Originally we were going to do my official birthday hike after scoping out a place for a few people. Unfortunately the weather poo-pooed the idea, and folks backed out. Not to let a good rain day go to waist, Pauline and I decided to get some practice backpacking in the rain. Not only was it raining though, it was also very cold at 45F. It ended up being a great learning experience even though I turned us back a little before the camp site to go back home. We would have been totally fine setting up camp, and sleeping in our dry cloths, but...
The scenario of the hike was to simulate us being out on a backpacking trip, and the rain came without warning. So we took only the gear we normally took with us on a backpacking trip, and didn't pack any extra rain gear like tarps, or heavier duty rain jackets.
We knew we were going to get wet, but wanted to test ourselves, and our gear, in the rain. This way we would know what to expect if the weather took a turn for the worse if we were out for a longer hike and got hit with cold rain.
Lastly we wanted to try the dehydrated meal I had made. I got a recipe from a hiking book, and I dehydrated the individual ingredients and combined it into a hiking meal.
We now use 2 trash compactor bags as a pack liner. Pauline also uses a pack cover. I was using a Zpacks Arc Blast which was made of DCF so it was pretty much water proof as is. I say pretty much because it did let some water in where the holes for the tube of a bladder goes. I'll have to see about closing that up since I never use one. Previous to using trash compactor bags, we used Sea to Summit dry bags. But after I came back from a day hike that had heavy rain, I found my puffy jacket had a wet spot on it even though it was in the dry bag. Now that I use the compactor bags, I'm really digging them.
The rain was pretty light when we started, and got a little heavier about 15 mins into the hike, then stayed steady the rest of the time. Pretty much right off the bat, my hands started getting really cold and wet. My Outdoor Research Versaliner gloves are total crap. The "water proof" covers were not. Not even close. And the gloves perform really poorly when wet. Don't even think about taking them off, cause you are going to struggle to get them back on. This was mistake #1, should have had better gloves. I really need some mid weight wool gloves.
My Helium 2 rain jacket was a champ, keeping me bone dry; Pauline's however let water soak through the arms and chest. Even though I was dry, my core started getting cold, and I should have put my fleece on sooner. This was mistake #2. Since Pauline was wet, and I was cold, I actually thought I was wet as well. Since I didn't want to get my fleece wet, and since I thought I could build up some more heat by hiking, I left it in my pack. Pauline was warm even though her jacket leaked.
The contents of both backpacks were dry with the liners we used, and Pauline's pack cover worked very well to keep her pack dry. I have slept in the rain with my tent, so I knew that would be fine.
As we hiked we started talking about our meal, and decided we were not looking forward to cooking it in the cold rain. Once at camp we would not be moving as much, and would get cold unless we put a warmer layer on. Since Pauline's jacket let a lot of water through, her warmer layer would have gotten wet at camp. She did have an additional warm layer she could have slept in, so there wasn't any real danger there, just inconvenient. We could have just eaten some trail snacks on the way, and retired as soon as the tent was up, but we really wanted to try our meal.
So with my cold hands, cold core, Pauline starting to cool off, and the prospect of cooking in the cold, I decided to turn us around and head back to the car. This was just a test of gear after all, and we gathered enough info to be satisfied with how the gear worked, and how we felt in the rain.
In summary, we learned a bunch about our gear, and what it was like hiking in the rain in those temps. We decided we would have been fine if we had been caught in the rain on a trip and had to make camp. But in the future we know that 45F is a bit too cold to be really comfortable to head out for a trip. Also, putting on a warm layer sooner would have been wise.
Brought: **Lee** 20lbs pack weight fully loaded. Zpacks Arc Blast pack, Zpacks Duplex, WhisperLite w/ 20oz bottle, 20F sleeping bag, sleeping clothing, thick LL Bean puffy. **Pauline** 16lbs fully loaded. Osprey Exos 48, 20F bag, Therm-a-rest XTherm, sleeping clothing, thick LL Bean puffy.
Wish I brought: Microrocket since I could have cooked beside the tent, under the vestibule. Mid weight wool gloves.