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Why You Should Hike in The Rain

Frogg Toggs on the Trail
Frogg Toggs in the Rain


You Are Going to Get Wet

If you only hike on days when there’s zero percent chance of rain, you aren’t going to do much hiking. Sooner or later, you are going to get soaked through-and-through by rain on a hike.

Forget all of your fancy gear: it won’t be worth a hill of beans when you have to walk in pouring rain for a few hours on a day hike, or several days on a backpacking trip. Your waterproof, breathable rain jacket and pants won’t keep you dry, nor will your waterproof hiking boots/trail shoes.

Your best defense isn’t expensive gear, but learning how to stay healthy and safe when you get wet. You can only gain this experience by hiking in the rain, which is why you want to practice it close to home before you need to rely on it in more challenging or dangerous conditions.

9 Jedi Rain-Walking Secrets

1. Rain gear will not keep you dry in 100% humidity. It will help keep you warm however, as long as you keep moving and generating body heat.

2. Wear hiking footwear that drains fast and dries quickly. Avoid shoes with a waterproof liner because they take a very long time to dry when they get wet. Mesh drains quickly and dries fast. Leather dries the slowest.

3. Prevent chafing. Wear long synthetic or wool boxer jocks. Carry zinc oxide to sooth irritated skin between your legs and butt cheeks.

4. Lubricate your feet with vaseline to make them slippery and prevent rubbing in your shoes, which can lead to blisters. Leukotape also helps prevent friction which can lead to blisters.

5. If you are backpacking, let your feet dry completely out at night.

6. It’s possible to get hypothermia in surprisingly warm weather. Learn to recognize the early signs of hypothermia in yourself and your companions, such as the umbles (mumbles, stumbles, fumbles, and grumbles). Stay well hydrated. Keep moving and eating.

7. Wear a few layers in cooler weather, especially if the DWR on your rain gear has worn away or you are only wearing a base layer under a rain jacket and it’s soaked. Adding a mid-layer will prevent the cold from conducting from your rain jacket to your skin.

8. A billed cap will keep rain off of your glasses or out of your face.

9 If you use hiking poles, attach them to your pack in cool weather so you can put your hands in your pockets to keep them warm.

Take a Zero

Getting the hang of all of these techniques, dialing in your own system, and validating it in different temperatures takes a surprising amount of practice, but pays dividends when you need it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pitching your shelter and hanging out for a day in your sleeping bag if the weather is really bad and you have enough food with you.

Hiking is supposed to be fun, after all.

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  1. Amen to all that. I have a hard time convincing myself to ever spend money on expensive rain gear when it just never does what I really want it to do. Driducks have been my cheap and light rainwear of choice for several years, and if they ever fail, I can’t really complain about the price and weight. I like to keep trying new things, though. I’m even thinking of trying an umbrella later in the summer. Still, the best thing for me has always been getting used to being wet. The hardest part is that I have to get re-accustomed every summer, since I’ve spent the winter avoiding wetness like the plague. It does seem to get easier every summer, though, especially living in New England where you don’t have much of an alternative :)

    • I’ve been using Driducks and Frogg Toggs since last autumn and they are a super value – a bit on the warm side, but they work amazingly well for shedding rain and keeping you warm. My only real complaint with them are the lack of decent pockets. The Toggs are also not up to bushwhacking and shred easily. That’s not really an issue though for most people who hike on trails. .

    • An Umbrella is the most Waterproof / Breathable rain gear that I’ve used! Its main drawback is the overgrown spruce lined trails we hike in New England. It’s easy enough while hiking to collapse the umbrella a bit to squeeze through a tight spot though. A major plus is being able to layer for the temperature and exertion level your experiencing. You’ll virtually eliminate “body rain”..

      • I never really understood the whole umbrella thing until recently when my rain gear soaked through while I sweat it out on the inside. I always just imagined situations where they wouldn’t work like winds, in thick trees, etc. Not sure I would take one backpacking but definitely getting added to my pack for wet day hikes.

  2. The other skill that takes experience to learn is when it is warm enough and/or the rain light enough that NOT putting on rain gear is the smarter choice. The cold/warm decision is easy to make, but the light/heavy decision is not. It’s amazing how hard it has to rain to make you wetter than your own “body rain”.

    • Glad you mentioned “body rain.” Managing the micro-climate under your rain gear is really the key to all this. I really like that phrase, body rain.

