By: Blonde Two
The sun’s shining today but we all know how capricious the great British climate can be. Whatever the weather when you set out for a walk or camp, it’s important to keep your gear dry. Soggy jumpers and damp sleeping bags are miserable things, and can quickly turn an exciting adventure into a risky one. We take a look at some easy ways to make sure your walking gear stays dry, even on the wettest of days.
But my rucksack is waterproof
Unlikely! There are now waterproof rucksacks on the market but these tend to lack some of the design features we all love for longer distance walking and hiking. The average (even expensive) rucksack you use on the hills will keep out a touch of rain (for a while) but will eventually let your gear get wet.
But my rucksack has a rain cover
It probably does! But rucksack rain covers are a mixed blessing (I never use mine). Rain is often accompanied by wind, and with a rain cover over your pack, you might as well be wearing a sail (this can make walking exhausting). Not only that, rain covers let sideways rain in (and we all know that rain on the hills never falls straight down).
So how do I keep my walking gear dry?
What you need are waterproof bags inside your rucksack. You can either go for a ‘whole rucksack’ approach or an ‘individual bag’ one (if you are a seasoned walker or camper you’ll probably opt for both). There are lots of ways to achieve these, ranging from the super-cheap to the touch-of-luxury. We look at a few alternatives below.
The rubble sack
I keep a spare rubble sack in all my rucksacks. Waterproof enough to keep the wettest of rain out, and strong enough to last for trip after trip, rubble sacks are what we recommend to all our first time adventurers.
To my mind, rubble sacks are an essential piece of camping or walking kit. They weigh next to nothing, are big enough to contain a wet tent, and make a great impromptu picnic mat. They are also about the right size to line a 60 or 70 litre rucksack.
It’s important to note that rubble sacks are not the same thing as dustbin bags, which rip at the slightest opportunity and only ever last for one outing. You can buy rubble sacks at your local DIY store. They’re more expensive than bin bags but clean and pack away well. I have some that have been with me for years.
The rucksack-sized dry bag
A more up-market solution to rucksack waterproofing is the large dry bag. Designed to fill the large space inside your rucksack, these will keep everything inside dry at the same time as giving you the option to separate damp and dry gear. Blonde One always uses one of these larger dry bags but she’s very sensible and puts important gear into smaller dry bags as well.
The smaller dry bag
Smaller dry bags are great because you can split your gear up (hopefully making it easier to find). I’ve had the same set of Exped dry bags for years now. They wouldn’t keep a river of water out but they’re lightweight and packable enough to be easy to use in a rucksack.
I’ve recently taken delivery of a similar set of Exped dry bags that have windows set into each one so I can see what’s inside. I particularly like this feature for my first aid kit (should someone else need to dig it out) and my lunch (because I always like to know how many pasties I’ve got left).
So how waterproof are dry bags?
Dry bags come in different weights and have different waterproofing levels. The dry bag you choose for inside your rucksack will be slightly less waterproof but more flexible and lighter than the one you choose to carry your wet swimming gear. Waterproofing levels are measured in IP numbers but manufacturers will usually state which purpose they have been designed for. You can find more information about outdoor gear waterproofing including IP codes and hydrostatic head here.
My 70D Exped dry bags are over ten years old now, and still doing their job well.
Enjoy the rain!
It’s great to be having a few sunny days but getting outside can be just as much fun in the rain. As long as you keep your gear dry that is. Whichever method you choose, get that gear waterproofed soon, and keep yourself safe and happy out there!