Test Yourself and Your Gear!

Gear is packed, been repacked and you are confident that you have got it right. You have even been out on the trail practicing with your gear and feel confident to take on you first long-distance hike.

Now ask yourself these questions:

  1. How will my gear perform in bad weather?
  2. How will I perform?

Camp in Bad Weather!

Pack Explosion in the Smokies after 8 straight days of rain and snow!

Pack Explosion in the Smokies after 8 straight days of rain and snow!

Yes, I am recommending that you assemble your gear for a weekend in the crappiest of conditions. Let’s face it, setting up your camp at the end of a long day is relatively easy when the weather is nice. Unfortunately, sleeping out in nice conditions won’t let you know if your gear is really going to keep you safe and comfortable when the weather turns bad. Testing out your gear and your skills in bad weather is a great way to assess the quality and functionality of your systems and your skills under pressure.

Gear Management:

  • Shelter: Staying out in a pouring rain storm will help you to evaluate your tents ability to keep you dry. If you are a tarp person this is a great time to see if your configuration will keep you dry.
  • Organize: One your shelter is set up, take time to organize your gear to prevent having an overly cluttered sleep/work area.
  • Sleeping bag: Will you pull your sleeping bag out of its dry safe area?  Is your bag synthetic or down?  If you don’t know how your tent is going to hold up to rain, you may want to wait. My bag of choice is down and that sucker doesn’t come out until I am ready to get inside for the night, because I want to limit the moisture it may absorb from the air.  If the down is wet, I am screwed!
  • Wet Clothes: Do you know what you are going to do with wet clothing?  Stay out a couple of nights and you will figure out some important aspects to clothing management.
  • Cooking: Are you comfortable cooking on your side, belly or ass when you are stuck in your tent or under your shelter? Cooking under adverse conditions can be a frustrating task. Organization is the key. Before you consider lighting my stove, assemble and organize everything that you will need. You will have an open flame burning inside the vestibule or under your tarp where there are many flammable items; this is no time to be clumsily looking for your spoon.
  • Pack: Where do you put your pack if it soaking wet?  Do you really want you pack getting your sleeping bag wet? I have been very successful at keeping my pack dry by using a simple poncho.
  • Bathroom Time:  How efficient are you at using the potty when there is no thunder Box available? How wet will you get and how wet will the TP get?  Quick Tip: That poncho I use, also keeps me and the TP dry when nature calls!
Cheap and Versatile!

Cheap and Versatile!

Efficiency/Performance Considerations:

  • How long does it take you to set up your tent/tarp? I bet it will take longer in the rain!
  • IMG_1121Where did you pack the tent/tarp?
    • Is the tent that you strapped to the outside of your pack now soaking wet?
    • Did you bury the tent a little too deep in your pack? Oops, now you need to open the pack up and thus expose the contents to the rain.
  • Is all your important gear organized and protected adequately from the rain?
    • Every item in my pack has a place/use and is always protected from the rain using a trash compactor bag.
    • My sleeping bag and clothing are in a waterproof compression sack to make sure that they stay dry.
  • Can your feet handle the miles when wet?
  • Do your boots keep your feet dry?
  • Does your clothing keep you warm when wet?
  • How well does your rain gear work?

Certainly no one likes to camp for days on end in the pouring rain, but there is a chance it can happen. I look back on my 1998 AT hike and remember how ill-prepared I was for life on the trail in the rain. There were shortened days early on in my hike that I spent in laundromats drying my gear while only wearing rain pants. If I had only taken the time to learn to function in bad weather I could have avoided making the simplest of mistakes. So get out and use your gear in inclement weather so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I have.

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