How to Backpack in the Rain (And Stay Happy)

 With all the rain in Southern California lately (insert sigh of relief), Los Angelenos are faced with an alternate reality – we just can’t take sunshine and blue skies on our weekend adventures for granted anymore!

In T–9 days, we are headed on a backpacking adventure in Joshua Tree National Park. Predicting the weather feels like catching a fly in the dark – 30%, 60%, no wait, 20% chance of rain. It’s enough drive you mad!

So what can we do to prepare? Whether you’re planning a 3-day backpacking trip in Joshua Tree or the Lost Coast, here are some tips to help you stay dry and happy.

Layer Up

Opt for wool and synthetic layers, which will retain warmth when wet. Avoid cotton at all costs.

  • Base Layer: Wear a base layer that fits close to your skin.
  • Mid-Layer: Try a fleece or synthetic vest or jacket, like the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket.
  • Outer-Layer: Wear a breathable, hard shell jacket and pants. In heavy rain, your shell will lose some breathability. Pit zips will help circulate fresh air when you sweat. You can also remove your mid-layer if you are too warm. That’s the beauty of layering!

Waterproof Your Pack

Cover your backpack with a rain cover, like the REI Co-op rain cover, or line it with a trash compactor bag before you insert your gear (a trick I learned from Snowqueen & Scout). Store everything that is not water-proof in zip-locks, trash bags or a waterproof stuffsack, like the Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack. Store those items toward the bottom of your pack to keep them from getting wet when you open your pack. Keep a pair of dry clothes and socks for sleeping. As a rule, do not bring wet things into your tent.

Protect Your Feet

Let’s face it. Your feet are probably going to get wet, but we can try to keep them dry longer with waterproof gaiters, especially if they are layered under hard shell pants. Moisture may cause blisters, so keep your First Aid Kit handy.

Additional Resources

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