M A Lightweight Guide to Backpacking in Sustained, Cold Rain

by Alan Dixon

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Article Summary:

Most backpackers can manage their clothing and equipment well enough with a day of rain here and there, taking advantage of sunny periods to dry out wet gear. Even thru-hikers have the opportunity to dry gear in town every few days. However, “sustained, cold rain” (three to five days of rain, with daytime temps in the 40’s to 50’s F with few dry periods of warmth or sunshine) challenges the technique and equipment of even experienced backpackers. Inexperienced backpackers are likely to add substantial amounts of clothing and equipment to compensate for their lack of technique and experience leading to some very heavy backpacks.

In contrast, we believe that most backpackers can deal with sustained, cold rain with a 6 to 7 pound base pack weight. In order to go this light (e.g. no backup clothes, a sub-2-pound tent and a down sleeping bag) you’ll need to select the right gear and have solid techniques for both hiking and camping in these challenging conditions.

The goal of this article is to provide the reader with a number of techniques to manage sustained, cold rain. The techniques should keep you safe, and reasonably warm and comfortable in these challenging conditions. Guidelines for selecting lightweight clothing and gear that works well in conjunction with these techniques are also covered. Solo and two-person (shared tent and cooking equipment) gear lists for sustained, cold rain are included at the end of the article.

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