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Why Use a Backpack Rain Cover?

If you’re going on an extended backpacking trip over the course of days or weeks, you will almost certainly experience rain and other less than ideal weather conditions. Why risk having to deal with soaked or even potentially ruined gear? A backpack rain cover is an inexpensive add-on to your pack (some packs even include a rain cover with purchase or have them incorporated into the pack design) that can be deployed quickly and easily to keep your pack and its contents dry in wet weather. In this Expert Advice video, Backcountry Edge Gear Specialist Becky reviews the benefits of backpack rain covers and gives some pointers on sizing and use. Watch and learn why the question at hand is really, “why would you NOT use a backpack rain cover?”

Backpack Rain Covers - A Short Guide to Benefits and Use

Protect the gear inside your pack while keeping your backpack dry

Water beads up and runs off of rain covers
Water beads up and runs off of rain covers like this one

Backpack rain covers are made from waterproof material that causes rain to bead up and run off the surface instead of soaking in. Creating a barrier between the outer material of your pack (which is likely only water resistant) and the rain, the pack cover is an added layer of protection between your gear and the elements.


While essential gear items like tents or sleeping pads are unlikely to lose their effectiveness if they should become wet, they can wick moisture through the fabric of your backpack in the rain and become water logged (along with the pack itself). This adds unnecessary weight to your load and unpleasant work for you to attempt drying your gear before using it in camp.


Tip: Because rain covers stretch around your pack’s main pack bag and leave access to straps for carrying in the rain, you may want to add dry bags to your packing arsenal to assure that your most valuable gear definitely doesn’t get wet. In persistent rain over the course of hours, moisture may soak in between your body and the back of your pack under your straps where the rain cover does not reach. While this water infiltration is minor compared to that which can occur without a rain cover, it is still important to consider when packing.


Rain covers are lightweight & packable…and versatile!

Rain covers are lightweight, packable, and versatile
Rain covers add very little to your pack weight, and the benefits are worth it!

For the amount of potential protection they offer, backpack rain covers take up virtually no room among your packed gear and weigh almost nothing. (For example, the rain cover seen in our video weighs about 4 ounces).


And, your rain cover can serve more than just the purpose of protecting your pack from rain. For instance, if all the seating surfaces in camp are wet from a recent rain, you can sit on the rain cover to keep yourself dry. Or, you might use it as a staging pad for packing and unpacking gear.


Tip: While on the trail, keep your rain cover in an easily accessible location, such as an outer pocket, or even lashed to the exterior of your pack, so it can be quickly deployed in the event of a sudden downpour.


A note on rain cover sizing

Rain covers come in many shapes and sizes
Rain covers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes to accomodate different backpacks

Backpack rain covers come in a variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate the wide range of backpacks on the market, and the major backpack manufacturers produce rain covers that are somewhat tailored to fit their specific packs. That said, rain covers are generally sized to correspond to pack volume ranges (for example, the rain cover in our video fits packs between 3050 and 5500 cubic inches in volume), and you may be able to choose a rain cover for your pack that’s made by another backpack manufacturer (or even a third party brand), instead of having to choose the one that matches the brand of your pack.


Tip: Do remember to consider whether you plan to lash a lot of gear to the exterior of your pack, as that may affect the size of the cover you will need (or, if your pack features an integrated cover, it may change the coverage area that the rain cover is able to protect).