Forum Index » GEAR » Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts


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Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/23/2013 22:46:03 MDT Print View

It can snow and rain and get below freezing in the high mountains any month of the year.

My rain jacket weighs 7 oz. I use it for rain, but also as a wind shell and for warmth. In my opinion it is one of the best values in comfort and safety per oz. that I carry.

As usual, HYOH.

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/24/2013 07:50:17 MDT Print View

I'm not into fear-mongering, but... dozens of people have died of hypothermia on Mt. Washington since folks started keeping track; I don't have stats for the rest of the Presidentials. Plenty of those deaths occurred during summer months when valley temps were most likely in the 80s. In the northeast, forecasts don't mean a thing. It can be cold and wet anytime of year. Conditions can go from sunny, humid, and mid-80s to horizontal rain and 50 degrees plus windchill in the course of an afternoon. I've had some miserable day hikes where I thought I'd be okay leaving the rain shell at home, only to be totally drenched and shivering by the end. Hopping in the car and cranking the heat? A day hiker's luxury.

For a long time, I never bothered with rain pants, but I finally succumbed last year. I was just tired of getting caught in downpours and seeing my performance decrease as my muscles got chilled. Even moving at a steady 2.5-3 mph, I find that with exposed wet skin I often can't keep myself warm. Blame it on my girl metabolism and low BMI. I don't *always* bring the pants, and have already had a couple of long, wet slogs where I regretted that decision.

As many have mentioned, a full set of Frogg Toggs costs $20 and weighs 12 oz. Montbell makes some pretty sweet rain pants that weight less than 4 oz, and there are lots of 6 oz rain shells out there. For me, those ounces are hard to justify leaving at home. As a long-time bike commuter and pedestrian (in both the Northeast and the PNW), my rain shell is basically part of my everyday carry. Why wouldn't I put it in my backpack? Just yesterday, after weeks of nearly 90-degree days, it rained all afternoon and the temp barely broke 60 degrees--in town. In this case, it's more a question of comfort, but I would have been miserable doing my errands if I hadn't had my jacket. Plus, how do you justify spending $$$ if you never use the thing? ;)

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - M

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/24/2013 10:50:18 MDT Print View

I will often leave my rain gear at home if its a summer hike and the chances of rain are low(30% or less). Summer in the southern Appalachians is typically low 80s during the day and low 60s at night. So walking while wet isnt a big deal. If it does rain, I just walk in it and then change clothes after I am set up for the night. I always take a change of clothes for summer sleeping anyway. (Sleeping in sweaty clothes isn't for me). As always, what works in my area may not work in yours.

Ryan

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/24/2013 17:04:48 MDT Print View

Leave at home if you feel confident in your ability to maintain warmth while wet (either retreating to your shelter for hours on end, no NEVER stop moving).

I've definitely experienced unpredictable weather in the mountains and been caught unawares. My worst experience was on San Francisco peaks in AZ in October. Forecast called for a dry weekend and my overnighter turned into any but. Got caught in snow, sleet, hail, and rain for several hours on end (highly unusual even in October out here). Not the usual brief afternoon thunderstorm. I only had a bivy bag since the forecast was so benign, a softshell (early days of my UL hiking) and no rain gear. Well I learned on that trip that I can keep moving at a steady pace with a sorely inflamed knee for hours on end all in an effort to stave off hypothermia.

I promptly bought the best and lightest goretex winter jacket I could afford as soon as I warmed up enough to type properly (about 24 hours). I've calmed down these days and carry a 6oz summer oriented jacket if anything. Still those 1% statistics fail me routinely. I don't get out often enough but living in a state that has 330 days of sunshine, virtually every single one of my solo trips receives enough rain to worry about.

Look at the ACTUAL risks. In most cases "death" via hypothermia is not a real risk (especially in the summer and with a flexible mindset). The true risks are more like "will I have to bail on me trip?" or "will I be more uncomfortable than I desire?" or as others said "Will my trip run longer than I have time allotted?"

I hate bailing on trips, I have limited flexibility, and 6oz isn't enough to break my back, so I tend to carry a rain jacket more frequently than necessary. The trash compacter bag though is a perfectly valid alternative and serves as multipurpose survival gear (emergency water carrier, shelter, etc).

