View Full Version : Do I really need raingear?

05-10-2008, 07:12
I have a FrogToggs jacket that I've taken hiking on the AT the last 2 years and on numerous overnighters and have never used. I cannot hike in it, nor can I hike in basically any raincoats. I have a Marmot Ion windshirt that's not waterproof but had a decent DWR coating. In March I did 12 miles where the temps were in the 40's with some snow on the ground and a steady rain all day and wore nothing but it and a UnderArmour l/s t-shirt and was completely fine.

Next week I'm doing Dick's Creek to Winding Stair Gap and plan on tenting at shelter areas every night. Based on the last 2 years hiking the same basic part of the AT over the exact same week, I don't see it getting much colder than 40 for long. I do carry an extra l/s Smartwool shirt and a light down vest for warmth at camp. SO, do I really NEED to take a raincoat? The Eagle Scout in me says yes, but the fact that the raincoat has collected more pack dust than anything else over the past 200 trail miles tells me no. What do you think?


Two Speed
05-10-2008, 07:16
Provided you're carrying the Frogg Tog jacket I'm not sure why you'd carry a second rain jacket. Just don't do the macho stupid thing and fail to put the Frogg Tog jacket on if you start getting cold.

05-10-2008, 07:19
Isn't the motto: "Be Prepared" anymore?
Take a raincoat. You were lucky the last two years. Luck could change anytime.

05-10-2008, 08:09
I carry the windshirt, which is not a jacket and weighs nothing. I wear it all the time. I have been carrying the Frog Togg as well. I could not hike wearing a Frog Togg unless it was well into the 30's or colder. The ONLY time I see me wearing it at all would be once at a shelter to go get water in the rain if I had to. Maybe I should just go get a cheapo poncho and stick it in my pack.

Tipi Walter
05-10-2008, 08:16
I've done many backpacking trips w/o rain gear, instead I used my thermax/polypro long-sleeve tops(a medium and a large worn together)as my walking-in-the-rain layer. Or just a t-shirt when the temps stay high. If you're only hiking at low elevation in hot weather, sure, forego the rain gear.

As soon as I could though I sprung for a decent goretex rain jacket and it has saved my butt on many trips. For example, on my most recent April 21-30 trip I was in 80 degree temps before a cold rain hit and by morning it was 25 degrees and sleeting and I had to move thru it and stay "dry"(a relative term). Here's where the jacket comes in handy. Sure, I sweated underneath and got wet but I WAS WARM.

It's possible to have used my old system of the thermal tops but I would have had to put them on wet(ugh)and humped their extra weight with water, etc. And once wet they take forever to dry and can't offer a dry layer beneath the fleece that most thermal tops provide. The great thing about a rain jacket is that even in low temps with a cold rain you get still get by with wearing a thin top layer(t-shirt/silk top)under the jacket and still stay warm while carrying a pack(exertion=sweat, etc).

05-10-2008, 08:19
YES You need to bring rain gear. It may not do much good if it is hot and humid with a light rain. But wait till a thunderstrom comes by (especially up here in the northern states, but even in the southern states) and a chilly wind starts blowing! You can get hypothermic real easy.


05-10-2008, 08:19
You absolutely do not have to have/use a waterproof raincoat. There are two adequate ways to go: 1) Stay warm - don't care about getting wet, and 2) Stay relatively dry and warm.

For #1 you could wear a fleece jacket, getting very wet but staying comfortably warm in a non-windy 40s rain. If the wind picked up or it dropped into the 30s you might be in trouble.

For #2 you could wear your FrogToggs jacket, in which you will sweat and thus experience some wetness of your undergarments, but you should also stay warm and have a little better protection should the wind kick up.

I have worked both solutions to complete satisfaction, leaning more toward #2 these days. ;)

05-10-2008, 08:36
My Frog Togg is in like new condition, so it's not all funky. I bought it because it was supposed to be very breathable. After 1 hour of backpacking in in the rain over moderate terrain with temps in the mid to upper 40's. I literally had to stretch the sleeve cuffs to let sweat pour out. I'm a big guy and I sweat like it's my job. I haven't replaced the jacket because I don't think there will be anything that I wouldn't sweat profusely in while hiking.

Let's try this. Here's my entire clothing ensemble. Tell me what you'd do. WEARING: U/A longsleeve heat gear tshirt, U/A boxer briefs, Exofficio conv. pants, Darn Tough socks, Marmot Ion windshirt. CARRYING: 1 syn. longjohn bottoms, 1 syn. shortsleeve tshirt, 1 Smartwool longsleeve light tshirt, 1 nylon shorts, 1 U/A boxer briefs, 1 Smartwool socks, 1 down vest, Frog Togg jacket???


