Recommend a pack cover

10:39 p.m. on August 3, 2014 (EDT)
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During my backpacking trip last week, I learned the hard way that my pack cover does not repel anything more than a light sprinkle.  More than that, and it lets everything soak through.  After hours of rain and hail, everything in my pack was soaked, including my down bag, which made for a rather cold night.

So, especially for folks in the east or the pacific northwest who deal with rain regularly, can you recommend a good pack cover?  I currently use an Osprey Atmos 65 pack, so it needs to be sized to work properly with this pack.  Price is not as important as performance, but a budget deal would be best.  I need something that will truly repel extended rain, be relatively easy to put on (elastic cord around the edge that can be adjusted works well for me), and the lighter and more compact the better.

4:55 a.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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Do you use an internal liner/dry bag? I think thats your best bet if you truly want to keep things dry. A cover will shed some water, but after a while it will start to seep in down your back and get your contents wet. Of course if you combine the two, then thats your best bet.

6:36 a.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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There are two ways to deal with this. And truly you need both. A pack liner will keep tour gear dry, and a pack cover to keep your pack itself dry.

Pack covers are not a 100% solution as they arnt a complete seal and will at a minimum not protect the shoulder straps. But in my experiences do a fairly good job of keeping the majority of the pack material dry.

Pack liners are your real protection from rajn or a slip and fall in a stream etc. You can buy fancy dry bags, or you can use an unscented trash compactor bag. I just use a 4 mil contractor garbage bag.

And lastly i keep my down quilts and sleep clothes in a compression dry sack for a 3rd layer of protection.

I started with just a pack cover and eventually adopted everything else. The only reason i havnt ditched the pack cover is that a dry pack is much lighter than a wet one. So i just suck it up and carry the 3oz all the time

7:57 a.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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TheRambler's bag everything approach is definitely the way to go.  I learned it as a kid and have always worried more about that than a pack cover, though I prefer several small bags rather than one big one.

The cover that came with my Osprey Kestrel 68 really seemed best suited for walking through wet bush rather than handling rain. The pack was always soaked after a wet day.  I'm using a blue plastic tarp and a few 'biners to cover the Kelty framed pack I'm using this year. It works pretty well but that is a fashion statement you may not be ready to make :)

8:36 a.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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I guess I forgot to mention that I use a S2S(sea to summit) silnylon pack cover. No complaints with it thus far, have been using it for 4 or 5 years now.

1:43 p.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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I agree with TheRambler! I only use a liner when I'm expecting poor weather, which is a Home Depot Husky contractor bag. They are very tough, good for many other purposes, and cheap. 

I use an Lowe Alpine cover from a previous pack, but its starting to get beat up from use. I've been thinking on modifying another contractor bag for my next rain cover, which I would double as a groundcloth to keep all of my belongings on (this one will actually be water proof in heavy rain). This is the best way (for me) I don't leave something behind when I'm taking a break, setting up, or breaking down camp. 

2:28 p.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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A small trash bag will cover your pack and one can also be used inside. Trash bags also make good in a pinch rain coats and will cover both you and the pack. Make arm and a head hole and use a tie strap to make the open end of the bag stay around your waist.

3:05 p.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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I gave up messing with pack covers a very long time ago, and eventually gave up pack liners as well. I just use good waterproof stuff sacks for my gear. After all yer stuff is in stuff sacks anyway, right? 

I use top quality home made silnylon stuff sacks for our sleeping quilt, and smaller ones for our clothes.

I sewed and seam sealed these bags myself, they are totally waterproof and can be blow up like a balloon.  They are very light, tough, and water proof.

My first aid kit goes in a zippy bag, as does other small stuff that really doesn't like water such as a camera. 

I also carry and use an umbrella, which can help cover the top of the pack. 


5:13 p.m. on August 4, 2014 (EDT)
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I use a trash compactor bag for my sleeping bag & change of clothes. Other items are in zip lock baggies.

3:28 a.m. on August 5, 2014 (EDT)
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For sleeping bags in particular, I would recommend a PodSacs airstream compression sac. They are made of eVent so they will keep your bag dry, and compress it to as small as its possible..... and also let internal moisture out.

