Taking a Rain Check
Waterproof pack liners do no good if you leave them at home. You should practice putting on an external pack cover before it rains, not when you’re out on the trail with a thunderstorm bearing down.
Pretty obvious, right? So how did I find myself hiking through a rain storm with an unprotected pack? Worse yet, I knew it was going to rain before we set out. I saw the forecast, then hit the trail with precisely one goal, to test my rain gear – and yet still managed to forget about the pack. Luckily, this was only a day hike, so the soaked pack didn’t do any harm. But it did make me realize how important it will be to keep my gear dry when we do this hike for real.
So what else did I learn during our hike? My Patagonia M10 rain jacket works great. It fit well, was long enough to cover my hips, and kept me snug and dry. I liked how the hood accommodated my hat (I could have cinched it tighter if I’d ditched the hat). Pit zips or side vents would have been nice since I sweated a bit when hiking uphill, but overall the jacket’s a keeper, particularly when the weather’s cold. (And I still get a kick out of how it stores inside its own little pocket. Very cool!)
Likewise, my Darned Tough socks were superb. The trail turned into a river as it rained, thoroughly soaking my shoes, but the wool socks still kept me warm. I’ve read that wool continues to insulate even when wet — a claim that’s really true. In fact, this convinced me to make my base layers wool, too.
The verdict is still out about my pants. They aren’t rain pants per se, just some running pants I love because they’re comfortable and warm. They worked fine when the rain was light, but became saturated when the downpour struck. On the plus side, they dried quickly, so I wasn’t wet for long. I guess I need to decide whether I really need special rain pants, or if these will be enough. Right now, I’m not sure. I also need to think about gloves.
The best part of the hike, though, came when we met Took, a former Marine and SOBO thru-hiker from the class of 2014 who now works as a ridge runner in our area. We stopped to ask him a question about his stove, and he kindly spent nearly an hour fielding our questions about everything from hammocks and rain gear to food and shoes. We hung on his every word, trying to learn as much as we could from such an experienced hiker. He must have found us amusing because he was extraordinarily patient — which led to the best lesson of all. There are a lot of really nice people on the trail. I can’t wait to start thru-hiking and meet them all!!!
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