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Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts
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Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: raincoats and dogma on 07/25/2013 13:04:40 MDT Print View

"Simply stating "You should always bring a raincoat" as many have done in this thread demonstrates an unwillingness to critically evaluate those variables."

I can't speak for anyone but me but I don't think what you wrote here is accurate. Several people have provided acceptable alternatives to traditional rain shells including dri ducks, garbage bags, and cuben groundsheet/poncho hybrids. It also seems that most of the people on this thread are speaking to their personal preference and from their experiences.

I've personally been hypothermic in Panama in 70* weather (soaked through, wind was blowing, and lying low on an LZ).

The only narrow-mindedness or dogma I'm observing here is any assertion that UL trumps all.

And as stated before, HYOH. I’m not asking anyone to carry my gear.

Tanner M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/25/2013 13:10:26 MDT Print View

I don't think it is always necessary to stay bone dry. This is another thing where the importance varies by climate, time of year, duration, and comfort.

Some people may not want rain water on them at all. Some are okay with a little rain. If whatever you have reduces the amount of new water reaching your body to a level you can tolerate, then that is not bad.

I think this might be why some people have success with wind shirts or whatever similar thing. There may be leaks and they may not stay completely dry but their body isn't constantly flushed with rain water.

This rain protection could be adequate sometimes. I see this plan different from the 'I keep moving and if I aint moving I am cold plan'. Don't think I would like Plan B. Sometimes the rain is too cold to tolerate leaks.

Tanner M
Re: Re: Re: raincoats and dogma on 07/25/2013 13:12:47 MDT Print View

> I've personally been hypothermic in Panama in 70* weather (soaked through, wind was blowing, and lying low on an LZ).

Rain can be cold in the summer.
Water draws a lot of heat.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
rule on 07/25/2013 13:29:44 MDT Print View

there is one rule ill repeat again and again ...

you can usually survive being cold OR wet ...

both and you might be very dead ... add in wind and being immobile, and yr just dead, or darn close to it

conditions can change even in the summer as the story below shoes ...

A Summer Hiking Trip Turns Deadly

Even as they lay huddled, tucked together in a fetal position under a thatch of scrub brush in a raging blizzard at 11,000 feet, brothers Bob Paré and Greg Davison thought they would survive.

But in the morning, Paré, 20, realized his 16-year-old brother was dead, or close to it, and that he might not make it either.

He waited another hour for daybreak, clutching his brother's motionless body, before he could go for help.

Paré's harrowing trek down St. Mary's Glacier through arctic conditions in light clothing started as a half-day outing with his brother Saturday morning.

Native Coloradans, the young men knew conditions in the mountains can change quickly, but they expected no worse than a rain shower.

"Three days to June, we really didn't expect a blizzard," Paré said Thursday.

The two left the trailhead for St. Mary's Glacier on a loop that would lead them around the top of the mountain and then straight down the glacier, he said.

They each were wearing an undershirt, T-shirt and jeans. They brought along windbreakers and sweat shirts. Their dog Nikki, a red, brindle boxer, joined them.

About an hour into the trip, an arctic storm slammed into the mountain, battering the brothers with 60 mph winds and plunging them into whiteout conditions. Visibility dropped to about 20 feet.

"We thought it was fairly temporary," Paré said. "We were already on our way down, so we thought we would keep going down."

But they quickly became disoriented.

About 5 p.m. the brothers decided to build a makeshift shelter on the side of a curved rock wall.

Paré broke down nearby shrubs and tiny trees, piling them up to form two walls. He lay his younger brother down against the wall and partially covered him with his body to shield him from the brunt of the storm.

Then Nikki lay on top of the two brothers and Paré pulled the makeshift walls down on top of them, he said.

The two brothers lay like that in 13-degree temperatures for about 12 hours, shivering, talking and trying to stay awake.

Neither brother ever thought that death was a possibility.

"We weren't really thinking something like that was going to happen. There were no negative thoughts," Paré said. "We talked all night and there never was any sort of tone like that."

But as morning came, Paré realized his brother wasn't doing well.

"Around 5 in the morning or so he started mumbling like he was dreaming and I tried waking him up and stuff, but he wouldn't wake up," Paré said. "I realized he was getting severe hypothermia."

But it was still dark, so Paré was forced to wait another hour or so before leaving for help.

Paré checked on his brother a final time before leaving at 6:20 a.m.

"I couldn't find a pulse, his eyes were dilated and there was no response at all out of him," he said. "He was gone or damn close."

Paré tried to get Nikki to lead him to safety, but the dog ignored him and crawled back on top of Davison, refusing to leave.

