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Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain
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Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/17/2012 18:59:18 MDT Print View

After a long, wet day, nothing beats crawling into a dry sleeping system.

Accordingly, I religously carry 2 waterproof dry bags.

One holds my down sleeping bag. Protecting it is priority number One.

The second bag holds my insulating layer and any clothing used only for sleeping - a pair of wool socks (not liners) and merino wool top and bottom base layers. Only in a real emergency would I ever consider using them for hiking.

Everything else in my pack can get as wet as it wants. I don't worry about my stove, pot, pack getting wet. Try seam sealing a pack sometime, even a cuben version. Most of the time my pack is not on my back, it's inside the shelter with me. Ziplock bags work fine for maps and bandaids.

Now the caveats:

My dry sleeping system stays in its bags until I'm in my shelter for the night.

Continuous multi-day 100% humidity levels with no opportunity to dry my gear will eventually affect the down bag. I need it to keep me warm at night, so it can't stay in its bag forever. It will absorb the humidity. If the weather gets that bad that long, I get off the trail. Hiking is supposed to be fun, not suicide.


(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
FYI on 05/17/2012 19:54:22 MDT Print View

I was in Denali and it rained for 72 hours almost nonstop. I used a MH gore Paclite jacket and I stayed bone dry inside, same with my rain pants.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Yep, 2 dry bags on 05/17/2012 21:10:24 MDT Print View

What Bob said, a dry bag for your sleeping bag and another for your insulation (down sweater for me) and a few extra clothes including "sleeping clothes".

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/17/2012 22:06:41 MDT Print View

Regarding ponchos, mine is PU coated nylon and the stiffness of the material is important in keeping it ventilated. Whenever I see a picture of a silnylon poncho it seems to be draping closely to the wearer. I wonder if that doesn't tend to trap a lot if moisture underneath?

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
staying dry in the rain on 05/17/2012 22:22:11 MDT Print View

Have to dissent with those who say it can't be done.
After more than two days of hiking in constant deluge, yes, but most of the time, that hasn't happened in CO and New England.
A polyester shirt, Polartek top if cold enough, WPB top and WPB bucket hat under the hood, baggie type shorts, heavier Coolmax sox, and WPB mid boots with WPB gaitors keep my upper body dry, and my feet no more than sligtly damp (unless wading in deep water is required - hate that).
Just recently tried the Marmot Rockstar softshell pants for ten hours hiking in the rain, and even my legs got no more than damp on the front above the knees, plus no need for gaitors because the pants covered the boot tops.

Maybe the trouble is all about the condensation produced from exertion under non-breathable outerwear. Or maybe it is types of WPB materials that don't perform well, or the use of non-synthetics like wool, that can be a bear once it gets sopped.
Or maybe it is because I go more slowly and don't perspire as much.
Still, I think one or two days of hiking in constant rain can be handled without getting sopped.
P.S. The WPB top is an older model Patagonia, the boots Keen-Dry Targhees, the Sox Lorpen Extreme Coolmax, the shorts a very quick-dry and water resistant polyester - nothing outrageously expensive.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/19/2012 08:40:06 MDT Print View

Is there any more information on the British hiking system? I have found some success using the umbrella and wearing my Golite Tumalo top and having the pit zips and pockets open to breathe.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/19/2012 10:38:31 MDT Print View

I long ago gave up trying to stay dry in heavy rain. Even if I could keep the rain off my own sweat will soak me and there is no way that sweat will evaporate in a heavy Pacific Northwest USA rain.

So I use a closed cell foam coat (float coat) as my insulating layer, raincoat and partial sleeping pad. The closed cell foam absorbs very little water and retains most of its insulating value when wet.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/19/2012 10:57:11 MDT Print View

No free lunch! A lot of my hiking is in cold, high humidity conditions, with lots of drizzle. The air is saturated, the brush is wet, and your perspiration has nowhere to go. I use a trash compactor bag to keep my insulated stuff dry and use a poncho or a rain shell with all the vents open. I don't care what breathable fabric is used, it is simply overwhelmed by my perspiration and the soggy air. Having a dry base layer available is mandatory. Synthetic fill and fleece are superior to down in those conditions. I can't depend on sunshine to dry things out either, so a wet multi-day trip can be a challenge. It's part of the deal here.

Craig Rowland
(craigr) - MLife

Locale: Pacific NW
I agree... on 05/19/2012 11:13:01 MDT Print View

I agree with Dale. Tactics in rain forest hiking need to account for the wet. Breathable fabrics often fail. Sometimes you may be better with Helly Hansen Impertech and good vents in very wet weather. Although recently I have been trying eVent fabrics with some luck so far.

