Backpacking in a pouring rain in the summer is bad enough, however backpacking in a pouring rain in the winter not only sucks, it can be at best down-right miserable and at the worst, it can be potentially dangerous.
I’m not an expert and I’m not giving my advice here, I’m only thinking about another epiphany I recently had on a cold and raining backpack.
I make a differentiation between backpacking and hiking here. Backpacking for me normally means I’m a long way from civilization and carrying a tent, sleeping bag, nice warm, dry clothing, winter clothing and I should try to keep it all very dry so I don’t get wet and cold or hypothermia or freeze to death.
That said, I think almost every downpour and “all day rain” I’ve had the pleasure to hike in, has left me pretty much….damp at the least, and a little soggy around the edges.
So my little epiphany is that under these circumstances, I’m going to get wet, I just need to realize this and get over it. Going up hill and carrying a pack generates a lot of body heat, even in the winter. That moisture is trapped under the rain pants and inside the parka and is moistening whatever I’m wearing. Rain is also making its way inside my collar, directly and dripping off my hat. I like to wear a large brimmed hat in the rain but I’m thinking cinching the hood of my rain parka around my face could cut down on water coming in from around my head, but the hat keeps the water off my face.
So my point to myself is, I’m going to get wet, therefore I should realize that (a) I need to remember that after walking a while I’m going to start generating a lot more heat that I expect, therefore don’t worry about the freezing standing around in camp before we start walking, therefore don’t put on too many layers, because I’m not going to be able to stop in a deluge and take them off, and (2) whatever I wear, is going to be sacrificed to the Rain Gods and not worry about whether or how soaked my walking clothes are going to get. The clothes worn while walking will get wet, they can’t be saved, just have something warm and dry to change into when the hike is done.
A quick war story. In the summer of 1988 I took my two sons, William and Mark, ages 11 and 10 ,on a 9 day thru hike of the AT through Great Smokey Mountains National Park. It was in July and we stayed in a shelter each night.
It rained for about 3 days, soaking us to the bone each day. When we got to the shelter, we took off our wet clothes and changed into our warm clothes. The next morning, when it was still pouring, we took off our dry clothes packed them safely away and put on the soaking wet, cold clothes from the day before, this sucked, but they did warm up after a few minutes of hiking.
In conclusion, I’m going to get wet, don’t wear unnecessary layers that I won’t be able to remove, and have some dry clothes to change into.