In summary: the historical average weather will assist you buying gear in advance of your trips (20 degree vs 40 degree bag, etc.). And just before your trip, the 3 day forecast/NOAA hourly weather graph should help you fine tune the gear you actually take.
Keep your gear dry:
- The best way to keep your gear dry is not to get it wet in the first place. This means putting on your rainwear before you get wet. Not sweating out your clothes with perspiration while hiking. And keeping the gear in your pack dry (especially your down bag, and down jacket).
- A Dyneema® Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber) backpack, with a roll top closure and sealed seams is a great way to keep the contents of my pack dry.
- When using the pack in conjunction with stowing my sleeping bag/quilt and down jacket in DCF8 Stuff Sacks, I don’t need to do anything different when it rains; I can just keep hiking. So my backpack is always packed the same, regardless of weather. No messing around taking on and off pack covers (imperfect rain protection anyway) or fussing with pack liners, both of which are a pain and waste of time.
- If rain is possible, keep your rainwear quickly accessible in an outside pocket of your pack (I use the center rear pocket). That way you can put it on quickly, and not have to expose the main pocket of your pack to rain.
- A tarp or pyramid shelter may be drier than a tent: Many times the small, confined, and less ventilated area inside a tent can be wetter than a larger (and much lighter) pyramid shelter or tarp. This is also a recommendation to buy the larger tarp or pyramid shelter. For just a little more weight you get a lot more living space!
- Condensation is a big problem in small tents. It’s very easy to get your gear wet from the high humidity inside. In tight quarters it’s almost impossible not to brush your sleeping bag or down jacket against condensing tent walls. And if you happen to get into the tent with wet gear it is unlikely to dry in the humid climate.
- In contrast, a tarp or pyramid shelter might have twice the room and be better ventilated and less humid.
- And if you’re stuck in the shelter for an extended period of time, you’ll welcome the larger and less constricted living area of a large tarp or pyramid shelter. During long rains, small backpacking tents become more like coffins than dwellings!