Nothing puts a damper on a camping or backpacking trip like…well, getting damp! And the last thing you want to do is waste time trying to wrangle with your wet clothes—or worse, end up with your gear all smelling like mildew at the end of your outdoor adventure.
For the sake of all your camping fun, it’s crucial to know how to dry clothes fast…and we’re here to help. Check out a roundup of several methods that can work to help dry wet clothes in all kinds of situations, from pitched camp to backpacking and more.
Why Dry Clothes Are So Important While Camping—Even in Warm Weather
We’ve all been there: it’s a hot summer day, and getting your clothes soaked in a sudden rainstorm, stream crossing, or by a dip in a body of water can really help beat the heat. It’s easy to reason that in this scenario, wet clothes don’t really matter.
However, it really is crucial to know some methods for how to dry wet clothes fast. This holds true whether you are camping in the warm months where it can be a nuisance or camping in cold weather where it can be a safety issue.
Even in warm weather, wearing wet clothes can lead to chafing while hiking or backpacking, where crevices and straps can rub damp clothes raw against your skin. Wet clothes can also get pretty stinky pretty fast, which can attract unwanted attention from wildlife.
In addition, if you put damp or soggy clothes in with the rest of your gear, it can damage some items, cause mildew growth, or spread a stench if you bag your wet clothes hoping to wait for access to a clothes dryer.
The best practice is to dry wet clothes as soon as you can after they get wet…whether you’re wearing them or they’re in with the rest of your gear.
Quick Fixes for Drying Wet Clothes
The Clothesline Method
If it’s not already on your camping checklist, you definitely want to make sure you have a clothesline on hand before your next camping trip. It can help in a pinch with plenty of things, from setting up shelters to handling emergencies to what we’ll use it for here: drying wet clothes.
If you’re short on actual clothesline, you can get creative with this method for drying clothes. Use string, paracord, or twine instead.
To dry wet clothes with a standard or makeshift clothesline, the process is pretty simple! You want to hang the clothesline between two trees—or poles or stakes if need be—in a sunny spot. Just make sure the posts you use are far enough apart to get some good tension in the line.
An added bonus is if your sunny spot also has a crossbreeze. This combination of sun and wind will help dry clothes out faster!
Wrap the clothesline around both trees and secure it with a knot. Then it’s time to address your wet clothes!
Start by wringing them out to remove all of the excess water, as this will help them dry faster on the clothesline. You can also rub the clothes rapidly between your hands to encourage some extra water evaporation. This should always be done before tackling any sort of method for drying wet clothes, as any excess water will just work against you.
Once you’ve squeezed and twisted all that extra water out, you can drape your clothes over the clothesline. Make sure there’s ample space between each item after you’ve spread and flattened them out. This will help ensure proper airflow and minimize the risk of mildewing.
If you happen to have some clothespins in your camping gear, this is an excellent time to use them. Pins can also help keep your clothes secure if it’s a super windy day.
Using the clothesline method, it should take roughly one to two hours to dry wet clothes, depending on how soaked or damp they were when you first hung them up. Definitely begin checking them after the first hour, and if need be, leave them on the line a bit longer.
During this time, you can speed up the drying process even further by building a campfire nearby. Five feet of distance from the clothesline is optimal for drying wet clothes, as the heat at that range will help with water evaporation. Never build the fire directly under the clothes, as this runs the risk of singeing them or of the clothes catching fire altogether.
Always be sure to follow the guidelines for how to build a campfire, making sure you clear away any flammable substances and build your fire in a pit, surrounded with rocks to help contain it.
The Towel Dry Method
If you don’t have a clothesline to dry wet clothes, never fear—there are other methods to dry wet clothes fast! You can also use a towel to help dry wet clothes. While this won’t completely dry them, it can reduce the amount of moisture enough to prevent serious chafing and mildewing until you are able to dry your clothes out fully.
For this method, start by wringing out your clothes of any excess moisture. Then, lay your wet clothes one or two pieces at a time on a fully dry towel. Fold the towel over your clothes and apply pressure for several seconds.
Leave the towel folded over the clothes for about half an hour. You can use multiple towels if you have a lot of damp clothing, just be sure to start with a completely dry towel each time.
The Tent Roof Method
If you’ve pitched camp and need a quick method for how to dry clothes fast, your tent can be a great asset! After making sure the roof of your tent is completely dry, simply lay out your wet clothes on the slope of your tent roof, with a bit of space between each item.