      Back to your main point. My friend Grant always tells people to consider hiking without rain pants in the rain or to use a rain kilt. A lot of people look at him funny when he says this, but in warm weather it really helps eliminate the chafing.and helps you vent the heat you’re generating. Your legs also get less wet when you hike with a hat, pack and have a “shelf” (belly or breasts) overhead. Jedi that I am – I’ve never tried doing this, but it has some appeal.

      • Have to agree. An essential part of my kit has become some sort of microfiber windshirt. Wind protection, some moisture protection, and very breathable. In fact, on a couple trips I’ve used a “softshell” (either a pullover of Shoeller Dynamic or a Patagonia Ready Mix) as my main shell and taken along a very light waterproof shell jacket as backup for the truly bad rain. Only used

        The point about pants is well taken. I’ve found that for the most part I can avoid using my shell pants, staying more comfortable as a result. If it gets windy or raining very hard I’ll break down and put on the shell pants. Still, my favorite pair are an old pair of full-zip Activent pants – very light, windproof, water-shedding while remaining a lot more breathable than true waterproof pants. I am intrigued by this rain kilt idea though.

  3. Well, maybe I haven’t hiked enough in rainy conditions, although I’d tend to disagree ;-) Anyhow, on my own rules to live by, the most important rule is to not get wet (followed by #2, staying out of the wind).

    I don’t think staying dry can be overemphasized enough, not least given that nothing kills as many hikers and outdoorsy people as hypothermia. Wet feet, is something one has to live with, but staying soaked is not an option for me, it’s just too dangerous … so if I find myself wet, my focus is not on how to cope with being wet but on getting dry again.

    • Getting wet doesn’t mean you’ll get hypothermia. You just need to become a little more vigilant in managing your thermo-regulation using these tips. But by all means HYOH!

      • True. But winter hiking where I am means a lot of grey, rain, and temperatures a few degrees either side of freezing. You do not want to be wet.

      • But it’s still going to happen. I hike in this kind of weather too, quite a lot actually, although I use insulated boots and keep my feet dry, usually with a vapor barrier sock system. I try not to get AS wet in winter, but I use many of the same techniques to stay warm in cold weather and much colder weather, down to -20 below zero.

  4. It never fails the guys I go backpacking with on the AT are Rain Magnets. It always rains, something I have been doing for a while now is use a Sea to Sea dry bag inside my backpack. Atleast when we get to a shelter I’ll have something dry to change into. I also agree 100% on the using something to prevent the chafing. Ive seen the guys out with the hiking kilts and thought about giving that a shot, I dont think I have the legs for it. J/K. Also something I always tell newbies is that you can only get so wet and when your fully drenched just try to make the best of it and remember that backpacking in the rain is way better then sitting at your desk.

    • That’s the only way – pack covers are useless. Backpacks made out of waterproof fabric like Cuben Fiber are also useless because they leak at the seams. I line my pack contents with a plastic bag and stuff my sleeping bag or quilt into a Sea-to-Summit too. Never had a failure with this system.

  5. Most of my hiking is during the summer, and I’ve found rain gear leaves me more hot and sweaty than I like. I usually carry an umbrella and am very happy with it for trail hiking. An umbrella isn’t much use above tree-line, and would not work if I planned on bushwhacking. When I can’t avoid the wind or it’s cool I’ll wear a wind breaker or fleece/wind breaker combo. If I know I’ll spend a decent amount of time above tree-line, I pack something more waterproof. Usually my legs stay plenty warm hiking even in the 50s, and I don’t change out of shorts until I know I can stay dry. Besides making sure to keep moving, I make sure to keep snacking. When it’s been hot and I’m sweaty from hiking, I sometimes just enjoy the shower and leave the umbrella in the side pocket of my pack.

    • Thanks Matt for reminding me how much I miss my umbrella. I got away from using one when I started bushwhacking the NE3k’s.
      Just an FYI, when above tree line it’s amazing how strong a wind an umbrella can handle. To minimize collapse, always point it into the wind. By holding it with one hand as far up the shaft as possible the umbrella will pivot as the wind direction changes. I did a presi-traverse one June using my umbrella from Lakes-of-the-Clouds until the woods at Pierce. At times the umbrella was pointed vertical as I hiked, but I stayed “dry”…

      • I don’t understand all the comments about umbrella performance in the wind. They make umbrellas with ventilations at the top now. The air goes through the vents and prevents it from inverting. There’s no reason to have to deal with your umbrella turning inside out. Spend the money and get a decent umbrella.

