Whether it’s just a sprinkle or an all-out downpour, rain happens. In the backcountry, though, enough rain can sometimes cause more trouble than a mere hiccup in your itinerary; it can quickly make you miserable, especially if you’re unprepared or lose your head in a hairy situation. One such potential situation results when heavy rain soaks into your sleeping bag, causing it to become water-logged. Here are a few tips on how to tackle this, should it ever occur.
The first thing to do when dealing with a drenched sleeping bag is to handle it carefully. Sleeping bags become much heavier when they’re wet, but their interior materials also become more fragile. Baffles can rip easily, so refrain from shaking or wringing out the bag, and try to support its weight the best you can.
You never want to use a fire to dry your sleeping bag. The heat won’t do anything to dry it faster and can even melt your bag’s nylon shell, not to mention the potential fire damage that wayward embers can cause. Instead, unzip your bag and fold it over a line between two trees, making sure to keep it off the ground. While this may take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to dry it completely, depending on the weather, the wind will aid in the evaporation process. As the bag dries, gently break up lumps with your hands to help speed the process along.
To maintain body heat on cold nights, you can exercise beforehand, drink hot liquids, or eat high-calorie foods. Furthermore, if it’s really cold, wear as many layers of clothing as you can, or even keep hot bottles of water near your armpits or between your legs. All of these options will do a great job of keeping you warm when your sleeping bag is soaked. If you have no other option other than to sleep in your damp sleeping bag, though, you can still employ the steps mentioned above and stay warm. Even a wet bag will insulate you.
You can take measures to prevent your bag from becoming drenched, as well, such as wrapping it in a plastic bag or waterproof material. Hopefully, you never have to go through this, but if you do, the tips I’ve given you today will help you solve the problem quickly. The real key when dealing with a soaking wet sleeping bag is not letting it ruin your trip. Yes, it can be a huge inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world. Do what you can to dry the bag as soon as possible and keep yourself busy with other things while doing so.