By Michael Lanza

It’s a situation all backpackers eventually encounter, no matter how hard you try to avoid it: You reach a backcountry campsite in a steady rain and must try to pitch your tent without soaking the interior. How successfully you accomplish that will greatly affect how warm and dry you remain that night—and probably how well-rested and good you feel the next morning. Follow these tips to keep your backpacking shelter and gear dry in that scenario.

I’ve had to pitch a tent in rain countless times, from the White Mountains to the North Cascades, Olympic National Park, and Alaska’s Glacier Bay, among other places over the past three-plus decades of backpacking all over the country—including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker at Sahale Glacier Camp in North Cascades National Park.
” data-image-caption=”David Ports at Sahale Glacier Camp in North Cascades National Park. Click on the photo to see my 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites.
” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?fit=300%2C177&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?fit=900%2C529&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”529″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?resize=900%2C529&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker at Sahale Glacier Camp in North Cascades National Park.” class=”wp-image-37162″ srcset=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?resize=1024%2C602&ssl=1 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?resize=300%2C177&ssl=1 300w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?resize=768%2C452&ssl=1 768w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?resize=1080%2C635&ssl=1 1080w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cas7-220-Sahale-Camp-North-Cascades-NP.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />David Ports at Sahale Glacier Camp in North Cascades National Park. Click on the photo to see my 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites.

Here’s the problem with getting your tent’s interior wet when erecting it: If the rain—and high humidity—continues, the interior is unlikely to dry out much overnight. That means everything you bring into the tent, including your extra clothing and sleeping bag (which have hopefully stayed dry in your pack; see my picks for the best stuff sacks and other backpacking accessories), will get wet via contact with the interior’s wet floor and walls.

And that means it will likely all be damp or quite wet when you pack up in the morning—and compressing a damp bag into a stuff sack ensures the spread of that moisture throughout the bag. Then you’re really hoping for the sun to come out by the time you reach your next campsite so that you can lay
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