Backpacking in the rain: helpful gear and skills|| SD LIVE (March 31, 2015)

In last month’s SD LIVE event, I discussed multiple ways to help maintain a relative level of comfort and safety when backpacking in the rain. Some methods are simply a matter of packing differently or packing more: sleeping clothes, camp shoes, breathable footwear, group tarp, down insulation, and a pack liner. Other methods are techniques: taking care of your feet, packing your pack, starting a fire, and “the reset dry.” Watch the video for all the details. My co-star is Michael Glavin, Brand Manager for Sierra Designs.

SD LIVE is a regular online event. It’s an excellent way for us to make real connections with the backpacking community, and to share our knowledge and exciting developments at SD. Watch past episodes plus other informative videos. The SD LIVE event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12. Details will be announced on this website, my Facebook page and Twitter feed, and on and via its mailing list.

In the video I reference a few pictures. These were available during the live broadcast but are not integrated into the recorded video. Here they are:

Macerated feet

Macerated feet, due to prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions

A group tarp in Washington's Olympic Mountains

A group tarp in Washington’s Olympic Mountains

Huddling underneath another group tarp in West Virginia

Huddling underneath another group tarp in West Virginia

Fire, man's best friend. There are appropriate places and methods to have them.

Fire, man’s best friend. There are appropriate places and methods to have them.

A "reset dry" in the Alaska Range

A “reset dry” in the Alaska Range

A "reset dry" in the Brooks Range

A “reset dry” in the Brooks Range

Posted in , , on April 7, 2015
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  1. Derek Hansen on April 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Any thoughts about hiking in sandals or sock-less type shoes that have toe protection but are more sandal than shoe?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 7, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      I carried Chacos on the Appalachian Trail, and thankfully I didn’t break a toe. I think it’s better to just get wet feet — no sandal that I’ve seen offers the precision and protection of a shoe.

      • Taylor Cates on April 7, 2015 at 5:04 pm

        I’ve been a handful of multi-day hikes in the Pacific NW area, hiking exclusively in my Luna sandals. I’ve found that it’s been fairly easy to acclimatize my feet to hiking in the shoulder season, and if the weather gets too chilly I will throw on a pair of heavy wool socks with the knowledge that they will likely get soaked if I’m in muddy or rainy conditions, and keeping another pair of socks for in camp. After logging over 400 miles in the Luna’s I can say I’ve only scraped a toe once, although having to pay extra attention to where I’m walking can sometimes take away from appreciating the scenery around me.

    • Chank on April 7, 2015 at 9:46 pm
  2. Mitchell E. on April 7, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    IKEA sells a pair of slippers that I love as camp shoes. They have a nice warm polyester terrycloth toe, and the sole is lightweight but thick enough for walking around in camp. I sewed in a piece of elastic to go around the heel and keep them in place better.

    5 ounces for the pair, and they cost $2.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 7, 2015 at 4:16 pm


      “Sorry, this product is not for sale on our website or over the phone, check if it is available in your local store. Stock availability may not be accurate on IKEA Food items.”

  3. Evan on April 7, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    How do you feel about Crocs as camp shoes and also for water crossings? Thank you

    • Andrew Skurka on April 7, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      For camp shoes, they are heavy.

      I don’t advocate wading shoes. If the river is significant enough that you need footwear at all, you should wear your best footwear, not poor-fitting rubber things. If the river crossing is mild, you don’t need any footwear.

      Note: Sometimes instead of crossing barefoot, I will wear a pair of socks for some additional protection and grip. They work oddly well. Plus, I normally have a pair of socks that need to be washed anyway.

  4. Daniel on April 8, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    In the video you demonstrate a firestarting brick that lit very well. Do you have a particular product you prefer? I’ve tried the ‘nuggets’ commonly available and find them crumbly and surprisingly hard to get going with a small Bic lighter. Yours look like rectangles that sticks together well?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      I think I got those at my local grocery store, in the grill and wood stove section.