I have retired all my down insulation for the most part. After many days of rain it just absorbs too much moisture from the air so you are better off with synthetic. Starting a fire is also not always an option to dry things. Finding and collecting dry wood can be difficult and expose you to more rain. Sometimes you just need to hole up in a good tent and stay warm and dry as best you can.

The worst is rain and cold temps. The air is saturated and getting wet can become a serious situation. It's one thing to get wet in a summer shower when it is 80 degrees out and will be sunny soon. It's another when it is 40 degrees with temps falling to 35 and remaining wet and cold for many days on end. It tends to make you a more conservative hiker when it comes to carrying gear.

In general:

I don't carry any rain gear that isn't 100% waterproof. I don't care if it is heavier than lesser rain protection.

I dislike ponchos because they allow rain to blow in from the sides or flap around in the wind.

Ditto for pack covers. I use a trash bag liner for my pack.

I carry and use an umbrella. It makes a huge difference when hiking in forests with no wind to worry about but lots of rain.

A wide brim hat is also more comfortable to use than a jacket hood for extended use.

I use a tent from Hilleberg with double walls to limit contact with inevitable condensation. I don't trust other shelters to provide adequate protection. I also would never have my shelter also double as my rain gear (e.g. Poncho as tarp). I want to have a tent that I can go into to get and stay dry no matter how bad the rain is.

I use all synthetic insulation and clothing.

Underwear and socks are merino though.

I use a synthetic sleeping bag. It goes in its own waterproof stuff sack.

I have an extra set of dry socks and undergarments to wear in the tent.

A microfiber towel is handy for drying things off.

A tarp could be handy to setup outside your tent for a sitting and cooking area. Although I don't normally use one.

Doing the above I can normally stay pretty dry in extended rain.

Edited by craigr on 05/19/2012 11:34:42 MDT.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/19/2012 15:26:55 MDT Print View

I just try and stay damp/wet and warm with the minimum of clothing. Currently above the bush line I use Rab eVent leggings and smock. I wear light shoft shell trousers under the leggings and have found this to be a superb combination. Under the jacket it is a merino base layer, combined with a 100 weight fleece if needed (haven't needed to yet). However, even if I don't wear it during the day, the 100 weight fleece is wonderful to put on under my BPL Coccon after a long wet session.

In warmer weather or below the bush line I am planning to experiment with a rain skirt. I have used the Buffalo pile/pertex system in sustained heavy rain before. It works well, but I found you need to keep moving to keep warm. Overall I am a bit wary of any system that requires you to hike hard all the time to keep warm. This can work very well at times, but poor terrain and challenging navigation can mean that your pace slows and you start to cool.

Some people love Paramo for cold wet weather, but others have found it leaks.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Whats the best way to stay dry in the rain on 05/19/2012 16:48:46 MDT Print View

Don't bother. You won't succeed anyhow. Focus on staying warm.


Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
fallacies on 05/19/2012 18:35:53 MDT Print View

Since staying dry in a continual rain and/or damp environment when it is cold is a fallacy, what do people suggest to stay warm? Fleece or synthetic insulation layers, quick drying base layers, wool socks, a change of these, a synthetic sleeping bag, heatsheets?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: fallacies on 05/19/2012 18:57:34 MDT Print View

"what do people suggest to stay warm?"

How about a nice warm wood fire?

I was on a snow-camping trip one time, and somebody brought along a Pine Mountain fire log. At nightfall, it was lit. It produced a lot of light, but not much heat. It melted its way down through about four feet of snow before it went out, but that heat couldn't be utilized.


Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: fallacies on 05/19/2012 18:57:42 MDT Print View

Read the thread Brett. Plenty of suggestions.

Edited by kthompson on 05/19/2012 19:02:41 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: fallacies on 05/19/2012 19:28:41 MDT Print View

+1 Ken : )

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
quite on 05/19/2012 19:37:44 MDT Print View

Yes, I understand that. It was more of a query to see if there were some more groupings or ideas rather than a shotgun effect.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
staying dry in rain on 05/19/2012 22:34:34 MDT Print View

Sounds like it is a whole different ball game in the northwestern US and Down Under, than is the case in Colorado and New England in the US. So much to be learned from this site. Kudos for getting (and staying) out there in such more challenging weather. Maybe someday the ultimate WPB will arrive to keep you dry.

James Berwick
(jhb0510) - F
UK Conditions on 05/20/2012 01:41:01 MDT Print View

Hi I live in the SW UK, where it rarely gets cold but does tend to be pretty wet and windy.

Until a couple of years ago I was going with the fleece and pertex approach, this worked well for me until in July 2010 I was walking accross Dartmoor in heavy rain and strong winds. The temperature was about 50oF, but the 40-50mph winds made it feel much colder. The wind was driving the cold rain strait though 2 pertex layers (a Montane featherlight and lightspeed jackets) a micro fleeca and a baselayer and onto my skin. Whilst hiking (fast) I was just cold, but as soon as I stopped I started shivering uncontrolably and could therefore not stop and rest or eat. I was very concerned that if things got worse or if I could not continue I would be in serious trouble.