If you’re tackling this method after a recent rain, you can wipe down the top of your tent in advance to ensure there’s no residual moisture that could hinder the drying process. Check after an hour and see if your clothes are dry yet or if they need more time.
Be prepared for this method to take a bit longer than some others, possibly two hours or more. This will vary depending on the airflow and material of your tent.
The Warm Rock Method
Similar to the tent roof method, a warm rock will conduct heat to help dry your wet clothes. In particularly hot weather, this can be even better than a tent roof as the rock will absorb even more drying heat.
For this method, find a good sized rock (or several rocks, depending on how many clothing pieces you need to dry out) and wipe off any dirt from the surface of the stone. Then, simply lay out your wet clothing items flat on a rock with a bit of distance between them. If it’s windy, you can weigh your clothing down with some smaller rocks or heavier pieces of your gear to keep them in place.
After about an hour, your clothes should be sufficiently dry to store in your gear or wear again.
The Indoor Drying Method
Trying to dry clothes in the middle of a storm can be tricky! Luckily, if you have a clothesline, string, twine, or paracord, you do have the option of using the clothesline method indoors. Simply use your tent poles as the posts to tie your clothesline across, and drape your clothes over them to dry.
Be sure not to hang any dripping clothes over your sleeping bag or valuables. You can open your tent windows, if you have any, to speed up the drying process with sufficient airflow. But bear in mind that even with the added airflow, if the air is damp from wet weather, this method will likely take several hours to dry wet clothes.
The Backpack Method
Sometimes, particularly if you’re backpacking in the wilderness, you won’t be able to stop for hours at a time to dry wet clothes. In this case, you can let the air do most of the work for drying your wet clothes. Tie clothing pieces to your backpack and let them dry in the sun and wind as you hike.
For added security, you can fasten these items to your backpack using string or clips. Even so, be sure to check regularly to ensure no items have fallen off. Also, be mindful that this method works best for smaller items such as socks, underwear, and shirts. Pants may struggle to dry out with this method.
Choosing the Right Clothes for Camping to Help Minimize Wetness
The clothing you start out with will be a determining factor in how easy it is to dry wet clothes while camping. Certain fabrics, such as denim and cotton, take a very long time to dry out as they trap moisture. For camping trips and long hikes, you might consider moisture-wicking clothes, as these are designed to evaporate all types of moisture quickly—from sweat to rain and more.
A couple popular types of these moisture-wicking materials are merino wool and technical sports fabric. Both of these are good for reducing moisture absorption and maintaining comfort until you can get somewhere and start drying your wet clothes.
If you are anticipating rain on your hiking, backpacking, or camping venture, plan to layer up a bit. This will help ensure you can shed some damp layers and avoid chafing while you wait to dry your wet clothes. Alternatively, simply plan to bring some extra clothes in your pack in anticipation of rain.
Keep Clothing Loose
Loose-fitting shirts and pants will tend to dry out faster than tight-fitting, clinging clothes. So whenever you go hiking, backpacking, or camping where there’s a risk of rain or contact with a body of water, consider dressing for the occasion. These lightweight materials will also help prevent chafing until you can dry out your clothes.
Frequently Asked Questions Drying Your Wet Clothes
Will any of these clothes drying methods work during winter camping?
Actually, yes! While you might think that wet clothes in the wintertime wouldn’t dry properly, they actually dry faster due to the lack of humidity in the much drier air. You will just need to hang your clothes inside your tent or under a tarp, and be prepared to have to warm them up a bit to remove the stiffness after they dry.
Wrapping up How to Dry Wet Clothes Fast
Feeling prepped and ready to tackle how to dry clothes fast in all different kinds of scenarios? Check out our ultimate guides to men’s outdoor clothing and women’s outdoor clothing for some ideas on how to build out your camping wardrobe. This will help outfit you with the best gear for all kinds of weather and conditions while camping.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of the great outdoors.
A Midwest girl born and raised, Renee has always enjoyed the deep, life-giving inspiration that connection with nature brings.
In addition to channeling the awe of outdoor life into her prolific novel-writing career, she currently enjoys sharing it with her son and spreading knowledge of safe, fun outdoor life with Beyond the Tent readers and anyone she can help face-to-face.
Renee can be reached at email@example.com