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Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 07:49:18 MDT Print View

From the thread on using fleece in the backcountry: "Being out in cold continuously wet weather for days on end does not sound like recreational Type 1 hiking fun to me! Sounds more like work or an endurance journey where circumstances force total disregard for conditions or short term forecasts. Learning when not venture out into the wilderness should be part of the basic UL skill set too."

I used to feel the same way. All of my early backpacking experience was in Yellowstone and the Rockies, where it's usually dry and storms are short enough to be waited out. This makes low pack weights easy to achieve.

Then I moved to the Denali area and had a rude awakening. As the jet stream shifts north around the solstice, it brings wet weather into Denali. My first summer, where I worked outside all day as a hiking guide in Kantishna, it started raining just after 4th of July and rained every day for five weeks, with highs in the 50s. (My other summers weren't as wet, but pretty close). I had to be outside every day for work and so was forced to deal. Turns out, if you wear the right clothes, get over some mental barriers, and develop new skills, there are many pleasures to be gained: the way that foggy air dampens some sounds while amplifying others, the play of mist through valleys and around peaks, the richness and depth of colors. These skills carried over well when I started wintering in Oregon.

During my summers in Denali and winters in Oregon, if I'd decided not to go out in wet weather, I'd have spent most of my days off inside. I hate to think how many wonderful trips and memories I would have missed.

So, fellow wet-weather adventurers: what techniques, mental skills, and gear do you use to not only get out during cool, continuously wet weather, but actually enjoy the experience?

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
I'll start with a few on 04/09/2013 08:42:20 MDT Print View

Gear

  • Fleece: As I mentioned in the fleece thread, fleece works well in wet weather. It keeps you warm when very wet (as opposed to synthetic puffies, which work well when damp but not soaked), you can remove a significant amount of water by wringing it out, and it dries fast. I take an 100-weight fleece hoody that I can wear under my windshirt/shell.
  • Large, weather-worthy shelter: Larger shelters give you room to strew your wet gear, keep you away from condensation, keep the wet away from your comfort gear, and provide a feeling of dependable coziness. If using a double-wall tent, I prefer a vestibule big enough to change out of wet clothes and store wet gear. I use a large, floorless shelter (Trailstar or mid) because I don't have to worry about keeping out wet stuff.
  • Dry clothes: I keep a pair of dry, comfy clothes in a dry bag. After my shelter's up and I'm ready to get cozy, I change out of my wet gear, dry off with a pack towel, and put on the dry stuff. I take synthetic base layer top and bottom, thick wool socks, a fleece hat, and fleece gloves.
  • Synthetic sleeping bag/quilt: Yes, down can be kept away from rain, streams, etc. But you can't keep out water vapor, which will get into your insulation and cause dampness in cool, wet weather. It's also nice to be able to dry out slightly damp things at night with your body heat. I use a 6oz/yd synthetic quilt, which keeps me warm to freezing.
  • Umbrella: In lighter rain and lower wind, this plus a windshirt over a base layer works great. Add the fleece if it's colder. Add the hardshell if you're getting too wet—the umbrella keeps the rain off your face and shoulders, which is such a comfort improvement. If it's too windy or raining too hard or you're bashing through brush, the umbrella's useless—so you put it away and you're in your rain suit, no worse off than you would have been in the first place. I take a Golite Chrome Dome.
  • Solid raingear: I don't put on shells until I have to, but if I have to, they need to be durable and waterproof. Plenty of options fit this bill.
  • Good footwear: Water will get in your shoes, so I give up on WP/B liners from the get go and use very breathable shoes. I take neoprene socks and extra layers of wool socks in case my feet get too cold. Otherwise, I get used to it.

Techniques

  • Good footcare: I make sure my feet are dry and warm all evening and apply foot balm to fight maceration and other nastiness.
  • Look for natural shelter for breaks: Dry patches underneath trees, rock overhangs, etc. can make mid-day breaks much nicer.
  • Warm drinks: I'll often fill a Nalgene with hot tea in the morning and keep it in a bottle cozy. Hot tea during breaks is awesome.
  • Utilize breaks in weather: Sometimes, you'll get a break in the rain and maybe even some sunshine for an hour or two. Use this time to get dampness out of any critical gear (quilt, sleep clothes) and to take a nice break.
  • Overcoming stereotypes: Seems the general cultural consensus is that you don't go out in rain because it's horrible. This creates a strong bias—I've often found my brain telling me, "It's raining, which is horrible. You're wet, which is bad. This is no good." But in truth, the rain is fine, I'm wet but warm and comfortable, and things are fine and dandy. It's all about attitude. (Caveat: When your body is telling you things are bad, you should listen. Hypothermia and trench foot are serious business.)
My pack's a bit heavier (but still light at ~11 pounds) and bulkier, and I make a few less miles, both of which are no big deal.

