Staying Dry?

Just got back from four days in Maine traveling across four lakes. The first two nights it rained pretty hard. The second night the rain started pounding us before we got our tents up.

Between setting up in the rain and taking down wet tents and setting them back up the next night everything got pretty wet. Luckily it never got too cold.

So how do folks traveling in the rainy season keep the insides of their tents dry?



body heat
Wipe out tent with quick dry pants or shirt that you won’t need tomorrow…

Inflate or roll out sleeping pad…

Get in sleeping bag in driest clothes available…

Keep everything else in dry bags (opened) until morning

Hang anything you can inside the tent…Paddling gear stays in the vestibule.



– Last Updated: Sep-30-08 8:28 PM EST –

Makes me cold just reading it! : ) I am sitting by an open window & fall has arrived here.

If it is cool weather, I am totally obsessive on keeping everything packed up tight until I get a tarp up. Pack the tarp & rain gear on top. Set up the tarp first. At least you can put your gear under there (already in dry bags or liners). You can set up your tent under the tarp as well, if possible. WOOL socks & clothes. At least you will still be warm if it gets wet.

Also, I try to keep one outfit dry at all times, even it means putting wet clothes back on to take the tent down/mess with gear. then put the dry ones on/rain gear to take off.

If the inside of the tent is wet, like the girl said above, sponge it/dry it with towels or old clothes totally before putting bedding down.

After it quits,spread out wet clothes on your packs in the sun while you are paddling.

The Rain in Maine Falls Mainly on …
Tommy - where did you go? Trip report needed please.

Tough call. As my son and my tripping friends will attest to, I am nuts about trying to stay dry, especially in the cold Maine spring. I keep reserve layers of clothes deep in the pack that I only use at night. Sometimes I’ll keep the tent in a dry bag until it has to get wet. Cover gear in the canoe with a tarp if it is raining all day. I will keep other gear under the canoe at night.

For some reason, I am not impressed with Goretex shells. I always feel wet. I haven’t found a great substitute yet either though.

I bet you still had a good time though???

I have to be reasonably dry
I pack everything in drybags and the first thing I do to set up camp in the rain is string up a tarp. I prefer a small tent in sucky weather because they are easier and faster to set up when I need a tent fast. My tiny one man tent isn’t much bigger than a sleeping bag so I can set it up under a small tarp then the only thing that goes in the tent is sleeping gear. Preferably dry sleeping gear. Everything else stays out under the tarp or in the dry bags. I also try to limit the trips in and out of my tent knowing each time I pass through the door wet I am adding to the moisture inside. I don’t bring in wet clothes. No wet socks or shoes. No wet towels. That would spell doom for a dry sleeping bag in such a small tent. Having spent a few cold wet nights in a cold wet sleeping bag, I put a high premium on staying dry as possible.

Sometimes there aint much one can do to remain dry after a few days of driving rain. I thank God for synthetic sleeping bags and polartec clothing. I also wear a kickass goretex jacket and pant combo which helps a little. I tend not to pack extra clothes. Two shirts. Two pants. one pair of wool socks. A good wool hat. Just the basics.

A bunch of us are heading up to that same neck of the woods this weekend. It is suppose to rain (not nearly like it did last weekend) and night temps are suppose to be kind of cold with early morning hours around freezing. I hope to stay reasonably dry. Will self medicate as needed. Can’t wait to get out in the woods again.

Florida Rain

– Last Updated: Oct-01-08 8:35 AM EST –

We got tired of wet tent, leaks and researched tents to accommodate this issue because it was getting to be a pain. We purchased the Big Agnes Madhouse 3. Once you get this up and the fly on it - you can get into the outter compartment and leave all wet items here. Then inside the tent all stays dry. This tent even seals up from the inside when you aren't using the fly. You can even put the fly up first and then push the tent up under it to try and keep your tent as dry as possible.

We were lucky and found ours for under $200, but it is a great tent made for all the elements. We love it and have found once you setup the tent itself dries quick or stays dry and the rain fly design keeps rain out.

Otherwise, rain is rain - sometimes it just bites to be wet all the time - ugh! But I'd rather be in the rain -- then stuck behind my boring desk job dry.

