Staying Dry, Even in the Wet!

When planning trips in advance, the weather can not be anticipated. As your trip gets closer every day, you probably find yourself doing what I do: looking at all the different websites for weather forecasts. No matter how many websites you look at, they all say something similar: 80% chance of rain for the next 3 days. Now what? So you refresh your browser and check out another weather website hoping a different forecast will miraculously show up with sunshine for the next 3 days. Sadly, that is not the case! Many times plans change due to dismal weather forecasts and fears of nasty storms. Having grown up in Washington and having spent the last several years working as an IFMGA mountain guide in the Cascades, I’ve grown accustomed to dealing with wet weather. I have learned to thrive in the wetness and can not quite imagine a mountaineering trip without some mandatory wet weather days. After many failed attempts at trying to keep gear dry, I have finally created a system that works quite well. The following are some of the strategies I use to help stay dry during the wetness.

  1. Use Garbage Bags Garbage bags are a great way to keep things dry. I recommend 3 heavy duty trash compactor bags. First, I line the inside of my backpack with garbage bag #1, placing all items in that garbage bag that I’m not going to need until I get to camp. Second I take garbage bag #2 and use it in the top part of my pack, putting in clothing layers and other important items that I want to stay dry. Garbage bag #3 stays near the top of my pack. When I get to camp I put items in the garbage bag #3 as set up my tent. This system will help keep all of your clothes and important items dry.

 2. Gloves and Quick Dry Clothes Gloves with removable liners are a great way to keep your hands warm and dry. Being able to pull out the liner part of your gloves will allow them to dry much faster. Having clothes that dry quickly will also help set you up for success. I recommend wool tops and other synthetic blended materials that dry quickly. I bring several lighter weight layers which tend to dry out faster than “heavy thick” layers. 

  3. Your Personal Heater Your body is your personal drying system. At night, I take my wet socks off and place them in between my clothing layers either up by shoulders or down at my thighs. The heat that your body produces helps dry out wet socks and gloves. Your sleeping bag turns into your personal night time heater. I will put all damp clothes that I want to dry out overnight in my sleeping bag. I even take the insoles out of my boots and liners (if using a double boot system) and place them in my sleeping bag. Clothes that are very wet like my Gore-tex shell and pants I place in between my two sleeping pads over night and the heat will slowly dry them. 

  4. Extra Socks It’s always nice to have an extra pair for dry socks. On overnight trips for only a couple days, I bring two pairs of socks and use my “personal heater” to dry one pair out as I wear the other pair. If the trip is longer than 5 days, I recommend bringing three pairs of socks. Changing into a dry pair can help keep your feet happy and morale high! 

  5. Warmth at Nighttime Nothing helps keep you warm like a nice big meal in your stomach. Eating a big dinner will help you stay warm all night. As your body digests that large pasta and sausage meal you ate, it releases energy, helping to create more body heat. Another tip is to make a “hot water bottle.” Bring some water to a boil and put it in your water bottle then put that bottle in your sleeping bag or in between your layers. And remember a cold body results in a cold sleeping bag. So before you hop into that bag for the night, move around and get warm. A warm body will heat up a cold sleeping bag quickly resulting in a better night sleep. 

 So get out there and experience the mountains. Even when they are wet, they are still beautiful! And sometimes the forecast is wrong! 

Learn more about Jonathon and follow along with his guiding adventures on his website Snow, Rock, And Ice Adventures.