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How Thru-Hikers Deal With Rain

How Thru-Hikers Deal With Rain

When you're out hiking every day for several months straight you're bound to get rained on. We asked Snackbar and Scribe how they deal with the inevitable rain—What rain gear do they wear? How do they keep the contents of the pack dry? How do they pack up wet gear the next day? Here's what they had to say.


Snackbar (AT)

I carry the xtreme lite rain jacket from Froggtoggs. Although, I have found with most rain layers the lack of breathability makes it virtually impossible to hike for long periods of time without becoming completely drenched in sweat. Which kinda defeats the purpose of “staying dry”. Even on a trail like the A.T. which has a very wet hiking season I hardly used the jacket because of this. Only in temperatures where being wet would become a survival issue do I consider breaking out the jacket and hunkering down to wait it out. 

As far as my backpack, I carry a waterproof pack made of EPX 200 fabric. I pack all important clothing and sleep items in waterproof dry-sacks within the pack and these two lines of defense have served me well enough even in prolonged, heavy rainfall.  

My backpack has horizontal bottom/lower stretch mesh pockets that serve as a great spot for stuffing wet socks, clothing layers, and other wet gear items. Keeping them on the outside of the pack allows for quick access as soon as those sweet sun rays start to shine for the day. Find a nice clearing for a snack and lay all your wet items out to dry in what we hikers call a “yard sale”. This is a great way to spend a long lunch. 

When setting up camp in the rain I try to make sure the area I’m setting up in is not on or near a heavy slope that would lead to my tent flooding. If the rain is accompanied by strong winds I also check the campsite for “widow-makers” (dead or damaged trees that could fall during the night) 


Scribe (CDT)

This question could not have come at a more appropriate time in my hike, as many of us Southbounders have been navigating some crazy weather recently. I am writing this while hunkered down in a "warming hut" at a trailhead while a storm rages outside. This hut is at 11,300' in elevation and it is only about 40° outside. The trail climbs to 12,500' within the next few miles and I'm sure it is snowing up there- I think staying in this hut tonight is the best option!

I started this trail with an ultralight rain jacket, a pack cover and ultralight wind mitts as my "weather" layers. This was more than I had carried on the PCT but I quickly learned that the weather on this trail was much more unpredictable and also more challenging to manage. 

I picked up a Marmot Precip rain jacket at a consignment store and a friend gave me a pair of Black Diamond rain pants. Both are too warm to wear in most situations, but I am glad to have them for the multi-day cold storms we've been having! I still like my MontBell mitts, and wear them by themselves or layered with REI liner gloves if it is cold with Hot Hands hand warmers tucked inside on the coldest days.

Usually I just let my feet get wet and keep at least one pair of socks clean and dry at all times so that I can change into them at night. Putting on wet socks and shoes is pretty terrible- putting on FROZEN socks and shoes is worse. At the hostel in the last town, I grabbed some plastic bags that were going to be thrown away and plan to use them between my socks and shoes during the next cold rain. I'm not sure how much they will help but it has to be better than crunchy, frozen socks.

My pack has been a bit of a struggle to keep dry. I've tried using a liner but the pack itself holds a lot of water and gets heavy. My pack cover works for a bit but eventually wets through, so I make sure to keep everything that matters packed away safely. My quilt and warm layers go into my Zenbivy mattress inflator bag, compressed tightly into the bottom of my pack. My electronics go in one Zenbivy small stuff sack and my toiletries and first aid kit go in another. When my tent is wet, it gets strapped to the outside of my pack wrapped in my Tyvek ground sheet, and anything else that is wet gets strapped or tucked or tied to the outside of my pack as well. Sometimes I look like a walking clothesline and regularly have socks and a bandanna hanging off of my pack. 

After a wet night (or day) the sun is my saving grace. I lay all of my wet or damp gear out in a sunny spot and let the wind and sun work their magic. Hikers tend to call this having a "yard sale". My Zenbivy gear is always the fastest to dry and I end up packing it all up long before the rest of my gear is even close to being ready.

When I do have to camp in the rain, I set up and break down the same as usual. I cook in my vestibule and hide inside. Sometimes I will use my tent's guyline as a clothesline for my wet socks and gaiters. I don't think it actually helps dry them, but at least they're out of my tent! I really do not like hiking in the rain and will take every opportunity to hide from it as possible. I have set up camp early, broken it down late, hidden under trees and rock ledges and taken shelter in pit toilets and now a warming hut. I very much hope that this storm blows through and that the skies are blue in the morning!

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