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How to Pack a Wet Tent

Happiness is a wet tent
Happiness is a wet tent

Rain happens. Your tent is soaking wet in the morning, but you have many miles to hike before your sleep.

  • How do you pack it up so it doesn’t get wetter, making it unusable that same night?
  • How do you pack it so it doesn’t get all of your other gear wet?

Different people have very different approaches to how they pack up a wet tent, they use different kinds of gear (double wall tents, single wall tents, tarps, hammocks, etc.), they have different kinds of backpacks, etc. What’s your system for packing a wet tent? Share your wisdom!

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  1. This and sleeping on the ground are the two reasons why I switched to a Hammock / Tarp. There are some advantages to having a tent I’ll admit but not in the rain.

    • Mark has the right idea but a cuben tarp is best in the pack-it-while-wet category. Just pull the stays, skin it, pull the ridgeline, pack it in your pack’s mesh pocket and go. All while standing.

      The biggest challenge while hanging around ground dwellers in the rain is keeping them out of your tarp :-)


      Figure8 brought up the Gateway poncho tarp which looks to be a great option for solo trekkers going to ground. Granny Gateway used a shower curtain in her first AT trek. This sure has evolved.

  2. Sometimes you just have to embrace the suck. That means that rain WILL happen if you spend any amount of time outdoors. Personally, I just shake the tent and fly as best I can to remove as much water as possible unless of course it is pouring. Many times I have just made those times zero days. But if movement is demanded by circumstance, I pack it as quickly as possible into the stuff sack and them wrap the tent in a piece of lightweight tarp. Sometimes I have wrapped it in strong visqueen. The tent is always strapped outside the pack. I hold no truck with wet everything inside the pack. Like I said before, sometimes while packing, you just have to embrace the suck and do what works best for the situation.

  3. I use a double wall tent and live in British Columbia. I camp in the rain a LOT!

    Firstly, taken down the inner tent body while leaving the fly up over the poles – this can be done with most double wall tents that use pole clips rather than sleeves. Stuff the inner tent body into a stuff sack and stow it in your pack. If it’s not raining that hard, just take down the tent the regular way, by taking the fly off first – a bit of rain will get on the tent body, but not too much.

    Take down the fly and with a partner, shake as much rain off it as possible. If it is really pouring hard, skip this step as it will be useless. Stuff the tent fly into a lightweight silnylon roll top stuff sack. Compress it and put it in your pack. At the first dry opportunity, take it out, shake it out and try to dry it in the sun.

    • Thanks for the info taryn much needed. And also just think if it rained all night and stops in the morning i just take a bandana or small hand towel and wipe off the outside fly then pack it up helps save some time!
      The North Face Tents

  4. Shake it off as best as possible and stuff it in the huge side pocket of the ULA Ohm 2.0! when I take a break and the weathers better I hang it in the wind and or sun and hope for the best.

  5. Wet gear gets packed last into outside mesh pack pockets.
    First I try to get as much rain off the fly or tarp by a quick flick of the fabric. Then roll loosely and stow. Mid morning or noon, or first opportunity it gets draped out in the sun for air drying. Usually still at least dampish when I stop again but that’s Appalachian mountain hiking for you.

    • Having tried that, I noticed that my pack gets damp, as the water from wet fly in the outside mesh pocket tends to seep through the fabric, i.e. if you need a rain cover for your pack, it’s not water proof, so strapping wet things on the outside doesn’t work well.

      • I would think that depends on a couple of things. First what is the pack made out of? If it is cuben fiber or a dry bag style pack the wet fly shouldn’t wet the interior. Notwithstanding, many folks use a pack liner, e.g. compactor bag, dry bag, or CF bag, and that too would protect the inner gear. Attaching the wet fly to a pack rain cover would take some modification since most covers I’ve seen lack any type of exterior attachment system. OH, oh, oh! I could make $$$!

      • Ah – hate to burst your bubble, but I’ve had cuben fiber packs leak with alarming frequency. Put something that is leaking water constantly like a bottle or hydration reservoir in a rear mesh pocket and you should expect water in the bottom of your pack. The seams leak, even when taped, when faced with a constant onslaught of dripping water. Also happens with nylon backpacks (everything else). The best way to avoid this is to use a garbage bag liner.