We are looking at getting the Noah Ketly Tarp now to set this up first and then our tent. This way the Kelty can stay wet, but our tent would packup dry.

I also take a sponge or some type of absorber with me so when it does stop raining I can wipe down the tent so it will dry faster.

Dry Socks
I take more socks then days … nothing better then having a nice pair of dry socks on your feet at night.

It is NOT supposed to rain

– Last Updated: Oct-01-08 9:06 AM EST –

next weekend in Western Maine.

It IS raining today (again).

Keeping the inside of the tent dry is helped by minimizing entrances, a pack towel, and an entrance mat of some sort so you dont climb in with wet dirt stuck to you.

Tarp: I always set one up if it looks or is inclement. Gear stored under tarp, not in tent vestibule. This gives me another living space so that I am in the tent only to sleep. Tarp is presumably wet so if I am travelling it and the tent fly go in a dry bag to keep the cancer of wetness from spreading.

My sleeping bag and sleeping mat and tent are regarded as holy and never to get wet. Hence they all go in dry bags and the entire pack lined with a dry bag liner.

I have kept my tent dry in two weeks of wet and rain in Northern Ontario (near Fort Hope) I change under the tarp.

Dont skimp on sox.. there is nothing as blissful as dry wool sox.

I carry two sets of clothes. One dry for camp only. One wet for paddling only. Dont wear paddling clothes in camp..too easy to make error and get your dry stuff wet.

Also stringing your tarp over a line makes a handy clothesline. You can build a small campfire just outside the tarp boundaries and if you have a capstone on the fire reflect heat back under the tarp for drying. During my 15 day wet period, I only had six changes of socks so I had to dry some by fire heat! The temperature topped out at seven the high forties.

Leaf report.
Foliage progression has slowed down alot. the weather has been too warm. Things change by the weekend, with the frost coming that we need.

Sell the tent and buy a tarp
I live in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass rain forest and use tarps for camping. If it is cold we use a floorless Pyramid Tarp. We often pack the tarp and Pyramid wet. The tarps dry fast if it isn’t raining at the next camp, and if the weather continues to be damp we simply set the tarp high enough to avoid bumping our heads and shoulders while we are inside. Our Kitchen tarp is treated in the same manner. We have never been rained on under our tarp, and it rains more than 100 inches a year here. In all, we bring about 260 sq feet of tarps when we know the weather is going to be foul; that includes a 10x12 sleeping tarp, 8x10 kitchen tarp and the pyramid at 80 square feet. People new to this wet part of the world gradually rid themselves of their tents.

Take a look at for pictures of these tarps.

Obvious question
What about bugs?


My system
I have used a Eureka Backcountry solo for the past three years. It only cost $100 but it has worked very well for me on the Maine and Newfoundland coasts. I paddle an Impex Outer Island which has an eight inch diameter front hatch and a maximum depth aft of the cockpit of seven inches. As a necessity, I use a bunch of seven inch diameter dry bags. One thing I do to stay dry is to take all of my dry bags; clothes, food and gear, and arrange them around the inside perimeter of my tent to form a nest so my sleeping bag doesn’t touch the damp wall of the tent. I, like some of the other posters, carry a separate set of fleece exclusively for sleeping (fleece pants, hooded sweatshirt and socks). This year I have spent around 40 nights in my tent and haven’t had a bad night despite a lot of drizzly, foggy conditions.

Re: what about bugs
The big lie about Southeast Alaska is the bugs. Most often the breeze keeps them away, and when there is no wind, there is always the smoke of the fire. Add a bivy and that about takes care of the bugs. It is possible to void a lot of the bug problem by selecting a camp site away from tall beach grass and still water.

paddle in the rain.
Ive been out where it was raining like the second coming for a week and stayed totally dry…even the tent. I ALWAYS bring a big cheap plastic tarp and some roap. When its raining I set up the tarp between two trees and high enough for the tent to go under.

I then set up the tent under the tarp where it will stay dry all night and day, and i can even take it down in the pouring rain the next morning and pack it away dry. The tarp allows me to change from my rain gear under it and into dry/sleeping cloths without dragging water soaked rain gear in your tent.