  6. Nice post, but I thought the conversation could be taken further. Being from Southern Cali I don’t have much rain experience. I’m interested in which ultralight gear works best: poncho? kilt? full rain gear? I’ve had Frogg Toggs before and found that they eventually let rain through a little too much and yes, they suck for bushwhacking, and I haven’t found a great alternative yet, partly because I don’t have many opportunities to try out different set ups. Anyways, just a quick look at Zpacks.com and there are several different rain set ups that Joe Valesko offers that already kind of overwhelm me.

    • Joe is charging $400 for a cuben rain jacket and rain pants that are not abrasion resistant – sorry – that is just appalling. $29 bucks will get you the same functionality in a Frogg Toggs jacket/pants.

  7. For warm weather I’ve been using a sil-nylon rain kilt over the last couple of years. It’s definitely cooler and very easy to put on or take off. I don’t remember the weight, but it packs down to the size of a lemon. In cool or cold weather I take rain pants, but I wear them much more around camp than in the rain.

  8. The driducks are also quite baggy on me (I could live in a size small), but the bushwhacking part doesn’t bother me so much– I’d rather rip a $20 jacket than even put a small hole in a $150 jacket :-)

    The main points for me are that nothing is perfect, and staying 100% dry isn’t feasible in real rainy weather.

  9. I am with RevLee (of course I normally hike with RevLee so that makes sense)- I was a little reluctant to use a rain kilt at first, but really appreciate it, especially in warmer weather. My major issue with rain is that the pack tends to funnel rain to my rear end. The rain kilt acts like an umbrella for my lower body and doesn’t seem to build up heat at all. You can test out whether you like it on your next hike with a garbage bag, and then it is a very easy sillnylon sewing project.

    • I honestly don’t know what would scare me more – 2 guys with hairy legs and hiking kilts hiking toward me in the rain or a black bear chasing after me to get my food!

      • Rain kilt does not mean one is not wear shorts. I wear my switchbacks under the kilt, so you wouldn’t see any more hair than normal; probably less since the kilt is longer than my shorts. :)

      • Interesting convo about rain kilts. I never heard of such a contraption. Now if someone can steer me in the direction of a nice set of bagpipes I’ll be good to go.

  10. I found a wonderful rain gear solution this past year. I saw an obscure recommendation on a forum for bicycling rain gear. It took some looking but the company called O2 (oh-2, as in oxygen) makes an ultra light rain set that is relatively inexpensive and is very breathable. The jacket was under $40 and breaths better than my frogg toggs ever did. Check them out. I now love mine.

  11. My issue with Driducks is they are very heavy.12oz for the whole package. Much heavier than a 6oz jacket and rain skirt. And if I really need pants then it’s probably cold enough for winter gear. And my issue with an umbrella is, I’ve never used one that keeps more than just my head dry. Everything south of my shoulders get soaked.

    Now my hat and sunglasses is still my favorite rain gear. Keeping rain out of my eyes makes my hike more enjoyable than trying and failing to keep dry. I also tend to keep 6oz worth of light longjohns in my bag in cooler seasons.

  12. I’ve been in a few of those all day deluge backpacking trips. Lately I’ve just been using a lightweight wind shell made out of pertex as my outerwear. It soaks through of course after awhile, but it keeps me comfortable and warm enough in low to mid 40s downpours.

  13. My wife recently converted to a glad trash bag as a rain skirt and seems pretty happy (see blog post). I’m probably going that route given that we don’t get that much rain in the Rockies. I was pretty happy with a cheap poncho for weekend trips, but with GoLite’s sale on the Malpais Trinity that seemed like a nicer long term solution at 7 oz. I had a Frogg Toggs get up, but the pants ripped at the crotch as I walked (not stellar) and the duct tape I repaired it with just drew too much attention.

  14. Will Reitveld has an article on the Gossamer Gear website about making a tyvek rainsuit on the cheap (~$10). I made one and haven’t used it in a downpour yet, but have used it on rainy dayhikes and it does well. Cheap and pretty durable.

  15. Dennis Peterson

    Jedi secrets, nice!

    Another great reason to hike in the rain is to avoid the crowds. Most weekend warriors don’t care to get soggy so go out in the rain if you want to get away from all the dang people cuz lets face it, they are everywhere…..

