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  1. #1
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    Default Rainy and Cold Weather

    Each year around this time I watch AT thru hike videos in which folks are flat out miserable because they are wet and cold after hiking through hours of rain. This got me wondering whether the fact that lots of people are trying carry less weight meant they don't have the "perfect" equipment for the conditions, or no matter what stuff they had, they'd still be cold and miserable.

    So is there a way to hike on the AT in the colder months in hours of rain and be "fine" with the weather because you had the right gear choices? Would you need to carry 5lbs more? Multiple rain jackets....tops...etc?

    Just curious.

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    Being miserable is as much, or more, about a mindset as it is more or the "right" kind of gear.

    https://www.lifehack.org/articles/co...le-people.html

    I witness regularly those with tons of gear and the "right" type of cold and wet weather gear miserable SOB's.

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    Your gonna be wet and cold
    When hiking in rain in cool weather
    Its when its 5 days per week thats the issue

    Yeah, it gets depressing.
    Especially when you wasnt expecting it, for some reason

    It will let up in a few weeks....for a little while, then summer rains start

    I been itching to go for a week long walk myself
    But weathers been sucky....no need to subject myself to 3 days of cold drizzle.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-09-2019 at 15:11.

  4. #4
    Registered User Crossup's Avatar
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    Its only taken me 3 weeks on the AT to figure out, if you can not to some extent, literally embrace the suck, you are likely going to be miserable for many reasons, not just cold/wet.

    Like Dogwood says, it takes a good attitude as much good gear and the gear can only do so much.

  5. #5

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    You have several options when hiking in a rainstorm at 35F to 40F---

    ** Embrace the Suck as Crossup says. This leads to frozen hands which become blocks of wood and eventually wets out your entire hiking layers including boots and socks. Hopefully the stuff in your pack stays dry.

    This can suck in a long winter rainstorm---I count them by the hours of rain. My recent record is 153 hours of rain during a January trip in 2012. Another big number was 180 hours in January in the Big Frog/Cohutta.

    ** In a long all day winter rainstorm you can---could---perhaps should---must---think about it---set up your tent and spend a zero watching the storm pass. I mean, why not? Winter AT backpackers often spend a couple days in such weather and then bail into hostels or motels for a couple days---so what's the difference?

    ** Speaking of which, you could emulate Happy and Yappy's AT hike this year. Here's some of their winter highlights---

    +++On 1/18/19 they hiked in a cold rain and reached a hostel where they stayed for two days.

    +++On 1/24 in a cold rain they spent the night at Uncle Johnny's hostel.

    +++On 1/28 they spent two days in Hot Springs.

    +++On 1/31 they stayed at Standing Bear Hostel.

    +++On 2/3 they stayed at Fontana visitors center.

    +++2/5 at NOC.

    +++2/11 at Woody Gap hotel for two days.

    Point is, hiking in such crappy weather entices and often demands that you either hole up in your tent for zeros or bail into "towns" to dry out.

    See---
    https://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/606471

  6. #6

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    It doesn't matter if I am completely soaking wet and walking in mud. I know that at the end of the day I WILL have a dry set of clothes and a warm sleeping bag to get into. So if I start to get cold, I need to walk faster. It is very much in large about embracing the suck. It sucks but its what I signed up for so lets smile about it and move on along. I can walk the same wet as I can dry, and after walkin for a few days in some heat, getting a shower from rain and being cool feels pretty good. All about perspective.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    It doesn't matter if I am completely soaking wet and walking in mud. I know that at the end of the day I WILL have a dry set of clothes and a warm sleeping bag to get into. So if I start to get cold, I need to walk faster. It is very much in large about embracing the suck. It sucks but its what I signed up for so lets smile about it and move on along. I can walk the same wet as I can dry, and after walkin for a few days in some heat, getting a shower from rain and being cool feels pretty good. All about perspective.
    This is the usual scenario for a winter backpacker---dry clothes at the end of the day---in camp---with the wet stuff wrung out and set aside.

    But then if it's raining the next morning you have to put those butt cold wet garments from yesterday back on---and this truly sucks.

    And there's a Winter Phenom which hits the Southeast mountains and along the AT---an all-day winter rainstorm---or a two or three day storm---and it ends and then temps plummet to 20F or 10F---I call it the Decareaux Cycle in memory of David Decareaux and his two sons who perished in the Ozarks in such a cycle.

