Whether you are preparing for a backpacking trip in a wet climate or you just want to protect your supplies from possible water damage, purchasing the best waterproof gear for backpacking is critical to keeping all your items in optimum condition. Additionally, by focusing upfront on purchasing waterproof gear you will guarantee that your outdoor excursions are enjoyable by keeping yourself as dry as possible. With the specialized options available in today’s outdoors marketplace, you can find products that meet all your unique preferences and requirements.
The Best Waterproof Gear for Backpacking Overview
- Waterproof backpack: There are backpack selections that are waterproof as well as only water resistant, so determine which option will work best for your outing.
- Rain jacket: Do you only need a waterproof windbreaker, or is a warmer coat with a waterproof exterior a better choice?
- Rain pants: Rain pants are invaluable to keep your pants dry and comfortable as you hike in wet/rainy conditions.
- Waterproof shoes or boots: Waterproof hiking shoes or boots can be used year-round and are great not only in rain but when walking near various sources of water.
- Additional waterproof backpacking products: There are various other waterproof items available in the outdoor supply market that would be helpful to bring along on your next outdoors adventure.
Selecting a Waterproof Backpack
If you plan to hike and explore in areas where rain is a strong possibility, a waterproof backpack is an invaluable foundation to your equipment. This type of highly customized and protective pack will keep all water out and will even float if it falls into a water source. There are a few key features to consider as you peruse your backpack options:
Waterproof or Water Resistant – If the backpack is 100% waterproof, then all the contents should stay completely dry when the pack is submersed. A backpack may be water resistant but not actually waterproof, so you want to check the label carefully before purchase. And even if the backpack is made primarily of waterproof material, there may be areas (such as pockets) where the pack is not completely waterproof.
Size – There are many sizes of waterproof backpacks to choose from, so you need to determine what size best suits your needs. If you will only be taking short hikes then a smaller pack will suffice, but if you need to carry gear for several days then select a pack with a capacity of 40 liters or more to ensure you have sufficient room for all your essentials.
Seals – If a backpack is 100% waterproof then it will likely have a roll-top closure style on top that is completely airtight. Some bags feature welded stitches that prevent water from seeping in, or sealed seams that have been completely waterproofed to repel all liquid.
Compartments – If a backpack is entirely waterproof, it will likely have few if any exterior compartments. The more pockets there are, the greater the chance for water to enter the pack and do damage. So, instead of outside pockets, most waterproof backpacks will have interior pockets for storing a wide range of small items.
How To Choose Rain Jackets
As you evaluate rain jacket options, it is important to ensure that the jackets you are deciding from are seam sealed and are made from a breathable and waterproof fabric. With this type of material your clothing is kept dry, while allowing air to pass through to avoid excessive sweating.
Aside from the more effective breathable waterproof jacket, there are also options designed to just keep the water out. Examples of this type of rain gear are slickers and ponchos; these are better to keep for emergencies rather than for regular use on backpacking trips.
Another benefit of waterproof rain jackets is that they are also windproof. This designation means the jacket keeps out wind and therefore maximizes your body heat. Waterproof jackets are therefore useful in very windy areas, not only in rainy climates.
If you are intending to hike in areas that are likely to have colder temperatures as well as precipitation, then a 3-in-1 rain jacket system might be ideal. This type of outerwear combines a rain jacket and a fleece layer or an insulated shell. You will stay warmer and keep dry with this more substantial jacket, but it is only necessary if the weather is cold.
How to Choose Rain Pants
Waterproof pants typically come in layers, usually either 2, 2.5 or 3. Each of the layers are bonded together to create an effective barrier against water. The inner layers are designed to keep the breathable, waterproof layers free from sweat and other substances. This allows for a comfortable, breathable feel, avoiding an accumulation of moisture on the inside. Look for rain pants that have at least two layers, and closer to three if you want the ultimate in dryness during use.
If durability for your waterproof pants is of key importance to you, then the 3-layer products will serve you best. These options generally use a strong polyurethane film or a similar material that allows the breathability of the pants to last longer. This extra layer also keeps the waterproof membrane from getting clogged during periods between washings.
Options for rain pants also vary in weight and compressibility. For short hiking trips something lightweight with less breathability will still work well; it is good to have a pair of rain pants even with fewer layers just to have as a clothing option.
Choosing Waterproof Shoes or Boots
Whether you are hiking on a short trail or taking a long backpacking trek, waterproof shoes or boots are an invaluable addition to your outdoor gear. Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you evaluate your choices:
How long will you be hiking / backpacking for? If you are only planning to take short hikes on well-defined trails, then hiking shoes are a good option. Waterproof hiking shoes can provide comfort with less weight than hiking or backpacking boots. But if you will be out adventuring for longer period of times, then waterproof boots are a better choice.
What type of terrain will you be venturing to? If you are likely to be exploring more out of bounds regions, then waterproof boots are better suited to your needs than shoes. Boots will provide the support you need for the more difficult ground, and the waterproof options will keep your feet dry regardless of terrain or weather.
Will you be carrying a heavy supply load? If you are planning on carrying a considerable pack weight, or lighter weight for a longer period, then waterproof shoes might not have enough support. A waterproof boot will have more significant padding to ensure comfort while carrying more substantial loads, as well as dryness for your feet on long treks.
Do the shoes or boots have waterproof membranes? Shoes or boots that are designated as waterproof feature waterproof membranes that prevent your feet from getting wet as you walk. These membranes are a key component of waterproof footwear; without them the product can only be water resistant.
Additional Waterproof Backpacking Products
Beyond the basic pieces of gear that are essential to an enjoyable backpacking trip, there are several newly developed products that can add to your personal comfort:
- Pack rain cover – Protect your backpack from the rain and other elements as you hike.
- Pack liner – You can use a special pack liner to ensure that all your interior items are fully protected from the rain.
- Dry bag – It is helpful to have a specific bag to ensure that electronics and other important items stay completely dry.
- Waterproof hat – This is useful for keeping water as well as the sun at bay.
- Waterproof stuff sack – Keep your sleeping bag dry if you are carrying one for an overnight or longer trip.
- Waterproof tent – This is a critical piece of gear if you are headed out for an overnight trip or several days in the wilderness.
- Waterproof gloves – These are especially important during cold weather, but lightweight options can be worn simply as protection from rain.
- Gaiters – Use gaiters made of waterproof material to protect the tops of your hiking boots from intrusion by rain and water from puddles and other sources.
- Moisture-wicking shirt – Aside from a waterproof jacket, it is also helpful to wear a shirt underneath that repels water and keeps your skin dry.
Key Considerations Before You Purchase Waterproof Gear
What is your budget for equipment, including a waterproof backpack and essential clothing and footwear?
What is your highest priority for your next equipment purchase?
What will be the typical duration of your trip; day trips, overnight, or several days long? Will you be hiking in warmer or colder climates?
Do you prefer to keep your pack light, or to carry more supplies for potential emergencies?
Is durability or price your primary focus as your purchase backpacking gear?