On the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims walk through all kinds of conditions, and often unpredictable weather. Believe me, after a long day on your feet, you want nice, dry clothes to change into, as well as dry sleeping bag. I used the following system and can report it kept all of my gear dry every day on the Camino.
Components of a dry backpack
I used a system of pack liner, dry sacks, and packing cubes to achieve two ends: keeping my gear dry and well-organized. [Click for my complete packing list.]
It starts with a well-constructed backpack made of a sturdy, water-resistant material. I used the 2013 version of the Aria 40, a 40-litre bag designed for women by Mountain Equipment Co-op. [This model has been discontinued entirely]
I also used a silicone rain cover by MEC, but a rain cover really only keeps the mist off of your pack. If you’re out in any kind of steady rain, water will seep in through the back panel and through the straps.
The first line of defence is a pack liner. I used the 20-40L one by MEC, basically, the same size as the backpack. It’s both lightweight and waterproof, but provides a solid barrier against any dampness.
I put everything I didn’t need while walking inside the pack liner, rolled it up, and fastened the closure. Everything except my toiletries bag, which I kept outside of the pack liner, and for good reason. The bag contained liquids and I didn’t want a shampoo explosion ruining all of this good work. And sure enough, my shampoo exploded. However, it only landed on my pack liner, so was cleaned up quickly without getting on all of my clothes.
The second line of defence was a dry sack for my bedroll – I used a 5L dry sack by Outdoor Research. Every morning, I rolled my sleeping gear – sleeping bag, silk sleep sheet, and pillow case – into a bedroll and stuffed into the dry sack, squished the extra air out, rolled the top and fastened it. It went into pack liner first, since I only ever needed it at the end of the day.
I used a second 10L dry sack by Outdoor Research for all of my miscellaneous items: a change of socks, charging cords, travel confirmations, anything I didn’t want to get wet. The dry sacks are a little more rugged and are usually fine outside of the pack liner, so this one was carried in the front section of my backpack to be more accessible.
The third line of defence kept the rest of my gear organized by sorting it into ultralight, water-resistant packing cubes – I use Pack-It Specter system by Eagle Creek. One was for socks and underwear, one for tops and shorts, and one for general stuff. All of the cubes went into the pack liner, I squished the air out, rolled the top, and fastened it closed, where it kept everything dry until I opened it at the end of the day.
It can seem like a lot of work, but you’ll get into your daily packing habits quickly- and it will definitely be worth it after you’ve been out in the rain. Buen Camino!
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