    Hehe, you said “butt-cheeks”.

  16. It always rains and why people think eVent and the like will keep them dry is beyond me. Often I read its about slowing down and the like, claiming somehow that wetting out waterproof top will keep you dry still.

    They don’t and managing being wet is critical. I live in the UK. Normal for me. Still wet and dry drills matter. I always have warm dry kit in a waterproof bag safe and ready for camp at the end of the day. The main way to deal with being wet is to get on with it. Its another part of the outdoor experience.

  17. I’ve thought of renting myself out as a rain maker. If I didn’t hike in the rain, I’d never get out.

    A few years ago, I flew to Montana, which was in the throes of a six year drought that didn’t break until the moment I set foot off the airplane. My brother and I delayed our trip to the Bob Marshal Wilderness for days and finally gave up and went anyway. It didn’t rain the full five days we were on the trail–some of the days it was sleeting and snowing.

    A couple years ago, my brother in law and I planned a backpacking trip which I missed because of emergency surgery, however, he went anyway and the area he hiked got sixteen inches of rain overnight. He cleared out just in time to miss the flood that killed twenty people at Albert Pike.

    A year later, we hiked together on the Buffalo River Trail with a forecast of 1/4″ of rain. If the thirty six hour deluge that ensued only netted a quarter inch of precipitation, they were using government math to measure it.

    Alaska–rain, Montana again with my brother–more rain. Arkansas with the grandkids with another quarter inch forecast that was more like a quarter foot between the time we got up and I fixed breakfast, not to mention the rest of the hike.

    I know when hiking, I’ll get wet. I deal with it. My gear in my backpack is all in ziplocks or other waterproof packaging so that I will have the necessities dry. I have a rain shell that keeps me fairly dry in manageable precip. If it goes beyond that, I know I’ll dry. I wear synthetics that wick and dry relatively quickly. My socks are wool. Sometimes, I just surrender and hike in a swim suit.

    A decade or so back, my brother took his wife and son to hike the Milford Track in New Zealand. Many folks there had fancy Goretex outfits that cost as much as the airfare to get down under, all of which quickly wet through. My nephew’s $4.99 plastic poncho from Walmart kept him drier than anyone else on the trail.

    I agree with the person who said a day of hiking in the rain sure beats a day sitting at a desk.

  18. Noooooo! My favorite time to hike is when it’s raining. There are always less people out then. This (great) post might upset my strategy!

  19. I bought a pair of Helly Henson rain pants from REI and have used them in all seasons other than summer, when the weather is just too warm for them. Other than them not being breathable, they are great and were not too expensive. I think he pants and jacket together were under $50. Sure there are lighter weight and breathable options out there but they will cost you. Find what works for your budget but the bottom line is getting out their in it because I agree the other posters saying that hiking in the rain is very enjoyable as long as your gear can take it. The first backpacking trip I eve went on was he Pemi loop in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It rained the whole time and made it a very difficult hike because I wasn’t prepared for it.

  20. Spent over 50 years hiking in Washington Cascades & Olympics. You just get zen with the rain here. I do use full rain gear but a couple tips that I learned from my Dad. Get your raincoat at least 1-2 sizes larger, fastened your pack waistbelt under the raincoat and let the coat fall over the top. Unzip the top & slow down a bit. You get a lot of air-flow which helps keep down “interior rain”. Also keep you base layer minimal so as not to over heat. My rain pants are a quarter zip so as to vent the top of them but still get protection from wet brush.

    I do use both an interior trash bag for my sleeping bag & dry clothes but also use a pack cover. I think the trick to using a pack cover is to get it plenty large & use one that fastens across the pack just above the lumbar area. You can cinch it in so it doesn’t flap and leak. I use my pack as part of my sleep system so don’t want to sleep on a wet pack.

    Multiple continual days of rain are mentally challenging but sometime on a long tip they happen & you can only hope for sun.

  21. In the summer, I love hiking in the rain without using any raingear. Just stay moving and be sure to have a set of dry clothes and a dry sleeping bag for camp.

    In Fall and Spring, I try to apply the winter hiking principle of slowing down so that I do not sweat under my poncho.

  22. We still don’t have an ideal solution, but current gear is rain pants, rain jacket plus a Packa (zippable poncho with a hump for backpack). Jacket is so you can take pack off without getting soaked. Umbrella is good if you can get by with one hiking pole. Lots of times we need two. Yes, definitely a hat with bill.

