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  1. #1

    Default Experiences of Wet Gear having NOT used a Pack Liner or Dry Sack

    Has rain ever wet your gear, when you weren't using a pack liner or dry sack, but did use a rain cover for your pack? Aren't backpacks sufficiently rain resistant, especially with a rain cover?

  2. #2
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    On the PCT heading into the Mojave, I was in a torrential storm in which my pack cover’s cord broke leaving me to rely on the Cuban fiber liner which, unbeknownst to me, had developed pinholes. When I got into hiker town (a hostel), I found that all of my gear inside the pack was totally soaked except what I had in additional dry bags (sleeping bag and sleep clothes). Yes, rain absolutely can and will soak the inside of a pack. This was a ULA Circuit. I now use a trash compactor bag as a pack liner (more reliable than Cuban fiber and cheap) and always use dry bags for sleeping bag and sleep clothes. I also have a pack cover.

  3. #3

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    I've had one experience similar to what Coffee describes. Last month on the Bartram, hiking northbound, coming down into Franklin I had a five mile hike to get to Hickory Knob Road on what turned out to be my last day on trail. Rain was intense with wind gusts that soaked through my Frog Toggs jacket. My pack liner is/was a trash compactor bag. I don't use a pack cover. I got off trail and holed up in a motel. When I emptied the pack, I found my top quilt, which was in the bottom of the trash compactor bag, very wet, apparently from pinholes in the trash compactor bag. Stuff on top was dry, so I'm thinking it didn't leak from the top, but soaked through from the bottom. Luckily I had already decided to bag the hike and head home. Had I not done so, I would have found myself that night at 5,000 feet elevation, predicted lows around 20, wind gusts at 30 mph and a wet, useless down filled top quilt.

    That trash compactor bag is one I've used for at least two years, maybe three. I tossed it out and will from now on change out trash compactor bags annually.

    To answer your second question, the pack is the GG Mariposa, which is not water proof nor water resistant. GG doesn't make a pack cover and the one I've got doesn't fit it well, so I don't use it, depending instead on the pack liner, which in this case failed.

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    I've always found pack covers difficult to keep hole-free, from brush and setting on the ground. And mine would gather a puddle of water in the bottom "pocket." Only once did that puddle get my gear wet, which I consider part of the learning curve. When I started using a compactor-bag liner instead, I made it part of my daily routine to check the bag for pin holes. It's easily patched with duct tape. I've never had a mishap with a liner bag. The one I have now has quite a few years of use on it, and it sports a few small squares of duct tape.

    When I pack the liner bag and I'm expecting especially heavy rain, I'll take a minute to wrap the outside of the liner bag with my (usually damp) shelter to give it an extra layer of protection from torrential soaking.

  5. #5

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    I presume the question is related to commercially available packs purchased at REI or other outdoor retailers. There are specialty pack makers that can produce packs that are designed not to leak, but these tend to be expensive and no one can design out human related leaks like leaving the pack open, etc.

    If you are out in heavy weather, especially for a long time over many days, most people find rain will eventually reach into their pack and ruining it's contents. Most packs eventually succumb to the relentless pursuit of rain to soak through their stitching, anchor points, access points/zippers, or sometimes the owner manages to hasten the process with careless handling. So to the first question, most packs one can go out to a store and purchase will leak at some point. Heavy rain, blowing rain, misting rain, rain on brush alongside the trail, all present repelling problems that can defy single solution so a strategy of sorts is needed.

    Rain covers are not infallible but experience I have has found most failures are where the cover is secured to the pack. I use rain covers for my packs and found if I do not pay close attention to how the cover fit around the top of the pack and protected the anchor points of the shoulder straps, and I don't cinch the cover well around the sides of the pack I can expect water entry. So I would recommend using one as a primary barrier and having learned this the hard way, practice attaching it in controlled conditions before venturing out with it.

    I use the "inside-out" strategy to reduce the opportunity of rainwater ruining gear. I use "wet-bags" for anything that cannot get wet like food, electronics and paper, fire making tools, and some clothing. The next level out I use unscented trash compactor bags (doubled up) as an internal pack liner to help keep the entire contents dry. I will also carry a few spare bags with me as bags can be damaged when rain events persist over many days. A caution here, use ONLY unscented trash compactor bags if you don't want to have your pack pick up what starts as a fragrance and ends up as an odor that will change ones trail name to variants of "stinky".

