I've been contemplating packs and dryness, and I'd very much like to hear what the wise and good folks here have to say.
I live in the PNW, and it seems to me that there are three categories of gear, and that packs don't really do a good job of handling them.
1) MUST be dry: sleeping bag, sleeping clothes, hammock 2) As dry as possible: warming clothes, food bags, stove, etc. 3) Definitely wet: Tarp, rain gear, clothes worn in rain...
I really don't want to put my wet tarp into the same pack bag with my sleeping bag. Has anyone here got a pack or a system that separates things by dryness/wetness category? Also, why have a "waterproof" pack bag if you're going to put wet stuff inside of it?
Interesting thoughts. I think you've got the three categories right, although depending on the time of year, I might move warm clothing from "as dry as possible" to "MUST be dry." Also, since my food is stored in Ziploc bags, it (along with the stove, etc.) could drift into the "definitely wet" category. But those are both minor, personal distinctions. Your basic point remains: how do you keep the wet stuff from "contaminating" the stuff that has to stay dry?
I've found two answers: stuff sacks and extra pack pockets.
Stuff sacks are mostly waterproof (yes, there's that big hole in one end - but that's not a big problem if the water isn't running off the stuff inside.) So, anything that needs to stay dry, or that is wet and needs to be segregated, goes into a stuff sack. If it's truly critical (sleeping bag, for example), it goes in a "dry sack" which is simply a seam-sealed, roll-top stuff sack designed to provide a waterproof seal.
In my own case, the sleeping bag would get a dry sack; clothing would go in a plain stuff sack, as does food. (Clothing and food might both go into Ziploc bags before going into the stuff sack, if I knew I was in for several days of rain.) My tent goes into two stuff sacks: one for the fly and ground cloth (if I'm using one); one for the inner tent. That way, the soaking wet fly won't wet the relatively dry inner tent.
The other option is to either buy a pack with lots of exterior pockets, or use add-on exterior pockets. You keep the wet stuff outside the pack. My own favorite example of this type of pack is the Osprey Kestrel 48. It has a decent "shove-it" pocket where some wet things can ride. It also has a two-compartment lid pocket, so one pocket could be designated for small wet items (gloves, or maybe a rain hat?) It also has two long, vertical zippered exterior pockets. Typically, I'd keep rain pants in one and rain jacket in the other; however, in prolonged rain, I'd move the tent to the outer pockets (fly in one, body in the other), since I'd be wearing the rain gear almost all the time. When I wasn't wearing it, the rain gear would go in the "shove it" pocket.
The two small side pockets are used for things that will be wet regardless of weather: my water bottle in one, and the filter in the other.
As far as a "waterproof" pack bag - there really isn't any such thing. They are all highly water resistant (I've never had rain soak through into one), but they aren't absolutely waterproof. That's why we have pack covers.
Which brings us to another alternative for separating wet from dry gear: pack liners. Essentially, a pack liner is a giant "dry" stuff sack/pack cover that goes inside the pack. You put everything that you don't want to get wet inside the pack liner, then close it like a dry bag. Then you put the wet stuff on top of it (or around it or under it, depending on your own preference.) The wet stuff is segregated from the dry stuff, and it doesn't matter if the pack itself is wet or dry inside. I've used one, once, in heavy rain, and it worked pretty well. My personal preference is several stuff sacks, but that is strictly personal preference for subjective, not objective, reasons.
This is one reason I love my external pocket on my Granite Gear: it stores wet tarp! If I do it right, my tent body will stay dry enough get back into the stuff sack, while the wet tarp stays stored on outside in the long pocket.
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart
I also like the stretch pockets on my Granite Gear for the same reason. I also carry a light mesh bag lashed outside the pack that I'll put very wet things in to dry, or at least separate out. I also agree with winter changing things to DRY, DRY, wet.
Having checked your location I understand the question. :-)
My hiking time in the PNW was 90% with external frame packs, where the wet stuff was strapped to the outside--problem solved. Some I.F. packs accommodate this, some not. In selecting one, either a big back mesh pocket, extendable top lid or rear/bottom lash straps/points can approximate an external-frame lash point.
If not (the single big compartment style) then isolating wet gear in a trash compactor bag and critical sleep gear and clothing in roll-top dry bags--stowed above the wet stuff--will generally get the job done. Keeping rain out of the pack is equally important and requires either an effective pack cover (pretty good except for the area around the shoulder strap yoke) or hiking in a poncho (better, but can be annoying to hike in).
I have a Dana Designs Raid Z pack. The pack is just a strap on carrier for a 50 liter dry bag that is basically the main sack, and it has two other pockets. My question was primarily driven by the realization that putting wet gear into a big dry bag, even using sacks inside, made no sense. My current thinking is that I'll build a mesh "taco" to wrap a bunch of much smaller bags and then get wrapped in the Raid Z. The small bags will range from a dry bag for the "MUST stay dry" stuff to mesh bags for the wet stuff.
I guess my thinking is that there's so much wet stuff (this is the PNW) that having any pack bag at all doesn't make much sense. Has anyone else tried a pack like the Raid Z?
I recall pondering the Raid Z when it was made but never took the plunge. The infinite customizability seemed clever. (Has there even been a brand killed off as cruely as Dana Designs?) The ULA Epic is essentially the same concept, and I'd consider something like it were I to ever, say, do a soggy tundra trek. Or Scotland. I've been able to handle consecutive wet days with standard gear; apart from what's already been discussed is the importance of a tarp for cooking, gear storage, hanging out and packing. A little tent is a poor substitute.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I don't use pack covers because I've snagged every one of them and tore them off the pack or ripped up the tie/cinch straps on them trying to avoid that
I put my tent/tarp, and my sleeping bag, inside heavy duty plastic bags inside my pack. I've never had a pack soak through either, but I'm also not in the PNW. I've been there, and was amazed at how wet it was, so I can see why you'd need some specialized gear there.
My myog backpacks are not waterproof. I make them from uncoated nylon.
(1) Must-be-dry stuff goes into a trash compactor bag inside the backpack. It will stay dry even if I drop the pack in a lake. (2) Everything else is in the pack (outside of the trash compactor bag), thru which rain freely enters and exits when the weather is wet and drains and dries when the weather is dry.
My food bag is in category #2 because the individual food packets are waterproof and the food back will hang out at night and often be wet when re-entering my backpack.
What you describe sounds a lot like my plan, and you know the PNW weather. Going with uncoated nylon might be better than the mesh that I was contemplating. It would snag less and protect the inner sacks better. I do want to keep it light, though, so perhaps a very light ripstop.
My wet Ursack was part of what got me thinking this way. I tie my food bag out in the rain at night, so the idea of putting it inside the 50L dry bag was senseless. Packaged food and cooking gear doesn't need to be kept dry.
The ULA Epic does look similar, but w/o the nice front pockets. I like the concept of the Raid Z pack, just not necessarily the large dry bag for normal backpacking. Some others must like it as well. Last week I saw a used one of the small size Raid Z packs sell on ebay for $150. That's most of what it cost new.