    The one thing that has been truly useful in day long – week long rain situations has been Sealskinz socks over a liner sock. Feet stay warm all day, though they get wet from perspiration.

  23. I too use a pack cover. My pack is my pillow at night, and I at least want the surface that is against my sleeping bag to stay dry. I don’t count on the pack cover to waterproof my pack and keep my pack contents dry, though–no pack cover will do that!

    In a warm rain, I just wear my hiking clothes; they will dry in 15-20 minutes from my body heat as soon as it stops raining. If it’s cold, I use waterproof non-breathable rain gear. I tried several different breathable types, spent a lot of money and ended up as wet as though I’d worn nothing! I do get my jacket way to big (as Judy does) so there’s lots of ventilation inside. This way, my rain gear can also act as a vapor barrier inside the sleeping bag on frosty nights.

    I always take a base layer top and bottoms with me. They are both sleeping clothes and an extra insulation layer. They give me something clean and dry to wear to bed. I generally wear them in the early morning, too, but take them off before I start hiking. It would have to be down close to zero F before I’d wear them hiking! Since I don’t sweat in them and have them under other clothing when outside the tent, they stay relatively clean and dry.

  24. Great topic to discuss. I have a rain jacket which I will wear when it isn’t raining heavy. No rain pants. My pack is lined with a heavy duty trash bag and I use a pack cover as well. This system has worked well for me.

    If it is raining hard I ditch the jacket cause I would prefer to have it dry as a second layer when I set up camp and change into dry clothes (my base layer that I sleep in).

    I am interested in the umbrella users giving some suggestions on which umbrella to use. I hiked with a guy who used one on the AT and I was impressed.

    Hike on!

  25. Most of the comments here are about “regulating” the amount you get wet (including my earlier one). As I sit here reading more of the comments, one thing dawned on me – that works best in humid environments. In arid environments, the “don’t get wet” is definitely more important. The one time I have gotten hypothermia was in July in New Mexico. If I had kept moving, I might have been fine, but we stopped, then the evaporation chilled us to the bone. It turned an 85 F hike into a 40 F hike pretty quick. Stopping to put on rain gear to outlast a 30 minute deluge in the Rockies would be the norm since I know 30 minutes after the rain stops everything will be dry again. On the AT, rain is measured in days or weeks instead of minutes and even when it stops, things are generally not dry for hours after rain has truly stopped, and without sun, may actually not dry out during that same day. I get far wetter from wet vegetation than actual rain most of the time.

    A rain kilt – hmmm – sounds interesting. I haven’t bothered to even pack rain pants since about 1990 and wouldn’t for ambient temps above 40F. I haven’t used a poncho since the 80’s – I didn’t like how they blew around in the wind and snagged on things, but they are very practical for hiking especially if they double as your shelter.

    I have carried an umbrella (a giant golf one) when hiking in Florida more for sun protection than rain protection. I am planning on trying one (a small one) on the AT some day, I just haven’t done it yet.

  26. Hiking and rain go together. Like Philip says, you cannot avoid rain if you are out for any time, so, I don’t plan on avoiding it. Rather I plan on what to do when I camp and have at least some dry area to hang my hat.

    This last week I spent a week in the ADK’s, It rained 24 hours tue night to wed night. I used my Murmur and still most stuff got wet. It didn’t really matter. While hiking, I have the one light fleece over my base layer. EVERYTHING was soaked. The rain jacket (a 5oz thing from Eddie Bower) works for a couple hours, but was worthless after that. The weather was fairly warm, in the 60’s. While hiking I was fine even though I was wet.

    Dry sleeping gear is essential. My sleeping bag, a dry set of long johns and socks means I will sleep dry. The tarp turns rain fine. Picking a slight mound, I set up a low lean-to and set up my bedding, all dry. A few sticks did duty as cloths lines. At one side, I even had a small fire, though it was a bit smokey from all the water. It works well to keep me and the lean-too warmer than surounding air.

    While hiking, I keep my bedding in a sea-to-summit Apex drybag. A little heavier than I care for, but, it does NOT let things get wet. My food is double wrapped: baggies and in a drybag.
    Generaly, extra cloths(for 40f is my pillow and is a wool sweater and socks…again in a dry bag. Nothing else really matters. Stove, light, tape, etc all sit in puddles in my pack. Again a water resistant bag is used for odds and ends.

