Pack Cover, Pack Liner, Both, Neither, Something Else…?

P1030768Pack covers, pack liners, neither, both, or something else all together? Being that I am a firm believer in all of the above (plus some), I tend to get emails, or questions/comments on my blog or a YouTube video, about using them rather often. As well, this is a pretty common topic on most any other online backpacking venue, whether it’s a public forum, another backpacker’s blog, YouTube videos, or any other place. So, I figured I would add to those discussions by sharing what, and why, I use what I use…

Before I begin, I should mention that all of my hikes, save one, have been on the East coast, and more specifically, the Southeast region, which is known for being a pretty wet area. Also, the Southeast can be a hot & humid region… These are naturally a big influence on me when choosing what to use, but I’ll also add that this doesn’t mean it is the right choice for everyone…

So, to start with, these are all the waterproofing safeguards I use on my hikes:

  1. Backpack made of waterproof material (cuben fiber) w/ taped seams
  2. Pack liner
  3. Pack cover
  4. On occasion, a cuben fiber dry bag
  5. Umbrella

P1030178To begin with, I have been using cuben fiber backpacks from ZPacks for the last few years. Of course the cuben fiber material itself is water proof, however, all the seams from construction, not to mention the big opening at the top to load the pack presents a number of areas that water can enter the pack. To make up for this, each of my cuben packs are now taped with cuben fiber tape from the inside. This means my packs are now very water-resistant, however, I still can’t trust them. There is that saying… “One is none, and two is one…”

So, if water should somehow get through the water proof material that my backpack is made from, and then though the taped seams too, I need something else inside to provide another layer of protection. After all, I am counting on that downy goodness and/or the fresh, dry change of clothes, inside my backpack to keep me warm later at night and it won’t do that if it’s soaked. So, I also line my backpack with a pack liner from LiteTrail.

IMG_1352However, my backpack (like most others) also has outside pockets. A large mesh pocket on the front (or back?) and then a smaller side pocket on each side. I use these pockets to store things that I may need to use throughout the day, which means I shouldn’t have to open the main compartment of my pack at all. This in itself will help minimize water getting into the main compartment, which is where I keep items that (for me) must remain dry.

I would also prefer to keep the items in these outside pockets dry (gloves, wind jacket, boggin, extra clothes I may have removed, daily food/snacks in Ziplock bag, etc…), while other items in these pockets (stakes, rain gear, potty trowel, etc…) would be just fine if they got wet. So, to keep these items dry, I also use a cuben fiber pack cover. Even more important to me though, I choose to use a pack cover because it helps to minimize the pack itself from getting wet. This is important because I also choose to bring my backpack inside my shelter at night, and if it is wet, then it will also get those dry items I unpacked from the pack in my tent, wet.

P1000817On much rarer occasions, I will sometimes use dry bags inside my pack, still with all the other precautions in place. To be honest though, the choice to use dry bags is more about organization than it is about being waterproof. In colder weather, I generally bring a little extra clothing, and a warmer down sleeping bag, so I sometimes use a cuben fiber dry bag from ZPacks to store my down clothes in. I have come to do this less and less over time though, as it is my opinion that stuffing items into a bag without a stuff sack/dry bag is a simpler and much more efficient way of packing, which also means the pack rides better. (Check out this somewhat outdated post to see how/why I pack my backpack. Maybe I’ll update this soon…) Anyway, I choose dry bags because it is what I have, and being that they are taped, and made from cuben fiber bags, they are very water proof, and lighter than other dry bags (and even some stuff sacks) too.

A couple of years ago, I also started carrying an umbrella. I opted to try an umbrella to keep me dry, but found that as an added bonus, it did wonders at keeping my pack dry too, especially with the pack cover in place. The umbrella acts as an extension to my pack cover by completely covering the top of the pack, and even the sides a little. This means water can’t roll down my back and soak into the shoulder straps or back of the pack, which is the problem a pack cover can’t handle. So, now, if there is rain forecast for my hikes, the umbrella is coming along. It really is a remarkable piece of kit…

P1050137So, these are the pieces I carry to protect my pack, or better yet, the items inside my pack from getting wet. And yes, it is quite a redundant system, but as I quoted above “One is none, and two are one…” When my life can depend on it, I don’t feel like it is a bad way to go. But, to be quite honest, there have been very few hikes I have been on where my life depended on dry clothing/gear, yet I still used all the pieces I have listed. This I believe is where folks question my need for it all…