After that experience I bought a Montane lightspeed H20 jacket and a cheap pair of waterproof trousers I have twice since been out in poor conditions using these new items and have found they make an incredible difference.

The first occasion was in August last year, the rain was heavy and the wind was moderate, nothing like the year before, but I would have been soaked to the skin in fleece and pile. I wore just a base layer under the water proofs and although wet with perspiration I was comfortable, I think the big difference wa that I was being soaked by warm sweat, not cold rain. When I stopped and put up my tent I put on a fleece layer over my base layer (having taken off the waterproofs)and they were dry very quickly.

The second occasion was in January when I was hiking in 40 mph winds at 40oF with a mixture of rain sleet and hail, again I wore just a base layer and the waterproofs. I was just cooler than comfortable, but experienced no humidity inside the waterproofs. When I stopped for a break, I put on a snugpack jacket with a cheap water proof over the top. With this on I was comfortable even when sitting around for a half hour break.

The Lightspeed H20 is not very breathable MVTR or 6,000g/m²/24hrs. Montane have just brought out a new jacket using Pertex sheild plus which is much more breathable MVTR of 25,000g/m²/25hrs. It would be interesting to see how much difference this would make in the warmer conditions. I am convinced that if cool enough, the best way to avoid moisture inside your shell is just to make sure you don't sweat by controlling your temperature! When my light speed wears out, I will try a more breathable jacket, but for now am happy with my system.

With regard to other equipment I have found that my down quilt is great if the weather is dry, or if you are only out for one night, but if it is wet and you are out for a number of nights, I find it looses loft and warmth. I am going to be making myself a climashield quilt for this winter.

At the moment I use a Tarptent squall, which I have had for nearly 10 years. I have found it to be a great shelter. It has stood up to winds which I would never have guessed it would when I bought it. The only issue I have with it is that it is a bit of a wind tunnel, and this makes it a bit of a chilly place to be in a storm. I am thinking of either some sort of mid shelter or TT Notch or Stratosphere for it's replacement.

I have never used buffalo clothing, but had one of their bags years ago. The bag did not wrk for me, and although the clothing sounds like a great idea, I have never met anyone who uses it in a backpacking situation.

Paramo clothing has a very loyal following over here, but most find it too warm to wear outside of winter, and you have to be very fastidious with keeping the DWR in good condition otherwise it looses its waterproof qualities.

Hope that was of interrest!


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: fallacies on 05/20/2012 04:12:48 MDT Print View

Well, what makes us cold are a) strong wind cooling wet clothing and b) cold rain rinsing over our bodies.
Our solution, which works very well for us, is to use a silnylon poncho over pack and body. Yes, we get wet, but as OP commented, the wetness is my warm sweat, not cold rain. OK, and keep walking!

We seem to generate a little warm fug inside the poncho as long as it is not really wrapped around our arms, sucking body heat away. We often walk with our arms folded across our chests and the poncho sleeves empty. What with the pack iside the poncho, we do stay OK even in the snow.
Ponchos in bad weather

Near Mont Blanc on separate days. Yes, we were warm inside the ponchos. Note: while it was sub-zero on the right, on the left it was sitting at ~0 C and we had experienced torrential rain turning into snow. The ponchos kept the wind and rain off.


Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
cheapest way to stay dry in the rain on 05/20/2012 06:16:01 MDT Print View

Not lightweight but Very durable and very dry

$20 construction bibs.
$30 construction coat
$20 Super wide brimmed hat + umbrella though I will be honest I haven't used an umbrella but twice and honestly my hand got tired of holding the bugger.

If no wind hike in bibs and wide brimmed hat. Unlike pants, bibs let all of the sweat of your legs, butt, crotch out and therefore you don't sweat yourself to death. Of course add a waterproof top over the bibs and this is not true. Your arms will get wet and the fleece you are wearing, but otherwise you can hike as fast as you like and stay "dry" in a torrential downpour except your arms which will get soaked. To "dry" fleece, take off wring out, shake hard, put back on and it will be dry in an hour flat. Must keep your body temperature up by eating, setting up camp, dry layer underneath and waterproof parka under this then wet fleece over to dry, using body heat to dry it.

With the above you can sit, kneel anywhere you like and are guaranteed it won't rip or leak through. Beware extended kneeling on sharp gravel as this can over time puncture holes. No its not lightweight, but if you need to get out even in poor weather, which I do often, as otherwise I go bat crazy being cooped up inside, take the ol' beater gear and enjoy.

Being wet is miserable. The above is just one way to get around this. Also works as trail crew wear if you wish to give back.