Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Lightweight Alternative Rainwear: State of the Market Report - Part 1: Introducing and Defining Alternative Rainwear
Display Avatars Sort By:
Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
rain shorts on 11/25/2011 06:51:08 MST Print View

Rain shorts

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Umbrella..ella..ella on 11/25/2011 10:17:43 MST Print View

Matt is correct regarding the pros and cons of the umbrella.

I've used an umbrella for years on the PCT and the CT. They excel during that light rain that's too much for a windshirt but not enough for full-on rain gear. Even when the full gear must be used, having the brolly over your head means you don't need your rain hood. You'll stay a lot cooler this way, especially when hiking uphill under load (it rarely rains when I'm going down - I think the Trail Gods have it in for me).

Umbrellas and high winds are not friends, but they can be made to play nicely together. The trick is to hold the umbrella canopy very close to your body and use it as a shield while walking into said wind. I usually keep it at or near eye level so I can just peer over the edge of the canopy (must remember where the tips of the ribs are when doing this or risk poking self in eyeball).

Umbrellas are great for closing off one end of a tarp, as Matt's photo shows. They also work nicely to block some of the wind by your stove, although you'll still need your usual windscreen. I've successfully done this on a picnic table in a campground during very breezy conditions.

They are superb for keeping the sun off my noggin in the desert or when hiking extended lengths of open, exposed trail and/or above timberline (insert wind caveat). Failure to remember said caveat cost me one GoLite umbrella very suddenly in the desert. The wind tore the (removeable) canopy off so rapidly that it broke two of the nylon ribs, rendering the umbrella virtually useless, even after replacing the canopy. I put cord loops on both the tip and the handle so I can use my umbrella as a hanging, infinitely adjustable sun screen while resting under a Joshua Tree during the heat of the desert day.

Over the years, my wife has made a variety of different holders for my pack-of-the-moment that allow the umbrella to attach directly to the pack bag below my shoulders and along my spine (I tried the shoulder strap holders and didn't like the results). All of these required me to reduce the diameter of the umbrella's handle grip - those rubbery knobs so popular these days are terrible - so it is only slightly larger than the umbrella shaft in order to fit down into the lower attachment point. The long wooden handles, being smooth, work best. I just saw off the "J" at the bottom. She also adds one or more velcro loops at or near the top of the pack to secure the upper shaft and so keep the whole thing from just tipping off to one side. These modifications allow for true hands-free use of my umbrella so I can use my trekking poles while hiking.

The downside of such a mounting behind my back is that I have to remove my pack to remove or lower the umbrella. This can be frustrating and time-consuming if faced with a lot of intermittent overhanging branches. Getting careless or rushing during this process can lead to bent or broken ribs. If it's going to be windy or brushy, I don't mount the umbrella and just carry it in my hand.

Edited by wandering_bob on 11/25/2011 10:21:39 MST.

wayne clark
Re: my experiences not entirely in line with others on 11/25/2011 11:39:12 MST Print View

yeah i agree, bear in mind some people are just totally hell bent on saving weight at the expense of practicality. i see people from overseas coming to nz using gear they use overseas which doesnt do the job here, poncho's and tarps dont keep the rain out in our regularly stormy windy cold conditions. softshells dont keep out our heavy rain

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: my experiences not entirely in line with others on 11/25/2011 12:41:40 MST Print View

nonsense ... to say that all these UL solutions wont work in any environment is BPL blasphemy ... you have BPLers putting down your lack of skills in using UL rain gear in hurricanes ... as we all know that no environment is a tough and wet as cali ;)

a b
Actually UL gear works in.. on 11/25/2011 17:11:50 MST Print View

The same UL gear works in California, Oregon, Washington, New mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
I might have been born in California but i have hiked across all those states using UL techniques and gear in the past three years.
I have not been to New Zealand but several hikers I met during my hikes live there and use the same techniques and gear as me.
Does the rain come up from the ground in New Zealand or something? Maybe my kiwi friends forgot to tell me that!

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Alaska on 11/25/2011 19:31:07 MST Print View


Have you used such systems in alaska in the rainy seasons? I would be most interested to hear of such succesful use on a multiday trip under wet and windy conditions

If i remember correctly even mr skurkas rain jackets failed in alaska ...

a b
Alaska on 11/25/2011 19:57:06 MST Print View

Thats the point Eric..
Andrew Skurka's jacket failed.. but his adventure did not.
The same failures happened to everyone i met after extended periods of rain on the trails.
There is no perfect, fool proof, solution to rain gear, shelter systems, or anything else.
Sitting back and expecting gear to do everything for us will leave us dissapointed.
It takes strategy to succesfully use gear and sometimes even that isn't enough.
Carrying 75 lbs of gear is no more a gurantee than 7.5 ounces of gear. Sometimes the results are the same and we all get wet.
I met people wearing your favorite Arcteryx jackets, some wearing trash bags, some wearing ponchos, some with umbrellas, and others without any raingear at all.
At some point on a long distance hike every one of those people had their raingear system overwhelmed.
After meeting these folks actually out there hiking thousands of miles the one common thing besides that was their resilience and will to go on or try a different system and go on.
I don't think anyone is claiming the "holy grail" of raingear and thats what will make this thread so interesting.