    How this affects winter backpackers beyond hypothermia is everything which gets wet---your tarp or tent or webbing or pack or straps or boots etc---turns frozen and solid---so zippers won't open and poles won't separate and tarps/flies have a varnish of ice and boots/shoes are solid bricks.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by spfleisig View Post
    Each year around this time I watch AT thru hike videos in which folks are flat out miserable because they are wet and cold after hiking through hours of rain. This got me wondering whether the fact that lots of people are trying carry less weight meant they don't have the "perfect" equipment for the conditions, or no matter what stuff they had, they'd still be cold and miserable.

    So is there a way to hike on the AT in the colder months in hours of rain and be "fine" with the weather because you had the right gear choices? Would you need to carry 5lbs more? Multiple rain jackets....tops...etc?

    Just curious.
    My post really wasn't shooting for embrace the suck sort of replies. It was aimed to get specific gear choices that folks have used.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by spfleisig View Post
    My post really wasn't shooting for embrace the suck sort of replies. It was aimed to get specific gear choices that folks have used.
    The no-brainer answer is to carry rain pants and a rain jacket and decide what you want to wear underneath that will get soaked. Minimal layers hopefully so you'll have dry clothing to change into at camp.

    The whole entire purpose of rain gear is to not keep you dry but to keep you WARM so your shaking fits don't get out of hand. A good shell (system) retains alot of heat while you're moving and that's the whole point of the stuff. My Arcteryx rain jacket is a Survival Tool---and I never pull a trip without it. But it won't keep your hands from becoming blocks of numb wood after a long day in a winter rain. MLD eVent shells DO NOT work long-term.

  10. #10
    Registered User Crossup's Avatar
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    As far as I'm concerned embracing the suck DOES NOT include wood block hands and completely soaked gear. That is pushing the envelope too close to serious danger and as Tipi Walter says, you are much better off taking the zero(s).
    To me embracing the suck means being able to continue in less than idea conditions, enduring discomfort that is not a danger to your safety- without grinding down my spirit, because at the end of the day we are doing this mostly for fun. And the reason many of us can do this as simple as Gambit says- knowing there is dry clothing, warm food and relatively comfortable accommodations awaiting.

  11. #11
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    Consistently cold and wet is when I trend towards rain pants, true WP rain jacket(MB Versalite(have had 3 different versions with the latest my fav), ZP Challenger eVent hybrid DCF, OR Helium 2, or one off the Arc Teryx jackets or older EMS eVent 2.5 L, WP gloves and insulating liners, non WP merino and lightly insulated WP socks, a merino beanie(My fav is now SW 150), and merino mid/bases. I've also done a rain kilt with taller WP socks, and rain jacket, with wet but warm gloves for hands. Warming maybe one day I'll tray a poncho regularly.

    I like seam taped DCF packs for wet and cold.

    What I find very helpful to cold and rain is having a good attitude about it. I truly dont recognize wet and cold as crappy weather. It's just another type of weather to roll with. What helps maintain a positive attitude in cold and rain is having a Rain Song Play List category added to my trail music.

    CCR - Have You Ever Seen the Rain
    Eric Clapton - Let it Rain
    The Alarm - Rain in the Summer Time
    Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
    Gene Kelly - Singing in the Rain
    Jose Gonzalez - Time to Step Outside
    U2 - Beautiful Day
    Donovan Frankenreiter - Gonna Be a Lovely Day
    Eddie Vedder - Rise
    Proclaimers - I would walk 500 miles
    Rusted Root - Send me on my way
    Fitz and the Tantrums - The Walker
    Madonna - Rain
    G&R - November Rain
    Ben Howard - Old Pine I like this one because it reminds of the earthy evergreen smells during a rain
    Opus Orange - Almost there

    Have to agree wet and cold weather doesn't equate with being miserable weather.

  12. #12

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    I don't really have a problem walking all day with rain. I use an umbrella, a windshirt, rain skirt, and shorts. I hated traditional rain jackets as I'd just get soaked with sweat, and overheated. Maybe it's the bit of extra body weight I tend to carry, but I find if I keep moving at a consistent pace I'm not at all cold. I typically find the rain refreshing, and I don't get waterlogged. It kind of sounds like I'm saying embrace it, but it does mess with my routine. Stopping isn't so much of an option, this screws with my normal one hour lunch and foot care regimen, where I normally let my feet dry out for an hour. I tend to stop an hour earlier as a result.

    So, I have to prepare differently in the morning. Pre-treat my toes and soles with some sort of body glide to keep out the wet as long as possible, to avoid pruning. Can't switch out socks, so I'm really careful about having an alcohol swab to dry my feet/remove traces of the body glide, and a dry pair of socks for the tent, even if I have to put wet socks and shoes on the next morning. I have a tiny clothesline across the top of my tent, which is semi effective. I might boil some water, bottle it and wrap my wet socks around it. I don't bring the wet socks into my sleeping bag, as it's not worth risking getting the bag damp and ineffective.

