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Lightweight Rainwear


Lightweight rainwear means a rain jacket under 13 ounces, rain pants under 10 ounces, and ponchos under 16 ounces. I just made up these standards, but given the choices available, they seem reasonable for now. My Frogg Toggs weigh just 7 ounces for the top, and 7 ounces for the pants. They are baggy and papery, but the waterproof/breathable fabric has held up through heavy rain, snow, and 50 mph wind at 20,000 feet. After years of use, they have only two duct-tape patches.

Nonetheless, I might go with tougher nylon rainwear when I buy again. The only thing that has changed my mind, or may change it, in any case, is that some of the new lightweight rainwear can finally compete on weight. I have no real complaints with my Frogg Toggs. It's just that if I have the money, and if they are just as light, and if they work as well, I'd rather have a tougher material. (That's a lot of ifs - maybe I'll stick with my Frogg Toggs.)

Lightweight Rainwear: What to Bring

Many ultralight backpackers carry only a rain jacket, since light hiking pants dry quickly when you are moving. I think this works well when it isn't too cold. Just don't try this with jeans, since they take forever to dry (a good reason to never use them for hiking).

Ray Jardine swears by umbrellas, and I have used them backpacking, but found them more trouble than they are worth. They are nice for a little "roof," if you are sleeping in a bivy sack.

If it is warm, with little chance of rain, you can bring one of those 2-ounce emergency ponchos. A garbage bag is also about 2 ounces, and is tougher. I've used both, and can say that they are definitely better than nothing.

Another lightweight rainwear alternative is to get a good nylon poncho that doubles as a shelter. There are many of these that weigh less than 16 ounces now. Bringing dual-purpose items like this is a good way to keep the overall pack weight down.

If you use anything that is waterproof, but not breathable, be sure to take it off as soon as the rain stops. It (and you) will likely be wet from condensation, and you may have to turn it inside-out to dry it before you put it away.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Lightweight Rainwear for Backpackers