Tips for Camping in a Rainforest

Tucked in the northwest corner of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is a rain forest. It’s easy to think it’s not a real rain forest, since it’s only a few hours from Seattle and not somewhere in South America. But campers heading to the Hoh Rain Forest would be wise to heed the “rain” part in its name.

Although the summer season is relatively dry, the area still packs in an annual 140 to 170 inches of rain – 12 to 14 feet.  Compare that to Seattle’s paltry annual rainfall of 36 inches. Heading out during a patch of dry sunny weather from the Seattle area, one might be tempted to pack lightly. But consider that there is often a 30-80% chance of rain. Whether pitching a tent in the park or in campgrounds nearby, be ready. Always be ready.

This is not rain for the fair-hearted. It’s not even rain for rusty Washingtonians or Oregonians who are used to soldiering through with their fancy gear. Unless this fancy gear includes a rainproof tarp that forms a uniglobe around your tent, you may be in for a wet awakening.

The rain isn’t constant – it does let up a bit in the summer months, but when it does rain, it’s heavy. Again, thus the name – rain forest.

The visitor’s center offers nice displays of lopped-off tree trunks, showing the giant space of growth between rings that trees enjoy in the rain forest. They sit side-by-side trunks from trees grown in drier areas, and the rings are much closer together.

Perhaps they should have a chart showing how wet a tent gets at an average campground, and the level of saturation one experiences during a downpour in the Hoh Rain Forest.

Do come prepared, which will allow more time to enjoy the magical forest. If you’re not cranky from lack of sleep, you can properly worship the 500 year-old trees and ginormous ferns that make you feel like you’ve landed on another planet. Turns out temperate rain forests may be cooler and have fewer species than their tropical cousins, but what lack in quantity, they make up for in size.

By Lisa Nuss