05-10-2008, 08:41
If it were me I'd leave it home...I hiked in PA in Feb in a snow storm, central VA in March and your section of trail last Oct and when it was cold and wet used a long sleeve fleece top over my synthetic-T and a very thin water resistant nylon wind breaker that weighed just a couple of oz. As long as you have a little skill in keeping relatively dry you should be fine. That said though, you may have been a little lucky the last couple of years, as that area has been very dry, and it looks like the weather patterns have changed and we are more likely to run into those wonderful afternoon downpours. Part of the fun for me has been learning how to cope with what I didn't bring along. Over the years I've been amazed at what I don't need to take and at the skills you then have to learn. Its very liberating, helps you go lighter,and makes the next hike more enjoyable than the one before.

05-10-2008, 08:42

I have hiked for years during the summer without a rainjacket. I have the Marmot windshirt that keeps me plenty warm while hiking and short breaks. Worst case senario in camp is to jump into your sleeping bag.

05-10-2008, 09:14
For warm weather hiking, I like to wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the rain off my face. That's pretty much it, other than making sure the contents of my pack stay dry. In cooler weather I'll add my wind shirt, but I don't bring a rain shell in summer.

A couple of suggestions: a silnylon poncho is much cooler than a rain jacket, especially if there is a breeze. Or you could carry an umbrella -- seriously. For use around camp, an umbrella is perfect in the rain, and it even works well while hiking. You can dress for the temperatures, not the rain. Golite makes a nice, sturdy hiking umbrella, but for use around camp we have a <5 oz tiny folding cheapie umbrella we found a Target.

05-10-2008, 09:20
You could probably make an argument either way in terms of raingear. A lot depends on the air temps and your tolerance for being wet all the time.

In terms of distance hiking I can only speak from experience on my thru in 2003. I started with one of the light weight laminates (Sierra Designs Peak Bagger) jacket. We had persistent rain and believe it or not the outer surface of the jacket soaked out and would never dry. In Hot Springs I bought a Frogg Toggs set and liked them a lot more. Pants were pretty much useless and I sent them home but carried the jacket all the way to Katahdin and was darn glad I had it ...both for rain and for wnd.


05-10-2008, 09:30
My primary hiking motto is "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it". Multiple use is the way I like to think about hiking gear. I use a poncho both as personal rain protection and rain protection for the pack (which is lined, just in case, with a thin trash bag). The poncho also serves as my hammock cover (since I'm not using the Hennessy much anymore) and can also serve as a windbreak or cooking shelter in bad weather. Ponchos aren't for everyone, and they don't work as well as a rain shell in very windy weather, but they are incredibly useful as a multi-use item.
Bring your Frogg Toggs top, at least. If you have several cool, wet days, all your wearable clothing will be drenched and, with the added depletion of your energy stores taken into consideration, your Ion may not keep you warm enough. Of course, I'm older and get cold more easily than I did at your age. It's a hyoh kind of thing, so do what works for you and let us know how things work out.

05-10-2008, 10:59
try not wearing an undershirt next time you wear the frog toggs...next to skin, so if you beast sweat it won't matter.

05-10-2008, 11:38
I would suggest looking into a decent lightweight poncho. This way, you have decent ventilation and a reasonable degree of rain protection, but more important, you have tarp for cooking under, stringing up during lunch during rainy weather, or for shade on sunny days. I find that I like the flexibility the system offers. BTW, I still carry a Golite Ether windjacket (4 oz for my XXL) and wear it in windy cool wet conditions unless rain is dumping heavily.

05-12-2008, 00:10
Just keep in mind, raingear is not for keeping dry, you will get wet wearing it if you are hiking. It is for keeping WARM while you are wet. IMO, one of the 3 absolutely essential pieces of gear -- the other 2 are headcovering (also for warmth) and water container. If you are warm and hydrated, not much else matters in terms of short term survival.

Appalachian Tater
05-12-2008, 00:48
Just keep in mind, raingear is not for keeping dry, you will get wet wearing it if you are hiking. It is for keeping WARM while you are wet. IMO, one of the 3 absolutely essential pieces of gear -- the other 2 are headcovering (also for warmth) and water container. If you are warm and hydrated, not much else matters in terms of short term survival.

What he said. It doesn't have to be cold for you to get hypothermic, especially if injured.

05-12-2008, 06:50
you can buy an emergency poncho at any dollar store for $1. It is very small, compact, and light and keeps you dry. This is the only thing that I carry on day hikes, soccer games etc.

05-12-2008, 09:14
You just have to figure out what works best for you. When I hike, I wear two shirts; a polypro undershirt of varying thicknesses depending on the time of year, and an outer shirt. My system is the under shirt gets wet with sweat while the outer shirt keeps the wind off and helps me stay warm when the wind blows.

