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layering in the Pacific NW
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Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sloppy Conditions Article on 03/22/2006 16:31:54 MST Print View

>Now what to do about those hikes that do both equally???

I'm going to see how the Hennessy works when staked out as a bivy above the treeline when we do the Wonderland trail this September. Sgt. Rock has some pix of his set up as a bivy. If it doesn't work out, I'll use my Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape, which I'll be carrying anyway for rain gear.

> Whatever happened to all those posters touting the wonders and beauty of the PNW? Care to chime in? =).

Sure :) As long as you have never hiked anywhere else, you just don't know any better than to camp out in the rain. Now I live in Wyoming, but I still head back to Washington (Olympics, western Cascades) to hike as often as I can. In the rain. (Never hiked in the eastern Cascades...)

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
touting posters on 03/22/2006 16:40:36 MST Print View

> John Carter said: Whatever happened to all those posters touting the wonders and beauty of the PNW?

The country is incredible. A lot of the coastal mountains are truly vertical: you work oh-so-hard and are rewarded often with incredible sweeping views. Is 3000 vertical feet an hour interesting enough for you?

Walking in the wet is fun in a different way. The forest is *alive* like a rainforest. The ocean is another world unto itself. And there are many, many sunny days. I even heard once that NYC gets more rain in a year than Vancouver!

It's just that, like on any trip, you must be prepared. And the opinions, advice, and gear lists of flatlanders/midwesterners/temperate region hikers can be very challenging to apply in any season out here.

Since moisture management (day and night) is very personal, you kind of have to go out and move in the bush here before you can really find what works for you. Being 6'0/190 and a human furnace, I have surprised the crap out of myself by freezing my balls off in every single season: including glorious summer. I had to throw everything I had known since childhood out the window and re-learn about my own physiology, diet, cadence, and energy expenditure patterns. Now I'm pretty skilled at managing myself, but what works for me won't work for most people! And the same is probably true for you...


Mark W Heninger
(heninger) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: tarp/bivy in PNW on 03/22/2006 16:48:49 MST Print View

What about sheet metal screws in the bottom of your shoes? I've often wanted do try this, but never gotten around to it.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
The real PNW and it's charms on 03/22/2006 16:50:46 MST Print View

The objective miseries keep out the hordes-- the rain, the mud, the devil's club--- and then you break out of the dark, dank (but beautiful) rain forests into unsurpassed alpine scenery. The hardier of us get out of the sloppiest parts in one death march long day and don't have to camp in the most humid conditions down in the valleys and canyons and primeval forests. The moisture management picture looks a lot rosier from up high. If worst comes to worst, go east (of the crest), young man.

Edited by kdesign on 03/22/2006 17:24:17 MST.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: The real PNW and it's charms on 03/22/2006 19:42:17 MST Print View

Kevin, Brian, thanks for your encouraging words. I agree that once you get above treeline, nothing compares (I was at Mt. Baker last summer as well as Mt. Hood; incomparably beautiful). Douglas, my only concern with the Hennessy as a bivy is that it doesn't have a waterproof bottom. I tried setting mine up in my backyard and was unconvinced that it would protect me in a seious downpour, particularly with only 4 tie down points. But I'd love to hear about your experiences, particularly if you use a different tarp with 6 tie-out points.

Yeah, I know I should wait before buying any of the gear. But I'm so impatient, and the sale is sooo tempting!! =) Plus I want to get out alot this summer once I move. But I guess the wrong gear on sale is still too expensive!

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: The real PNW and it's charms on 03/22/2006 23:07:19 MST Print View

>Douglas, my only concern with the Hennessy as a bivy is that it doesn't have a waterproof bottom.

If there is a chance of going to ground I'd definitely bring a Gossamer Gear small Polycryo groundsheet, 1/8" (or 3/8") ThinLight pad, and NightLight torso pad (or BMW TorsoLite). That's an additional 7.4 oz of gear for ground sleeping.

> I tried setting mine up in my backyard and was unconvinced that it would protect me in a seious downpour, particularly with only 4 tie down points.

The Jacks R Better SilNyl Tarp or HH hex tarp would give more protection for an additional 2 oz or 11 oz, but I'll probably just use my Gatewood Cape (and GG Polycryo, ThinLight and NightLight/TorsoLite).

