Stay Dry on the Trail with Mountain Hardwear’s Rainshadow Backpack

waterproof backpack
There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a 12-mile hike only to be caught in a downpour. If you don’t have the proper waterproof gear, the rest of the journey will feature soaked socks, feet verging on the edge of trench-foot, drenched gear (including your travel towel), and general misery.

For our readers who come from sunny, dry places like the Southwest, this may not be an issue, and for that we congratulate you and your regular backpack with only the slightest hint of jealousy. For those of us living, working, and playing in the Pacific Northwest, however, we require a bag that can stand up to the long, rainy days of an Oregon winter as well as any unexpected fair-weather rainstorms. But how to choose? Do you go for the super-expensive 100 percent waterproof backpack that could sink to the bottom of the sea and be found thirty years later, still containing a dry pair of underwear within? Or do you go super-cheap and buy a water-resistant backpack that lasts a season and then loses all semblance of water-tightness, rendering it about as useful as a wet blanket?

We recommend walking the line on this one and going for a bag that splits the difference: Mountain Hardwear’s Rainshadow 26L Outdry Backpack ($150), a waterproof, middle-cost backpack for hiking and day trekking that looks great and wears well, all while keeping you and your gear dry on the trail.

mountain hardwear, waterproof backpack

Mountain Hardwear has been around for over two decades and throughout that time they have continuously refined and honed their products. In the case of the Rainshadow series (which includes the 26L and 36L versions), the packs are constructed with Mountain Hardwear’s proprietary OutDry material that bonds a waterproof membrane to the inner-shell of the backpack, sealing the fabric and the seams against moisture. You could literally fill the Rainshadow with a bucket of water and it wouldn’t leak. Take that, dear Liza!

Mountain Hardwear Rainshadow packs are rain-room tested for at least 24 hours–meaning, Mountain Hardwear designers literally chucked a bag in a room and simulated a storm for a day. We at The Manual lack a rain-room, so in order to put Mountain Hardwear’s Rainshadow to the test, I took this pack out last weekend for a hike when the forecast called for rain. Unfortunately, the weather man was wrong (as is so often the case) and no rain was to be found. However, I did run this pack through a waterfall with a fairly substantial flow and found, to no surprise, but much delight, that my extra sweatshirt, snacks, phone, camera, collapsible beer-cooler, and selfie-stick (yes a selfie-stick) remained bone dry.

I, of course, was not so lucky. But, being the well-prepared hiker I am, I always carry a handy chamois towel with me on every trek. After drying off with my shammy, my towel was still a little wet–which is not exactly something I wanted to stick back in with my dry items. But Mountain Hardwear seems to have thought of everything, conveniently positioning a mesh pocket on the front of the pack to allow you to stow your wet items to dry external to your already dry gear. Simple and effective.

waterproof backpack, mountain hardwear rainshadow

Other features that round out the pack include mesh straps and back padding to allow areas of the pack that are in contact with your body to dry quickly, a hydration sleeve that can carry up to three liters, loops for ice axes or trekking poles, stretchy side pockets for additional water bottles, snacks, or selfie-sticks, an external top pocket for quick-access items, a huge internal compartment that can pack up to 27 liters worth of gear, and compression straps to keep everything secure. The bag also sports a chest and waist strap to keep the pack snug on your back while hiking, climbing, or bouldering.

Overall, the pack is extremely comfortable (even after a full day’s trek), but it is also narrow. I’m 5’8 and weigh 145 pounds and wearing three layers made the straps snug, but not tight on me. So, if you’re broad-chested or are cut like a Marine, you might want to opt for the larger sized version.

And, while Mountain Hardwear’s Rainshadow Outdry Backpack will be waterproof to all rain, hail, sleet, snow, and even a momentary dip in a river–it probably will not remain waterproof during a six week kayaking tour through the rainforests of Brazil. For that you’re going to have to skimp on style and go for a military-grade dry-bag.

waterproof backpack
The author testing Mountain Hardwear’s Rainshadow Outdry Backpack at the base of Mt. Hood, Oregon. Image Credit: Laura Copelly
Fashion & Style

7 Great Gym Bags to Haul All Your Gear

From ultra-small duffels to bigger versions with built-in shoe compartments, there's a gym bag for fitness regimen.
Travel

How to Choose The Best Carry-On Luggage For Your Travel Style

Carry-on luggage is getting lighter, better, stronger — even smarter. Which suitcase is right for you?
Fashion & Style

The Best Backpacks for Men, from Daypacks to Commuter Bags

It might finally be time for you to ditch your old Jansport. Here's what to get next.
Outdoors

The Best Cooking Gear for Car Camping and Backpacking

We’ve rounded up the best camping utensils and appliances to help you make the perfect meal right beside the truck or 20 miles from it.
Living

This Crazy Weighted Blanket Will Have You Sleeping Like the Dead

When we first heard about the idea of a weighted blanket, and more specifically the Bearably blanket we were, to say the least, pretty skeptical...
Living

All 21 Six Flags Parks in the U.S., Ranked

It wasn't easy, but we ranked every Six Flags location in the United States. You're welcome.
Living

This Brutalist Revival Home in Greece Stands Out By Blending In

Forget those white stucco homes of Santorini. Patio House is the future of Greek design.
Living

Bruce Willis’ $13 Million Country Estate Is For Sale

Butch Coolidge and Korben Dallas would never live in a bucolic country estate in New York, which is why it’s so shocking that action movie superstar Bruce Willis did.
Travel

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.
Living

Old Meets New in a Unique Way in Chicago’s Cortez House

Cortez House is refreshingly modern but with nods to the building’s past … including the original meat cooler.
Living

The Best Mattresses for Side-Sleepers Who Need Support

Do you sleep on your side? You may need a mattress designed with you in mind.
Living

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.
Living

The Best President’s Day Sales on Luxury Pillows This Weekend

Tired of sleeping on that old pillow? Upgrade to something more luxurious.
Living

A Simple Swedish Cabin Gets a New Addition and a Japanese Twist

The two styles have more in common than you think and Archipelago Sommarhus is proof.