, keeping your feet and legs warm and dry.
So yeah, rain pants. Use them.
That’s our first hot tip on how to stay happy when the wet stuff starts falling. Here are nine more.
#1: Line Your Pack with a Trash Compactor Bag
When it’s raining hard for hours on end, your backpack will inevitably get soaked, but your clothes and food will stay dry if everything is packed inside a trash compactor bag. These bags, which are significantly tougher than normal trash bags, create an invaluable waterproof lining and weigh less than (often flimsy) rain covers.
#2: Don’t Be Intimidated to Make a Fire
If you need a fire to warm you up after a long day, there’s always a way to get one going, even if it’s still drizzling and the wood is wet. First, bring along cotton balls soaked in Vaseline. These will stay lit for minutes even when it’s raining. Next, look for dryish kindling at the base of trees or under rock overhangs. Finally, start with the thinnest sticks possible, to get a real flame going. Then you can add thicker, wetter logs that will dry out and burn.
#3: Breathability Matters
A plastic rain slicker is extremely waterproof but doesn’t breathe, so you’ll be soaked from sweat almost immediately. Instead, make sure you choose a high-quality shell like the Marmot Minimalist GORE-TEX jacket, which keeps all the rain out but also vents your heat and perspiration, to keep you dry.
#4: Bring a Tarp
A rolled-up tarp can be strapped to the outside of your pack, then hung up from trees to create a dry living space, a rain block for your fire (if the tarp is high enough), and a space to dry clothes. To start, tie 10 to 15 feet of parachute cord between two sturdy points—trees are ideal—and place your tarp over it in the form of an A-frame shelter. Then tie off the corners of the tarp to the ground with more p-cord and stakes. Finally, hang your wet gear on the main line under the tarp.
#5: Find the High Spot at Camp for Your Tent
When it’s dry, the flattest spot at camp is the most comfortable. But when it’s raining, flat spots in low areas like depressions or a ravine, can become shallow lakes. Instead, choose a high and reasonably flat spot at camp where the water will run downhill and not pool underneath the tent floor.
#6: Consider a Single-Wall Tent
Single-wall tents like the Marmot Hammer 2P are designed so the poles sit on the inside of the tent instead of the exterior. This means that in a downpour you can climb inside the tent structure and stay dry while you do the assembling.
#7: Sleep with Your Socks on Your Chest
It might seem gross, but wringing out your wet socks and sleeping with them on your chest in your sleeping bag will dry them out overnight. If your socks are dry because you’re smart and wore rain pants, it’s still a good idea to put them in your bag with you so they’re warm in the morning.
#8: Treat Your Feet
Trench foot, the catch-all term for the myriad of medical issues that can result from having soggy feet for prolonged periods of time, is a real concern when camping in the rain and can shut a trip down like a sprained ankle. Fight trench foot with a travel-size bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Powder. A little bit each night will help dry out your feet and fight microbes.
#9: Cook Smart
No matter how tempting it is to cook inside your tent, don’t do it. You don’t want to inhale stove fumes or set your tent on fire. Instead, throw on a Gore Tex shell like Marmot’s Knife Edge rain jacket, get out and cook under your tarp. In addition to being safer, cooking under the tarp breaks up the monotony of being stuck in your tent.