We’ve all been there! At the end of a long hike your shirt is drenched in sweat or you got caught in the rain. Your clothes are soaking wet and your miles away from the closest laundromat. So how do you dry your clothes on a camping trip?
How do you dry clothes while camping? There’s no fast way to dry your clothes on a camping trip. Stick to moisture-wicking fabrics that dry fast and work on keeping your clothes dry. Once your clothes get wet, wring out the excess moisture and hang them up to dry in the sun.
Drying Your Clothes While Camping
We all love camping in warm sunny weather, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. When you have to make campsite reservations months in advance there’s no way to predict the weather.
Weather is unpredictable and sometimes you’re going to get a little wet. So how do you dry your clothes when you’re out on a camping trip?
There’s no fast way to dry your clothes on a camping trip. The fastest way to dry your clothes is to hang your clothes in the sun. Squeeze out all the excess moisture and let time do it’s magic.
You’re Going to Get Wet
There’s no avoiding it, you’re going to get wet from time to time. Your clothes are going to get wet and you’ll eventually get caught in the rain. Telling you to avoid getting wet is a recipe for failure.
Once your clothes get wet it’s important to know how to quickly dry your clothes. Damp clothes will significantly reduce your body temperature and possibly cause hypothermia if left untreated.
Try to Reduce Sweat
If you’re like me there’s no avoiding sweat. Doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside after a long hike I’m going to be sweaty. So I have to choose clothing that naturally prevents moisture buildup.
You want to choose clothing that allows your sweat to evaporate rather than soaking into the fabric. I always go with synthetic Under Armour style fabrics that are designed to quickly wick away fabric.
Consider Spraying on Waterproofing
Your safest bet is always to keep your clothes dry in the first place. When dealing with synthetic fabrics you might want to consider spray on waterproofing (this is what I use).
Durable Water Repellent sprays work on a wide variety of materials. It goes on all my jackets, technical clothing, sleeping bags ETC. The stuff works really well, but you do need to reapply regularly.
How to Quickly Dry Your Clothing on The Trail
Inevitably you’ll end up with wet clothes on the trail. So what should you do next?
Keep A Few Things In Mind
- Humidity Level: After a long rain there’s probably going to be some serious humidity issues. On a high humidity day it’s going to be hard to dry out your clothing.
- Temperature: Heat, both artificial and natural, causes rapid evaporation. So if you can increase the ambient temperature you can speed up drying.
- Surface Area: Spread your clothes out as much as you can to avoid a damp mess. If your clothes are rolled up in a ball they will never dry out completely.
Drying Clothes On Rainy Days
If it’s rainy there’s not a hell of a lot you can do. Simply store your wet clothes in a bag and stick it in a safe place to deal with later. Just don’t forget about it because you’ll end up with a mildewy mess.
On a rainy day you’ll just have to deal with a little bit of dampness. Change your clothes and do your best to avoid soaking your sleeping bag/pad.
Personally, I like to carry a small tarp that I drape over the doorway of my tent. This gives me a small area to strip down and hangup clothes before entering my tent.
Try to towel off as much as you can before entering the tent. Keep all your wet clothes away from your sleeping area and hang them up to dry.
You Can Dry Clothes on Cold Days
You can dry your clothes on a cold day, but it will take longer. Cold conditions do promote evaporation as long as it’s above freezing. They will dry over time, but it is going to be much slower. Wind will make your clothes dry even faster.
Drying Clothes on Sunny Days
On a sunny day you’ll have a few more options for drying your clothes. When it’s sunny, warm and dry your clothes will be dry in no time.
It should take about 1 hour to dry off your clothes on a hot sunny day. Remember to maximize the surface area and spread your clothes out as much as you can.
Hang up a rope and use it like a laundry line. If you don’t have a rope, use your tent’s guylines to strategically hang up your clothes to dry. Just spread your clothes evenly on the line and to promote faster dry times.
Wring Out The Excess Moisture
You can hang sopping wet clothes up on a clothesline and they’ll eventually dry. Before hanging your clothes up to dry consider wringing out all the excess moisture.
Some people try to spin out their clothes, but that’s tedious and kind of ridiculous. Your best bet is to squeeze out all the excess moisture which leaves you with slightly damp clothing.