    I try to get a lot more food in my hip belt, so I can just eat my lunch on the move, unless I'm sure there's a shelter I can stop at lunch for (usually isn't.)

    I also step in the middle of puddles as a matter of routine. Chances are the ground is flatter, and I'm less likely to slip on that thin layer of mud at the edge of the puddle, by trying to be clever and sneak off balance around the puddle.

    I don't know what videos you're watching, but I just don't find the rain to be all that annoying. On the AT you almost always have the option to just get off the trail every three days and wash and dry out all your stuff, and start fresh.

  13. #13
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    Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over the Rainbow

  14. #14

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    Once, when my Zune died... I spent an entire day with the Winnie the Pooh classic "I'm just a little black rain cloud" rattling around my brain. Tut tut, looks like rain!

    I wouldn't recommend this method.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    I don't really have a problem walking all day with rain. I use an umbrella, a windshirt, rain skirt, and shorts. I hated traditional rain jackets as I'd just get soaked with sweat, and overheated. Maybe it's the bit of extra body weight I tend to carry, but I find if I keep moving at a consistent pace I'm not at all cold. I typically find the rain refreshing, and I don't get waterlogged. It kind of sounds like I'm saying embrace it, but it does mess with my routine. Stopping isn't so much of an option, this screws with my normal one hour lunch and foot care regimen, where I normally let my feet dry out for an hour. I tend to stop an hour earlier as a result.

    So, I have to prepare differently in the morning. Pre-treat my toes and soles with some sort of body glide to keep out the wet as long as possible, to avoid pruning. Can't switch out socks, so I'm really careful about having an alcohol swab to dry my feet/remove traces of the body glide, and a dry pair of socks for the tent, even if I have to put wet socks and shoes on the next morning. I have a tiny clothesline across the top of my tent, which is semi effective. I might boil some water, bottle it and wrap my wet socks around it. I don't bring the wet socks into my sleeping bag, as it's not worth risking getting the bag damp and ineffective.

    I try to get a lot more food in my hip belt, so I can just eat my lunch on the move, unless I'm sure there's a shelter I can stop at lunch for (usually isn't.)

    I also step in the middle of puddles as a matter of routine. Chances are the ground is flatter, and I'm less likely to slip on that thin layer of mud at the edge of the puddle, by trying to be clever and sneak off balance around the puddle.

    I don't know what videos you're watching, but I just don't find the rain to be all that annoying. On the AT you almost always have the option to just get off the trail every three days and wash and dry out all your stuff, and start fresh.
    Umbrella question. Skurka suggests using an umbrella in warm/hot temps b/c of ventilation. How does a small trail umbrella keep your upper torso even remotely dry if it's a wind-whipped rain?

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by spfleisig View Post
    Umbrella question. Skurka suggests using an umbrella in warm/hot temps b/c of ventilation. How does a small trail umbrella keep your upper torso even remotely dry if it's a wind-whipped rain?
    Patagonia wind shirt, it's a nice blend of keeping some wind out, and is fairly neutral on the moisture moving in and out. Keeps just enough warmth for me. In two months on the southern AT, I got maybe two weeks of rain, and probably had one day on a ridge where the wind was bringing the rain sideways, that wasn't really pleasant.

    Another day was just a cold mist, which just hung in the air as I walked into it. I cut that day short and headed into town.

    Edit: mostly the shirt stayed dry, or at most one arm would get wet.
    Last edited by Puddlefish; 04-09-2019 at 20:43.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    It doesn't matter if I am completely soaking wet and walking in mud. I know that at the end of the day I WILL have a dry set of clothes and a warm sleeping bag to get into. So if I start to get cold, I need to walk faster. It is very much in large about embracing the suck. It sucks but its what I signed up for so lets smile about it and move on along. I can walk the same wet as I can dry, and after walkin for a few days in some heat, getting a shower from rain and being cool feels pretty good. All about perspective.
    I've found that this strategy works to some extent but it has its limits. I hit my limit during a section in SNP last April. Temps hovering around 35 F, 20-30 mph winds, and rain that got heavier as the day went on. I tried to push through but by mid-afternoon I was booking it down the trail as fast as I could go and still shivering. At that point hypothermia became a real concern so I hunkered down in my tent at the first reasonable opportunity. Took me over an hour curled up in my 20 degree bag with all my warm clothes on to get warm again. I talked to some thrus a couple days later who said that day was worse than hiking through snowstorms in February.
    It's all good in the woods.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    I've found that this strategy works to some extent but it has its limits. I hit my limit during a section in SNP last April. Temps hovering around 35 F, 20-30 mph winds, and rain that got heavier as the day went on. I tried to push through but by mid-afternoon I was booking it down the trail as fast as I could go and still shivering. At that point hypothermia became a real concern so I hunkered down in my tent at the first reasonable opportunity. Took me over an hour curled up in my 20 degree bag with all my warm clothes on to get warm again. I talked to some thrus a couple days later who said that day was worse than hiking through snowstorms in February.
    Thank you. This is exactly the conditions I was talking about in my posts.

