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Backpacker Magazine – Online Only

Waterproof Your Wilderness Gear

A complete guide to buying gear that will keep you dry--no matter what

by: Kristin Hostetter

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Staying dry. It is as important to backpackers as wind is to sailors. A well-equipped backpacker can happily exist (and thrive!) in even the most monsoon-like weather. Our guide will walk you through all the ins and outs of waterproof gear.

Want Waterproof Boots?
Check out these key features to keep your toes dry.

>>Gore-Tex, Sympatex-or some other waterproof/breathable-membranes. If you're from the Great NorthWet, or if you often find yourself slogging through rain-soaked trails elsewhere, don't leave home without them. Some folks find that lined boots are too hot for their tastes, but if it's true waterproofness you want, membranes are the only way to go.

Note: Clad in Gore-Tex boots you can literally stand in a stream for hours without getting long as the water doesn't seep over the top of the boot! To keep that from happening, step into a pair of waterproof gaiters. Now you are a veritable fortress (from the knee down)!

>>Seamless, full-grain leather. Boots that are simply built from a single sheet of sturdy leather are sufficient to battle the liquid intruders that most backpackers face. Think of it this way: the more seams, the more needle holes, the more potential leaking points.

>>Height. The higher your boot, the deeper the puddle you can safely slosh through.

Want A Waterproof Tent?
Of course you do! A tent that's not waterproof does you about as much good as a car without an engine. Look for these features when shopping for storm-ready shelter:

>>A roomy vestibule. Fully covered vestibules act as mudrooms when things get sloshy. They are an invaluable place to store wet gear and packs, so your inner sanctum stays dry and clean.

>>Full coverage rainfly. Forget about tents with cute little awnings sticking out above doors and windows. The wind will blow sheets of rain right into your lap. Look for a rainfly that extends all the way to the ground and all the way around.

>>Factory taped fly seams. When the factory applies the seam tape (rather than you, post-purchase) it's more durable, more foolproof, and saves you a big headache. A no-brainer.

>>Plenty of guy out points, stakes and cord. It's key to be able to keep your rainfly taut so water doesn't wick into the tent.

>>Bathtub or seamless floor. The floor fabric of tents is made of a sturdier, coated fabric. In bathtub style floors, this fabric wraps a few inches up from the ground creating an impenetrable barrier. At the very least, a tent floor should be one, seamless piece of fabric.

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