How to prevent backpack sweat

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Backpacking

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Ever found yourself peeling off a backpack as if it’s a second, sweat-soaked skin?

Yeah, we’ve all been there.

You’re out embracing nature, feeling like a modern-day explorer, only to discover that your back has turned into a mini sauna.

Not exactly the cool, outdoorsy vibe you were going for, right?

Why your back gets super sweaty

Sweat droplets on Ross's back

When you’re carrying a backpack, especially during warm weather or intense activity, your body tends to sweat more to cool down.

The area under the backpack is prone to sweating because it lacks proper airflow, resulting in trapped heat and moisture. F

abrics and materials that don’t breathe well can exacerbate this issue, as seen in many professional backpacks that opt for a dark color for a more professional look.

Wearing a backpack creates pressure and friction against your back, further increasing temperature and causing sweat glands to kick into overdrive.

Some backpacks have designs that hinder ventilation, like those without a raised mesh grid or framing to create a gap between your back and the pack.

For instance, backpacks with better ventilation features are discussed in forums such as the Solo Travel forum on Tripadvisor and on Backpacking Light.

How it impacts your comfort and health

Backpack sweat can lead to discomfort, with moisture soaking into your clothing and causing a clammy feeling.

It can also cause skin irritation or rashes due to prolonged dampness and friction.

In terms of health, when sweat accumulates over time, it could foster the growth of bacteria, leading to unpleasant odours and potentially skin infections.

Not addressing backpack sweat can also lead to dehydration over long periods of outdoor activities, as ongoing sweating means your body is losing essential fluids quicker than you might realize.

Suggestions to combat backpack sweat, such as using backpacks with specific ventilation technologies, are shared by users, like in an Outdoors Stack Exchange discussion.

Choosing the right backpack

A backpack with yellow breathable ventilation and straps

Material matters

When you’re picking a backpack, the fabric can make a big difference in keeping you dry.

Lightweight, breathable materials work best to allow for air circulation, which can reduce sweat.

Design features for ventilation

Look for a backpack with a suspended mesh back panel.

This design keeps the pack away from your back, allowing air to flow and reducing sweat.

Some backpacks also include ventilation channels that provide additional airflow.

Proper backpack fit and adjustment

It’s important to get a backpack that fits your body size and has adjustable straps.

A snug fit without being too tight is the goal, as this helps to distribute weight evenly and promote airflow.

Chest and hip straps also take some of the load off your shoulders, which can minimize sweating.

Clothing strategies

Camp clothing items on the ground

Breathable fabrics

You’ll want to pick clothes that let your skin breathe to reduce backpack sweat.

Materials like nylon and polyester are great because they allow air to circulate, which helps to keep you cool.

Check out 7 Tips for Packing All the Right Clothing for Your First Backpacking Trip for fabric suggestions.

Layering techniques

Dressing in layers can help manage sweat by adjusting to temperature changes.

Start with a light base layer and add or remove items as needed.

For more guidance on effective layering, visit The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Clothes.

Moisture-wicking apparel

Wearing moisture-wicking apparel is key to staying dry.

These fabrics pull sweat away from the body to the surface of the clothing, where it can evaporate.

For specific clothing items, check out advice from Amanda Outside on selecting the best moisture-wicking gear.

Pack smart

Two red and grey backpacks sitting in grass in the mountains

When it comes to preventing backpack sweat, packing smart plays a pivotal role.

Balanced weight distribution

You’ve got to distribute the weight evenly in your backpack.

An uneven load can cause your backpack to hug the body too tightly, trapping heat and causing sweat.

Stick to placing heavier items close to your back and at the center.

Lighter items should go toward the front or the bottom of the pack.

Minimizing pack content

Cut down on the stuff you’re hauling.

Ask yourself if you really need each item for your trip.

Focus on multipurpose gear and clothing that’s lightweight and breathable.

Remember, a lighter backpack allows for better airflow between the pack and your back, reducing the chance for sweat to build up.

On-the-go techniques

Sweating through a moisture wicking shirt

Resting regularly

To combat backpack sweat, take short breaks during your hike.

Find a shady spot and remove your backpack to let your back air out.

Managing sweat with hygiene

Pack travel-sized wipes or a small towel to wipe away perspiration.

Stay fresh by wearing moisture-wicking clothing that helps keep sweat at bay.

Staying hydrated

Filtering water with a BeFree water filter

When you’re backpacking, your body’s working overtime and sweating more than usual.

Drinking enough water is key to prevent dehydration, which can lead to backpack sweat.

Carry a hydration backpack or a water bottle like the Katydyn BeFree 1.0 litre water filter (pictured above) that’s easy to access so you can sip regularly.

Consider the climate and your activity level to determine how much water you need.

A general guideline is to drink about half a litre per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures.

In hot climates, or if you’re sweating a lot, you might need to drink more.

Signs of dehydration

Be on the lookout for:

  • Dry mouth or thirst
  • Fatigue or dizziness
  • Dark urine

How to drink more water

  • Start your day with water to hydrate from the start.
  • Drink small amounts frequently rather than large amounts less often.

Flavour your water

If you’re not keen on plain water, try adding an electrolyte mix or tablets to your water.

This can make drinking more enjoyable and help you drink more.

They’ll also help replace salts lost through sweat and can prevent cramping.

Trail tips

Backpacking on a trail surrounded by trees and a lake

Pacing and breaks

You’ll want to maintain a steady pace that matches your fitness level.

Taking regular breaks helps regulate your body temperature and reduces sweat buildup.

Awareness of climate and terrain

Be mindful of how hot or cold and how rough or smooth the terrain will be on your journey.

Choosing the right clothing and gear for these conditions can significantly reduce sweat.

After the hike

Once you’re done hiking, give your backpack a once-over to get rid of any dirt or debris.

Open up all the pockets and shake out any loose soil or leaves.

If you’ve got a backpack with a frame that promotes airflow, like the Deuter models, make sure to wipe down the frame too.

Clothing care

Your clothes have worked hard on the trail, so they’ll need some TLC.

Start by turning them inside out before tossing them in the wash. This helps get rid of all the sweat that has built up.

For more breathable fabrics, such as those mentioned in Backpacker’s guide, use a gentle cycle to keep them in good condition for your next adventure.

More about backpacking:

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About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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