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/24/2013 18:20:24 MDT Print View

Look at the ACTUAL risks. In most cases "death" via hypothermia is not a real risk

it absolutely is ... shall we start quoting recent accidents, rescues and deaths from the great outdoors from hypothermia? .. i can think of a whole bunch off the top of my head

what many dont realize is that hypothermia is VERY REAL ... if twist and ankle, break a leg, take a fall,etc ... and you have to wait it out ... or you simply got lost at night

i suggest people read the nice article on BPL about close encounters with it

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

ive said it over and over again ... go out and practice you SKILLS in the rain so you dont panic ... and bring something waterproof with you whether it be a jacket, poncho, etc ...

;)

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Whut Buck sed... on 07/24/2013 18:37:42 MDT Print View

A rain parka is an "essential" for protection from rain, wind, snow, sleet, and (for your down jacket) briars and sharp branches.

Leave it home at your own risk.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
rain jacket on 07/24/2013 19:05:38 MDT Print View

No.

If you want to leave it home to shave weight, you need to shave weight somewhere else until the 6 oz of a rainjacket doesnt matter.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/24/2013 19:10:28 MDT Print View

." if twist and ankle, break a leg, take a fall,etc ... and you have to wait it out ... or you simply got lost at night"

I guess a lot of people are pretty confident that will never happen to them. I do think about that possibility and don't mind a few extra ounces.

Tanner M
(Tan68)
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/25/2013 08:31:37 MDT Print View

> ...if twist and ankle, break a leg, take a fall,etc ... and you have to wait it out ... or you simply got lost at night

Many of the posts here propose planning for one thing gone wrong. 'It rains'

Your post is a reminder more than one wrong thing can happen.

Planning to walk as fast as possible and/or continuously is a little shallow. What is the plan if you couldn't move fast.

zorobabel frankenstein
(zorobabel) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I carry a rain jacket in the mountains, even in summer on 07/25/2013 09:17:03 MDT Print View

"what many dont realize is that hypothermia is VERY REAL ... if twist and ankle, break a leg, take a fall,etc ... and you have to wait it out ... or you simply got lost at night"

Conveniently, rain makes all things slippery and brings fog a lot of times, pretty much setting you up for falling or getting lost.
With that said, I don't always bring rainwear in the Sierras.

Rich J
(PNWhiker) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Zpacks Poncho/Groundsheet on 07/25/2013 09:52:44 MDT Print View

In the summer I use the Zpacks poncho/groundsheet with my hexamid. It's only 2.4 ounces more than the standard Zpacks groundsheet; and it is good rain gear if needed. If rain is more likely I carry a full rain suit (Marmot Super Mica and Mt. Hardware pants).

Edited by PNWhiker on 07/25/2013 09:53:25 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Essentials and UL on 07/25/2013 09:58:38 MDT Print View

I think the core issue centers on UL principles and essentials, with rain gear being just one item on the list.

A primary principle of UL hiking is to take only what you will actually use. That concept can lighten base weights quickly and nothing is cheaper, but it should not be applied blindly. The essentials list was born from experience and a long history of personal disasters in wilderness travel and should be taken seriously. There are a few items that you may never use, but I think the weight is well justified.

You can find items that fulfill the classic essentials list and still follow UL principles like multiple use and using high performance UL materials. Rain gear is one of the heaviest items on the essentials list and an immediate target for cutting weight. I never go without rain gear and include a 7oz poncho as both rain gear and emergency shelter. In the worst case scenario, I can simply put on the poncho and sit uner a tree. That will protect me from wind and rain and can be deployed even if I am injured.

IMHO, it is foolish to travel off pavement without any of the classic essentials:

Rain gear
Emergency shelter
Insulation layer
Food
Water and purification system
Fire starter
Knife
Sunglasses
Sunscreen
Insect repellent
First aid kit
Lighting
Signaling
Navigation

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
10 essentials on 07/25/2013 10:09:48 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 demoninator.

I have not done a single trip in recent memory where I've had all 10.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: 10 essentials on 07/25/2013 10:13:20 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 demoninator.

I have not done a single trip in recent memory where I've had all 10."



Hear! Hear!

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: 10 essentials on 07/25/2013 11:04:21 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 demoninator. "

Hubris.

The Seattle Mountaineers are arm chair paranoids?

Ian Van Halen
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: 10 essentials on 07/25/2013 11:04:59 MDT Print View

There are a few perspectives on this issue.

One perspective is that of the emt, cop, firefighter, sar dude, etc who routinely meet people who are experiencing one of the worst days of their lives. Most of these people would agree that this list is a great go-by for the general public and a wide range of skill sets.