Edited by Ice-axe on 11/25/2011 19:58:50 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Will on 11/25/2011 20:09:54 MST Print View

I agree that will is important

I own and sometimes use a sil poncho during the summer out here ... However, hype aside, there isnt usually constant non stop rain during the summer even in the coastal rainforests of the canadian pnw

I would not want to use it right now here ... November in squamish is basically constant freezing rain where hypothermia is a very real possibility .... And i use a synth bag ... Nor would i want to use it in the alpine where i need both hands free ... Or in places in the rain forrest where the trails are faint to non existant

The point is simply that many people infer their experience in one environment to be suitable for all environments ... This is not saying you do

However i do see quite a bit of post on bpl recommending equipment without regard to the conditions or even the users fit or requirements

And conversely i see alot of gear on gear trade ... I assume that at least some of it stem from recommendations gone awry

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Alaska on 11/25/2011 20:11:28 MST Print View

I wonder if Andy Skurka's jacket failed because of long term wear on tear on the DWR finish. I'd agree though that no system is perfect and sometimes you're just going to get a bit wet. I got a heavier raincoat because of issues with my Golite Virga but we'll see if its noticably better. If not back to the lighter coat and the occassional wet out. I think if I expected a lot of rain rather than a heavier rain coat I might consider a second baselayer so I'd have something to change into once I was out of the rain. When your tired drying wet clothes with body warmth is no fun!

Edited by Cameron on 11/25/2011 20:13:31 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Dwr on 11/25/2011 20:18:55 MST Print View

Luke ... I belive it was determined that the dwr failed

Without a heat source to renew it ...

Now the interesting question is would 3 layer vs a 2.5 layer work better in terms in wouldnt have leaked after dwr failure ... Or a non brethable jacket ...

Many people use 2.5 layer jackets just fine ... However for certain conditions it may not be the best or even a safe choice

Just like any other system

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Re: my experiences not entirely in line with others on 11/26/2011 08:22:41 MST Print View

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
rain gear on 11/26/2011 17:22:28 MST Print View

Good discussion everyone.

The umbrella question I previously answered. Pretty much all the others will be answered in either the second part of this series, or in my upcoming SOTMR on sub 8 oz WPB jackets.

Paul Schnoes
(psch) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Umbrellas on 11/26/2011 19:21:52 MST Print View

Count me as an Umbrella fan! Though it may go against the "gram counter" philosophy, I carry one all the time. Even in sunny Colorado it rains nearly every day in the Mountains.

Umbrellas have a long history in Ultralight Backpacking, (see Ray Jordine's books),but reviews like this one always seem to exclude them.

Edited by psch on 11/26/2011 19:31:29 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
MLD simple poncho weight on 11/27/2011 23:31:19 MST Print View

Folks, Ron Bell brought to my attention that the 7.5 oz claimed weight for the MLD Simple poncho is for the smaller size. The claimed weight for the large, which was the one tested, is 8.5 oz.

Those weighing size v. grams would do well to take poncho size into account.

[Now fixed in article.]

Edited by DaveC on 11/28/2011 13:01:49 MST.

Matt Thyer
(mthyer) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Umbrella Light Weight? on 11/28/2011 14:56:26 MST Print View

I use a compact umbrella while on long distance walking trips. I've found it very helpful in the Pacific North West in particular, but one thing this piece of gear is not and will never be is light-weight.

Otherwise great write-up. I haven't used a poncho in a long time and it might prove way more useful when compared to the jacket-pants combo.

Ceph Lotus
(Cephalotus) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Umbrella Light Weight? on 11/28/2011 15:54:30 MST Print View

I guess it depends on your definition of light weight. The Golite Dome Umbrella weighs in at 8 oz.

Paul Schnoes
(psch) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
8 ounce multi-pupose tool on 11/29/2011 21:38:50 MST Print View

8 ounces for a multi-use tool for use as a rain top, sunshade, Tarp "beak", wind blocker, animal frightener(and if necessary a club), fishing pole, and more, or separate single purpose item to do the same. One of the hallmarks of a good lightweight backpacking item is its ability to do more than one thing.

I will go with the very breathable rain gear and multi-purpose tool: the Umbrella.

Check out 12 amazing ways to use an umbrella: ... The light saber use may not be light weight backpacking at its best ;)

wayne clark
weather for ducks on 03/14/2012 20:12:00 MDT Print View

new zealand is full of narrow and or steep valleys, the wind often blows hard and upward ridges, and the rain can come up with it... not the best for staying dry with ponchos and umbrella.s