      • I’d suggest you might want to be more judicious when choosing a pack. Look for one with a minimum or no seams on the back where the wet fly would reside. If I’m not mistaken the OP was regarding a wet fly resting against the back of the pack and not the “constant onslaught” that you arbitrarily decided to morph this into. Common tactic used when trying to justify a poor argument. Furthermore, if you re-read the post you will see the use of a liner, e.g. compactor bag, dry bag, or CF liner is also suggested and the lack of attachments on the majority of pack covers. Perhaps employing one of the alternatives suggested would suffice to help in your “constant onslaught” situations. Unless you plan on standing in the shower or hurricane one of these, or combination, should suffice for the vast majority of inclement conditions one would expect to encounter on the trail. Another alternative would be to stop at a sheltered site, natural or human constructed, or deploy the wet fly until the “constant onslaught” passed. Cautionary note: Please, do not try to swim with your pack on just to prove a counter point.

      • My bad. My cuben fiber pack doesn’t leak when I use the breast stroke, only the crawl.

      • Great! Keep stroking!

  6. Buy a cuben fiber tent. This is the main reason I forked out the money for a zpacks. I was sick of the sil nylon tents doubling in weight and staying wet. With the cuben fiber, you jusy give it a few vigerous shakes.

  7. I place the tent in a silnylon stuff sack on the outside. I strap the stuff sack upside down thinking that with the opening down maybe some of the water will drain out… Gotta stay positive :)

  8. Shake it out as you roll it. Put it in your side pouch. With my tarp, I roll it up, then roll it into a “cinnamon roll” inside my cook pot. It has been recoated 3 times and weighs in at 17oz (up about 1.5oz from when I made it.) New fabrics do not soak much water. wash and re-coat tarps over 2 years old.

    Rolling technique is important. Fold it with the dryer side together and the wetter side out.. Avoid air bubbles. Fold all long folds first (2/3/4 folds.) Then fold the folds in half, ONCE. Then roll from that fold, out. This will drive all air and excess water out to the edges.

    Try to maintain a slight heat source around camp. A small camp fire under a corner of your tarp will change the humidity levels under your tarp keeping it, your gear and you dryer, and, drying out from the previous day. No big fires, just a few sticks or a largish wood stove works well. Remember to sit low, the smoke can be bad at times with wet wood.

    Yeah, Rob is correct, cuben doesn’t wet out. But, silnylon shouldn’t, either. Many manufacturers thin and spread a fine layer on their cloth. Older 1.5oz/yard stuff is almost identical to the “new” fabrics at 1.3oz. Most or all of the weight savings is from the coating.

    Avoid tramping around in the rain. Get water, fire wood, before setting things up. Going out in the rain can be annoying, but the water you get on you will translate to higher humidity in a tent or under a tarp.

  9. I always carry a 40 gallon size Trash bag with me, so the went tent is first shaken out as much as possible under the cover of some trees if available, if not just shaken out the best I can and then it is folded up as normal and put inside the 40 gallon trash bag and stuffed back into the Pack..When the Weather Clears up it is taken out and dried.. at home, if the weather outside is still unruly I set it up in the Garage, then wipe it down really well and let it continue dry out for a few days before it is packed up to be stored away.

  10. Life gets easy when you go ultralight. I have a Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape which instantly transforms into a rain poncho when packing up in the morning. When the rain stops, I simply fix it on the top of my backpack to dry. During the day I sometimes reorganize it so that every side dries up. However, I can imagine situations when it’s inconvenient to have yards of hanging stuff on your back (say bushwacking), in this case I would pack it into an extra trash bag.

  11. I have separate snake skins for the hammock and fly. I cover the hammock with snake skins first and pack it up while still protected from the fly.

    I repeat the process with the fly while shaking it out the best I can while restuffing it into a compression sack and leave in an outside pocket on the pack.