    Wet I gathered a good pile of firewood to stay warm and to promote drying. As it rains, you will find that the air humidity actually drops a bit, so, aditional heat usually means I can dry my soaked cloths by adding some heat. They don’t have to be totally dry, just not soaked. By keeping the fire going all night, things will be fairly dry in the morning.

    In the past I have done 6-7 days at a time in rainy conditions like this.

  27. I gotta say, just accepting the fact that you will be wet goes a long way. When it rains and i’m working to my car in a parking lot, I always see people running full sprint to get inside, whereas I always just casually walk to where I need to go in the rain. It’s just water, it won’t kill you (although freezing for hours and hypothermia will).

    I used to wear Gortex shoes that had a waterproof barier and I just recently switched to a minimalist mesh shoe. These dry so much faster and get far less sweaty in temperatures above 60 degrees. They can get completely soaked through and they will dry very quickly if I keep moving once the rain stops. I still use the heavier and warmer Gortex for winter hikes though.

  28. “You will get wet.” That is the main thing I got from Skurka’s book. Well, I learned a lot more and it is a great book, but that is the one phrase with the most value. All this nonsense from the big companies about staying dry.

  29. Great topic and judging by the amount of responses, many others thought so too. I enjoyed all the responses and especially like the perk of less trail traffic in the rain. I love it when it rains on the trial. I usually hope it rains at least once on the tail while I’m out because I’m always trying a new configuration of my gear and I don’t feel like I have truly tested it until I have tested it in the rain.

  30. A great discussion. I’ve used an umbrella on and off for years. Most recently was on the 2012 TGO Challenge across Scotland. One day was constant rain when the umbrella was invaluable although it came down when it got too windy. Then, towards the end, there were three days of relentless sun when I used the umbrella as a “parasol” – result, I didn’t get a peeling nose and ears. Finally, when my tarp tended to become a wind tunnel, I opened the umbrella up inside to close it off at one end. My umbrella is a Golite Dome (in fact, I have two), bought some years ago.

  31. Its all in the choices you make, based on the experience you have. I always carry a good basic kit, no matter where I go, or how long. I was hiking a 12 mile loop last Sunday, and heard thunder grumbling. I knew I’d get caught in it, but tht there was a cabin up the trail a ways. So I wrapped my pack in my rain jacket to make sure my fleece would stay dry. Sure enough, I got caught out in a strong storm, and a deluge of cold rain. After about twenty minutes, I got to the cabin. I stripped down, got into the fleece, and shell pants, and curled up for a nap, nice and toasty. Had there been no cabin, I would have put on the rain gear, and walked through the storm wet and warm.

    • October Forest? There’s a nice cabin there.

      • No. Alander. I hiked out the Ashley Brook/Ashley Hill trail, then over to the South Taconic trail. Took the side trip down to Mt. Brace, then back north toward Alander. I got caught in the storm at the base of Alander. There’s a cabin just below the summit. It’s a little shabby, but it’s been there a long time, and is much loved by those who hike the area a lot.

      • That’s the one I meant – wood stove, bunk beds. Home away from home.

  32. I wrap a big piece of tyvek around me and my backpack. I grab the two sides in front of me with one or both hands. Depending on conditions, I put the tyvek up over my hat. It is easy to adjust ventilation. A few downsides: (1) hands are busy so it is unwieldy (but possible) to use trekking poles, (2) can’t put hands in pockets to warm up!, and (3) my tyvek is 4′ x 8′ but i would prefer more than 4′ so it drapes my over butt completely. I came up with this when I forgot raingear on an outing and used my groundcloth to keep a heavy thunderstorm with moderate to strong wind at bay.

    Does anybody sell tyvek 5′ x 8′ or more? (I’m tired of scrounging construction sites)

  33. I’ve thought about the rain skirt idea, but the fact that it doesn’t cover your lower legs and won’t keep water out of your boots makes me doubt its usefulness, …for me at least.

    I’m going to make another vote for Tyvek, but this time the disposable Tyvek trousers as sold by Altecweb in the UK…


    They cost about £3 a pair.

    They weigh around 100 grammes (4 oz?) and are made of the softer, micro-perforated Tyvek rather than the Housewrap or Homewarp many are familiar with from building sites. This stuff behaves and feels much more like fabric.

