Ditch the forty dollar pack covers. Here is what you need to waterproof your backpack

The salespeople at those box stores will tell you to buy pack covers for around forty dollars each. It seems logical given the importance of keeping your gear dry. However, I do not like pack covers for several reasons. First, they require installation on the exterior of your pack, which means you have to stop and secure the cover every time it starts raining. Second, pack covers are easy to forget or loose. So what is the alternative?

A trash compactor bag. Seriously, here me out!

A trash compactor bag is an extremely useful piece of gear in the backcountry—it is durable, totally waterproof, and more functional than a pack cover. In a pinch, it can serve as emergency rain gear or shelter. I have even used these bags around my feet at night to keep them warm in below freezing temperatures.

Here is how it works. I place the trash compactor bag inside the pack with all my essential gear, like extra clothes, sleeping bag, and down coat. The bags are large enough that I can protect all my gear for a multi-day adventure. Once I am on the trail, I never need to stop or be concerned with changing weather conditions. It is one less thing I have to worry about.

This system works great with kids backpacks, like the Deuter Fox 30. For these smaller packs, you can simply roll the excess plastic inside the backpack or cut the bag to size. I have used this system on a variety of adventures, from backpacking the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area to day hiking in Redwood National Park.

Can I use a typical garbage bag? No. The plastic on a typical garbage bag is too thin and will puncture or tear. When you go shopping, look for trash compactor bags or heavy-duty contractor bags at least 2 millimeter thickness. I use the Hefty trash compactor bags pictured above, but any brand will do. Give it a try on your next family adventure!

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