Don’t Put Wet Clothes in Your Sleeping Bag
I don’t know who the moron is that keeps recommending sleeping with wet clothes, but I’ve heard the tip more times than I can count. The theory states that if you put wet socks/mittens in your sleeping bag your body heat will quickly dry them.
Personally, I think this is a horrible idea. Yes the dry warm air will draw out the moisture, but your sleeping bag will get soaked. Have you ever slept in a wet sleeping bag? It feels cold and awful!
This is a really stupid idea and should be avoided at all costs. Just hang everything up on a line and they should be dry by morning. Of course you might have to deal with a little bit of condensation, but there are ways to get around this.
Dealing With Condensation
Go camping long enough and you’ll eventually deal with condensation inside your tent. You can avoid condensation by positioning your tent underneath tress. Since heat rises the tree branches/foliage will attract the vast majority of moisture.
You might also want to open up your screen doors and let some air into your tent. A little bit of airflow will significantly reduce humidity that leads to condensation.
Heat Sources Speed Up Evaporation
If you’re careful you can use heat to speed up evaporation. There are a few different heat sources you can use to dry your clothes.
Common Heat Sources
- Sunlight: Sunlight is going to be your best friend on the trail. Nothing speeds up evaporation better than the sun. On a sunny day you can expect soaking wet clothes to dry within 1 hour.
- Campfire: Try hanging up your clothing a safe distance away from your campfire. Keep them at the same distance that you personally feel comfortable around the fire. Extreme heat may actually damage your clothes so keep them about 10 feet away from the flames. Remember that if you see steam it’s probably too close to the fire.
- Portable Heaters: Portable propane heaters like the Mr Heater are common among campers. I always place my sweaty socks on the ground between me and the heater. Just be careful so you don’t accidentally burn down your campsite.
- Body Heat: You don’t need a heater to heat up your tent. Natural body heat will warm up the air inside the tent.
Drying Out Your Boots
Using a heat source to dry leather boots can damage your boots. Setting your boots next to the fire will dry them out, but it will also dry out the leather.
Honestly, I think it’s a decent tradeoff since you can always use a boot conditioner(my favorite conditioner). Have you ever tried hiking in wet boots? It feels awful!
If you don’t want to risk damaging your boots you can always dry them out at room temperature. Just store your boots away from your sleeping bag and give them a few hours to dry.
Sometimes you’re just going to have to sacrifice one piece of clothing for another. If you’ve only brought along one jacket that’s going to be more important than having ten shirts.
Try rolling the wet jacket in your dry shirt to sop off excess moisture. It won’t get your jacket perfectly dry, but it will be better than it was. Plus if you hang up t-shirt to dry it’s going to dry much faster.
Certain Fabrics Dry Faster
It’s important to realize that certain fabrics are going to dry faster than others. Synthetic fabrics are always going to dry faster than traditional cotton based fabrics.
If there’s a chance of rain try to stick to synthetic moisture wicking fabrics. Most of the time you won’t even need to take your shirt off for it to dry.
On a hot day your Under Armour style shirt will probably dry within 30-40 minutes. Just be careful so you don’t end up with chafing problems.
- Synthetics: Synthetics are always going to dry faster than natural fabrics. Go with any fabric that has Moisture Wicking properties listed on the label.
- Wool: Due to the long strands found in wool materials it has excellent moisture wicking properties. Wool blend socks have long been popular among hikers.
- Cotton: Cotton clothing is extremely comfortable/breathable, but it tends to hold onto moisture. You’ll have to take off a cotton shirt if you want it to dry quickly.
If you want to stay comfortable while hiking you’re going to want to stick to synthetic/wool fabrics that wick away sweat.
Wear Loose Clothing
Loose clothing is always going to dry faster than tight outfits. Loose well ventilated clothes tend to dry faster than tight clothing.
Most of the time loose clothes aren’t going to get wet from sweat, but if it rains your out of luck. You’ll have to seek shelter and hang dry.
Try to Avoid Sweating
Once you start to sweat you’re pretty much screwed. It takes a lot of energy to cool your body and you’ll keep on sweating. If you start to feel a light sweat coming on try taking a break and opening up your jacket to feel a little breeze.
With your body’s natural heat and a little bit of ventilation your clothes should dry in no time. Just make sure you don’t accidentally soak your sleeping bag because it will take forever to dry.