Are Backpack Covers Necessary?

11:22 a.m. on August 18, 2008 (EDT)
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122 forum posts

In reviewing my current list of backpacking gear, one thing I don't have yet is a cover for my backpack. However, I am wondering if I really need one. When I pack my backpack, I usually put my sleeping bag and clothes in waterproof stuff sacks (made by Outdoor Research). My food is repackaged in ziplock storage bags. Any maps, paper, etc are also in a ziplock. So, if I find myself out hiking in a deluge, what needs to stay dry will be dry.

So my question is, why else would someone want a backpack cover? Do they provide a benefit other than keeping your backpack dry?

11:29 a.m. on August 18, 2008 (EDT)
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I don't like them as they interfere with lashing foamies and fishing rods onto my packs. I also use silnylon sacks for all my gear and consider a bp cover just extra weight.

2:22 p.m. on September 6, 2008 (EDT)
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One of my packs came with a rain cover so I use it. Before that, I just put an oversized trash bag over my entire pack. The dry sacks should keep you're gear dry, but on the other hand, a wet pack is heavier where a trash bag or cover won't hold water. After 4 days of rain without a break in Alaska a while back, I swear all of my stuff had to weigh 70lbs wet! It could have just felt heavier after 4 days of hard hiking though. My gear in the dry sacks stayed dry though.

4:15 p.m. on September 6, 2008 (EDT)
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They're a pain. Like kutenay mentioned, they restrict your use of the pack.

One of the things I like about my Kelty pack is that the pack material is water proof (so far). I still use nylon sacks to organize and add extra protection.

10:22 a.m. on September 8, 2008 (EDT)
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I've found my pack cover more useful as a tarp while hiking.. covering me AND my pack.

then again, i'm the guy that loves creature comforts on my trips (fan, extra pillow, sleeping bag for padding (if i have room) :-)

7:08 p.m. on September 8, 2008 (EDT)
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The replies pretty much cover your options.

There are times where they have come in handy, times where they can be a bit more of a nuisance than help. In light rains, you might not really need it. I've seen many a 3-season rain in the Sierras, and I think I've used a cover all of 3 times.

Of course, as WISam points out, there's a big difference between light rains and 4 days of torrential Alaskan downpours. You have to gauge things by what kind of weather you can expect.

I have a couple of small Granite Gear dry sacks that I typically will use to secure my essential items that I want to stay dry. And of course, Ziplocks are highly functional in this regard as well. For most people, me thinks you'll get more day-in/day-out use fro a nice dry sack and some Ziplock bags than a backpack cover. The exception would be if you're hiking in an area that gets constant rainfall over a period of days.

7:43 p.m. on September 14, 2008 (EDT)
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I have to say in heavy rain on long hauls I am enjoying it. I have tried it both ways. I still use dry sacs with it though. A soaked pack is a lot heavier, whether that be just all in a fella's mind or not, if it feels heavier mentally it will be heavier physically!

11:23 p.m. on September 26, 2008 (EDT)
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134 forum posts

Use a pack liner, and you can probably save a few pounds by getting rid of all those stuff sacks.

7:54 p.m. on September 27, 2008 (EDT)
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133 forum posts

I have not found a pack cover yet that covers your straps. If you are in heavy rain, the water will soak through your bag along this path. If you do not have your stuff in a bag liner, it will get wet. Also, if you do a river crossing the cover just catches water. Not good :(
Listen to skinemexico, save the weight.

12:12 a.m. on October 17, 2008 (EDT)
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theyre pretty much usefull only when your hiking in the smokies or another very wet area. i bought one as a "just in case" kind of thing.

1:08 a.m. on October 22, 2008 (EDT)
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295 forum posts

I agree that in light rain, it is no big deal. But I favor a Kelty external frame, so I get no secondary wetness from water seeping from the straps. I used a pack cover in a November type storm that hit the Olympics two years ago...kept everything dry, and I zip lock everything but me, I think. It was nice to not have the extra water weight from the pack. BUT water did "gutter" down my back if I was not careful...

