How to dry your clothes and gear while hiking?

Female hiker in canoe on a lake
It’s easy to end up with wet clothes and gear on a canoeing trip. How to dry them fast?

It’s almost inevitable that your clothes and gear will get wet sometimes when you’re hiking. It might rain or a water bottle may leak into your bag. 

City clothes are especially vulnerable to the weather. I have a separate blog post about all the reasons you should have proper hiking clothes to stay safe and comfortable in the outdoors and also a post that lists all the clothes you need to go hiking – read it before doing your shopping and avoid buying unnecessary items.

To stay dry, you also need separate rain gear during seasons with heavy rains – a waterproof poncho and rain pants that will protect you from heavy downpours and also help keep you warm.

But even with rain gear, “waterproof-breathable” hiking clothes or hiking boots might at some point start letting in water. If the rain is heavy enough or you step into a stream your feet or your clothes will get wet.

What to do and how to get them dry as fast and effortlessly as possible?

Wait for the rain to stop

Female hiker in rain poncho on the lake

The bad news is that drying your clothes while it is still raining is pretty difficult and sometimes impossible. There is a lot of humidity in the air when it’s raining and your clothes will not dry completely in these conditions.

If your clothes and gear are wet and the rain stops and the sun comes out for even short time, you should use that time to dry your stuff.

You can use the lines attached to your tent or tarp to create clotheslines or lay your things out in the sun if the ground isn’t too wet.

Dry your socks using a water bottle

Drying hiking socks using hot water bottle

If you have a metal water bottle you can use that as a “radiator” by pouring hot water into it and wrapping your socks around it.

Be very careful, the bottle can get extremely hot!

This method is not ideal for the fabric but it’s better than having only wet socks and feeling cold.  

Drying your clothes and gear over a fire or a camp stove

Female hiker camp fire

You have to be careful with a fire or a camp stove.

You can use sticks or your tent or tarp lines as clotheslines but make sure you don’t place them too close to the fire.

You need keep an eye on your clothes and touch them from time to time to make sure that they are not too hot.

If you can’t keep your hand where your clothes are hanging the temperature is probably too high and you need to move your clothes further from the fire. 

Fires create sparks which can burn a hole through your expensive waterproof-breathable clothes.

Camping stoves need extreme caution and you will use a lot of fuel drying your clothes. 

Also, your clothes will smell of smoke which might not be pleasant.

In case you need to make a fire, we’ve written a great blog post with step-by-step instructions, pictures and video that teaches you how to make a fire when hiking.

Trail runners dry faster

One of the reasons why some hikers prefer trail runners to hiking boots is that both get wet eventually but trail runners dry a lot faster. 

Keep sleeping clothes and your sleeping bag in a separate waterproof bag

Sleeping bag and hiking gear under tarp

Your sleeping clothes (base layer, socks, beanie etc) and sleeping bag have to be kept in a separate waterproof bag so that even if a water bottle leaks in your backpack, they will be safe.

It’s almost impossible to sleep well if your sleeping gear is not dry so make sure they are very well protected from water. 

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