Lessons from a Failed Backpacking Trip

We planned a big hiking trip this weekend.  Well — not such a big one, just an overnighter into the Amethyst Basin area of the Uintas.  We have packed into the Uintas only twice before, each time in a late July weekend when rain threatened.  We took along tents, rainflys and rain ponchos and never used them at all.  This trip was different.

About 4 miles into the hike, it was looking alot like rain.  We stopped for lunch in a spot which would not have made a good camp site, but we could have set up our tents and waited out a storm if we needed to.  As we cooked and ate our lunch, clouds and thunder moved overhead, and then cleared leaving sunshine.  So, we left our packs in this spot, propped against a tree, and continued up the trail with just one day pack.  While we left our packs and gear, thunderheads moved in again, and this time instead of threatening, we got wet.  It began to rain about 2 miles from our packs, and we didn’t turn around at the first sprinkle because we were trying to reach a lake.

When we did turn around, we had about 2 miles to go to get to our rain ponchos.  We tucked our electronics (cameras and GPS) inside the one day pack and hiked fast.  Even so, we were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached our (also wet) gear.  We decided to hike to a camping spot we had noticed about 2 miles back, and decide there if we would camp or hike the last 3 out to the car.  It rained steadily all the way back to the car.  Instead of setting up camp on the mud so that we could clean our tents when we got home, we put on our ponchos and packs and hiked out.

This seemed like a failure as a backpacking trip, especially since we had carried our heavy packs without camping, and when we got home not a drop of rain had fallen at our house.  Even though this seemed like a failure, I still count it a win because we learned some great lessons.  Positive lessons we learned:

  • We are braver than we used to be!  No one was reduced to tears by the rain, and we were able to pack out of a messy situation.  A little over three years ago, we were caught on a day hike in a similar situation.  Although the hike 3 years ago was colder and scarier (near flash flood,) we were only 1 mile from the car.  The kids and I seriously lost our cool on that not-so-long-ago hike.  This time, we were even able to crack jokes and sing even though we were wet and had hiked much further than we had planned.
  • If there’s a chance of rain — don’t leave your gear uncovered!
  • If there’s a chance of rain — carry your rain ponchos in your day pack!
  • If you have a rain poncho on, hiking in the wet is not bad at all.
  • When changing clothes in the car, everyone can take turns keeping their eyes closed to keep from having to change clothes in the rain or in a stinky outhouse.

So, while it was not the trip we planned, it still turned out to be a successful trip.  I’ll have to share photos of the beautiful river we hiked beside in a future post.

Have you ever been rained out on a hike or camping trip?  Were you able to find any positives?  Please leave me a comment.

Leave a comment


  1. beechcreekproject

     /  July 22, 2012

    When you run into adversity and come out the other side unscathed it gives you confidence that next time you will all be able to handle it splendidly. I’ve never had a bad hiking or mountain biking trip. Everyone has always had something that I can look back on with enjoyment. Plus it always makes for a great story. 🙂 Keep on hiking and stay safe.

  2. We’ve had plenty of rainy hikes and a few rained-out camping trips. As long as it’s not too cold, we usually do OK, though it’s nicer now when we can go with my parents who have a trailer. 🙂 Sometimes the weather just gets the best of you; there’s not a lot you can do about it. In my mind that’s not a failure. We had a “bad” hike last weekend when one of my kids wasn’t feeling like hiking. We only made it a mile in on the trail that we had driven 3 hours to get to. The flowers were spectacular, though, and the scenery amazing, so it wasn’t a failure either.

  3. Basically, if there’s a chance of rain, don’t go hiking 😉


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