Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How to Survive (and Enjoy) Backpacking in the Rain

Have you ever planned an exciting backpacking trip - only to discover that the long range weather forecast looks less than stellar? Do you cancel or do you continue as planned, rain or shine, (hoping the forecast improves?) For us, it was more a matter of "what the heck are we going to bring for rain wear?"

How to Survive (and Enjoy) Backpacking in the Rain 

When Rain Threatens Your Weekend Adventures 

We recently hiked into the Elk Lakes backcountry cabin for a weekend, hiking in from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis, and it rained 2 out of the 3 days we were gone. We contemplated cancelling the trip, easy since we hadn't booked it and the other families could still go without us, but in the end we decided to commit to the outing.

We decided to continue with our  backcountry trip for three key reasons.

  1. You can't really trust a weather forecast here in the Canadian Rockies - and we didn't want to cancel - only to find out that it was actually quite nice out in Elk Lakes Provincial Park.

  2. We didn't want to be "those people" afraid of a little rain, and too "soft" to get a bit wet.

  3. We knew we had a backcountry cabin to spend the weekend at. We just had to get to the cabin, and then we could dry out our wet clothes, we could warm up by the fire, and we could spend as much time inside as we wanted. - And it was only a short 9 km trip in (which wouldn't take more than 3 hours.) 

Rain didn't keep the smiles off my boys' faces on our hike in to our backcountry cabin

Outfitting Yourselves for Wet Conditions 

Committing to our trip was only step one. Next, we had to figure out how we'd stay dry and warm while hiking. We knew it was likely going to rain for the 3 hour hike in to the cabin, and we also suspected it would rain much of the second day, when we wanted to do a big day trip to see some nearby waterfalls.

My husband and I were easy. We already have good rain jackets, my husband has rain pants, and I borrowed a pair of rain pants from a girlfriend. My son however was the problem.

My son had long since outgrown his rain jacket and pants - and we were hoping we could get by with his winter shell jacket (and maybe some old winter ski pants.) Looking at the upcoming weather forecast though, I knew we needed a real rain suit for our son (something that would keep him dry in a torrential downpour if it came to that.)

And so I called on our good friends at All Out Kids Gear in Central Alberta with a plea for help. Owner, Philip Lund, was able to get us a Patagonia rain suit (pants + jacket) in the mail and on my doorstep in time for the trip. Rain gear secure, we knew we'd survive (and maybe even have fun!)

Patagonia Rain Pants + Jacket for dry hiking

Patagonia Boys Torrentshell Jacket and Pants - Review 

There are a few key things I knew we needed in a youth rain suit (and we found everything in the Patagonia Torrentshell jacket and Patagonia Torrentshell pants combo.)

Key Requirements we found in the Torrentshell Jacket + Pants set:

We got separate pants and a jacket rather than a one piece suit

2-piece rain suit, 100% waterproof
This worked very well for this trip because my son didn't need the pants for the hike in to our cabin as it wasn't raining very heavily. On our day hike though he did need the pants. 

On day hikes we'll be throwing the rain jacket in our son's pack on most trips (just in case) and again, likely wouldn't need the pants. Therefore, it's key for us that our son have separate pants and a jacket (unlike the one piece suit we swore by when he was younger.)

The Torrentshell set is lightweight

We'll be bringing this rain suit on all of our future backcountry trips as "emergency gear" in case of inclement weather. And as we all know, when it comes to carrying gear for the whole family, every ounce of weight matters. 

The Torrentshell jacket is thin (and not  bulky)

This one was really important for us because our son's day pack isn't that big. If we were to make him pack a huge bulky winter shell jacket, it would take up the entire inside of his backpack. The Torrentshell jacket compresses very well though and takes up a small amount of space in a pack.

We'll be bringing the jacket on all of our day hikes this summer and it will be an important part of our "safety gear" when we climb mountains because you never know when a storm is going to blow in.

Lightweight waterproof jacket for hiking

The Torrentshell set will fit for a couple of years

We chose size medium (10 years) knowing it would likely be a bit big on our 9-year old son. I'm very happy with the size we chose though because the jacket is very roomy, allowing for layering on cool days (always important!)
Layering under a shell is vital

The pants also fit in such a way that they don't drag on the ground, even if they're a bit long. They have elastic cuffs on the bottom, preventing them from just hanging on children. They are plenty roomy as well allowing for layering with a pair of fleece pants on a cool day. 

I appreciate as well with the pants that they don't have a slim fit. Our previous rain pants did, and I was always worried my son would split a hole in them when he bent over. The pants are nice and baggy (without looking like clown pants) so my son has great range of motion and comfort in them.

The Torrentshell set is 100% "bombproof" for waterproofing

It was raining heavily on our hike and you'd never have known to look at our son's jacket. It looked dry (and even felt dry.) The only thing that looked wet was his large hat. 

Our son was able to sit down on rest breaks (in wet grass and dirt) and stayed 100% dry. We hiked through long wet grass as well and his legs were always dry.

I'd trust this rain suit in all kinds of wet weather and we'll love the pants on muddy spring/fall hikes. They will also be great for late fall hikes when there's snow on the trails. (Something that's always a challenge when you don't quite need snow pants yet.)

Rain pants are essential if hiking in wet conditions

The Torrentshell set is breathable and works well for 3-season use

The weather was cool on our backcountry trip but our son would be able to wear the Torrentshell jacket on a warmer rainy day and wouldn't overheat. The material is very thin and breathable, perfect for a lightweight shell jacket on any day hike. 

Add a light fleece jacket underneath and the jacket becomes a 3-season jacket. 

The pants are also very thin and would be great with just a pair of shorts underneath on warmer days (or a pair of fleece pants on cool fall days.) Long underwear could even be worn under the pants for a late fall hike.

It was not a warm day! Many layers were worn under the rain suit

For more information on the Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Suit my son tested, please visit the All Out Kids Gear website

Disclaimer: We received the rain suit for review. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 

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