Although the weather was still pretty bad, Paré thought his trip down the mountain would be easy. It wasn't.

Suffering from hypothermia and with his clothes frozen to his body, Paré stumbled down the mountain as if he were drunk.

"I was walking all over the place and the wind kept pushing me over," he said. "I would just sort of sit down for a minute and then get up and start down again."

After about a mile, Paré fell down one last time.

"I was done, that was it," he said. "I have never ever been so spent, exhausted in my life."

A rescuer, searching for the brothers with the Alpine Rescue Team, heard Paré's shouts for help and found him.

The team rushed Paré back to the parking lot, two miles away, where medical personnel had to cut the frozen jeans from his legs and shoes from his feet to get to his severely frostbitten toes.

It took rescuers using directions from Paré another two hours to find Davison's body.

They were able to find it only because Nikki, who was wearing a bright yellow slicker, was still lying on top of him.

Davison was pronounced dead at the base of the mountain.

Paré suffered frostbite on his arms, legs and feet. He says all but his feet have already healed. He doesn't think he will lose any toes.

Nikki, the dog, survived the ordeal with no injuries.

Edited by bearbreeder on 07/25/2013 13:34:48 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
From my local SAR on 07/25/2013 13:53:43 MDT Print View

btw ... i think they are up to their 7th rescue of people from this urban trail in the past few months, < 1000m elevation, a short walk away from the suburbs

this was in JUNE ...


Three hikers go for a short hike on a sunny day in July. There’s no snow in sight, and they’re only planning on a few hours out in the daylight. Temperature forecasts tell them that it will reach a high of 30°C, so they wear shorts, and bring lots of water. Why should they worry about being cold?

Several events can happen that would make the above scenario involve hypothermia.

What the weather forecast did not tell them is this: the high predicted was for sea level in Vancouver, and they were hiking on the north side of a mountain. The north side is shady, and the higher you go up the mountain, the lower the temperature. More exposure to wind also cools the air. The cooler air causes warm air from lower altitudes to condense, and fog or drizzle can happen.

The hike goes on longer than planned, and it gets dark. A since the hikers have not brought a flashlight they continue in the dark, and one of them sprains her ankle. As the evening gets cooler it begins to drizzle. Dressed in t-shirts and shorts, and moving slowly, all three quickly begin to shiver. In the dark, and feeling desperate, they call for help.

Two hours later when SAR members arrive on scene, they find three slightly hypothermic subjects. What started as a simple sprained ankle is now three people, none of whom can walk out on their own. SAR members spend the evening rewarming the patients, and walk them out the next day.

Things to remember about Hypothermia:

Rain, wind, elevation and terrain have a significant effect on the temperature. Dress for the current conditions but remember the forecast is for the urban areas, and the wilderness can be very different, even very close to town.
The amount of food or water you’ve eaten affects your body’s ability to maintain its temperature.
A person can become hypothermic in very mild temperatures, even just 1 or 2 degrees below room temperature. Wind and rain magnify the effects of colder air.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: From my local SAR on 07/25/2013 14:09:24 MDT Print View

Eric, we are talking about backpacking, when we have a shelter and warm sleeping bag with us, not day hiking. There is a huge difference.

Edited by justin_baker on 07/25/2013 14:09:55 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: From my local SAR on 07/25/2013 14:21:32 MDT Print View

sometimes a tent cannot be pitched due to location.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: From my local SAR on 07/25/2013 14:26:57 MDT Print View

theres plenty of people "day hiking" here ... as some posters have indicated going out for a stroll

regardless in the PNW, being soaked and cold in the shoulder seasons without a rain gear isnt the brightest idea ... even if you do have a shelter ... it can rain for days on end here, without the right gear AND skills, the moisture will transfer to your nice down bag ... and you do have to hike out, unless you call SAR


Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Re: Re: Re: From my local SAR on 07/25/2013 14:49:38 MDT Print View

This thread is like the energizer bunny ... going and going. Anyway, I know you can't always pitch a tent, but you can always wrap one around you and your gear to stay dry, if you can't shelter in place or want to keep moving. As for wet, cold and hypothermia, water draws heat out of your body 26 times faster than air and, from my understanding and fortunately not experience, hypothermia, as Ian B. has noted, occurs in a wide range of temps. All that said, if I've got thermals to sleep in, I might just take a good set of wind pants and top into the Sierra for short summer trips. More than two nights, you bet I'll bring rain gear, but if some freak storm gets me, between an R1 top and bottom, DWR nylon outer shell, and my tarp or ground sheet, I'm going to be fine - and probably plenty warm. Emergency blanket, cheapo poncho - they're just another way of protecting yourself from the rain. A waterproof shell isn't always necessary, but it's never a bad idea either.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Eric on 07/25/2013 14:50:02 MDT Print View

