Tech Tip – Staying Dry in Alaska, Part I

hikers on glacierIn Alaska, rain is just part of the landscape. Sometimes it comes and goes through sunny skies, and sometimes the clouds close up for days on end of constant showers and chillier weather. Over the last 40 years of hiking, backpacking, ice climbing, and rafting in the rain, we’ve learned that with some forethought and good moisture management, the rain can just become a part of the adventure, and doesn’t have to dampen our spirits!

Here are a few tips, tricks, and suggestions for the next time your Alaska trip starts getting soggy!

Tips for Staying Dry on the Trail:

  • Always bring your rain gear! Always. Even if it’s sunny out and there’s no rain in the forecast….it’s Alaska. Anything can happen! A good rain jacket and rain pants get you 90% of the way there, but don’t forget your feet and head! We recommend a broad-brimmed rain hat to keep the rain out of your face (and off the back of your neck). For your feet, waterproof boots combined with gaiters can keep your feet dry during even the dampest of slogs.
    • Pro tip: put your gaiters over your hiking pants, but under your rain pants. That way, the rain rolls off your rain pants to the outside of your gaiters.
    • Pro tip: make sure your outer layers are waterproof, not just water-resistant. Water-resistant fabrics will eventually become saturated. GoreTex and other quality waterproof fabrics offer breathability and hydrophobic qualities, so you don’t have to feel like you’re in a plastic bag when you’ve got your rain jacket on.
    • Pro tip: re-waterproof your outer, or “shell” layers before heading out on a long trip. Nikwax makes a variety of rub-on, spray, and wash-in products for pretty much any type of fabric and material that will extend the life of your gear and make it as hydrophobic as the day you bought it! Hit up your gloves, boots, rain tops, and bottoms as well as your tent fly before hitting the trail.
  • Choose wool or synthetic layers over cotton! Have you ever heard the phrase “cotton is rotten?” Cotton lacks the insulating capabilities of synthetic fibers when wet and takes much longer to dry out. Chances are, if you’re moving, you’ll still work up a sweat even in chilly conditions, and you don’t want to be wet on the inside and outside! Socks and long underwear or base layers are key, but if you can get all your layers in wool or synthetic, you’ll be in great shape for even the stormiest of days!
  • If you’re camping, consider a synthetic sleeping bag or hydrophobic or treated down. Down provides a ton of warmth for its weight and bulk…but not when it’s wet! Synthetic insulation is bulky but will still keep you warm, even if you have trouble keeping it dry. Some bags use down that’s been treated to have waterproof qualities and these bags will still be light and pack down small, while keeping you warm even when wet.
  • Waterproof everything in your backpack, even if you’re using a pack cover. Pack covers are great, but not 100% waterproof, so make sure to put your sleeping bag, extra clothes, first aid kit, repair kit, and any other water-intolerant supplies in waterproof sacks inside my backpack. Large Ziploc bags work fine, but waterproof stuff sacks are well worth the investment. Another great option is to line the inside of your backpack with a trash bag (thick compactor bags work best!).

Like what you see? Check out our other Tech Tips!

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