    I typically will not put my tent inside the pack when it is wet, instead I will roll it up with the weather surfaces on the outside and wrap it up in a small tarp I use as a fly or to cover a cooking area. Since this is a great recipe for mildew, as soon as weather clears to sun I will stop and get gear dried out as quickly as possible. During this process I will unload the pack so small amounts of water that are in the pack or on the trash bags/wet-bags can dry and reduce the opportunity for mold growth.

    Hope that helps!

  6. #6

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    I use three layers of protection:

    1) Dry sack for clothes and sleeping bag.
    2) Pack liner, i.e. trash compactor bag.
    3) Pack cover.

    The pack cover is optional. I mostly use one in the spring rainy season. It helps keep the pack material from getting soaked, which can make it heavier. It also provides something to empty your pack onto if the ground is wet or muddy while you dig out your tent from the bottom of the pack.
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    Pack Covers, like rain gear, will wet through. I also had one case in which the bottom interior side of the pack cover filled up with 1/4 inch of water. I now use a Packa, which is great as a pack cover and rain cover. I still line the pack and always will, because of down quilts and puffy. I have just switched to the Nyloflume liner and wish I had gone to this years ago. Thinner, lighter and easier to utilize than a trash contractor bag.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mekineer View Post
    Aren't backpacks sufficiently rain resistant, especially with a rain cover?
    Not really, no. Backpacks are full of stitch holes, for one thing. Water easily comes in through the suspension side on a normal commercial backpacking pack. After a few hikes early on with regular packs, I started using pack liners and/or waterproof roll top stuff sacks.

    Some packs are much more waterproof. My Zpacks Arc Haul uses waterproof tape inside to cover all the stitches, like the seam tape on a tent.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigcranky View Post
    Not really, no. Backpacks are full of stitch holes, for one thing. Water easily comes in through the suspension side on a normal commercial backpacking pack. After a few hikes early on with regular packs, I started using pack liners and/or waterproof roll top stuff sacks.

    Some packs are much more waterproof. My Zpacks Arc Haul uses waterproof tape inside to cover all the stitches, like the seam tape on a tent.
    Arcteryx used to make a fully waterproof pack called the Naos---saw a guy on South Fork Citico trail with one back in 2009---here he is rolling up the top before clipping over the lid.

    TRIP 91 017-L.jpg

    But even high end packs like Mystery Ranch and my McHale custom are not waterproof in the least.

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    To answer directly, yes, sort of. I have always used pack liner bags or gear dry bags of one kind or another since my earliest hiking days in the 60's. I have experimented with pack covers and certainly seen moisture inside my backpack while using one.

    BUT, I think what may be the most overlooked point here, and frankly, one of the reasons that completely waterproof backpacks are not truly ubiquitous, is that it's darn inconvenient if not impossible not to have to carry wet gear inside your backpack if you're backpacking in rainy conditions. Where do you carry your wet tent, ground cloth, wet raingear, wet cloths, wet every piece of gear your carrying except hopefully your sleeping insulation.

    In the end, you want dry space inside you backpack even if you are carrying a bunch of wet gear. And, since a pack cover doesn't help out with that, it starts becoming a redundant piece of gear. And, since a waterproof backpack generally requires compromises in other ways (like weight & other design features) and a waterproof backpack also keeps you wet gear inside wet, what's the point.

    So, in a way, the OP is an irrelevant question unless you really hate dealing with gear in drybags and/or pack liners AND you are confident you will only be backpacking in conditions where rain will just intermittent with time to reliably dry out your gear between rain events.

