Over many years of backpacking, I’ve come to count my pack cover as an essential item for several reasons. If you haven’t seen one, a pack cover is a reusable nylon covering that slips over your pack and fastens with either straps, a cord, or an elastic enclosure. The pack cover can be used while you are wearing your pack or when the pack is off.
If there is any chance of rain, a raincover is an essential piece of gear for your pack. Most gear inside your pack cannot function when it is wet, or functions poorly. A raincover can keep a pack dry when it is raining or when there is water on the ground, so it is essential in wet climates and seasons.
Keeps gear dry in heavy weather.
My pack is water resistant just as most packs are. However when I am hiking for extended periods in heavy rains or snows, water still manages to find its way into my pack once in a while. The result is a wet change of clothes, damp gear, ruined food, and just a wet, cold mess that I don’t like dealing with when I get to camp.
Keeps Pack Dry in Camp.
There usually isn’t room in my tent for my pack. Even the vestibule is full of boots, miscellaneous gear, or in inclement weather, my cooking stove. So I leave the pack outside either leaning against a rock or tied to a tree. My pack cover comes in really handy at these times. Even when it rains during the night or when water drips from the trees, my pack is nice and dry in the morning.
Easy to Use.
Having lived all over the world, I can confidently report that people everywhere share the same sentiment about their weather, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes and it will change.” (With the exception of Hawaii, where the weather forecast is the same every day of the year 🙂 To this end, pack covers can be put in place very quickly. I keep my pack cover in the same pocket as my poncho, and can put both on in about 60 seconds. Many new packs have rain covers built in!
Packs in Tents.
Although I usually don’t bring my pack in my tent, there are occasions when I need to bring the pack inside the tent. On long trips when I need to re-organize my pack, or during bad weather encampments when I am forced to spend a little more time inside. Without a pack cover, the outside of the pack is often soaking wet or covered with snow. Bringing it in the tent makes a mess of everything. With a packcover, I just slip the cover off as I pull the pack in the tent, and find everything nice and dry.
Cheap Pack Insurance.
Pack covers are cheap – much cheaper than backpacks. In addition to saving my backpack from rain and snow, the pack cover prolongs the backpack’s life by protecting it from direct sunlight. I also throw the pack cover on when I am hiking through snagging branches or sharp rocky areas. I can replace the pack cover for a fraction of the cost of a new pack!