      The Coghlans Fire Sticks are very similar. You can use them like a big match, or for wetter tinder you can break off a piece and abandon it inside the fire.

  5. Lander D on April 10, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Any thoughts on using something like a thicker wool or felt liner inside of something lighter like a trail runner to better wick away moisture that does get in such as from sweat etc. such as the way snow boots do?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 11, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      If merely moving moisture away from the foot is your goal, that system will work better than just one sock. However, two socks are hotter than one, absorb more water, and take longer to dry. So I believe the drawbacks of a 2-sock system are more than its benefits are worth.

  6. Chase Medina on April 12, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Touching on Andrew’s comment in the video about minimalist trail runners as “camp shoes”; I always bring a pair of NB MT80 Minimus shoes for camp and an alternate hiking shoe. I find supplementing short (dry/flat) miles with less-supportive, lower profile footwear uses different muscle groups (foot and knee) and promotes more of a natural mid-foot strike. The short break from my more rigid trail runners seems to give my primary muscle groups a rest and I hike longer with less fatigue at the end of the day. Not only do they make a great camp/hiking shoe, bonus: a size 9 only weighs 6 oz. A wee bit heavier than Andrew recommends for a camp shoe, but worth every ounce for me.

  7. David Bracken on April 21, 2015 at 8:45 am

    What is the brand of the group tarp shown?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 23, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      The brand is irrelevant — there are many companies that offer large tarps, especially the cottage companies.

      • Bakes on April 29, 2015 at 11:25 am

        That looks like a tarp made by Warbonnet out of Colorado. They are made for hammocking. Super lightweight, very well made. Best tarp/cover I have ever used

        • Andrew Skurka on May 5, 2015 at 10:14 am


  8. Dan Amundson on May 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I agree with Andrew that having light breathable footware is important. I have always found it difficult to find running shoes that fit my size 13 B width foot, with some decent lugs to preclude slipping on the trail.

    As for stream crossing and around camp, I find having something light weight on my feet, helps to keep my feet dry. My feet have some disorder, and the Dr. told me to keep my feet as dry as possible. I change my socks at lunch, and after trying to find something as light as possible in addition to my running shoe, I found the VivoBarefoot Ultra II. I wear these for stream crossings, at lunch, and around camp. They are made of a similar material as Crocks, but are much lighter, secure & breathable. They have done wonders for helping to keep my feet dry and happy.

  9. Dan Amundson on May 26, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Oh, by the way, they only weigh 4.5 oz. each for size 46!

  10. Ian Harmon on November 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Do you have any thoughts on racing flats as camp shoes? There seem to be several models available from different running shoe brands that are fairly inexpensive and extremely lightweight. I believe I’ve also heard of people using cross country spikes with spike blanks as a camp shoe, but I feel those wouldn’t remain very comfortable on harder surfaces.

    Something like these?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 29, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Racing flats are a little bit heavier than you need, but not by much, and it being a legitimate shoe might offset the increased weight.

      I would stick with racing flats. The plastic outsole of a track spike adversely affects the comfort. Plus, if you ever needed to hike in these shoes, you’d be better off with a non-plastic outsole.

  11. Jacob Portukalian on March 14, 2016 at 1:34 am

    For camp shoes I made a pair out of 3/8″ closed cell foam by cutting it to the shape of my foot with “tabs” on either side that I folded over the top and duct taped together. I can’t find the online tutorial that I learned it from or I would post a link here. If it’s not obvious from my description I can send a picture.

    I haven’t tried them out backpacking yet but they are super comfortable to wear around the house. I suspect they would last at least a few weeks which is my entire backpacking summer. All of 1.1 oz.

  12. Dan W. on April 26, 2018 at 1:17 am

    ProductionHanger51 Ultimate Fire Tinder is hands down the best tinder on the market. UCO make a modern version of the tinder shown in the video.

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