View Full Version : Staying Dry

02-22-2012, 00:00
How do you keep yourself and your gear "relatively" dry when hiking through wet snowy conditions, such as those encountered by many thruhikers every spring? Seems like a simple question that should have a simple answer, but I've not yet discovered it. I have decent rain gear, a rain cover for my backpack, and waterproof stuffsacks, but inevitably much of my gear winds up wet when I hike in wet, snowy weather.

02-22-2012, 02:36
Part of it is adjusting your expectations, so I'm encouraged by your use of the word "relatively" ! In the conditions you describe, I think it's more about temperature control than of how dry you stay.

I think it boils down to a combination of the right kind of clothing, wearing the right type and amount of clothing at any given point, and having a generally steady pace --- or rather, energy output.

The right clothing is, of course no cotton, relatively light base layer, ideally not too heavy an insulation layer you can optionally wear over that, and some sort of light shell and/or wind layer. In cold conditions I tend to err on the side of more warmth at extremeties --- mittens, hat, and less at the core so my core feels a bit cool starting out. A steady energy output at a long-term sustainable pace means that you just get comfortable. A shell (windshirt or rain jacket) is particularly important when it's windy but often helpful even when it's not. Experience gets all of us just better at this, no substitute.

In terms of gear --- a pack liner is pretty helpful, as are ziplock bags of various sizes, or simple plastic sacks. Then on zero and nero days, of course, drying everything out in town. Nothing magic there. Perhaps it's just a matter of not exposing things to the elements that you don't need, and in particular only pulling out night-time and heavier insulation layer stuff when under shelter of some sort for the night. A steady pace helps here too, and on the AT, often you can stop for lunch at a shelter.

Joey C
02-22-2012, 03:53
I have my main gear that I want to keep dry in stuff sacks, then inside a trash compactor bag. Pack covers and me don't get a long, especially when it's windy, blowing rain or snow.

As for me, I expect to be wet when hiking. Be that from the precipitation, or perspiration. As long as I have as dry shirt and socks to put on in camp, and a dry bag to crawl into, I'm good to go.

02-22-2012, 04:02
Relativity is definatley the key term when your talking bout rain gear. I feel there is a misconception about rain gear and hikers that don't have many miles under their hipbelts.

The misconception is that rain gear is for keeping you dry but the reality is that hiking for 6 hours give or take in pouring rain will result in getting wet whether it is from rain seeping in or your sweat from the strenuous PUD's. I refer to my raingear as a windbreaking layer rather than a "rain" layer. The primary function of this layer as BrianLe stated is for temperature regulation more than keeping dry.

Another common misconception amongst "newbs" that i have noticed deals with sleeping pads. Most people starting out dont realize that the sleeping pads primary function is to keep you warm and not just to cushion your non trail hardened body from the rocky ground.

Deposit these $00.02 in your memory bank if it hasn't been already, the interest it accumulates is well worth it :)

02-22-2012, 04:47
If it's going to be raining or snowing, I keep the snacks I'm going to eat in side pockets. Other than to get the tent out (which I keep on top) I don't open my pack until my tent is up and my pack is inside the tent. If it's raining/snowing in the morning, I'll have everything packed up and ready to go except for the tent.

02-22-2012, 08:05
It's usless...even on a dry, low humidity day (for the AT), eveything eventually becomes damp. After all, you are out-of-doors hiking in the humid east. :)

02-22-2012, 08:43
Thanks for the responses. I do realize that its impossible to stay bone-dry in wet weather. As you've properly ascertained, I'm really concerned about ways to get "less wet". I think part of the reason so much of my gear gets wet is because I sometimes take too much out of my pack when I stop for a food/rest break, so I should probably reconsider how I organize my pack.

02-22-2012, 10:47
A trash compactor bag always worked for me. Roll it down then "flap" the excess down past the top so any residual water finding it's way into your pack from the top sheds off and away.

Rainwear is pretty much a game of learning how to properly vent the heat you generate while hiking. Most people think their raingear leaks when in fact it's perspiration building up inside.


02-22-2012, 13:05
I don't believe it--I agree with every post so far! Just kidding--these hikers obviously know their business and have all walked the walk.

Ditto the idea about not keeping dry, but keeping wet and warm. On my AT hike, it was critical to keep all my insulation dry which meant putting on wet clothes in the morning, and not wearing insulating layers while hiking. That lead to some fast walking to stay warm (the trick about keeping food in your pockets is really important on those days). Also critical is to take every opportunity to dry your insulation. If the sun comes out for ten minutes, make sure your bag is out in it for at least nine. You need to stay ahead of sweat and condensation. I can do that out hiking in constant rain for about four days, and by then I really need either a nice warm sunny day or a night inside or a laundromat. But I also know I can hike 100 miles in those four days, and that's usually far enough in the lower 48 to get you to a dry place.

Understanding breathable fabrics helps. They work on vapor pressure, so if it's 100% humidity (foggy) outside, they'll do nothing at all. If they get wet, the pores seal up and they're like plastic.

A good trick sometimes is "bagtex", bread bags over your socks.

I like to keep an insulating layer ready in a ziplock at the top of my pack for short breaks out of the rain, like in the frequent shelters on the AT. The rest of my dry stuff is packed away in a compactor bag liner at the bottom of my pack and it's hard to get to often and quickly.

02-23-2012, 09:59
Yep, your stuff is gonna gradually get damp no matter what you do on those long rainy stretches. Every time the sun comes out take the opportunity to get stuff dry. I like sleeping bags that are black on the inside because the dry faster. Your sleeping bag will get damp even if it ain't rainin' because your body gives off moisture. I make it a point to air out my bag every day when I take a long break. The sun and air will also kill germs and stuff that probably ain't good for you.

02-23-2012, 23:45
You don't. I keep a set of sleeping base layer in with my down bag and double trash bag them inside my pack. I keep any other dry clothes in a separate trash bag inside my pack. Everything else is in ziplocks. Also I use an oversized pack so I roll my old ensolite pad in a tube and stuff my gear down inside that. I worry about keeping my sleeping gear dry and just keeping me warm enough. I hiked alot in worn out rain shell that blocked the wind but not the rain warm but wet you get used to it. And when it gets too bad it's ok to sit it out in a shelter I have.