Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts
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Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: leave the jacket on 07/23/2013 10:56:36 MDT Print View

-1 to the Daves comments. Bring the jacket or you will die a horrible death.

Yohei Aoyagi
(zzz_bear) - MLife

Locale: Tokyo
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 10:59:35 MDT Print View

I think better than getting hypothermia in emergency. According to murphy's law it will rain when you have no rainwear. LOL

Aaron Davis
(ardavis324) - F
Re: Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 11:15:25 MDT Print View

For fear of going "stupid light"...

Isn't the ultralight part of backpacking figuring out what we can leave at home without being dangerous/stupid?

Like the saying goes, "backpackers pack their fears". We pack rain gear because we fear hypothermia/death if you want to take it to the extreme. Some may fear just "getting wet".

What I am trying to explore is the question...how much should one fear having to hunker down in tent, or deal with the rain by some other means? Are we just packing something because we've imagined horror stories? I know people have died of exposure, and I am not minimizing that. But a mountain lion could kill you too...therefore must you pack a firearm?

Trying to calculate the actual risk here. Of course the reward is only saving maybe 6oz so maybe I am crazy.

Edited by ardavis324 on 07/23/2013 11:16:02 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 11:28:28 MDT Print View

" Are we just packing something because we've imagined horror stories? I know people have died of exposure, and I am not minimizing that. But a mountain lion could kill you too...therefore must you pack a firearm? "

I do not like firearms.
I wear chain mail around my neck with an angry face painted on the back of my head.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 11:34:01 MDT Print View

Aaron,

You've predictably received answers for the scenario ranging from "never leave home without it" to "carve open a marmot, crawl inside, and ride out the storm". I agree with you that often times rain gear is dead weight.

I don't mind being cold. I don't mind being wet. I absolutely loathe being wet and cold. For me personally, I don't mind or notice the extra six-fourteen ounces for the added insurance. It’s my personal choice and I don’t impose my pack weight on other people. If you want to leave your gear at home, then by all means leave your gear at home. You'll probably be fine and if not, misery is a great instructor.

Josh Brock
(needsAbath)

Locale: Outside
Re: Re: Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 11:35:40 MDT Print View

Its like anything in the outdoors the more you know the less you need.... there are plenty of ways to try to stay dry in an emergency. build an emergency fire to keep warm... set up your shelter and hang out..... ration your food... use a ground sheet or your shelter to keep you dry while moving... your not going to die this time a year unless you have no survival skills or will to survive at all.

There are plenty of ways to die in the sierras but hypothermia in the middle of summer on a short trip should not be your biggest worry? shelter and insulation and your fine.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
rainwear and actual risk on 07/23/2013 11:37:17 MDT Print View

There are times when raingear is not necessary. The possibility of rain is either all but non existent, or conditions will make that rain benign. I'm thinking of April-September within the Grand Canyon, or August in the Sierras.

There are times when raingear is probably not necessary, but circumstances will make not having it a bit more serious. If you're on the JMT in August, it's pretty easy to assess impending storms and either bust over that pass and find some trees, or hang out below, maybe pitch your tarp, and wait for it to pass. No rain gear might require a minor alteration in daily routine, and enhanced situational awareness. Go in the same place and season, but do a technical ridge traverse and things might change. Less expedient egress might make it a good idea to have raingear. For example.

And then there are the situations where not having raingear would be stupid. The Alaska Range in July, the Smokies in September, etc.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: rainwear and actual risk on 07/23/2013 11:40:15 MDT Print View

"And then there are the situations where not having raingear would be stupid. The Alaska Range in July, the Smokies in September, etc."

Alberta / BC Rockies Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.

All other times you would be guaranteed fine without the jacket.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: rainwear and actual risk on 07/23/2013 11:42:34 MDT Print View

I have been snowed on in August in the High Sierra.
this is a friendly benign mountain range ... until its not.

Dave C. - I seem to believe in a bit more worst case preparation than you, but I've been a climber a long time and have a desire to avoid worst case.

