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LCN OutdoorsHikingHiking GuideHow to Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips in Winter

How to Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips in Winter

How to Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips in Winter
How to Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips in Winter

Even in winter, clothes can get wet: by sweat or wet snow, for example. When they get wet, they stop giving you warmth and can even take heat away from your body, making it cooler. It would be nice to have a warm shelter nearby, where you can dry your stuff and get warm yourself. But this is rarely the case in autonomous camping, so you should keep an eye on your clothes and equipment and dry them on the trail if necessary. I’ll show you how not to get wet in the winter and how to dry off if something goes wrong. You will learn more about How to Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips in Winter by LCNOutdoors article.


How Not To Get Wet On The Route And At Camp

Keeping your clothes from getting wet while camping in the winter is much easier than thinking about how to dry them. There are a few simple rules for this.

Choose clothes that don’t get sweaty

Wearing the same set of clothes will get you cold if you don’t move in place, and overheat if you actively move. The movement will keep you warm, but too much clothing will lead to overheating: first, you will sweat, then wet clothes will cause you to freeze at the first rest point.

A set of clothes for the backcountry should be different from those used for camping and sleeping. It’s simple: you put on a warm jacket (down jacket) at the campsite or rest stop, take it off, and put it on top of your pack to get to it quickly, then put it on at the next stop. The jacket will keep you from getting cold and flu during the stops, and the lighter running clothes will help keep you from sweating.

The hills under your backpack are hot, even in the winter, so you should dress as lightly as possible to avoid overheating.

If you get hot on the move, you can unzip your clothing and open the ventilation features if they are provided in the design (ventilation zippers under the jacket arms, zippers on the pants, etc.). If you still feel overheated, stop and take off another layer of clothing.

In windless weather, you can replace the top membrane jacket with a breathable jacket. Most older generation membranes don’t work well in temperatures below 32 °F (0°C), but the breathable material will allow excess heat to escape without sweating. A fleece jacket or softshell jacket is appropriate.

Moderate activities, such as camping or preparing firewood for a stove or campfire, will help you dry off slightly damp clothing after a day of hiking.

Be prepared for wet weather

During your hike, you may encounter thawing, wet snow, or even rain. Such weather is more typical in the off-season, but warm winters are not uncommon in our country, both in parts of Europe and on the northern coast. The main danger of getting wet in winter is that the temperature quickly changes from above 32 °F (0 °C) to below 32 °F (0 °C) and all your wet clothes and equipment will freeze in a short time. Therefore, the outer layers of clothing must be well protected from moisture and the tent must not get wet.

Don’t forget the backpack cover. But even this is not a 100% guarantee against getting wet, so it is recommended to pack important equipment (spare clothes or sleeping bag) in an airtight bag.

Wet snow is more common in the off-season, but you may also get caught in it during the winter.

You Will Learn More About How To Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips In Winter
You Will Learn More About How To Not Get Wet While Hiking Trips In Winter

Handling condensation

In frosty weather, there will be a layer of frost on the tent walls, which is condensation. This is caused by the difference in temperature between the outside and inside and the increased humidity inside the tent. The more waterproof a tent awning is, the less breathable it will be, and therefore more condensation will occur.

What are the dangers of condensation?

Condensation itself is not a problem, but if you touch the tent walls, condensation can fall on your clothes or sleeping bag. And if there is wind outside, condensation can fall off the wall even if no one is touching it. Outer coats don’t usually cling to condensation, but they can cling perfectly to any woolen fabric, such as wool.

This is all well and good if the hike is easy and lasts a few days. Even if your clothes get a little wet in the meantime, you won’t hesitate to dry them when you return to the warmth of civilization. If you have to make a long autonomous trip, that’s a different story. Then you have to take care of your clothes and equipment from day one and dry them out somehow.

Keeping your sleeping bag dry is especially important because your sleep and camping comfort depends on the condition of your sleeping bag. At night, the temperature inside the tent often drops below 32 °F (0 °C). At the same time, the inside of the sleeping bag itself is warm – you are generating heat and breathing. Because of the temperature difference between the inside and outside, some condensation forms on or inside the sleeping bag, and by morning, the bag becomes slightly damp. There is a “dew point”, which is the point where the temperature changes from negative to positive and where the dew condenses. Depending on conditions, this point is either inside the sleeping bag, closer to the outer layer, or on the surface of the sleeping bag.

If a damp sleeping bag has been in a cold backpack all day, it will freeze properly. And the farther you go, the worse it gets. For this reason, on long winter hikes, donkeys often use an extra top layer for their sleeping bags: a condensation jacket.

What is a condensation jacket?

It is essentially either another thin sleeping bag or just a layer of fabric that can be covered like a blanket by tucking the edges underneath the sleeping bag. Condensation pads are not industrially produced, hikers make them themselves. They come in a variety of different versions. For example, a lightweight condensation sleeping bag can be designed with 2-4 inner single sleeping bags.