Going without a raincoat and proper insulation in the shoulder season in a rainy climate would be an example of poor judgement. (And to be wearing a T-shirt and jeans, as quoted in your story above.) But not everywhere is shoulder season in the PNW. I don't think being prepared for the expected conditions means you have to live in constant fear of dying of hypothermia, either.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: From my local SAR on 07/25/2013 15:10:27 MDT Print View

Yes indeed, threads on the "10-essentials, yes or no?", or "do I really need a rain jacket? Knife? Map?" and so on this site are like my favorite invention, the Cat Distractor. This invention entertains your cat while you are away by automatically launching ping pong balls into the house at a certain intervals of time. As every one knows, a cat will frantically bat the ping pong ball around the house for a few minutes, and then get board. However, if you then pick up that same ping pong ball at throw it again a few minutes later the cat will go to it for several more minutes. The cat gets a lot of exercise, but never fully resolves its ping pong ball "issue" definitively.

Same thing. Except with multiple cats!

Edited by millonas on 07/25/2013 15:12:57 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Eric on 07/25/2013 15:16:16 MDT Print View

But not everywhere is shoulder season in the PNW

i forgot youre all in sunny california =P

use your own judgement and SKILLS ... there are many forms of raingear, pick one which works

hypothermia or exposure is a very serious issue anywhere theres rain and low overnight temps ... the only reason why you dont see more death these days is because of communications and the rapidity of SAR rescues ...

be AWARE of it ... and dont discount it ... it can happen to ANYONE in the wrong circumstances

what a lot of people forget is that even mild hypothermia leads to loss of dexterity and panic ...

from our very own BPL ...

Ten years ago, I was asked by some Boy Scout leaders to join them on a backpacking trip into the High Uinta Wilderness area of Utah. They were taking a group of fourteen- to sixteen-year-old boys into the Chain Lakes basin, a trip of nine miles with 3,400 feet in elevation gain. We left the trailhead on a warm sunny day with most of us wearing shorts. As it is apt to do in the Uintas, by mile five the weather turned cold and stormy. Many of us thought the rain would soon pass and decided not to put on our rain gear. However, when the rain turned to hail, everyone donned rain gear - with the exception of one headstrong young man who thought he was tough enough to hike through the rain and hail with just a t-shirt and shorts. He would not be coerced into covering up until he was already soaked and shivering.

The trail, covered with hail and runoff from the rain, became indistinguishable from the rest of the terrain, and we found ourselves searching for the right route as the cold sapped our energy.

Alarmed by the deteriorating physical and mental condition of the group, the leaders decided to stop and make camp near a small lake a mile and a half from our destination. As we set up our tents, filtered water, and started the stoves, I observed with fascination the effect the cold had on even the stronger members of our group.

One leader was confused about how to set up his tent; he could not figure out which poles went where. He asked for help from another leader who said he needed to focus on getting his own tent up and getting inside. The wet, headstrong teenager was unable to perform any meaningful tasks - in essence, he was unable to help himself. Another leader set up the young man's tent, got the him into dry clothes, put him inside his down bag, and began making him warm food and drinks. After a number of hours, the "tough guy" improved and warmed up, as had the rest of our group.

how about the PNW in the middle of summer ... again from our very own BPL

I hiked out in the downpour. My wind pants were soaked within ten minutes. They clung to my damp skin like a sandwich wrapper to a soggy BLT. I had to wipe my sunglasses every three minutes just to see where I was going. It was ludicrous I even had them on in the first place, but I had surmised they would deflect some of the blowing rain. My liner gloves absorbed water like a dish sponge. I stuck my soaking wet hands into the soaking wet pockets of my soaking wet pants and started to shiver a bit as I hiked on. I had only been on the trail for thirty minutes. This was not good.

I started to shiver and decided that I needed more clothes on my upper body ASAP. I could have gone for an Eskimo’s parka with hood and waterproof shell but my thinly insulated jacket would have to work. I dug down in my pack as water poured off the bill of my hat. I grabbed the insulated jacket and put it on as swiftly as possible and slapped my rain jacket back on over it without delay. I reached down to zip up my insulated jacket and simply couldn’t. My fingers wouldn’t work. My brain was telling my hands to zip my jacket, but they simply could not grasp the zipper. I had lost all dexterity in my fingers. I couldn’t zip my jacket and I was in a pouring cold rain. My hiking partners were up ahead so they had no clue as to what was happening to me. I was utterly alone in a torrential downpour and I couldn’t zip my stupid jacket. A bolt of panic ran up from my stomach to my throat and for about 10 long seconds I thought about dying.