I need to do some testing, since I've never used the Gatewood Cape or the HH on the ground.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: The real PNW and it's charms on 03/23/2006 07:58:47 MST Print View

I used my HH on the ground one windy and rainy night in the Colorado Rockies. One end was tied to a tree with the other three corners staked out. The ground was wet before I set up but it was never a problem after that. I was careful to pick a high spot so I would not have any additional water under me. The bottom would have failed otherwise. I was on a full length pad so maybe I was unaware of water seeping through the bottom. Ignorance is bliss in that case. In short, the setup was dry and stable. Sorry to get off topic.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Re: Re: Re: The real PNW and it's charms on 03/23/2006 17:06:25 MST Print View

More tangential comments on the hammock... Seems like it could be a good PNW solution, with some more ventilation and livable space.

I'm not sure who mentioned the over-arching in their Hennesy, but you might want to look into making your own hammock--a longer length can help you lay a little flatter. Check out Risk's page for a simple $10 DIY hammock project. I splurged on a light nylon fabric from Wal-Mart and mine came about to about 12oz and $15. With the money you save, you can reinvest in a more storm-worthy tarp than the Hennesy standard.

About hammock bivying--If you do something like a JRB nest underneath, you won't be as bivyable. For one, you'd crush the down. The humidity may get to the down as well--can any PNW hammockers speak to this?

But you could still have that bivy ability if you go the full-length pad route, like one of the wider full-length pads from Oware or Gossamer Gear [coming soon]. If you used the pad outside the hammock bottom, would you still need the groundsheet?

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The real PNW and it's charms on 03/23/2006 18:22:57 MST Print View

Thanks, Mark, for the helpful comments. So long as we are off topic... I have indeed been thinking about making a custom hammock since Christmas (I purchased the 6' and shorter hammock with the idea in mind that this would become my wife's hammock (who doesn't trust my sewing!) and my learning curve hammock, and I would make a longer, lighter one later. But then I got all concerned that the lighter weight materials I intend to use (1.1 DWR nylon, nanoseeum mesh, AirCore Pro bear hanging rope), wouldn't hold up to my 210lb weight. I guess I just have to lose a little weight and try later.

I tried the oware pad and decided the 60x40 was too cumbersome in the hammock (makes too many folds and wrinkles and is very tacky, and is really too big for packing). I think the best solution for the PNW is a segmented pad extender such as the Speer SPE. I made my own version and it got rid of the wrinkle issue and makes the foam more packable. Having tried it with the Oware foam, my Thermarest ProLite 3 short, and my Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, I thought the Thermarest was most comfortable. Though slightly heavier than all-foam, it would be more packable and comfortable in bivy form. I will also look into gossamer gear's wider pads when they are available mid-April (love that evazote foam).

Incidentally I decided to return the eVENT bivy today. I figure a larger tarp pitched really low with plenty of stakes and a good DWR bivy should keep me dry and save substantial weight, which is really what this is all about (otherwise I'd bring the TT Rainshadow). And I realized I was making a serious fallacy in my reasoning that the Unishelter would give me better views; sure it would be nice on a clear night, and convenient if a storm breaks out later that night, but once it begins raining I have NO view at all, whereas with a tarp I'd still have some visibility.

I think my plan now is to make my own 7oz bivy (, lose some weight, then make my own longer hammock (hopefully 26oz). For lower elevation rainy trips I'll use the hammock, for above treeline I'll bivy. If I really indend to to both eqally, I'll bring both; replacing the GG groundsheet with a bivy will only add a net 6oz. It'll give me splash resistance under the hammock tarp and added wind resistance under my hammock pads. And the weight of both adds up to the weight of the Unishelter alone.

Edited by jcarter1 on 03/23/2006 19:46:06 MST.

douglas ray

Locale: Olympic Peninsula
Hiking in the wet on 03/23/2006 19:25:37 MST Print View