    And you bring up the most important point: Knowing When to Hunker In . . .or to . . ."Set Up Where You Stand."

    Alot of hikers don't realize how cold it can be in the Southeast mountains and still RAIN . . . and a 35F rainstorm is cold in all ways. Hiking in such a rainstorm is a choice individuals make---as is the choice to pull a squat station and pull an in-tent zero for the day and watch the crap pass.

    Hiking in a cold rain often produces low-grade hypothermia---along with numb hands---and then the challenge is to find a hunker spot and then setting up the tent/tarp/hammock etc with some amount of decorum and not panic. Remember, this thread is not about hiking in a summer rain---it's about backpacking in a butt cold rainstorm.

  19. #19
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    Pretty much whatever you do (with the exception of sitting every storm out in the shelter (but you'd never get to Maine that way!)), you're going to get wet, be cold, and some days will be a little miserable. Not every day is perfect, but it's all in the mindset. I remember coming to a shelter area after a long day and was pretty soaked. It had been raining for about a week straight. The shelter was completely full of soaking wet hikers and their gear. They were the ones who actually looked miserable in my mind (they confessed to being there for 2 days. Guess they were afraid of a little rain?)). This somehow cheered me up and found it quite amusing that a shelter-full of "hikers" were afraid of a little rain. So I pressed on and night hiked until I got to a very nice spot, set up my wet gear, and when I woke up the sun was on me and I wasn't in that little cold valley where the shelter was.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christoph View Post
    Pretty much whatever you do (with the exception of sitting every storm out in the shelter (but you'd never get to Maine that way!)), you're going to get wet, be cold, and some days will be a little miserable. Not every day is perfect, but it's all in the mindset. I remember coming to a shelter area after a long day and was pretty soaked. It had been raining for about a week straight. The shelter was completely full of soaking wet hikers and their gear. They were the ones who actually looked miserable in my mind (they confessed to being there for 2 days. Guess they were afraid of a little rain?)). This somehow cheered me up and found it quite amusing that a shelter-full of "hikers" were afraid of a little rain. So I pressed on and night hiked until I got to a very nice spot, set up my wet gear, and when I woke up the sun was on me and I wasn't in that little cold valley where the shelter was.
    It was 30 degrees overnight, two inches of snow had fallen overnight, and another three were forecast for the day, warming up to a balmy 35. I'd just spent the night at the second to last shelter heading northbound in the GSMNP (Pecks Corner), it was only the second time I stayed in a shelter ever, as I prefer to tent. It was crowded, noisy, and one guy kept us all awake. There were about 18 of us packed in with another 18 expected to arrive with reservations that night. No way in hell was I staying another night.

    Ranger Chloe arrived and she just took charge like a boss (in a good way.) She stated she was going to determine who was going where, and who could stay and who needed to move on... For whatever reason, she started with me. I said 'I'm hiking north, down 2,700 feet in elevation to the next shelter to get the hell out of this cold and snow." ... and that began one of my favorite days on the trail.

    The trails were streams of icy water, which was super soothing on my plantar fasciitis, twenty miles downhill, and I just zoomed along feeling great, occasionally pausing to shake the snow off the umbrella. By the time I got to the bottom of the mountain it was a sunny warm spring day. It was a personal best for mileage and I felt great. The Davenport shelter was empty, and had a chain link fence across it to keep the bears out, and that creeped me out just a bit, so I pushed on another three miles and made it to the Standing Bear Farm hostel, which was kind of glorious.

    It's not that I was laughing at the people stuck in the shelter, but I did feel a bit bad for the ones who managed to convince Chloe to stay in that crowded shelter.

    TLDR version: Elevation matters, then again cold can gather in a hollow, so choose your tent site with care at night.
    Last edited by Puddlefish; 04-10-2019 at 12:09.

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