Condensation pads can be thin or insulated. A thin condensation pad made of fabric (usually lightweight Kaplan) will protect the sleeping bag from frost that falls from the dome and tent walls. A condensation sheet with insulation inside will help transfer dew points from the sleeping bag to itself. This will keep the sleeping bag dry. Plus the extra layer of insulation makes overnight stays more comfortable.

We usually use group sleeping bags – one for several people. It is warmer and lighter in weight. We make the order: an inner sleeping bag with two layers of insulation and an outer sleeping bag with one layer of insulation (condensation bag). The top of the sleeping bag is made of dark fabric to dry better in the sun. Before that, we used sleeping blankets folded together to make condensation sleeping bags. Two blankets can make a sleeping bag for three people and three blankets can make a sleeping bag for five people.

If it is difficult to sew or order a condensation bag, you can simply take a lightweight summer sleeping bag sized to fit your winter sleeping bag. This would be a condensation pack.

If you plan to cook in your tent in the morning, remove any condensation from the walls beforehand. Otherwise, it will start to melt and drip down onto things. The walls of your tent can be cleaned with a brush, then the floor and equipment swept off. Here’s how we do it: The first person on duty in the morning gets up, sweeps the condensation off the walls, then removes it from the sleeping bags and mats and starts cooking. The rest of us got up and ate breakfast.

Tip: Some people use a spoon to scrape the condensation off the tent walls into a bowl. This method works, albeit for amateurs.

If you have a leisurely morning pack or plan to have a long lunch on the road, use this time to dry your sleeping bag and condensation packs in the sun. Even if there’s no direct hot sun, it still makes sense to hang your sleeping bag out to dry – the cold wind will freeze off some of the moisture.

About snow cave condensation

A snow cave is a safe and warm shelter in winter. If dug well, you will be comfortable inside even if it is very cold and a blizzard raging outside. The only drawback of the cave is that its walls are not breathable, so the humidity inside is quite high. If bad weather forces you to stay indoors for more than one night, be prepared for your clothes and equipment to get wet. The ceiling must be as flat as possible or moisture will build upon the windowsill and drip down. If the ceiling is flat, all the condensation will run down the sides of the cave and soak into the snow.


How To Dry When Wet

How To Dry When Wet
How To Dry When Wet

In winter, you may fall through the ice or slip in the river. If this happens, act quickly – wet clothes will freeze immediately in the cold, making you even colder.

If the weather permits, it’s best to just change into dry clothes. If there is a warm shelter nearby (within a 15-minute walk), you should go there immediately. Otherwise, you should go ashore, set up your tent, and change into dry clothes inside. If you don’t have enough dry clothes, you can ask your friends for them. For warmth, it is better to crawl into a warm sleeping bag. You can light a Bunsen burner in a small tent, which quickly raises the temperature to over 32 °F (0 °C). Meanwhile, other campers can build a large fire nearby, which is a great place to stay warm and dry.

Even on a winter hike, it’s easy to fall into the water.

Wet clothing and equipment should first be wrung out and soaked in snow. It will absorb most of the moisture. Later you can dry your clothes on your backpack when you are on the trail, and when you get to camp, you can put them on your tent, hang them in a tree, or dry them gently by the campfire. If you have a tent with a stove, just hang your wet clothes around and you can dry everything in one night.

If there is no wood around, you can change out the inner layers of your clothes and let the thin outer layer freeze out, then wear it over your dry clothes. It won’t get the underwear wet and it will dry on its own quickly.

Small pieces of wet clothing – insoles, socks, gloves, windproof masks – can be left to dry overnight in your sleeping bag. But never on your body. Wet clothes can be placed between several layers of clothing, or right next to you. If the sleeping bag is breathable, moisture will escape to the surface, and body heat will help the clothes dry.

Wet shoes are the hardest to dry. It is best to dry shoes, insoles, and insoles (if any) separately. You can do this in the sun or very carefully by a burner, fire or stove. Either way, the process is not quick. Wet shoes should always be left under your feet in your sleeping bag overnight or they will be frozen by morning.


To Summarize

  1. Even in winter, it is easy to get wet when camping. It will rain, condensation will fall on the tent walls, and ice will form under your feet. You need to be prepared for all of these situations and know how to act.
  2. Most hiking clothes will get wet with sweat. Try not to overheat: dress lightly on the trail to avoid sweating, and keep warm in campsites and resting places.
  3. To avoid suffering from condensation, experienced campers have invented condensation pads. With a little manual work, the sleeping bag can avoid the “precipitation” from the tent ceiling. And a dry sleeping bag is essential for camping, especially in winter.
  4. If you get wet, hurry to change into dry clothes, get into a warm sleeping bag, let your friends wring out the wet clothes, and build a fire. In winter, snow, sunshine, and the warmth of your own body in the sleeping bag will help you dry your wet clothes.
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