I cant recall ever having a wet tent that ive packed.

Once the tent is taken down the put away the next day…you just fold up the wet tarp and place it either on your deck or tucked into the side of the boat somewhere. It doesnt matter if the tarp is wet all day or for the entire trip.

Ive set up many camps during a pouring rain and was completely dry.

Tarp - No Trees
A lot of the tarp write ups are good here, but if you don’t have tree access - then it will be hard to tie off. Some places, especially beach camping, don’t give you access. This is why we are going with the Kelty Noah Tarp - to allow for a tent to go under it and stay dry. I do like the idea of the Kitchen Tarp and we’ll look into it but the Pyramid Tarp has a pole in the middle, but I know you are using this without a tent – not an option in Florida - since bugs abound everywhere and they seem to be immune to deet here :-). Good stuff on all the gear posted in this message on drying to stay dry.

Rain Fly.
We have been using a rain fly salvaged from a Eureka timberline 4 and it is OK but bigger would be better. If you can set one up to cover the door area of your tent it will help keep the wet out pretty well. We carry an aluminum extention pole made for paint rollers which can be used vertically or horizontally as the situation calls for. Doesn’t weigh very much and you just twist lock it to fit. We also carry a synthetic chamois cloth made for wiping off your car. They absorb water quite well and weigh nothing when dry.


Tarp, no trees
I learned to use a tarp while paddling in Baffin and Greenland, where there are no trees. On page 10 of my flickr photos

there is a picture of an old tarp that has sleeves sewn into the corners. We slipped our spare paddles inside those sleeves as supports, then tied each off to rocks or small bushes. Works well. Another option is to simply put a paddle under a large tarp and tie down the corners.

The Pyramid tarp is held up most frequently with my Inuit paddle, seldom with the aid of a tree. By the way, you can purchase a netting along the bottom of the OwareUSA pryamid. Even with the netting the total weight would still be just over two pounds for 80 sq feet of living space.


I camp with a Clark hammock with the largest fly.The first thing I do when setting up in the rain is hang the hammock fly.then the hammock which I keep in a dry bag with the sleeping bag inside.I then bring everything under the fly.If it keeps raining I do everything except nature calls and hanging food under the fly.Things hung on the hammoc ropes under the fly dry somwhat.When taking down in the rain I don my rain gear and paddling clothes,pack everything and last take down the hammoc fly.If When traveling it clears up I sometimes stop for lunch at a sunny,windy spot and string a clothesline and dry things then if I think it will rain again before night.Fleece and nylon dry fast.In warm weather when paddling,I try to keep warm and dry from my thighs up and only wear sandles from there down-no rainpants.My long rain coat is great here.After getting to camp it’s a great luxury to put on long pants and dry socks!I find not putting the hood up on your rain coat and wearing a wide brimed rain hat helps moisture to get out under your rainclothes.

Hope some of this is of use,


Kelty Noah Tarp
So you are using the Kelty and spare paddles to hold it up - that’s a great Idea. Can you email me how you are doing this exactly - we didn’t want to expense the extra $25 to $50 on the poles – so this would work our great since we both travel with spare paddles. It’s hard to tell from the photo how you have this working. Great idea - thank you for the suggestion!

The biggest problem for me
on that trip (I was with Tommy and a few others) wasn’t keeping my sleeping bag or pad dry, or even having dry clothes available…Unless I was wearing it in the rain, my stuff stayed powder dry. Dry bags are wonderful things.

But the tent…when one sets up a tent that is mostly mesh, and has a big rain fly, the inside inevitably gets wet. And if it rains all night the tent stays wet until the next time one sets it up. Once I got my tent up, I dried off the floor with a towel before I set down my pad and bag. That worked.

What would have worked better (and what I usually do) is if I keep a small tarp to lay down INSIDE the tent, big enough to run a few inches up the walls. That way even water seeping through the floor of the tent cant reach you.

I’m also a big fan of setting up a tarp first, but I couldn’t find the energy or brain power to do that this trip.


boy the
weather really sucks up here all the time and there is no real way to stay dry and warm so all you flatlanders should stay home