Edited by asandh on 07/23/2013 13:10:44 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 11:57:21 MDT Print View

Like some others, I'm a big fan of trash-compactor bags. It isn't so much that I don't bring rain gear, but that the trash bag IS my rain gear.

I am NOT a fan of "$1 emergency poncho from walmart" those are vinyl (trash bags are HDPE) and vinyl isn't tear resistant and in a hail storm, can get brittle enough that hail stones will make holes in it (I've seen it happen - 30 holes from a 15-minutes Sierra afternoon thunderstorm. Sil-nylon? Great. But that's not $1.

Also, re-examine the rest of your clothing. Without solid rain gear, all your other layers have to dry while you wear them. In my mind, that means no down and of course no cotton.

Aaron prefaced this by saying he could just wait out a storm in his tent.

Justin wisely pointed out that you need to be ready to miss work on Monday.

Get-there-itis is dangerous and can sneak up on you. You start leaving the rain parka at home. You rarely miss it. You get feeling comfortable going without and you start to forget that you had predicated that decision with plans to hunker down. You start going without on trips where you DON'T have the schedule or campsite flexibility Aaron describes. Some day, you hike in a downpour to make your schedule. . . .

People get reminded of this all the time up here. Hopefully only a boat or plane was lost or bent and the people made it out cold but alive. But not always.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts" on 07/23/2013 14:30:02 MDT Print View

Had I brought my Triumph anorak on the trip which ended up raining/sleeting for two days, I WOULD have continued on over a pass the first day. I didn't have rain pants--it's June in the Sierra--and the anorak would have wetted/sweated out. I probably would have been o.k. but it was really cold and it took hours to traverse the pass and even then it was cold and raining heavily at lower altitude. In short: I won't always make the right decision to hunker down, especially since in this instance it would take another day and night for the heavy rain to end. I'd get antsy and go. Maybe better to just have dependable rain gear--11 oz.s. Know thyself.

Edited by book on 07/23/2013 15:25:40 MDT.

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 14:44:50 MDT Print View

As with anything else, we assess our needs, our plans, and pack accordingly. What you pack and what you carry is a judgement call that every experienced backpacker can and should make for themselves.

I, for one, would always pack a rain jacket for anything beyond a brief day trip.

Many of my trips are in places with fickle weather and can get pretty cold even on hot days, additionally there is often no chance for "rescheduling" a campsite due to bad weather -- I have to make it to my intended campsite every night. I have had trips where we did not expect rain at all, but ended up being rained on the entire week. Even with a hard shell and synthetic insulation, the weather was cold and wet and often times trying. When we stopped for breaks, we couldn't stop long before beginning to shiver, with the rain taking away much of our hard-won warmth. I would not want to be in a situation where I hadn't packed one.

In cases where you do not pack a hard shell, it is prudent to consider whether the other clothing you plan to carry would offer enough protection and warmth if the weather goes outside your expected bounds, as well.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
wet on 07/23/2013 15:20:20 MDT Print View

I think its rediculous to say that there is some real danger to not bringing a rain jacket for occasional rain. We all bring shelters and warm sleeping bags, a storm would be inconvenient but not dangerous.

It is actually possible to be warm while wet. I learned this when doing canyon bushwacking adventures in the middle of winter where i was sometimes wading through chest high water while it was 40 degrees out. Good tight fitting fleece, polyester, or wool clothing will keep you warm enough in some surprisingly cold rain if you keep active and moving. You just need to up your insulation. I wear running tights and even when wet they are much warmer than bare legs. I have worn a light wool sweater or a fleece under a windshirt in the rain many times and have been warm.
My friend wore a 3 lb wool coat (wet) in a 45 degree rainstorm and he was overheating.
When you stop moving and generating heat the clothing doesent do much for you. You need to change into dry clothing around camp. Those who arent warm hikers, especially women, might freeze when wet regardless of what their wearing.


Of course most backpackers wear light clothing for hiking and have down for insulation at rest, so what i posted above isnt all that relevant but i wanted to make a point.

