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by Eric Blumensaadt
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Here in Pennsylvania we are blessed with an abundance of trails, good scenery and rain. If you pack for a week or so you'll experience rain. The question is are you REALLY ready for it or do you suffer and "make do"? I for one have suffered enough an have made a few equipment choices and modifications to make life easier.
Let's take them one at a time. First clothing; it's summer, it's hot and it's raining as you sweatily pack the next five miles to your campsite for the day. You've worn Cool Max or polypro briefs and t-shirt because it dries FAST. You are wearing nylon or poly shorts (the kind with zip-off legs), polypro sock liners. wool-synthetic socks like Thor-Los, Gore-Tex to-the-knee gaiters, Gore-Tex boots, that pesky pack with a light rain cover, and -here's the twist- a Gore-tex rain parka, HOOD ON YOUR HEAD, BODY OF THE PARKA OVER YOUR PACK, SLEEVES TUCKED IN THE PACK STRAPS. Huh?? Yep! 'Cause if you WEAR the parka while sweating like a mule in Miami you'll -you guessed it- suffer, not to mention the smell imparted to that parka which you need to wear around camp while setting up camp. I've stayed driest and most comfortable this way. Give it a try. Because I wear glasses I also wear a nylon ball cap under the parka hood. Oh, what about the gaiters instead of rain pants? Rain pants are way too hot and sweaty unless it's a really cold rain. Here you must make the choice-"to carry or not to carry, that is the question".
Second, setting up camp; it's still raining steadily but if you're going to finish cooking before sunset you must set up your tent. Aha! normally this means getting the tent body soaked while erecting it before putting on the fly. But WHAT IF you could have the tent fly attatched with velcro so that you could just thread the wands through continuous sleeves and PRESTO! the tent is up and dry inside. This requires a tent with continuous sleeves OR pre threaded poles as on The North Face Tadpole/Bullfrog tents. My REI one man Sololite needed only one extra velcro patch at the top front of the fly and body to do this. Finally the ground cloth should be attached to the tent peg loops in some way that it can be easily removed and replaced but is ON when setting up. I've again used narrow velcro strips on the ground cloth corners.You can use metal or plastic clips also.
Third, cooking;OK, your tent is now up but you still have to cook in the rain - aaarrrrgggh! Try this; make a small "porch" from coated, lightweight ripstop nylon that is attatched to your tent fly with sewn-on nylon webbing loops (on the tent fly) and male/female velcro strips sewn to the porch. I've used three inch triangles of doubled ripstop sewn to the fly at the base with the nylon webbing sewn to the point of the triangle. This arrangement spreads out stress on the tent fly. Sew the female velcro to the porch and one end of the male velcro to the edge of the porch material at the end of the female velcro. This male velcro passes through the web loop on the tent and back on the female velcro. If you can locate this attatchment far enough back on the fly you can avoid any rain dripping in at the door area. This would mean, for example, locating attatchments rearward of a wand that runs side to side above the door. It depends a lot on your tent design. Choose wisely. You may have to make a "dart" at some points on the "tent end" of the porch to make it fit tightly and neatly on a curved surface. A dart is merely a seam of 2-6 inches which leaves a triangular flap on the underside of the porch material. The front of the porch? I use my Leki walking staff as the front support pole. The front of my porch has three grommets- one at each corner and one in the center. My pole handle "camera bolt" goes through the center grommet, the wooden cap screws back on top of the grommet, a cord with a plastic tensioner ties to the hand strap of the staff and similar cords are captive on the corner grommets for staking out the front. Now you are set to cook in a dry enviornment. Also you can sleep on a muggy, rainy night with only your net door closed and get great ventilation because the fly keeps the rain out but lets the breeze in.
Well that's my take on "rain packing". Some would say "Just carry a small tarp and set your tent up under it and cook under it". That's the traditional way but also the difficult and HEAVY way. I'd rather do the work at home in modifications than on the trail where my inclination is to take it easy at both the end of the day and the next morning when I want a fast start. Stay dry!
About the AuthorEric Blumensaadt (firstname.lastname@example.org) Sr.Hi English & Social Studies teacher, former Peace Corps Volunteer (Philippines '66-'67), Nordic
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