What to do with a wet tent when backpacking

by | Nov 29, 2023 | Backpacking

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Packing up a wet tent can dampen your spirits as much as your gear.

It’s a common scenario when backpacking, especially when the weather decides to throw you a curveball.

You’ve woken up to a soggy tent; now what?

Don’t worry, you’ve got options to keep everything from becoming a mildewy mess.

Tents can get wet from many things

Rain droplets on a tent

A wet tent often results from condensation, precipitation, and packing it away while it’s still damp.

If you set up your tent in a low-lying area, you might wake up with moisture inside due to the cooler air at ground level.

Guidelines such as checking for leaks before you sleep and properly pitching your tent can also make a big difference.

Potential consequences

Keeping gear dry is a must, as a wet tent can lead to mildew or mould.

Added moisture in your backpack means more weight for you to carry, which can tire you out on the trail.

Plus, if you don’t separate wet and dry camping gear, everything might end up damp, making for an uncomfortable and potentially harmful situation.

Immediate steps post rain

Lifting up a tent from its ground sheet

After the rain stops, act quickly to minimize tent dampness and prepare for drying.

Find a sunny or windy spot to expedite the drying process.

Give your tent a good shake to remove as much water as possible before packing or drying.

Gently wipe your tent with a towel to absorb remaining moisture.

During the hike

Hiking in the fall

When your tent gets wet during a backpacking trip, you’ll need to manage it effectively to continue your journey comfortably.

Carrying a wet tent

After breaking camp, shake off as much water as you can from your tent.

Stuff the tent into an exterior mesh pocket of your backpack if it’s wet, this allows for some air circulation which might help it dry as you hike.

If it’s especially wet, consider wrapping it in a plastic bag before placing it in the mesh pocket to avoid getting other items damp.

Check out these practical tips on how thru-hikers manage wet tents on the trail.

Preventing further soaking

Pack your wet tent separately from dry gear to prevent moisture transfer.

Use a waterproof pack liner or cover to protect your backpack’s contents from any leaks or external rain.

Consider taking opportunities to air out your tent during breaks if the weather permits.

Learn about the best ways to pack a wet tent to minimize hassle and maintain the condition of the rest of your gear.

Setting up camp with a wet tent

Three-season tent in the fall

When setting up a wet tent while backpacking, your primary goals should be to prevent further saturation and to create a comfortable, dry sleeping environment.

Choosing the right location

Select an area that’s elevated and has good drainage to reduce the chance of water pooling under your tent.

Avoid valleys and paths where water naturally flows.

Assembling the tent

Unpack your tent and lay out all the components.

First, secure the groundsheet to prevent moisture from seeping up.

Then erect the poles and attach the tent body.

Cover with the rainfly to protect against additional rain.

Dealing with moisture inside

Once assembled, dry the interior with a towel or cloth.

Ventilation is key, so open any vents or doors to aid in air circulation.

If possible, place gear that can withstand moisture underneath any leaks to protect your sleeping area.

Long-term care

When your backpacking trip wraps up, giving your tent some TLC can make a big difference.

Let’s talk about what you need to do after you’re back from the wild and before storing your gear.

Tent maintenance after the trip

Once you’re home, it’s time to tackle tent maintenance.

Dry your tent completely to prevent mold and mildew. You can hang it outside on a dry day or set it up in a well-ventilated area.

Check for any damage like small tears or seam issues.

Repair kits are handy for fixing minor problems before they turn into big ones.

If your tent needs a clean, do it with mild soap and water – never use a washing machine.

Storage tips for wet gear

Storing wet gear is asking for trouble.

Make sure everything is bone dry. Stuff sacks might be great for the trail, but at home, give your tent room to breathe.

Store it loosely in a large cotton or mesh bag.

Keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to avoid UV damage. Don’t forget to unpack regularly to air it out and check for any issues.

That way, you’ll be ready for your next adventure without any nasty surprises.

Preventative measures to take

Taking steps to prevent your tent from getting wet can make your backpacking trip much more enjoyable.

Here’s what you need to focus on to keep dry.

Waterproofing strategies

It’s best to apply a waterproof coating or sealant to your tent before you head out.

Choose a clear, sunny day to apply it and give it plenty of time to dry.

Packing for wet conditions

Selecting the right gear can make all the difference when facing rain.

Pack a rainfly that extends over the tent entrance and use a groundsheet to avoid groundwater seepage.

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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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