Edited by milesbarger on 04/09/2013 09:16:41 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: I'll start with a few on 04/09/2013 08:59:38 MDT Print View

Your pack weight is less than 10 lbs? Sounds excellent to me.

Do you use a ground sheet with the floorless shelter? I find that floorless shelters tend to trap condensation if the ground is really wet, making everything wet anyway.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 09:00:25 MDT Print View

Tall tent - like a 60 inch tall pyramid

You can sit there while it's raining and get your business done - fiddle with stuff, cook food

Enough area for sleeping bag, gear, cooking

Large open door for ventilation and so you can appreciate the nature

But, my plan is to do one week a month year-round in Oregon and Washington and can usually avoid most rain. This year was great - Jan, Feb, and March trips I could have left tent at home. It's more enjoyable when it's not raining, although occasional or light rain is a non-issue

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 09:02:31 MDT Print View

Coastal eastern Canada reporting in. The cliche is true: with few exceptions, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.

In fact, there's a special kind of joy (you may remember this from childhood) in being so perfectly dressed for the weather that you are in a warm, dry, cosy cocoon moving through cold wet wildness, face into the storm and yet safe from it. Exhilarating.

Then there's the glow of greenery on gray days, the cool light and clean-washed air, the beauty of mist and fog, the sound of rain, the roar of stormy oceans...

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Staying Dry on 04/09/2013 09:07:18 MDT Print View

Keep your rain gear on even if its just a light rain. On one trip I pretty much live in my rain gear for three days straight. Sure I sweated but I stayed warm and relatively dry. My friends who couldn't wait to get out of their rain gear usually got wet. This is the kind of situation where more breathable rain gear with venting options is really nice.

Edit - Oh and +1 for roomy shelters. I used a 9x9 tarp for a while. Heavier then my little tarp but great. When water ran under one corner I could just move.

Edited by Cameron on 04/09/2013 09:11:55 MDT.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Make that 11 pounds on 04/09/2013 09:17:36 MDT Print View

Just reviewed my wet weather gear list. It's right at 11 pounds, and I updated my earlier post accordingly.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Ground sheet on 04/09/2013 09:23:22 MDT Print View

Dr. King Shultz: "Do you use a ground sheet with the floorless shelter? I find that floorless shelters tend to trap condensation if the ground is really wet, making everything wet anyway."

I use a ground sheet right underneath me, but otherwise no. If possible, I keep the edges of the shelter above the ground and (if using a shelter with a door) the lower part of the door open. This helps.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Make that 11 pounds on 04/09/2013 09:24:39 MDT Print View

My gear is always the same

except if the weather is good I may leave the tent behind

and if it's really cold I'll take my down vest instead of synthetic

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Stay flexible on 04/09/2013 09:26:03 MDT Print View

My buddy and I planned a backpacking trip in western Washington last October. The weather was in the high 30s and raining with some mixed snow; I would have felt more comfortable if the weather was 20* cooler and snowing. We scratched our original plan and set up a base camp and enjoyed some day hikes. Our gear was soaked after the hikes; we could of stayed in camp but opted for a run into town to throw our gear into a dryer and to enjoy a beer at the local watering hole. I enjoyed that weekend as much as if we would have stuck with our original itinerary.

I've spent numerous evenings soaked to the bone but I've learned that there is a fine line between hard-core and stupid.

Nothing ground breaking here but if I'm going to stay in the woods, I:

*Opt for a more robust shelter from my quiver
*Have a set of long johns and thick socks which I keep dry and are just for sleeping
*Plan trips where I can easily bail if the weather gets the best of me
*Carry more dry tinder than normal
*Bring an extra tarp; well worth the extra pound imo.

UL is great but I've carried >50lb rucks for years. Adding a few extra lbs to my current base weight is perfectly acceptable for me in these conditions.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Stay flexible on 04/09/2013 09:37:08 MDT Print View

or, if it's raining and my tent is wet, sometimes I'll just leave it there and day hike

although taking tent down, shaking rain off,..., isn't that big a deal, I'm just lazy

or, I was at Toleak Point and there wasn't any place to hike to that was any better so I just stayed there a couple nights and walked the 3 miles to the other end of the beach and back several times - tides are different each time, different wildlife each time

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Enjoying the wet on 04/09/2013 13:27:35 MDT Print View

The BPL archives have a number of excellent articles. IMHO, this one, from 2006, is the best:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/lightweight_guide_to_backpacking_in_sustained_rain.html

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Enjoying the wet on 04/09/2013 14:26:54 MDT Print View

That is a good article; thanks for sharing. I like this quote:

"Backup clothes are probably not needed. The weight of an extra set of dry clothes is better spent on a warmer sleeping bag and/or warmer insulating jacket."

