Bad Weather under an Ultralight Tarp

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Gossamer Gear | Dec 15, 2010

Have you ever been caught in a vicious, windy, cold rainstorm? It can more dangerous and less comfortable than being in a snow storm. What if your rain gear and/or hiker umbrella isn't providing enough protection in such conditions?

Francis Tapon hiking snow Francis Tapon hiking

Unless your rain jacket is thick and not breathable, moisture is going to find a way through your rain gear during an intense, long-lasting storm. If you don't do anything, you'll risk hypothermia. That's when it's time pull out your Gossamer Gear tarp! Not to camp, but to wrap it around yourself like a poor man's poncho! The tarp will provide three benefits:

  1. A layer of protection from the wetness: now water has to sneak through two layers (your tarp and your jacket).
  2. A quasi-backpack cover: provides an extra layer for moisture to fight through.
  3. A layer of insulation: although tarps aren't breathable, because you'll wear it as a poncho, there will be enough ventilation so you don't get wet from the inside and it will trap a bit heat to warm you up.

Once you warm up, slow down your hiking pace so you don't start sweating. When I was yo-yoing the CDT, I carried about 5.5 pounds (2.5kg) of gear, so I didn't have insulated clothes. On my southbound journey through Colorado, this strategy helped keep me drier and warmer than I would have been otherwise in a couple of rough, cold rainstorms.

One last advantage: when finally decide to camp, you'll already have your tarp out of your pack, so that's one less thing to unpack!

–Submitted by Francis Tapon, author and first person to yo-yo the CDT. He is a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador.