The Pacific Northwest is an adventurer’s mecca. Mountains to climb, dense forests to explore, sunsets over the ocean, and a temperate climate in which it can all be enjoyed —the PNW easily ticks all the boxes.
But if you’re not used to the quirks of the Pacific Northwest, you might encounter a few unpleasant surprises that, if you’re not prepared, can quickly put a damper on things.
The Pacific Northwest, as lovely as it is, can be a very wet place. Even the most optimistic adventure-lovers will have a tough time staying positive if everything they own is soaked. And while it doesn’t get as cold out here as it does in some parts of the country, the cool dampness can chill you right to your core in a way that’s hard to describe.
Don’t let a little rain ruin your adventures—just come prepared and pack these essentials.
A Backpack Fly
Nothing will ruin your trip faster than wet gear. A backpack fly will keep your clothes, sleeping bag, and other essentials nice and dry. Pop it on as soon as the first few drops start falling from the sky and keep it on well after the rain has stopped, since wet bushes and trees can quickly soak your stuff on the trails.
Pack Plastic Bags
It is virtually impossible to bring too many Ziploc-style bags on a PNW trek. Stuff wet socks in them to keep the rest of your clothes dry. Pack your food in them to prevent mold. Use them as an extra layer of waterproofing.
Invest in a Waterproof Shell
You know what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. The rain won’t bother you if you’re wearing a truly waterproof outer shell, so be sure to pack a good one. Choose a shell that’s light and make sure that it’s also breathable.
Layering is not a groundbreaking concept, but the PNW’s reputation of having a mild climate often leads people to believe it doesn’t get cold. Spoiler alert: it can, especially at night. If you’re camping in the spring, the fall, or the winter, you’ll appreciate having a down mid-layer to keep you toasty.
Waterproof Hiking Boots
Wet feet are extremely uncomfortable—and they make it easier to develop nasty blisters. When picking out your perfect hiking boots, look for a hang tag saying that they are waterproof. Depending on the material of the boots, you may have to do some maintenance to keep them truly waterproof. If that’s the case, be sure to properly care for them before you set out on your adventure to keep them in tip top shape.
Be Able to Start a Fire
No matter how skilled you are at starting a campfire, it’s always tricky to get a fire going when dealing with wet wood. Ensure you have plenty of waterproof matches and maybe a full lighter to get your fire started. Consider packing along a few fire starters, which will speed up the process. Once you have a fire going, lay damp wood around the perimeter to help dry it out.
Save room in your pack for a camera, because even though the Pacific Northwest can be damp, it is also beautiful. All that moisture makes everything look vibrant and alive, and you’ll want to capture every moment.