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Light Hiking in Rainy Weather


There are times when I travel heavy on a day hike, like when I filmed the video you'll see below. Even when I don't have camera equipment to carry, I might plan to explore a cave or some old mines, so I'll need to carry a helmet, gloves, knee pads and extra lights. But most of the time I prefer light hiking and backpacking.

I like the freedom to run up boulders and explore cliffs with no worries about a big load on my back throwing off my balance. Of course, I also like to stay warm and dry. That's what this page is about then; hiking comfortably in rainy weather while keeping the pack weight down. With that goal in mind, here's a video on ultralight rainwear that I recently filmed in Temple Canyon near Canon City, Colorado...

Another advantage of a rain poncho, which I forgot to mention in the video, is that some of them will cover you and your backpack. That's nice, especially if your pack doesn't keep the rain out very well. If you are using a regular raincoat, and you anticipate rain, you can pack everything in light plastic garbage bags before putting it all inside the pack. Fold the ends of the bags over and down so any water that enters the pack will run off and not into them.

If you want really light hiking and you are just going out for the day, you might skip the day pack altogether. Plan well and even a long hike can be done with all the necessary items in your pockets. You can see my three-ounce survival/first aid kit here; Altoids Tin Survival Kit. It has water purification tablets in it, along with many other things. It easily fits in a pocket of your pants or rain jacket.

Put a water bottle in another pocket or use a small hip sack. Carry a cell phone for emergencies. Add a few baggies of snacks in various pockets and you are good for ten hours on the trail. A map and compass might be necessary if you are in unfamiliar or rough terrain. In any case, that's light hiking in a safe way.

For longer trips that will involve rainy days, pre-test your rainwear. You do not want to discover that there is water seeping through after thirty minutes of rain or snow--on the second day of your trip when you are fifteen miles from the car. Wear the outfit for a long day hike in the rain, or at least stand out under the sprinkler in the yard to be sure that you stay dry underneath.

For light backpacking in wet weather, you can bring all the usual ultrlaight gear, but you might want to consider adding the weight of a lightweight tarp, even if you are using a tent. There are many now that weigh less than a pound and are at least 7 by 9 feet. The reason to consider this is that it makes setting up camp in the rain much more pleasant.

Stretch the tarp over the tent site first, tying it off to trees and rocks as necessary. Then you have a a nice space underneath, protected from the rain, so you can unpack and set up the tent without getting it wet inside, and without getting the contents of your pack wet. The tarp roof over you also allows you to get out of the tent without immediately stepping into the rain.

If you are hiking light and so left the rain gear behind (in warmer weather this is not such a dangerous tactic), watch for natural shelters in case the storms come. Note where there are rock overhangs. Look for large evergreen trees where you can usually stay dry underneath for the first twenty minutes of rain.

You also might consider carrying a garbage bag in your pocket. Most weigh two ounces or less, and if the rain comes you can cut a hole for your head and two for your arms, making a rain poncho. It will at least keep your core somewhat dry (it works best if you have a broad-rimmed hat; otherwise some rain will run down your head and neck, and under the edge of the poncho).

Finally, don't wear jeans if you expect rain. They will get heavy and take hours to dry. Use light hiking pants.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Light Hiking in Rainy Weather