  12. Depends. If I’m using my cuben fiber hextent or silnylon Golite Hex 3 I shake off as much as I can, stuff it, and when the sun comes out I take a break to spread it out to dry. If the sun doesn’t come out, I have a wet tent to pitch. Rinse and repeat. If I am using a hammock, the hammock is stuffed in a biship bag prior to dismantling the tarp. The tarp and suspension are then treated the same as the wet tent.

  13. Many times a tent with a fly can be set up fly first, and taken down fly last.

    A hammock can be packed so it is on the dry side of the tarp, and set up while if is still under the tarp.

  14. Have used 2 roll top waterproof stuff sacks for years. Whether cycling or backpacking. 1 for the inner, 1 for the outer. Plus an off cut of fibre camp towel to wipe the inner floor when setting up again. Had quite a bit of practice in Scotland.

    • I’ve also used two stuff sacks for years, as the routine way to pack my tent. Not only does it separate the wet fly from the drier inner, it also is easier to pack: two small sacks instead of one large bulky one. I don’t use the roll-top dry sacks, but can see the advantages. I might check into that.

  15. I carry my tent (TarpTent Double Rainbow) in a Sea to Summit UltraSil Compression Drysack. So after a stormy night, I just stuff the wet tent into the drysack and pack it normally. If the opportunity presents itself, I will stop during the day and drape it over brush to allow it to dry

  16. I’m usually in a Black Diamond Mega Mid. The inner mesh can be taken down under cover of the tarp, but it’s an advanced more. I usually just wait for a break in the rain, and then move fast to take it down, shake it, and stow it. I line my pack with a trash compactor bag, and everything wet stays outside the liner. It goes out to dry at any convenient opportunity.

  17. This is nothing that 50 pounds (20+ kilos) of desiccant moisture absorber won’t cure. If that isn’t an option, I think most of the previous suggestions pretty well cover the topic. Jane and I hiked the Vermont Long Trail this summer, through all-time record rainfall and managed to keep the gear dry. The Hubba-Hubba tent even sprung one leak and we managed to keep everything dry during that event as well.
    Mostly, it was a case of shake off as much as possible and tuck it away as quickly as possible. If the sun came out during the day, we’d stop and dry it out.

    • Too funny. Remember to save those little desiccant packets from your Mountain House meals! 50 pounds worth.

      • I realize this is a joke, however the mountain house packets are oxygen absorbers, not moisture desiccants… fyi

    • I too completed the LT this year, Dennis. I did it during “Vt’s second rainiest June on record”, lol. It was with this that I decided to construct my own cuben fiber ‘dry bag’ kind of tent stuffsack. This way my soaking wet tent would not get the rest of the stuff in my pack wet. This was a previous problem with any silnylon stuffsacks I used.

  18. I second Figure 8. I love my Gatewood. Bag the stakes, pop the pole, go. Now if only setting it up in the rain from under the tarp were that easy. Figuring that out is a goal for next spring.

  19. All of the above but sometimes I hang it round my neck while hiking on track and body heat dries it.

  20. Generally, I shake it out and stuff it into the stuff sack and inside the pack. As long as my dry bag/pack liner is working properly, sleeping bag and clothes stay dry. This method tends to keep the inside of the inner tent dryer.

    If the sun comes out and I can dry it out on my back, I stuff the tent loosely into the outer mesh pocket. Hang dry during a lunch break and stuff it back into its stuff sack when it is dry.

  21. I vigorously whip it back and forth a few times to get the water off, and just stuff it into my pack – outside of my pack liner.

    It’s too humid where I hike for anything to dry in less than 12 hours, so I don’t try to dry it out during the day (although I may shake it out again if I had to pack up while it was raining) – and I just set it up like it is (damp or very damp) that night.

    I arrange my pack, pack liner, stuff sacks, and rain gear around my pad, so my sleeping bag never touches the damp floor.

    No problems :)

  22. if packing the wet tent when it has stopped raining:
    1) I use a credit card (or plastic of similar size) to comb/shave the water drops off the rain fly.
    2) Then fold it neatly so that all the remaining moisture will drip in one direction without getting trapped in pockets of puddles.
    3) Mesh pockets of the backpack.

    if packing the wet tent during the rain, then grab what you can fast and hike to a protected spot to perform step 1, 2, 3.