3:35 p.m. on October 23, 2008 (EDT)
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133 forum posts

If you zip lock everything, then why did you need the cover? I do the samething, but I use a dry bag instead of alot of zip locks. Its actualy cheaper in the long run and it can be used over and over again. I find zip locks wear out quickly. Look at Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bags at 1 to 2 oz. This is a fraction of the weight of most covers and/or a buch of zip lock bags.

Hope this helps.

5:05 a.m. on December 15, 2008 (EST)
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46 forum posts

For anyone using only a bivy and leaving their gear outside during a good storm, a pack cover makes good sense.

3:53 p.m. on December 15, 2008 (EST)
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133 forum posts

You could always cover it with your rain coat or emergency termal wrap if you carry one.

4:39 p.m. on December 15, 2008 (EST)
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one nice feature about a cover is that you change the color of your pack. i mostly have green or brown colored backpacks and occasionally i like having a bright red cover on my backpack. as far as waterproof goes i much prefer an extension rain poncho and waterproof bags inside my pack.

3:27 a.m. on January 2, 2009 (EST)
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agree with you all, pack cover is not so meaningful if using in rain, use a pack liner is more useful for waterproof, some friends use it just for keep it from dirt.

10:03 p.m. on January 13, 2009 (EST)
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311 forum posts

I do like a cover at times but i do not buy mine.I design and make my own to fit my pack and the gear i carry the way i like it to.This way i get a custom fit and everything stays fairly dry.Also i can store gear,any kind,outside in rain or snow.Diff strokes for the folks.YMMV

9:49 p.m. on January 14, 2009 (EST)
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2 forum posts

The problem with using a liner is you don't have access to your stuff from a side or bottom zipper. I use a cover for this reason.

11:49 p.m. on January 14, 2009 (EST)
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Hi bderwest, welcome to Trailspace!

You are correct.

I have a friend who solved this problem by using a separate liner for his bottom section.
Where we backpack, water vapor/moisture is a concern even if it is not raining.
We have found that our gear stays dryer by using a liner that completely encapsulates our gear. Anything that is already wet or damp must be stored outside that liner. So the liner also separates damp clothing from dry clothing.

Of course your needs and likes may well be different.
Different regions and climates require different methods.

1:06 p.m. on January 15, 2009 (EST)
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23 forum posts

When I use a pack cover it is of the Hefty make. Otherwise I use a couple waterproof stuffsacks for those items that must not get wet [electronics
(field recording), undies, books, etc.]

I have always wondered why, of *all* gear, backpacks are not waterproof.

2:34 p.m. on January 20, 2009 (EST)
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5 forum posts

Don't know if it helps but I use a "Cagoule" from Wiggys.

It is designed as a poncho that can be worn over you and your pack. It gets placed over that pack at night and is totaly water proof. When not in use it doubles as the padding for my spotting scope at the top of the pack.


1:29 a.m. on January 23, 2009 (EST)
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295 forum posts

I have used the garbage bags, but they don't fit as well, and I zip lock for light rain/dunking protection. But, for the downpour I knew I was going to face (but the weather didn't read the forecast,and things only got wetter instead of drier), the cover just worked better. I didn't want to carry rain around, and I don't always take the cover. Plus, if I ziplock, then even if I get caught with my "clouds" down, my inside stuff is still dry, even if I have to carry some rain around soaked into the pack.

12:18 p.m. on January 23, 2009 (EST)
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I always carry a pack cover but I hardly ever use it unless I'm going through 4-5 days of rain.
I have an internal frame backpack where I insert two large/leaf garbage bags for liners. My clothing are in zip-lock bags.
This systems works pretty well, but I have to tell you when you have days on end of constant rain, no matter what you do you're stuff will get wet.

2:19 p.m. on January 23, 2009 (EST)
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When I am hiking in superwet conditions like Alaska or slot canyons in Utah I put everything in my pack into a large garbage bag to ensure they stay dry. The nylon outer pack usually drys on its own quickly.

June 24, 2018
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