Whether you’re backpacking or camping, getting your clothes wet can be a serious buzzkill. Sometimes, you’re voluntarily splashing into a nice cool lake or river on a sweltering summer day. In this case, it’s not such a big deal because the weather is nice and you’ll likely dry off in an hour or so! However, the climate isn’t always so forgiving. Your weekend camping trip may turn south real quick if some unexpected showers show up and dampen you and your clothes. In the odds of inescapable weather, how do we return soggy, damp clothes back to a wearable state?
In this blog we’ll talk a bit about some easy techniques for splaying out wet clothes when the sun is out and you have a weather advantage. We’ll also give some crucial tips you may not have known for when you’re being showered and have little shelter options from the rain.
A quick note before we start, however, is that cotton is your worst enemy. It traps moisture like none other and takes forever to dry out. On top of this, getting cotton wet in cold weather can be deadly because it totally saps your body heat. We always recommend synthetic fabric or something moisture-wicking, like our very own lineup of tees and long sleeves - which you can check out here!
Weather-Permitting Drying Techniques
If you’re in a hot place, you’re probably already pretty familiar with how easy it is to drive off while outdoors, especially when you’re on the go and your body heat is doing some of the work. When you get back to camp, though, here are some things to try:
Squeeze Out Excess Water
First things first, let’s try and get as much moisture and water out of the clothing as possible. If you try to hang something out to dry, the extra packed-in moisture will only slow things down and take forever to condensate, even in good weather. Give it a good squeeze and twist to really ring out any water. Rubbing clothes between your hands will also create some friction which can help speed up drying.
This is another preemptive strategy to try before you actually hang or lay the clothing out to dry. Wrapping the wet clothes up in a dry towel won’t completely dry it but it will absorb a lot of moisture, then you can hang them out and let the sun take care of the rest. Leave them in the towel for about 20-30 minutes before removing them.
Hang them on a Clothesline
Any makeshift clothesline is a good old fashioned way to help dry clothes off faster. Simply tie any type of rope or string you might have between two trees and string’em up. If you can, try and find a spot with some good airflow, as a cool breeze will accelerate your dry time greatly. An alternative to hanging them to dry would be to lay them on top of your tent or a rock in the sun.
If you station your makeshift clothesline next to a fire, the heat will help the evaporation process. Just be sure to keep the clothes at least 5 feet away from the campfire and follow campsite safety regulations!
When it Rains it Pours
Weather won’t always be on your side. Even a light drizzle over time can critically dampen your clothing and make time spent in the wonderful outdoors much less enjoyable. It also takes almost all of the previously mentioned fixes off the table. So how do you dry out clothes in the midst of poor weather? Again, we can’t stress enough that you invest in quick-dry fabrics and moisture-wicking clothing. Even if you aren’t expecting any rainfall, it’s a plus to have for when you get sweaty on the trail. These aren’t be-all end-all solutions by any means, but they can help make you a smidge more comfortable in the face of soggy adversity.
Sheltered Hang Station
It’s extremely worthwhile to invest in a waterproof tarp as well as some guy lines. A tent footprint will also work as a quick shelter, but Redcamp Waterproof Camping Tarps are lightweight, cheap and pack down super small. Once you’ve constructed your shelter, you’re all set to fashion the clothesline technique. If it’s really pouring, all of that humidity will slow the process, but it’s better than nothing!
It may also be worth it to invest in a few tarps to cover more ground on your campsite. Keeping your eating station covered, for instance, and building a campfire just outside the tarp will create a cozy space for you to find respite.
Hang Dry in the Tent
This is a worst case scenario solution, because your tent is likely to have limited space for you to hang anything inside of it, depending on its size. This also raises the concern of getting the inside of your tent wet from the dripping water, which is why we recommend the towel or ring-dry method before hanging anything wet in your only safe haven. Try and leave any tent windows open so you get the best airflow possible.
Unfortunately this is about the extent of what you can do to stay dry while camping in the rain. Planning ahead can save you the wetness, but if you’re backpacking or thru-hiking, things are much more difficult. We’ve heard of people sleeping in their damp clothing, because your body heat insulating within your sleeping bag apparently helps dry things off! If there’s a technique you know that we missed, be sure to drop it in the comments.