Another perspective is that of someone who truly has the experience, knowledge, and the skill set to discern what they need and what they don't.

Yet another perspective is that of someone who has adopted an "I've been doing it this way for the past 20 years so it must be right" attitude but hasn't truly been tested. Some of these people have limited experience to 200 miles from their front door. They figure that since their advice is good for (let’s say) the Adirondacks, then it must be good for Costa Rica, Alaska, Death Valley etc.

Bring the stuff. Don't bring the stuff. You'll probably be fine. If you're wrong, well buzzards need to eat too. Just don't get a SAR person killed trying to recover you or your cadaver.

My experience from the Cascades is that in a single weekend, I can see temperatures from 40 to 90. I've also learned that if the forecast is calling for rain, I wear my rain gear; if the forecast isn't calling for rain, I carry my rain gear. It seems that some areas within the Cascades are more predictable than others but I don’t trust them. I have zero experience in the Sierras and don't pretend to.

I’ve spent enough time shivering that I’d rather carry the gear than frat-boy high five myself in the mirror (followed by kissing both biceps) because I shaved 8 oz out of my ruck.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 07/25/2013 12:08:24 MDT.

Rich J
(PNWhiker) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
A thought on 07/25/2013 11:30:36 MDT Print View

As you are reading these comments and forming your own opinion consider the 'survivorship bias' (c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias). Those that had very negative experiences may not have necessarily died, but may have given up the sport and not be present on the forum to contribute their opinion. IMHO you need to be prepared for relatively rare, but very high consequence events.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Old OR bold on 07/25/2013 11:38:02 MDT Print View

I'm 70. That's old in my book. I didn't get here by being bold with Mother nature. (Bold with women other than Ma Nature, yes, but that's another story.)

I agree with Dale W. on the essentials.

It could be true that "There are old hikers and bold hikers but no old bold hikers."

Take yer essentials, esp. rain gear.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Leaving the rain jacket at home... thoughts on 07/25/2013 11:42:55 MDT Print View

I think the take home from all of these posts is that:
a. You have to evaluate your own skills, comfort levels, experience, etc.; and
b. You need to evaluate the particulars of your trip: climate, forecast, exposure, tree cover, back-up plans, duration, etc.
Based on your conclusions from these factors, you can then decide whether to bring a rain jacket or not, or any other particular piece of gear for that matter.

For me personally, yes, there are plenty of trips that I do without a rain jacket when I'm confident about the particulars of my trip. If I'm feeling unsure about myself or my trip, I bring it or something that could fulfill the same role.

I always bring at least my windshirt. On 90% of my trips, this is all I end up needing or wanting.
I probably bring actual rain protection on something like 40-50% of my trips (I do about 12-15 trips per year ranging typically from 1 night to about a week out). More often than not anymore, it's just my Zpacks Groundsheet Poncho, sometimes though, if I'm in more wintery conditions or doing a lot of bushwhacking or ridgeline traverses, I'll bring a real jacket.
I don't bother with rain pants. Wind pants or just hiking in my running shorts is sufficient for me.

Have I ever been caught by surprise by unexpected weather? You bet. But I made do with what I had and used skills/experience to stay safe and comfortable. Sometimes that's meant waiting out the worst of the weather under heavy tree cover or setting up my shelter for a bit. Sometimes it's meant having to call a trip off early and retreating, or conversely, staying out a little longer than initially planned to work around weather delays. Sometimes it's meant taking advantage of what gear I have and just continuing on, perhaps a little wetter than planned for but making do.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: raincoats and dogma on 07/25/2013 12:01:07 MDT Print View

Is it unsafe to do the 1.5 mile hike on a summer afternoon in August to Delicate Arch in Arches NP without a raincoat? Of course not.

Is it unsafe to go on a 10-day expedition to Gates of the Arctic NP in northern Alaska in August without a raincoat? Most definitely.

Anything in between requires a critical evaluation of likelihood of precip, forecasted and average temperatures, ability to pitch your shelter, distance from help if something goes wrong, et cetera; commonly known as judgement and experience. Simply stating "You should always bring a raincoat" as many have done in this thread demonstrates an unwillingness to critically evaluate those variables. It's perhaps good advice for someone who is unable to do so due to lack of experience, but as an absolute statement without qualifiers based on expected conditions it's as ridiculous as saying "You always have to bring a 4-season tent."