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When you’re out on a day hike, it’s not a big deal to throw a lightweight rain jacket in your bag in case it might rain. But for backpacking several days you may need a few extra things, depending on the time of year and temperatures.
Here’s a list of rain gear items to consider taking with you, with more details on each below:
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Rain skirt
- Rain mitts
- Umbrella clips for backpack
- Pack cover
- Pack liner
- Dry bags
If it’s colder out and might rain, definitely bring a rain jacket. It can help protect against hypothermia. When it’s hotter out, you’ll be sweating pretty bad on the inside of that rain jacket, so it kind of defeats the purpose. You’ll get wet anyway. In cases like that a poncho could be a better choices. Ponchos are not good if it’s too windy however, especially on exposed mountains.
There are a lot of rain jackets out there that aren’t fully waterproof either, so you have to be careful about what you choose.
Some popular high quality options that work well include:
- Lightheart Gear Rain jacket – Reviewed as one of the best for keeping you dry! They’re not very pretty, but they work. As you can see in the photo above the Lightheart gear jacket that I own is a crinkly mess. Well, that’s what happens when you stuff it in its stuff sack and then stuff it in your backpack. No way to keep it nice and neat and go out to dinner looking good in it. It’s for hiking! These are also made in the USA.
- Enlightened Equipment Visp – A high end rain jacket with great reviews.
- Zpacks Vertice – An even more expensive jacket, but made in the USA!
- Outdoor Vitals Tushar – Probably the nicest looking ultralight rain jacket out of the lot of them! This jacket really is nice, you can wear it around town and not look like hiker trash lol. The material feels nice too.
- Frogg Toggs – Super cheap! Like $20 for a jacket and pants. They don’t hold up too well but they will keep you dry and do the job. Be warned, these are HUGE, you may want to size down.
- Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite Rain Jacket – Another Frogg Togg’s option that’s a little more expensive but not by much. Looks nicer than the one above however.
- Frogg Toggs Poncho
Want to combine your poncho with a pack cover? Well that exists! Pros: It has the potential to keep you plus your pack totally dry because it covers everything(your straps won’t get wet, etc). The downsides would be that if you want to take your pack off in the rain, then it will get wet, or you will get wet if you take the poncho off, so that part can be tricky.
- The Packa – Probably the first pack cover/jackets ever manufactured and sold. These are hand made in the USA!
- Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape – Not only is this a poncho/pack cover, but it doubles as a tarp for you to sleep under! You’d still have to purchase a bug net/bivy to complete your “tent” if you wanted though.
- Lightheart Gear Hoodie Pack Cover – I don’t have this yet, but I think it’ll be my next gear purchase! It’s like half a poncho that covers your head, shoulders, and pack. Would pair great with a jacket and/or umbrella!
Yes, of course Amazon has a knock off budget option. I suggest going with one of the above, but if you only plan to use it once in a long while, then check out the ones from Adventure World or Naturehike.
Some people like rain pants, although you’d probably only want to hike with them on in cold temperatures or if you need to keep warm and dry around camp. They will make you sweat! Another good thing about them is that they also can be used as an extra pair of pants whenever you need, which is great on a thru-hike.
Rain Skirts, or rain “kilts”, are a better option for hiking in warm weather, due to better ventilation. The lower parts of your legs will still get wet, however they have the advantage that you don’t have to take your shoes off to put them on.
- Frogg Toggs – This is the budget set that comes with both a jacket and pants!
- Lightheart Gear
- Dutchwear Gear Xenon pants
- Outdoor Research Helium pants
Ultra Budget option:
Get a piece of polycyro (the clear plastic window film) and wrap it around yourself. Tuck it into your pants or put a belt or string over it to hold it in place. If you’re one of those people that use this as a ground tarp, then you already have it! Might not hold up well, but it can work.
Again something to worry about if it gets colder out, is keeping your hands warm. There are rain gloves out there that have enough room to even go on top of your normal gloves. Mitts are especially useful if you’re using trekking poles, where your hands are always exposed.
- REI Minimalist GTX Mittens – not the lightest in this list, but a good price and quality material.
Enlightened Equipment Visp – made out of the same material as their jackets. The downside to these is that you’ll have to seam seal them yourself.
- Hightail Designs – An ultralight option, made out of dyneema. More expensive, but the seams are taped!
- Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts – Seam sealed and ultra light!
Having a waterproof hat can really help in conjunction with your rain jacket or poncho. The reason is that hoods of most rain jackets stop at the edge of your face, they won’t prevent the rain from getting on your face, in your eyes, on your glasses. If you have a hat however, the bill of it will shield your face. So it’s very useful! Also if it’s warmer out and there’s just a light rain, you may not need a jacket, but you still may want a hat for those reasons.
I personally use the Sunday Afternoon Storm Bucket Hat which has worked well for me, but there are plenty of styles to choose from such as a simple baseball or trucker hat.
You can also get an umbrella for the rain, along with a hands free attachment piece to hook onto your backpack. Downsides: if you’ve got a lot of tight bushes and trees to hike through on the trail that the umbrella will get caught in or not fit through. Also not so good for windy areas.
There are two styles of backpacking umbrellas that are common: a longer one that’s much easier to open up and close, and the short compact ones, which is great for stuffing anywhere in your pack. I have the Gossamer Gear Light Trek, and you literally just push the part above the handle up or down. No buttons or toggles to mess with. The Six Moon Design, I have to fiddle with for a couple minutes. You have to unfold it properly and it’s delicate. So as long as I can fit it in a side pocket of my bag or something, I’d choose the longer version.
If you get an umbrella, don’t forget to get a set of clips to hook them to your backpack straps!
In addition to rain, it can become a sun umbrella, which can be a life saver for hiking in hot conditions when the sun is beating down on you all day.
Pack Rain Cover / Pack Liner / Dry Bags
Out of these, the most important one that you should always have with you is a Pack Liner. It can be a simple Trash Compactor bag(which is a thick garbage bag), or a dedicated pack liner that certain brands sell.
Some backpacks come with their own pack cover. Or you can buy one separately. Just make sure it fits your specific size backpack! The downside to a pack cover is that it will not cover your backpack straps. And if you’re wearing both a rain jacket and pack cover, water can still get down inbetween you and your bag.
A secondary usage for a pack cover, if you get one in bright orange like I did, is it can be useful when you need to wear orange during hunting season!
Smaller dry bags can come in handy if you want backup to your pack liner. I like to put all my electronics in one, clothes in another, and sleeping bag in yet another larger bag. I didn’t purchase anything fancy with these, so I can’t guarantee how well they’ll hold up, but I got this pack of 3 for a cheap price. If you’ll be out in the rain a lot more or going on a rafting trip, you may want higher quality.
If you have any rain gear items you really like to use that are different from the above, let us know in the comments below!