How to Choose Backpacking Gear for Inclement Weather: Clothing, Sleep, and Shelter Systems

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable How to Choose Backpacking Gear for Inclement Weather: Clothing, Sleep, and Shelter Systems

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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to: How to Choose Backpacking Gear for Inclement Weather: Clothing, Sleep, and Shelter Systems

    The purpose of this article is simple: I want to teach you how to choose backpacking equipment for inclement weather by documenting my thought processes as I select clothing, sleep, and shelter systems for a summer trek. The process will be illustrated as a case study: my equipment selection for a 12-day summer trek in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Southwest Montana.

    Greg Pehrson
    BPL Member


    Locale: playa del caballo blanco

    I was very interested in your decision, noted in “How to Minimize Prep for Trips” article, to reduce your quilts down to owning only two down quilts–10* and 40*, particularly because I’ve read your advocacy for synthetics in the past for wet conditions. As a backpacker in the NE, I tend towards synthetics for extra insurance. But I noticed both in this article and your “Wet Weather Ensemble” you have either chosen or considered synthetic insulation again. Wondering if you could share your thought process with us in deciding to eliminate synthetic insulation from your kit and then bring it back in (even if you didn’t end up choosing it for this trip, it sounds like it’s in rotation again and was chosen for the trip in the wet mountain high route ensemble post). This isn’t meant to be a “gotcha! You said you only owned 2 quilts!” But more of a curiosity about your evolving sense of the place for synthetics and down in your extensive experience. Why, for example, did you choose the synth quilt for the wet mountain high route but decide that it was too much of a weight penalty for this stormy trip? Thanks.

    James holden
    BPL Member


    This is a pretty good article on the decision making as noted above

    only the conclusion of the trip  and the experienced conditiobs will prove whether the decision to go all down was wise

    i will say that the only way youll ever get me to part with my fleece in wet environments is over my dead body


    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    Nice Article.  I used a very similar setup in Alaska for 11 days last summer except I used a 8.8oz 100wt fleece instead of the down vest.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Excellent presentation of the selection process. I would select similar pieces.

    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member


    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    My Prodigy 40 and EB 150 wt fleece would be on this trip, hands down. The only down I would carry is a Montbell ex lite jacket.

    But that’s me. ;^)


    Ross L
    BPL Member


    Locale: Beautiful BC

    I was just reading this, and found it to be remarkably similar to what I will be taking on a 10-12 day solo alpine sheep hunt in the Ketchika Mountains of northern BC on July 30. The potential up there for wet conditions is somewhat higher, but I will be taking Down as I have been happily doing so for the past 35 years. If things get real ugly I will just drop down into a clump of spruce and hunker down over a fire. However, were these Coastal Ranges, I too would reluctantly switch to fleece.

    Ryan: If you do the high route in the Purcells I fully expect you will be fine using down there as well. I guided 10 years on the eastern slopes near Invermere and did not find it particularly wet at all during the summer months. Far different from the Coastal Ranges or the Monashees near Revelstoke and almost as dry as the Rockies.

    Chris Bombria


    Locale: (null)

    A wise man, my grandfather, once told me…”its best to learn from other people’s mistakes, that way you can make your own.” Though said with tongue in cheek he had a great point that I wouldn’t truly understand until I was much older.  Life, like gear selection, is built upon the experience of those that have gone before you and hard earned personal lessons. I’m looking forward to hearing how things turned out and if there were any “hard earned” lessons that would improve the process.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    MY GEAR CHOICES: (Based on decades of backpacking.)

    PACK-> Osprey EXOS 58 W/side pockets – most comfortable light pack I’ve ever used

    RAIN PARKA & PANTS->  REI Kimtah eVent – durable and breathable

    TENT-> Tarptent Moment DW solo tent – I modded it for 4 season use

    SLEEEP SYSTEM-> Western Mountaineering Megalite bag, Prolite reg. mattress

    COOK SYSTEM-> CC Sidewinder using ESBIT W/ Brian Green burner & Open Country 3 cup anodized alum. pot

    FEETS-> Merrill Moab low shoes or same in mid GTX boot W Thor-Lo socks

    CLOTHING-> All synthetic & light. E.Bauer Dri-Down vest or jacket, depending on weather

    Th-th-that’s it folks! This gear has done very well for me. I’m lightweight, not UL for reasonable gear durability and pack comfort. “Frameless” backpacks are really DAY packs.

    This is also essentially what I’ll be taking on an October mule deer/elk hunt in northern Nevada. GTX gaiters, neoprene diver’s sox VBLs & insulated gloves will be in my car at the trailhead if unusually cold weather &/or snow happens. I’ll hike back to get them.


    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I see both you and Skurka use wool in wet conditions and that makes sense as wool doesn’t feel wet and cold when damp as synthetics seem to, but wool can hold a lot of water and is a soggy mess when soaked. Are you assuming that you can just keep your wool damp and not wet? Is there a situation where a light synthetic (OR Echo etc) might be preferable as it holds less water and dries faster?

    I am rethinking my hiking shirt for a trip to SE Alaska next year in mid/late August (i.e. I think and hope the bugs will be “mostly” gone). I wore a nylon shirt in Brooks Range last year for bugs but didn’t see a single one. I am considering a wool/synthetic blend like the Rab 120 or 165 wt instead of a nylon shirt (with or without a thin synthetic ss shirt underneath).

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