Someday I plan to write a book on this subject, but in the meantime here is some anicdotal advice based on my wilderness experiance in the Washington Olympics.
I started hiking in Search and Rescue where our basic training consisted of 48 hours in the 31-35 degree continious rain and sleet. We were all poor teenagers so we all wore non breathable raingear and cheap polypropelene baslayers with fleece or a wool sweater in between. You just planned on your clothes being wet, and everything was synthetic so it didn't absorb water. We used pretty warm synthetic sleeping bags and crawled into them in our damp baselayres and took everything but our raingear to bed with us, and it all dried out overnight. During the day you dressed to be cool inside your raingear and opened up whatever you could whenever you weren't in head high brush to let a bit of moisture out. Everyone carried a 10x12 tarp and we all hated double wall tents because of the massive condensation on the inner tent. We would set up a huge tarp, big enough to do everything under and totally protect us without any need to touch the tarp. We often didn't carry stoves and our only source of heat was our own metabolism. We were always damp but never got to cold.
The two remarkable things really were the big tarp and the acceptance that insulation would be damp. A tarp that gives you lot's of out-of-the-rain shelter still beats every tent I've ever used when it comes to prolonged rain in my opinion. And just planning on clothes and a sleeping bag that would be adequatly warm even when damp meant really we could go on no matter what for as long as necessary. Admittedly our packs were pretty heavy, but the same principles with some improved technology could be quite workable I think, and that's pretty much what I'm trying now.

Jeff Black
(thehikingdude) - F
Re: Hiking in the wet on 03/23/2006 21:20:41 MST Print View

I'm heading out tomorrow morning, Friday, to Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge for 3 days. I have a Frogg Togg rain jacket, Montbell Wind Jacket and a Montbell UL Thermawrap jacket along with a OR Sombrero. Wish me lots of luck!!! I'm wishing I had a light weight umbrella at this point since they are now predicting thunderstorms on Sat morning, not to imply that I would stand out in the thunderstorm holding an umbrella - somehow I don't think that would be such a good idea. Now I just have to hope that the seal job I did on my new Rainbow does it's job.

My current quandry, do I bring the Frogg Togg rain pants or not? Thoughts?

-the hiking dude

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Hiking in the wet on 03/23/2006 21:41:08 MST Print View

My current quandry, do I bring the Frogg Togg rain pants or not? Thoughts?

-the hiking dude

Hehehe-- you runnin' a Frogg Toggs museum or did you buy 'em to use 'em? <grin>

If you don't use them, you carry a couple extra ounces; if you need them, you're gonna be REAL happy you have them. Save the heroics for August!

Jeff Black
(thehikingdude) - F
What to wear on my feet? on 03/23/2006 21:46:52 MST Print View

I suppose I should bring the pants. The extra weight isn't going to kill me.

Now the thought that keeps going through my head, now that I'm down to less than 25 lbs. is do I wear my big Vasque boots or try out my new Keen Targhee light hikers? In the past I never would have even considered using a light trek shoe, but with all the reading I've done re: ultralight backpacking it really has me thinking. It's going to be wet and muddy, am I crazy to be considering this?


Edited by thehikingdude on 03/23/2006 21:48:13 MST.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Hiking in the wet on 03/23/2006 21:48:45 MST Print View

Please post on your journey when you return! I've only made it to Tunnel Falls. Once three summers ago and once two Christmases ago (my in-laws live in Portland). Be careful of the frost that forms on the exposed rocky sections of trail. When I hiked in Trion Creek SP this past Christmas in a drizzle, I appreciated having my DriDucks pants for added windbreak and warmth. Even though I got a little sweat dampened, I liked knowing that I wasn't getting any insulating layers wet. It also gives you the confidence to sit down without soaking your pants.

Do you plan on returning via the PCT or Ruckle rigde (the left loop) or via Tanner Butte (the right loop)?

Jeff Black
(thehikingdude) - F
Eagle Creek on 03/23/2006 21:57:51 MST Print View

At this point the plan is to just hike in and out. I'm going with somebody else so we will be playing it somewhat by ear. I hiked just past Tunnel Falls to Crossover Falls, or whatever it's called, 2 weeks ago just to scope things out. Not a single person was backpacking. I doubt that will change much in 2 weeks. I'm so excitied, the first backpacking trip of the year and my first ultralight trip as well. I've dropped 20+ lbs off my back which is very nice. I can't "weight" to see the difference!!!!!


Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
More PNW Advice on 03/24/2006 09:40:54 MST Print View

Doug makes some great points. I think by this point in the discussion folks probably realize that getting wet is invevitable - the comfort and enjoyment will depend on how you manage it. I think folks also realize that there's going to be a little weight penalty in the wet season. As noted earlier, even famous Ray added about 4 pounds to his 8 pound load when he did the PCT through Washington. Gear has changed a bit since then and I think that penalty could be a lot less now, but it's still there if you plan on the West side of the range in the wet months and a "normal" forecast.

