Every hiker at some point will have the joyous experience of getting caught out on the trail in torrential rain. Even with the best of intentions and preparation, sometimes you will just get caught out. Mountain weather is of course very unpredictable at the best of times, simply the nature of the beast.
Getting caught out in torrential rain in the wilds can present a host of issues for a hiker to contend with. Not least of these is the challenge of keeping gear and other bits in your day pack dry.
Now, most packs these days should come with a built in rain cover. If not, you can still purchase separate rain covers to put over your day or backpack. In reality, these only provide a bit of protection from heavy rain and they can be a pain, especially in high winds.
If you're in torrential rain, as with any piece of kit, a rain cover can easily ‘wet out' i.e. get soaked through. When this happens, unfortunately the game could be up, as far keeping stuff dry is concerned, and the rain will get through to your pack.
What can you do?
To keep gear inside a pack extra dry, normally, I utilize dry bags. These are very handy and great as an additional layer of protection inside your bag. Dry bags are normally 100% waterproof so anything you put in them should be kept dry in even the worst of rain conditions.
This is great for keeping any of your bits and bobs dry, for example, I usually add my wallet, car keys, smart phone, etc. into a dry bag. Just ensures they will stay dry while I'm out hiking. I also utilize ziploc bags for my phone and any other electronic stuff I have with me as a further layer of protection.
A dry bag is also ideal for putting any extra clothing into. So if you want to be certain of keeping any spare clothes e.g. hiking socks, extra layers, etc. a dry bag is a great option.
Can you use a Bin Liner?
You most certainly can! While I like to use dry bags, I have utilized bin liners where appropriate, especially when I go camping and I need to keep a sleeping bag dry. There is no reason you can't wrap your bits up in a bin liner bag and roll it closed just like a dry bag. A combination of dry bags and bin liners can work well too. As mentioned above, a ziploc bag might be better for smaller bits and pieces but a bin liner should be good for more bulky items and have exactly the same effect.
For example, in really bad weather, it is a good idea to keep any hiking gear inside your pack dry by giving it the extra layer of protection of a dry bag and / or bin liner, especially things like clothes and so on. While camping, ideally a dry bag is the best place to store your sleeping bag as it one piece of kit you really can't get wet. As mentioned, popping it into a bin liner and then into a dry bag adds a further layer of protection but a good dry bag should be enough.
What Kind of Bin Liners are Best?
When it comes to choosing bin liners, I like to use the tougher variety, the ones that are used for gardening waste are usually pretty good. These are techncially speaking probably not bin liners. They're a bit thicker and tougher than standard ones used in the house and aren't built for using with a bin, however they are still in the family of bin liners. In saying that though, household bin liners should work pretty good too.
Another potential option with a thick bin liner is, rather than using a rain cover for your pack, to fashion it to attach it over your pack to act as an extra outer rain cover.
Now, I have never done this myself, nor have I seen this being done but a fellow hiker, a lot older than me, told me that back in the day when rain covers and all our fancy modern gear wasn't around, they had to make do with what they could not only afford, but even just get their hands on. He told me that a thick bin liner worked a treat for him many times in his younger days while out on the trail!
I see no reason why this wouldn't work quite well as an extra layer of protection to get rain to roll off your pack. With a bin liner rain cover on the outside and your gear inside a bin liner inside your pack, I imagine your gear should withstand a fair bit of nasty weather.
Aside from keeping gear dry, carrying an extra bin liner either just to store things in, is a handy thing to have with you should the need arise. It can be utilized for all sorts of purposes. For example, it could be used to keep your butt dry when you want to sit down for a bit on wet ground! If course it can also be used for what it was made for, to put you and your hiking parties rubbish away to be sure you leave no trace.
A Bin Liner is a very practical and economic way to:
- Provide an extra layer of protection to stuff inside your pack (particularly clothes) – I highly recommend this
- Provide an additional layer of protection outside your pack (like a rain cover) – I've never done this but it could work fine
- To use as you see fit (along the lines of keeping your butt dry on wet ground as mentioned above)
While I don't mind built in rain covers and I do use dry bags, bin liners are really excellent at keeping gear dry and I use them from time to time too. If you're just getting started with hiking and don't want to add more complicated rain protection gear for your pack, the trusty bin liner could tie you over nicely. I have used them many times and they're effective at helping you to keep stuff dry.
Finally, as mentioned, aside from rain and damp protection, a bin liner can be a handy thing to have with you out on the trail regardless, so it's worth using them to pack your gear in and sticking one or two spare ones into your pack for whatever need should arise.
Do you use bin liners on the trail? Do you have any other creative uses for it? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!