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
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
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
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
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.