8:23 a.m. on August 5, 2014 (EDT)
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I guess I’ll add to the chorus…I don’t use pack covers at all but rather double bag. I also use either a trash compactor bag or a contractors garbage bag (for big loads) to line the pack and then put things inside dry bags. My main pack is made of a highly water repellant materiel (X-Pac) and that helps also.  

By top-rolling and taping the garbage bag (with packing tape for easy removal) I use this system for pack rafting with good results.

The one test I have not yet done is sustained full immersion but it has held up to brief partial immersion.       

10:29 p.m. on August 5, 2014 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

I started with just a pack cover and eventually adopted everything else. The only reason i haven't ditched the pack cover is that a dry pack is much lighter than a wet one. So i just suck it up and carry the 3oz all the time


12:07 a.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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OK, yes, I understand the bag approach, and have used it before.  But back to the original question:  Is there a pack cover out there that really sheds water and doesn't allow breakthrough, and is not terribly heavy?

5:47 a.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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I have tried several commercial pack covers covering both internal and external frame packs over the decades, and wasn't impressed with anything marketed.  In every instance my pack was soaked after a couple of days in the rain.  I found six mil trash bags with holes to pass the shoulder straps were the best at keeping a pack dry, but you still need to bag contents in zip locks or similar bags to keep these items dry.  I used this technique last week on a trip where it rained a fair amount throughout the trip, and the only gear that got wet were items removed from the bags.


6:21 a.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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I was wondering when this conversation was going to get back to your question lambertiana :)

Light, waterproof and tough tend to be contradictory qualities that can only be bound together with large amounts of money. I went with waterproof and tough at the expense of 8oz or so but gained on the functionality. 

Using a cheap 4' x 6' plastic tarp I attached one short end to the beaver tail on my pack frame using zip ties.  I keep it lashed there with a short bungee cord.  When I need to use it I remove the bungee and use two biners to attach the center of the tarp to the middle of the frame leaving the top of the tarp to be pulled over the pack.  That top flap can be pulled down over my shoulders or propped up over my head so acts as rain protection as well.  The adjustable bungee is perfect for wrapping around a tree if I want to use my other, larger tarp for a diamond pitch to ride out a downpour.

It isn't pretty, it isn't light, but it works and if it wears out from abuse is easily replaced for a few bucks. Everything is still bagged for protection but this keeps my pack from sponging up a few more quarts of water for me to carry.

10:12 p.m. on August 10, 2014 (EDT)
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going in the other direction, i use pack covers.  two of my smaller backpacks, in the 45-55 liter category, came with their own dedicated pack covers - which both work pretty well.  one allows you to pass the shoulder straps through some openings.  while neither will keep the shoulder straps, back pad, or hip belt dry, they do a great job with the bulk of the pack.  a soaking wet backpack weighs a lot, and is prone to damage plus very unwieldy if it freezes while soaked.  

for my big backpack, I have an outdoor research pack cover - they come in a range of sizes.  currently showing them in day glo orange; mine is a pretty unobtrusive gray color.  i wouldn't want to go bushwhacking with it, it's pretty lightweight, but it keeps things dry. you want a pack cover with a pretty stout elastic line around the perimeter, ideally one you can cinch tight.  keeps it from getting snatched by the wind.  it also helps if the bottom has a grommet/hole to allow water that gets in to escape.  

inside the pack, i line the stuff sack for my sleeping bag with a garden variety trash bag and use a dry bag with a roll/seal top to keep important things dry.  

8:20 p.m. on August 19, 2014 (EDT)
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I like the large contractor garbage bags and the vinyl clear bags sold for canoe packs. They can be used to line a pack where they are not subject to tearing and abrasion to much of an extent. In really wet country I would add a plastic compactor bag for the sleeping bag.

10:01 p.m. on August 19, 2014 (EDT)
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The only lightweight pack-cover that has even done more than kept my pack dry for me is my Go-Lite poncho. I would still bag the gear inside my pack (for submersion and dry storage when at camp)...but the poncho will keep your pack and its contents dry while on the move. If you expect to be in more exposed geography than the woodland and river valleys I run around in...a poncho might not be the answer (unruly in high winds)...but in warm and rainy weather in woodland areas I find the lightweight poncho perfectly adequate...even more comfortable than more technical (WPB) rain-gear.

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