  23. Going off topic a little, but packing away a wet tent isn’t much of an issue since I switched to using a hammock. If it does rain and I don’t have time to let the tarp dry out (which usually doesn’t take much) I just make sure to pack the tarp away from things I need to keep dry.

    • Actually, it is more of an issue. As both a ground dweller (single wall CF hexatent or single wall Golite Hex3) and as a hammock camper (Warbonnet Ridgerunner or 90 degree hammock) I am confident the square footage to dry out with a hammock tarp is considerably more than a tent fly. With tents that are less spacious than what I use for accommodating my border collies, the square footage of fly would be even less. This is assuming that you have sufficient skills in site selection to prevent water inundation through the bottom, of course ;-)

      • Sure my hammock tarp is larger than my tent fly, but it receives much better air flow and therefore tends to dry out faster. n a heavy rain, a traditional tent is going to eventually get wet (especially the floor) whereas the hammock is likely going to stay dry. Also,the hammock is not susceptible to condensation and ground moisture in the same way that a traditional tent is. Hopefully this clears up the point that I was trying to make.

      • For many circumstances I think I will still need to disagree. Remember the original question was how to pack a wet tent. Therefore, the premise is you are packing up, not waiting for your hammock tarp or tent fly to dry out before packing up. Therefore, if you separate, stuff, and wait until later, to spread out and dry the tarp or fly, as I and many others have said is their modus operandi, they are both subject to how well you spread them out to dry, i.e. the same air flow. However, since the fly has less square footage it should dry out faster under the same conditions given the same materials. As for the tent body versus the hammock body you would be correct under some conditions, i.e. the body of the tent became wet and the hammock body remained dry. However, that condition would be dependent on if the tent was set up on wet soil, if the rain seeped under the tent body, or how well the fly covered the tent (design). These were details not set in the original post.

        An old timer, aka a “lifer”, who worked for many years in the Absaroka-Beartooths was fond of saying “The main thing is to stay warm and dry. As long as you keep the main thing the main thing, you will do just fine.”

  24. I will pack the inner tent in the bag and strap to fly to the outside of my pack.

  25. My tent is a low bivi with connected fly and mesh tent; rain is no real problem, take out all pegs and poles and let the fly sit on the inner tent and ground sheet dry side in, Roll this up with the footprint as cover and fix to the outside of the pack. Dry at the first opportunity.

  26. I have a cuben duo mid and i take a MSR micro pack towel(very small and light) to take off the moisture (duomid still pitched) then put the duomid in the mesh outer to dry. If it is actaully raining when packing then just shake your tarp/tent and then put the tarp /tent in a cuben bag bag and place in the mesh outer of backpack. When rain stops and if you are up high you are guarenteed wind to dry off your tarp/tent.
    Happy Chrimbo

  27. I do my best to shake off all the water that I can and then I pack it outside my compactor bag pack liner. When I stop for lunch or for any extended break, assuming it’s dry out, I layout my tent or tarp to dry.

  28. In the Pacific Northwest, rain doesn’t happen, rain is.

    As mentioned before by a couple of people, this is a good reason to go cuben and part of the reason why I did. I fold my tarp in half with dry sides together, fold a time or two more, then roll loosely, and pack it edges down in my side mesh pocket to let it drain out.

    The real issue up here isn’t so much the wet as the mud. We commonly go days – in late fall and winter even a week or more – without a significant sun break or dry day. Keeping tarp and groundcloth mud free is the challenge. I use piece of microfiber as a “mud cloth” to clear mud if needed before packing. Then I leave the mud cloth out overnight in the rain to clean it out a bit.

  29. I have gotten to the point that all of my “critical” gear goes in waterproof bags. Since the tent is one of those items, it may be wet but it does not get anything else wet. I pull it out on breaks on the trail if the sun is out to dry it

  30. I pack any wet tent into a dry-bag and If I camping out a second night and get a break in the weather then the tent will get pegged up and let dry.After I get home I hang up my tent in the garage and dry over two or three days.We tip I picked up a few years ago was to hang a car air-freshener in my tent keeping it smelling great.

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