Unless your rain jacket is thick and not breathable, moisture is going to find a way through your rain gear during an intense, long-lasting storm. If you don’t do anything, you’ll risk hypothermia.
That’s when it’s time to pull out your tarp! Not to camp, but to wrap it around yourself like a poor man’s poncho! The tarp will provide three benefits:
- A layer of protection from the wetness: now water has to sneak through two layers (your tarp and your jacket).
- A quasi-backpack cover: provides an extra layer for moisture to fight through.
- A layer of insulation: although tarps aren’t breathable, because you’ll wear it as a poncho, there will be enough ventilation so you don’t get wet from the inside and it will trap a bit heat to warm you up.
Once you warm up, slow down your hiking pace so you don’t start sweating. When I was yo-yoing the CDT, I carried about 5.5 pounds (2.5kg) of gear, so I didn’t have insulated clothes. On my southbound journey through Colorado, this strategy helped keep me drier and warmer than I would have been otherwise in a couple of rough, cold rainstorms.
One last advantage: when finally decide to camp, you’ll already have your tarp out of your pack, so that’s one less thing to unpack!
I first wrote this article for Gossamer Gear's Tips and Tricks.