Camino Rain Solution

As much as I like this photo of our Camino Provisions teammate walking out of SJPP, the umbrella did not perform well in the wind, but the rest of the gear worked very well on that rainy, rainy day. Note his red rain gaiters, some of our new favorite Camino gear items.

As much as I like this photo of our Camino Provisions teammate walking out of SJPP, the umbrella did not perform well in the wind, but the rest of the gear worked very well on that rainy, rainy day. Note his red rain gaiters, some of our new favorite Camino gear items.

Sharing rain adventures is always a lively part of any returning pilgrim gathering. We love to swap stories of walking in “toad-strangling downpours,” or navigating parts of the trail that turned into a creek with rain. Do a browser search for the month you plan to walk and a city you will walk through to find out average temperatures and rainfall, and you will have an idea of what the conditions might be when you plan to walk. If you walk for a couple of weeks or more in northern Spain, you will most likely encounter rain. How do you plan for it?

After testing a variety of gear to deal with rain, we have landed on our favorite combination of items that make those rainy days more bearable. There is no escaping some dampness if you walk in a hard rain, but you can keep your backpack and its contents dry with our suggestions. In addition to your Marmot Precip jacket, or other breathable waterproof jacket, we suggest a waterproof pack cover if your pack doesn’t have one built in. Our favorite backpacks have waterproof covers built in for convenience and since it is attached, the cover won’t get lost. Our favorite add-on cover is the Sea to Summit Ultra-Light Cordura Pack Cover. It is made of Siliconized Cordura nylon for durability and waterproofing, is super lightweight at 3 ounces, and stows away easily in its attached sack. Choose from several colors and sizes. We like the fact that there are no seams to leak, and the elastic adjusting cord is well designed to tighten around your pack. 

Even with a good pack cover and rain gear, we strongly advise you to protect all the contents of your pack and keep it organized in water resistant packing cubes. We like the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes in sheer white. These super lightweight cubes are made of water resistant ripstop fabric to help keep water out, organize your stuff, and make loading your pack simpler. If you dropped one in a pond, it would not keep out every drop of water, but as an inside barrier against rain on the Camino, they are perfect, and they provide the benefit of organization. The sets come in some fun colors, but we prefer sheer white so that we can see what is inside each bag. You can also use Ziplock style plastic food bags, but they are not sturdy enough to last for very long.

Our recommendation is to carry one small guaranteed waterproof bag to protect your phone, passport and other paper documents, medicine, and any other small item you have to keep absolutely bone dry. Our tried-and-true recommendation is the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack in the XS or even XXS size. These roll-down waterproof sacks are made for kayakers, fishermen, and backpackers. Very lightweight, affordable and well designed. 

We also recommend rain gaiters to wear along with your waterproof trail shoes or boots to keep the rain from running down inside your footwear. If you have chosen our favorite trail shoes, the Merrell Moab waterproof hikers, rain gaiters can be a brilliant addition to keep your feet dry in hard rain. We like Docooler® Outdoor Waterproof Windproof Gaiters. A pair costs less than $8 through our website, and they weigh less than 5 ounces. They worked great for us on our most recent Camino walks in 2015-2016, and were even good at keeping small pebbles out of our shoes when it wasn’t raining. They can also provide a layer of protection against cold wind on spring and fall trips. Wear over long pants or with shorts. 

If the rain turns from a light drizzle to a downpour or starts coming at you sideways with some wind, we recommend having an “Emergency Rain Poncho” handy. We have used these to good effect in many rainstorms recently. If you are careful one will serve you for several days’ use, and they are super cheap and lightweight —about one ounce each. One poncho easily fits in a jacket pocket to be ready when you need it, and we typically pack 3-4 when we leave home for Spain. 

Here is how we suit up on a rainy Camino day:  Dress for the day in your Camino clothes that suit the temperature the best, recognizing that rain gear will add warmth, no matter how breathable it is. Put on your precip jacket with its hood up, then your pack with its rain cover on, then put the disposable rain poncho on with its hood over the precip hood, and then put your hat on to shield your eyes from the rain. The poncho goes over you and your pack for an extra barrier against the rain, and greater protection for your pack. These particular ponchos are not as tent-like as some of the heavier, re-useable types, so they will not billow up when the wind gusts, and they are also not as heavy to carry. If your pack is larger than our recommended size, these disposable ponchos might not work for you, but they are a favorite solution for the rest of us. If you run out of the ones you bring with you, they are very inexpensive in shops along the Camino. Use our tips, and stay dry out there!

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Helen Van Wagenen