Tech Tip – Staying Dry in Alaska, Part II

tents with alaska tundra

It’s hard to predict the weather in Alaska, and over the last 40 years of hiking, backpacking, ice climbing, and rafting out here, we’ve learned that we should always be prepared for rain. Here are some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned to manage our moisture (and our spirits) during a soggy trip!

Tips for Staying Dry in Camp:

  • Once in camp, choose a location for your tent that drains well – you don’t want to wake up in a puddle! Choose higher ground or small rocky patches over tundra. The tundra will absorb moisture like a sponge and can stay wet for days after a big storm.
  • Set up your tent efficiently, only staking out one or two corners only if it’s windy (the corners facing the wind). Otherwise, your goal is to get the tent up and that rain fly on as soon as possible! Then you can stake out the rest of the corners and start working on guy lines. Guying out your tent well will be critical to allow your tent to shed water and not flap loudly in the wind. Use rocks or stakes to get the lines and the fly fabric as taught as possible.
  • Bring along a lightweight, floorless cook tent (we like Black Diamond Mega Light Tents), where you can cook your dinner or just hang out together while it’s pouring. It goes against bear safety protocols to cook dinner inside your own vestibule anyway, and sometimes you don’t want to be forsaken to your lonely quarters just because it’s raining! Get together to keep each other warm, make some hot drinks, and bust out that deck of cards to make the most out of the afternoon!
  • If you’ve got a few damp items by the end of the night (gloves and socks are the common culprits), sleep with them in your sleeping bag. Your body heat will dry them out by morning. Just be careful not to “overload the dryer.”
    • Pro trip: if your socks or gloves are damp when you get to camp, store them in an inner jacket pocket (unzipped) or under your armpits inside your jacket. It’s the ideal combination of heat and ventilation to dry out soggy socks! (You’ll get nose-blind to the smell eventually…)

  • Stay aware of the weather and as soon as the rain stops, use the opportunity to dry out your gear! Shake off your tent and set up a clothesline using that p-cord you always carry around for emergencies and your trekking poles. Stay vigilant to turn items over as they bake in the sun and be ready to gather it all up in a flash and get back inside if the rain comes back!
  • If you’re packing up a wet tent, try to be as quick and efficient as possible! Shake off the rain fly well (find a partner and give it a few good shakes), and roll it up on itself (you can even pack it up in a trash bag) to try and contain the moisture. When you get into camp the next night, set it up to dry out!
  • Bring a book, journal, or some other form of personal entertainment. We truly go out rain or shine, but if it’s been all day or even several days of hiking in the rain, you may want to use the opportunity to cozy up in your sleeping bag and get a few hours of uninterrupted personal time. If you’re an extrovert and the thought of sitting quietly in your tent freaks you out a little, make sure to come prepared with cards, lightweight games, stories, and jokes, and gather your friends in the cook tent for a good ol’ time together!

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