    Good luck and hike dry.
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  11. #11

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    I was helping to steady a boat in high winds trying to take off from an island which was going to overflow due to flooding from the sea current. I was crotch deep in water and had my backpack, a Kelty Pawnee 40 with waist buckle secured. I took one misstep where the depth increases suddenly, and plunged in the water. I got back up in a few seconds. After getting to shore, I found my contents completely dry. I used only the pack cover, no liner. It hadn't been raining very hard, but I thought the plunge would have soaked everything. I'm going to be getting some dry sacks, for sure.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mekineer View Post
    Has rain ever wet your gear, when you weren't using a pack liner or dry sack, but did use a rain cover for your pack? Aren't backpacks sufficiently rain resistant, especially with a rain cover?
    No to either question, but I won't trust either one alone, which is why I use both. A trash compactor bag to line the pack, and another bag to make a home-made pack cover that 1) won't wet out 2) is open at the bottom so no puddling and 3) is dirt cheap and very effective.

    I've never heard a hiker get to camp and complain that all his stuff was dry!

  13. #13

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    Had the proverbial "100 lb down sleeping bag" thing happen while hiking PA back in 1974 with a Kelty pack and garbage bag cover.
    Now we always put the sleeping bag in a turkey baster bag and seal it, and have another for the upper pack contents especially clothes. We still use a good Osprey pack cover, but they are no guarantee.

  14. #14

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    I used the ziplock bag approach with a heavy duty garbage bag for my sleeping bag with pack cover. Everything in the pack is in zip lock bags so the pack may get wet but the contents do not. It helps with organization.

  15. #15

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    My experience with a pack cover...

    I fold my sleeping pad and carry it against my back inside the ULA Circuit and use a ULA pack cover. On 3(?) trips, I did not cover the pad and at least 1/3 of it got wet. (Everything else that mattered was either in a compactor bag or HMG dyneema cube). On my last 2 trips, I covered the pad with a trash bag with the closure at the bottom and the pad still got wet at the closure. Maybe from water pooling in the bottom of the pack liner?

  16. #16

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    I just went and poked some pin holes in a white garbage bag just to see if I could see them.NOPE-not even in a dark room with a flash light inside the bag.I have on another occasion found pin holes in a BLACK garbage bag.

    Next trip will include a NEW compactor bag,that's a given after what happened to Mr Boswell.Thanks for the heads up...

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by mekineer View Post
    Has rain ever wet your gear, when you weren't using a pack liner or dry sack, but did use a rain cover for your pack? Aren't backpacks sufficiently rain resistant, especially with a rain cover?
    No, because I've never used a pack cover, and always use a liner. Not a trash bag, nyoflume bag, compactor bag, any of that stuff, but a purpose made liner that's both durable and waterproof(submersible, actually, as I've tested a few times). Osprey has their own, similar version, but I've been using an OR Ultralight Dry Pack Liner for the last decade. I actually have 3 in 35, 45, and 55L sizes, but mostly just use the 45, since I only use an Exos 38 on a regular basis, previously the older Exos 38, and the Exos 46 before that. So my liner is on its third pack...and not once has anything in it ever gotten wet.
    Heavier than those less expensive choices, but can be patched when it gets a hole poked in it, which is part of why it's lasted so long.

    Recently broke the clip on the roll down top, so I guess mine isn't submersible any more. It's been a good piece of gear, though.

  18. #18

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    Couldn't you test your backpack liners by filling them with water, and seeing if they drip? No need to change them out if they are fine.

  19. #19
    Garlic
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    I test my liner the same way I check for bike inner tube punctures. Fill with air, twist the top closed, compress it, listen and feel for air leaks. It's sort of a habit most mornings.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mekineer View Post
    Couldn't you test your backpack liners by filling them with water, and seeing if they drip? No need to change them out if they are fine.
    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    I test my liner the same way I check for bike inner tube punctures. Fill with air, twist the top closed, compress it, listen and feel for air leaks. It's sort of a habit most mornings.
    If you pay attention to your liner when you unpack it, you should be able to tell if it's air-tight or not also. If you press all the air out of your pack liner as you are packing it, it looks like a vacuum sealed bag of whatever. If any air (and maybe water) can leak in, the liner will not have that vacuum sealed look to it when you look at it at a later time, like the next time you unpack your pack.

    Of course, that begs the question of whether completely air tight is really important, as most of our liner bags that work fine for us are still not completely air tight, most often because of how we close them.
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