My typical first response to this question is: I am willing to carry it all because it’s worth it to me to know that when I need it, my gear will be dry. And I hope that the above text will help to better explain my thoughts on this. But…

My next response is about weight, and particularly of both, my liner and my pack cover. I have never weighed a trash compactor bag, but I find that they are generally listed as weighing between 2.2 and 2.6 oz. This is not a bad weight at all, but it’s quite a bit more than my pack liner (the LiteTrail liner listed above), and actually is the same weight as both, my ZPacks cuben fiber pack cover (1.2 oz), and my pack liner (1 oz). So, for the same weight as the trash compactor bags others are using, I also have a pack cover, and ultimately, more protection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I could just leave the pack cover behind and only carry a single oz of weight by just going with the liner, and to be honest, in conjunction with my very water-resistant back pack, and the umbrella, it would likely be all that I needed, but the liner alone doesn’t fill my needs. And as important as weight is, it is not the ultimate deciding factor. But as I have pointed out, it is easy to keep the weight down, and still carry everything I feel that I need…

Also, some may suggest ponchos, and that would also be a good idea, but I am not sure it is for me…

So, there you have it. This is what I carry to keep my gear, and my pack as dry as possible, and why. Hope this answers any questions others may have, but if not, feel free to post anything else below!

Thanks for reading,


Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies listed above, nor am I being compensated for mentioning them in this (or any other) post. I have paid for these items myself, and have used them for quite a while. The statements in this post are my thoughts on the items after extensive use.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
This entry was posted in Arc Blast, Backpacks, Dry Bags/Stuff Sacks/ Pack Liners, Gear, Gear Reviews, Gear Talk, Pack Liner, Rain Gear, Umbrella and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Pack Cover, Pack Liner, Both, Neither, Something Else…?

  1. both packliner and packcover for me


  2. dipink1 says:

    I have been experimenting with pack liners, both from Gossamer Gear, and a cuben fiber dry bag from Zpacks sized for a backpack liner. I find, though that I only need something that lines the bottom half of my bag, leaving lots of extra bag taking up space. How are you securing the top of your liner? I found the liner to be rather fiddly and not easy to close up. I use it only to secure my sleeping bag and clothes, leaving my cook-kit, rain gear, and food bag outside the liner. I usually have my wind jacket, gloves, hat and Buff in a smaller dry bag near the top of the backpack where I can reach them. easily, or in a side pocket.


    • Stick says:

      I simply roll the top together to make an elephant trunk, then slide it down, either in front or behind, the bag. Takes about a second, really easy to do, and works.



  3. LightDan says:

    Hi, nice to have a bit redundance when it comes to keeping the gear dry.
    I work in a hospital, were I found a perfect liner in the biological waste disposal bags, they are very light at about the same weight as the Litetrail bag and also super tough. I still use a pack cover, so I have double water barriers (or triple, counting the backpack). For me it’s a way to be able to compartmentalize my stuff in light stuffbags instead of drybags, saving over half an ounce per bag.
    Umbrealla seams like a good idea, although I seldom use it. Sometimes I use a poncho, then I can leave the pack cover at home.

    I agree with the filosophy with extra water barriers, there is nothing fun with wet gear on a wet day.


    • Stick says:


      I too work in a hospital, and have pondered the same about the red bio bags to line my packs, however, the ones we are now using are not near as strong as a compactor bag, or the LiteTrail liners I have been using. We had some a few years ago that were a thicker ply, however, they were also a bit heavier. I have found that the LiteTrail liner is the best compromise between any that I have used when it comes to strength, size, and weight. As well, for only about $2.50 each, I don’t find them to be expensive either.



  4. Silky says:

    Southeast hiker, also … pack liner, pack cover, and some cuben bags … stays pretty dry for the most part … however, when the humidity is 98%, stuff gets damp just by being in the air.


  5. milligan308 says:

    Great topic Chad! It’s great to see what you and others use, I love my odor barrier bags from litetrail. gosh I miss seeing a full store there! Love my go lite umbrella more for sun than rain. No dedicated pack cover, trash bag is good enough so far. This might be of interest, I use Cuben fiber dog bowl/sock washing bowl to store my leggings, socks and possum down gloves in while in the pack. Thanks.


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