Kudos to those who can hike for days in the rain without getting wet but I'm not one of those people, at least not with my current gear. I have no experience with an extra set of wet clothes drying in a ruck in one day when hiking in non stop rain. By day two, my second set would be wet with no dry clothes to change into. I'd rather have one set of hiking clothes which shed water and dry quickly. With all of the screaming and yelling required to put on damp/cold clothing in the morning, I save weight by not having to carry coffee :) I assume like most on BPL, I have dry clothes waiting for me in my truck.

"Use slightly warmer, but well selected, clothes and sleeping gear than for dry conditions in similar temperatures."

+1 (again) I love knowing that I have a dry set of clothes to sleep in. I can deal with wet clothes when I'm moving but I hate sleeping in them if it can be avoided.

"If you can stay sheltered, a mid-day stop with a pot of hot tea or soup is a wonder for warming up, refueling your body, and raising spirits. Tip: A very light tarp (6 to 8 ounces) is a great way to get out of the wind and rain for a while when there is no natural shelter. If the day is truly wretched, you may even consider setting up your tent for a brief period."

Admittedly my current tarp selection is limited and not ideal. Among them, have a USGI poncho which works great for me as rain gear and shelter but it weighs 1.5 lbs. More incentive for me to buy a 7oz GoLite poncho to supplement my wet weather gear.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: A very flat place (Grrrrrrrr)
Re: Re: Enjoying the wet on 04/09/2013 14:40:15 MDT Print View

The only spare clothes I bring with me in wet weather is for sleeping in and an extra pair of socks, I put the damp clothes back on next day.

If wearing Trail runners I will have a pair of Goretex socks with me, by the look of the amount of rain that has fallen today here in Michigan I would contemplate big boots.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 15:12:35 MDT Print View

I just take one set of clothes and change into my base layer at night and in camp. I of course wear my rain gear over the base layer when outside the tent in the rain. That layer I keep dry at all costs--it's for camp and sleeping only. The hiking pants and shirt, if wet, go in a large ziplock bag in my sleeping bag. They don't dry, but at least they are warm when I put them back on in the morning. Of course, if you are slow to become wide awake in the morning, there may be some advantage to letting the hiking clothing get cold!

Lightweight nylon pants and shirt will dry on your body in about 15 minutes or less of active hiking when it isn't raining. Maybe an hour under WPB raingear. They rarely are sopping wet. If it's so warm that even with just a shirt you sweat under your raingear, you might as well leave the rain gear off. That's what I do.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 15:21:31 MDT Print View

What is your opinion on wool? It takes a long time to dry and absorbs more weight in water, but I have found it to be noticeably warmer when wet. I really like a good wool sweater.
I usually wear running tights in wet weather or when bushwhacking up streams. They keep the chill off my legs. Being form fitting to your legs, your body heat will directly warm them up.
In the rain I usually try and set up my tarp under heavy tree cover. I set my tarp high up with plenty of room and I usually get a fire going which helps to dry stuff out. It takes time to get a fire started in the rain, but it only rains in winter here and I have plenty of time during the evenings. Camping in the tundra would obviously require a different strategy than camping in a forest.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: I'll start with a few on 04/09/2013 16:08:03 MDT Print View

I think a tick on every item Miles mentioned, with the exception of the down/synthetic business. I have never taken a synthetic SB/quilt with me, and have had no problems. After all, any vapor you give off will get into a synth bag just as easily.
But everything else - yep.

Natural shelters and warm drinks - it's called morning tea/coffee under an overhang here. Right on!

Cheers

just Justin Whitson
(ArcturusBear) - M
Re: Re: Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 16:18:06 MDT Print View

Justin B. asked about wool.

I don't have enough experience to say anything one way or the other on using a wool sweater in consistently cool/cold and wet weather, but i will note that it served my ancestors (the Scots) fairly well for a long time and their climate is cool/cold and wet personified (except when i went there! It was the opposite, warmer and drier than VA, U.S. and in April nonetheless!) :0

But, their wool was definitely different than our wool today, heavier and quite greased up so quite water resistant. Haha, just reminded myself of the Willie character on The Simpsons, "Grease me up woman!"

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Enjoying the wet on 04/09/2013 16:59:17 MDT Print View

"The BPL archives have a number of excellent articles. IMHO, this one, from 2006, is the best:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/lightweight_guide_to_backpacking_in_sustained_rain.html"

Great article in light of the fleece thread. Can apply in most places if the storm forecast threatens backpacking plans that you don't want to reschedule.

Add that a number of times large rain storms from the Baja direction would travel across even the "4-corners" states just when I would get a week off after a grueling work schedule.

Edited by hknewman on 04/09/2013 17:02:59 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Enjoying Continuously Wet Weather on 04/09/2013 17:12:04 MDT Print View

What is your fav foot balm Miles?