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 16:10:37 MDT Print View

No experience in the Sierra, but my strategy in the Rockies when there's not much chance of rain is to leave both the rain jacket and the shelter at home and replace them with a 7 oz. poncho/tarp. If the forecast and/or my judgment was wrong, I can still keep moving in the rain and set up an adequate roof to sleep under.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts" on 07/23/2013 16:18:04 MDT Print View

I think this is an area where one must apply common sense. Where I hike, I carry a raincoat, but that's because when it does rain in my area of Alaska it also often is in the 40's/50's for temps which is the perfect storm for hypothermia. I don't carry rainpants, typically, because I've found that having cold and wet legs doesn't pull my core temperate down the way having a cold and wet torso does. I wear quick drying nylon pants, which generally dry from my body heat in 5-10 minutes after it stops precipitating.

But if I were in an area that was warmer- say 70 degrees plus, and I had a shelter with me? I probably wouldn't bother with rain gear. I'd be as soaked by wearing rain gear and sweating under those circumstances as I would be by the rain.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 16:54:29 MDT Print View

Always take raingear esp if hiking alone.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 20:43:35 MDT Print View

Yes, I too had an actual experience though not in the Sierra since I would always bring some form of rain gear there no matter what.

About 10 years ago, late April, on the Sunol Wilderness Trail (not so aptly named, but that is another story). Everyone had told me it would be dam hot, prepare for it to be damn hot, and so on. I want to say there was a bad forecast, but I'm pretty sure I didn't look. The Mediterranean weather was just kicking in in the bay area, and we had not had rain in weeks. I was just gong UL at the time so I figured here is a good chance to go SUL. No rain gear. Had a windshirt as my primary insulation layer. Shelter only a light tarp. Started raining on day 2 and the temperature was only in the 50's. But all day wet, with it blowing, as soon as I stopped I was very cold. I was not just uncomfortable, but by the end of the day (I felt) really starting to function badly, with some anxiety about this as well. Alone and too far to just walk out. My designated camp spot was at the top of a bare airfoil with 30 mph winds and couldn't get warmed. Eventually found a big downed tree with two trunks to camp between with the tarp over top. I proudly wore my garbage bag (a real lifesaver) the next day on the way out. Anyway, a real eye-opener experience. Not saying I was in mortal danger, but I can say that even in such mild conditions you can get to a place of advanced misery. LOL Also was a bit of a noob and probably did not handle it optimally. For instance, didn't wear the garbage bag right away, and so on.

Anyway, I never had another story like that, because that taught me (like some others here) to always bring one in the future. The combo of cool but mild temperatures + wet + windy + plus a lot of time with the accumulated heat loss over say 10 hours was quite a bit more devastating than I had imagined in the abstract. My observation is that most/all people who advocate it will be alright without rain gear have not actually experienced this. My advice is if you want to leave the jacket behind then go out reach that point first (under controlled conditions), so you will know what you are actually risking and not what you just think you are risking. Then you can make an educated choice.

But of course you want the kind of rain jacket for those conditions you expect NOT to wear. You can get it down to about 6 oz for almost no money (Driducks) or fancy (Marmot Essence). You can make a poncho out groundsheet material and duct tape for less weight. If not any of those then the cheap plastic poncho in you emergency kit, but always bring a garbage bag! At least that is my 2 cents.

Edited by millonas on 07/23/2013 21:13:43 MDT.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 21:14:00 MDT Print View

I always take my rain gear with me even though I hike in the Sierras and even if the forecast is for good weather. I use DriDucks which are pretty light weight. Even if it doesn't rain, it often cools down a lot in the evening and they work great as a second layer or as windgear. If it does rain or the thunder gods do their thing then I have rain gear.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 21:47:31 MDT Print View

Shoot, I take a rain jacket with me on my half-mile walk to work. There's better places to save weight. At least promise us you'll take an extra garbage bag!

Aaron Davis
(ardavis324) - F
Re: Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/23/2013 22:17:17 MDT Print View

Lots of good thoughts and experiences here. Thank you all for your input. I still plan on bringing my driducks with me. I like the idea of making polycryo groundsheet into a poncho.