Edited by bearbreeder on 07/25/2013 15:17:29 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Eric on 07/25/2013 16:36:18 MDT Print View

The scenarios I worry about are like these. It is a bit ingenuous to say "oh, if it really gets bad I will just get in my shelter". Usually we have some place we want to go, or maybe we are with people. Tons of reasons to tough it out just a bit further not using or not having the proper gear for a situation. Generally the weather may not be super threatening. It can take a very long time to get to the edge of hypothermia, but you can go over the edge rather quickly into diminished functionality. Usually might not matter, but depending on the situation a fairly simple situation become life threatening.

The story right at the beginning here:
has always struck me as a good example of such a case. The guy in question would no doubt have died if he hadn't been with people.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
be prepared on 07/25/2013 16:45:31 MDT Print View

A good reason to practice your fire skills in wet weather.
I have casually prevented a night of borderline hypothermia by having the skills to make a fire and maintain in wet weather.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: be prepared on 07/25/2013 16:51:00 MDT Print View

Sure, and the more experience you have, depending on the situation, you are more likely to do the right proactive thing far before you get into trouble, regardless of the gear situation. Only trouble is that the experience comes mainly from doing it kinda wrong a few times.

Steven Davis

Locale: SF Bay Area
poncho on 07/25/2013 23:11:39 MDT Print View

take a poncho. leave the rain jacket at home.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: 10 essentials on 07/26/2013 08:40:30 MDT Print View

"The 10 essentials were not born of field experience. They were born out of arm chair paranoia, selling books, and catering to the lowest common denominator."

That's why every outdoor organization and SAR unit recommends something like a 10 essentials list. These things come from a long history of people heading into the back country unprepared and getting themselves in serious trouble or just plain dead.

The idea that an "experienced" hiker doesn't need these things is hubris indeed. An experienced hiker knows better. The problem is that you get into a situation, don't show up or call for help and the resources are taken that could go for someone who has a real medical emergency or accident, not to mention the costs and risks to the SAR folk. All in the name of saving a few ounces? Shame on you.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: 10 essentials on 07/26/2013 09:39:00 MDT Print View

Also, as Dale has pointed out in many times, it is as much the ideas behind the list as the items themselves. Just bringing them does not insure anything. Hopefully if people see such list many of them will reason out the special condition where the items could make a material contributions (if not a mortal one) to their safety.

Even though a lot of us are experienced, I think in addition to backpacking newbs some people here, because of the sometime emphasis on weight as the ultimate metric of utility, could use the review as a chance to think more clearly about how they would deal with the rare but potentially life-threatening events.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: 10 essentials on 07/26/2013 09:41:59 MDT Print View

This recurrent debate over hiking essentials is exactly why I felt like writing about it back in 2007. It seemed everybodies numbered essentials list was different and listed 10 items or more. I decided it was better for me to list groups of items that needed to be covered in order to be safe. No two essentials lists may be the same based on experience, length of trip, location, etc.

Of course the original list was based on field experience. The original 10 essentials was probably geared for mountaineering in groups, and that may be why it did not include a whistle (or maybe the types of whistles available in the 1930's were not good for use in the cold), an item some would think today is essential for any outing. I think even their "systems" approach does not include a whistle. Other items in that original list could be used for signaling such (fire or a flashlight).

For what it's worth, I have hardly ever taken all of the orginal list of 10 essentials, leaving out sunglasses on most 3 season trips. I use a brimmed hat that keeps the sun out of my eyes and realize the need for sunglasses when on water or snow for extended periods.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Essentials" on 07/26/2013 11:16:19 MDT Print View

"The 10 essentials were not born of field experience. They were born out of arm chair paranoia, selling books, and catering to the lowest common denominator."
I could not disagree more. I carry the essentials with me on every hike. My survival kit fits in one ziploc sandwich bag, my med kit in another. They take virtually no room in my pack, and I could even drop them into the cargo pockets in my pants. I've had hypothermia. I've had a bad sprain 3 hours from the trailhead (which incidentally was also only 3 miles- a bad sprain really slows you down). I've had a companion break their leg in the back country, I've seen people who blew out both knees on a descent and were still 10 miles from the trailhead. Even if I don't need my kit, someone else might. And even if no one needs the kit, the weight is so negligible that I can't imagine how stupid I would feel to need something in those kits and to have left them at home to save weight.