Doug's plug of a big tarp can't be overstated. Especially in pair/group hiking. There's nothing worse than spending every minute in a shelter - especially disheartening in a small shelter. When we were running trips with clients in ONP, we always carried a huge 12x12 tarp. It was light for the time, and it saved more than one trip. Huge tarp and a fire can go a loooong way to making a trip enjoyable. Hell, the rain is even a welcome addition in that setup - I love the sound of it beating on a tarp or tent.

I've since kind of combined the big tarp and shelter into one and use a Hex 3 as my primary shelter. 1lb. 12oz. isn't that unreasonable, and I can set it up just about anywhere, house a couple people, stay dry, sit up comfortably, and not feel like I'm trapped in a 7x4 square for 12+ hours in a stretch. If I was out with 3 or more people, though, I'd still be reaching for a big tarp and cover the entire camp social area.

Now, to find an ultralight stool so I can stay off the soaked ground/logs.....

Lastly, it's not like this all year. We focus on it because we're in it now and it greatly affects 9 months of our hiking, but summer here can be bone dry for weeks and weeks on end. You can also escape the wet stuff with just over an hour in the car. I just spent 3 days weekend before last near Potholes and Dry Falls and after a little wetness on the first day, spent it all in sunshine and sagebrush. There are even lots of microclimates on the westside - the NE Olympics typically get under 20 inches of rain a year - 10X less than the upper Hoh Valley.

I've hiked in Zion, the Wasatch, the Uintas, Death Valley, California Coast, Northern Minnesota, Massachussetts, Connecticut, Colorado, Arizona, and a few I'm forgetting. I could live anywhere I want, but I still live and dream about Washington. So we might dwell on the rain and wet (keeps folks away :) but there's no better place in the country in my opinion. Certainly it's a candidate for the most diverse hiking in the country: all in the smallest state in the West.


Daniel Schmidt
(dschmidt) - F
Re: More PNW Advice on 03/24/2006 10:06:43 MST Print View

Curt, could you give me your email? I have some more gear questions/rain practices but this thread has gotten a little too big. You can email me at danjschmidt at

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
and even more PNW advice on 03/24/2006 10:29:04 MST Print View

You can put that copius PNW moisture to work for you in Winter/Spring by skiing on it. Come on in, the snow camping is great!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Getting Wet is Not Important??? on 03/24/2006 17:43:58 MST Print View

Sorry, I jumped in late... but I read up above:

"Really, it doesn't matter if you are wet, but it DOES matter if you are cold...".

But isn't getting wet an easy and fast invitation to getting cold? When it's cold, and you are little concerned about keeping dry, then you are just asking for lots more work to keep warm later, no?

To me, the phrase above may be true in theory, but less so in practice -- because the occurance of one can easily lead to the other. To me, it makes about as much sense as saying:

"It doesn't matter if you fall, but it DOES matter if you land".

Well, sure, falling is fine, it's only the impact that hurts. But we all know that it matters to be careful not to fall in the first place. Ditto about the importance of keeping dry to help prevent getting cold.

Edited by ben2world on 03/24/2006 18:00:49 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Getting Wet is Not Important??? on 03/24/2006 18:14:41 MST Print View

Think about it, Ben. Let's see if I can make some sense of this... Wetsuits work on the principle of using the water within the suit to keep the body warm. It's not the water that is the problem (though shriveled skin and smell might be), but the release of heat (though it is true that with evoporative cooling or water that is not warmed up fast enough water can be a dangerous source of cooling). If you can keep the heat in it doesn't matter if you get wet. That's how the Scottish pertex/pile clothing system works. Most mammals do the same thing; water gets in but their fur keeps them warm. Sea otters, who don't have a fat layer to keep them warm and who live in constant cold water, always get hard hit during oil spills because their system of warmth management relies heavily on their very fine fur trapping heat. Once the fur is compromised they succumb to hypothermia. As long as your clothing system is adequate to keep you warm even when wet it is not really that important if you are wet or not.

Being wet might be uncomfortable, but is not life threatening if you stay warm.

Edited by butuki on 03/24/2006 18:21:55 MST.