    The trousers work extremely well as rain pants. I use the XXL size and cut the legs to length, so that I can pull them on without taking my boots off.

    Water resistance is good but not absolute, whereas breathability is excellent. In practice this is far better than having something which is totally waterproof but only moderately breathable. Condensation simply does not occur in these trousers so they really do keep you dry.

    I took a pair on a trip in the mountains in Norway last year where temperatures were around 5-10 degrees Celsius and down around freezing at night. It was a great trip but towards the end we had one day’s forced march in heavy, driving horizontal rain. I actually had the XL size so had to take my boots off to put the Tyvek trousers on so delayed doing that as there was no shelter at all. (Now I have XXL size and can pull them on without taking boots off.) I treat my normal hiking tousers with water repellent stuff before a trip anyway, and tehy will keep a lot of rain off, but this rain was way too much for them and they became completely soaked. Eventually, when my soaked trousers were starting to let water into my boots from above, I stopped and put on the Tyvek. After several hours more in the same driving rain conditions, my trousers had dried completely under the Tyvek. They had dried, through the Tyvek, in the rain! This despite the fact I know that this tyvek material does let a little water through, and the trousers are not seam sealed. One sock remained wet but would have stayed dry had I put the Tyvek on earlier.

    The other great thing about these trousers is that they have other uses. Before I got them wet and scuzzy on that storm march I used them as extra insulation inside my rather thin sleeping bag. Unlike nylon, Tyvek is light but has a certain amout of bulk and has a softer feel, so is quite comfortable on the skn and does add some warmth.

    Soft Tyvek is not that robust and they ripped a little bit during that walk – mostly from sitting on rocks I guess. But they are certainly tough enough to last for a week-long rainy trip, or longer of course if you don’t use them much. On many trips they won’t be used in the rain at all, and at £3/pair, I don’t really care how long they last.

    I also used the zipped Tyvek jacket and found that absolutely fantastic as a wind shirt. It is definitely shower-proof but there is no way I would rely on it for rain protection in the mountains, whereas the Tyvek trousers are all the lower body rain protection I will ever need.

    I hardly took the Tyvek jacket off on that Norway trip in fact and I’ve used it for many purposes before and since. It is great as a winter running jacket for example, as keeps me warm and dry for those first 15 minutes, and then when I have warmed up and no longer need it, I can simply hang it on a bush and pick it up on my way home. It costs £3.50 and I’ve got another five of them at home so I have no worries about someone stealing it. Even worn constantly as a wind shirt it doesn’t get nearly the amount of hammering that rain pants do so it lasts quite well.

    Both items are really very good indeed and compare well to items costing several times as much.

  34. I would just note to keep your pack covered and lined. When you get to camp, remove soaked layers and put them where they might dry out. Stay dry as you can at night. In the morning, hard as it may be, put the wet clothes back on, so they a. Dry out our b. you don’t get dry camp clothes wet. It’s always better to keep designated dry clothes dry, because you may need them again presently.

  35. Hiking is my passion, but wet sheer rock makes me more nervous than ice. I can wear micro spikes or crampons in the winter. There is no boot I have found that makes me feel comfortable on wet rock. Being wet doesn’t bother me…I’m usually soaked with sweat on hot summer days anyway.

  36. How about SINGING in the RAIN?
    A joke for sure, but consider this. Rain comes from grey and dark clouds that typically bring out the depression and sadness in many.

    If you SING in the rain, a happy song for that, like Gene Kelley’s song, then it will cheer up the hiker, and keep that person from jumping off a cliff.

    Considering that when hiking in the rain, you will see very few people, and the sound of falling rain will muffle the sound of singing, and for a bonus reason, singing might give pre-warning to a slow moving bear that may be surprised by the encounter.

    So sing sing sing!

  37. I’m going to try out my Army Poncho on a 6.5 mile day hike, wish me luck! It has kept me bone dry during a 24 hour rain storm while camping so it should be money on this 3-4 hour hike. I am totally expecting wet boots on this trip though.

  38. This post inspired me to hike Mt.Wilson(ca) on the rainiest day in socal history. Rain gear soaked thru after the first 2hrs. Boots were soaked thru about 3hrs. Yellow tinted sunglasses got really foggy, but I needed them for the hail and wind. And then it went from rain to snow and rain. BUT. . I learned the limits of my gear so that was cool!

    But if I were backpacking I’d loose more days drying my gear then just waiting out the storming under a tarp.

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