For when it rains I carry only a nylon windbreaker, and that gives me three layers. Sure I get soaked, but the layers help to hold the heat in. In my pack I have a second shirt and either a pair of gym shorts of a pair of light weight long pants, dependidng on the time of year. I also carried wind pants the entire way, and though I only put them on five or six times, the weight was negligible.

Here's a story from my thru. I'm hiking along about 10 am and it starts to rain. I stop, put the pack cover on and the windbreaker. I hike on another hour or so and arrive at the next shelter in time for lunch. I come in out of the rain and take off all my wet clothes and hang them from a nail.

I opened my pack and put on a set of dry clothes, then fixed lunch. When I was finished I took off all the dry clothes and repacked them int he zip locks in the pack and put on the -ugh!- wet clothes. I shouldered my pack and stepped out into the rain.

In thirty seconds I was soaked again, but within two minutes I had built up body heat hiking and was warm, albeit wet, again too. I hiked another 6-8-10 miles (I forget the exact distance) in the pouring rain before arriving at the next shelter wwhere I spent the night. I had dry clothes in the pack when I got there.

That worked for me, but you will have to decide what works for you.

05-13-2008, 00:02
Just keep in mind, raingear is not for keeping dry, you will get wet wearing it if you are hiking. It is for keeping WARM while you are wet. IMO, one of the 3 absolutely essential pieces of gear -- the other 2 are headcovering (also for warmth) and water container. If you are warm and hydrated, not much else matters in terms of short term survival.

This is a very astute comment. Think of your rain gear as a vapor barrier that helps you retain body heat and prevents evaporative cooling when wet.

I have an ion windshirt. Then I bought an OR celestial jacket made out of goretex packlite - only 9 oz. It opens like a poncho for max breathability. I have since ditched the windshirt and use the jacket when I need a shell layer against the wind.

05-13-2008, 14:19
Rain jacket is really good for camp only or hiking in cold, rainy windy conditions where hypothermia can be a factor. But if you are happy with no jacket in camp and its pouring, leave it at home.

05-13-2008, 14:22
Maybe I should just go get a cheapo poncho and stick it in my pack.Perfect. Get one of those $1 plastic ponchos and put it in the bottom of your pack. End of story. You'll have something "just in case", but it won't be so bulky or weighty to get thrown out.

05-13-2008, 14:32
One more thing to consider for thru-hikers in the same situation (get too hot hiking in rain gear)....

If you are a thru-hiker (not a section hiker), you will lose weight (especially if you are male) and your body metabolism will change dramatically during your hike. What you find as comfortable now may prove to be too cold when you get to PA and have lost 40#.

This doesn't really apply to the OP since he is section hiking, but for thru-hikers in planning it is something to consider.

Back in '03 I attended trail days with my brother. We were hiking in shorts because we thought it was too hot. 80% of the thru-hikers we saw on the trail had on long pants, extra layers and often hats. And they were hiking 2x as fast as we were.

River Runner
05-13-2008, 19:13
I don't think the cheap $1 ponchos are reliable enough for anything but a day hike where you don't expect rain and know you will be coming out where you can get into a warm vehicle at days end. I'd suggest at least a silnylon poncho, or perhaps a poncho tarp that is multi-use (rain gear, small shelter if caught out in the middle of nowhere, cooking shelter, expanded vestibule for tent or to store a pack out of the rain, windblock in shelter, etc.)

Another decent alternative is a Dri-ducks rain jacket - lighter than frogg toggs, but more durable than the $1 poncho that can rip the first time you stick your head in it.

05-13-2008, 19:33
$1 poncho vs $0.0? garbage can liner...

05-13-2008, 22:41
Dealing with rain is always situational... I carried frogg toggs last summer, and used them on a few occasions. You're right, when you're exerting yourself, the insides will be soaked. But the nice thing about the toggs is that they're good for warmth as well as rain. If it's a light rain, or if there's no wind I'm likely to skip the toggs and just "deal with it." Long as I've got my Seattle Sombrero all is well with the world.

05-13-2008, 23:47
When I hike I always have a proper rain coat. A short/light/cheap one for hot weather and a longer/heaver/expensive one for cold weather.

If I bring novice friends/relatives with me I always have a spare for them too, weather they want it or not.

I willing to go out on a limb hear and estimate that more people get hypothermia in the summer than the winter. Go ahead, tear me apart for that one.


05-14-2008, 22:47
Since you are a big guy who generates a lot of heat, you have a wind shirt, and you have a wool layer below, you are in better position than most to go without rain gear. That said, hypothermia is one of larger dangers faced by backpackers, and the fact you haven't had a close call yet, doesn't mean you never will. I would ditch the waterproof "breathable" gear and take along something lighter.