When caught in the thick of a deluge, something provisionally unassuming can feel like an olive branch extended to make life easier because, beautiful as rains are, their nascent novelty wears off. All it takes is a squelchy backpack to ruin the day and its contents. And yes, a waterproof backpack is the coveted pivot of an answer, but rain covers give more value for their money. It gives this article enough impetus to disclose why bags need rain covers, what to look for, how they function, and why they are more affordable.
Why do backpacks need rain covers?
The first apparent thought is that rain covers keep the belongings inside of the backpack dry and warm. When it comes to laptops, chargers, phones, and several other electronic devices, it ensures their functionalities stay protected. However, at times, the contents hanging from the pocket net or some last-minute loadings that didn’t make their way inside the backpack feel the downpour first. But rain covers are like contingency plans after contingency plans, so the items inside and outside remain arid.
Some backpacks might be unprepared to face the density of a downpour. Primarily if it is used for daily commutes, for carrying books or laptops, and is caught off guard. Rain Covers come in handy, then.
Lighter fabric backpacks are an abrasion away from accidental brush-ups. A barbed wire, a jagged or pointy end, and the fabric come undone, from minor tears to whole threads misaligning. This is why, whether the backpack is water resistant or not, there is no need for laggarding on backpack covers, and walking an extra mile for a rain-covered one is a sound investment.
Lack of visibility is a curveball in rain which can prove lethal. Rain covers, unlike backpacks, are comfortable in their reputation of utility over style. Such backpack covers are completely neon- a bright speck of a color that stands out in precipitation or advection fog, hail, and big droplets crowding the vision. If not colored neon, reflective shiny symbols on the back are seen from afar, announcing the owner’s presence which otherwise was imperceptible.
Easy cognizance in times of accidents or during hunting season allows poachers to recognize backpack-carrying humans, preventing untoward happenstance. This applies to trekking backpacks mostly, but covering all baselines is necessary for emergencies and safer travels.
The overlooked science of Rain Cover
Right off the bat, let’s explore the linchpin of rain cover manufacturing for backpacks. Assuming those who go backpack shopping know the following method, all loads are measured in liters, not the standard units like kilograms or pounds. Perhaps for first-timers, a vis-a-vis approach can serve better.
Liters directly correlate with volume, while weight speaks about the mass of an object. Rain Covers are designed to carry backpacks inside them, so their dimensions have nothing to do with their volume and vice versa. Rain covers are measured based on their carrying capacity, not measurements.
It is a case of mental gymnastics when trying to picture a rain cover in liters because this deviates from the usual norm. However, imagining cubic inches (61 cubic inches= 1 liter) tends to be more relative. Here’s how:
A dazzling rain cover, perfect in every which way, reads it is 50L without a follow-up explanation.
But beyond the intimidating mathematical jargon, it expresses the bag’s capacity to hold at least 25 bottles of soda. This implies it can contain fifty or fewer liters of backpacks.
Speaking of dimensions, it’s an easy calculation once people get the gist. Check the size chart if needed. But to make it easier, here are a few pointers to give an idea of the size-to-dimensions proportion, anyhow.
- A cover with 13.7-21.7 inches in height, 11.8-14.6 inches in length, and 5.9-10 inches in width lie in the small to medium spectrum. Similarly, rain covers, which are between 21.7-42.7 inches in height, 14.6-19.6 inches in length, and 11.9-15.7 inches in width, are significant.
- Thus, the corresponding sizes of ten to forty liters belong to the small-size rain-cover domain, while numbers between forty to ninety liters range in larger sizes. Yet, it’s important to remember that not all brands offer the same size chart. There is no standardized measurement for rain covers, even though there is one for backpacks.
Another remarkable fact is that rain cover labels mention the amount of rainfall it can endure in one go, like 8 millimeters per hour or 20 millimeters per hour. It helps to establish the force of wind and rain a cover can bear.
The backpack rain cover is an intuitive buy, which calls for a more hands-on and a lot of footwork approach. But reading and unmasking the niche uniqueness further will maintain the sanctity of working smart, not hard.
On the lookout for the suitable material
Popular rain cover fabric is waterproof or water repellant and made of synthetic fiber, like nylon and polyester. However, waterproof properties are accredited to the coating applied to the material, and there is more than meets the eye in all parts of a thin waif-like rain cover.
With nylon, a thin coating of urethane is applied to one side of the fabric, and when vulcanized, it forms a sheet to keep the water from percolating on the surface. Eventually, the urethane wears off at tension points, areas of contact, or creases, demanding renovation at fixed intervals if one wants to keep using the same rain cover.
However, courtesy of inventions, the rain covers now come interwoven with first-tex membrane, a Gore-tex (tefflon) design. Highly efficient, it works because the physical form of
water is different on either surface- it deflects liquid on the outside and vapor on the inside.
Gore-Tex has pores 20,000 times less the size of a water droplet and 700 times more the size of water vapor. Like a double-edged sword, water vapor on the inside ( due to humid weather) escapes the confine before it condenses to moisture. Hence, prolonged exposure to heavy downpours is sustainable. Saturation and clogging humidity produced by the backpack’s body fall out of the question. But Gore-tex is very pricey. After the stunning discovery of Teflon, no cheaper alternative has come up yet.
Polyester, on the contrary, is an excellent water repellant, although not to be confused with waterproof. Polyester fabric tends to have air gaps at equidistant when sewn, which means water droplets might sit like dew on the material, but with enough pressure, they permeate through it. A sublime intermediary if a coating is galvanized on the fabric.
The coatings are scattered across brands, like PVC or polyurethane, and several polymers. Environment-sensitive DWR (Durable Water Repellent) has replaced PFCs (Perfluorinated compounds) since recycling them is excruciating. Beware, some coatings invite allergies if left in direct contact with the skin for an extended period.
It is now crystal clear that fabrics and coatings are equally important. In irregular rainfall, water-repellent covers work the best, but they can’t withstand continuous rain. And waterproof is fundamentally a better choice, but it damages at breakneck speed once the coating starts to wear off.
How to make the ideal choice?
Rain covers pack specific state-of-the-art characteristics from a perfect combination of lightweight and tensile strength to what they can weather. Because it is not the rain alone, wind and dirt are co-conspirators in undermining the full use of backpacks.
Raincovers overcome such challenges because the covers accommodate three layers of protection, namely- an outer shell fabric, a membrane in between, and the last inner lining. An ideal rain cover would have all three conjoined layers. The design then capitalizes on fundamental properties.
Raincovers come with a drawstring, drawcord to cinch the material, or buckle straps which fixate the cover in place once it embraces the backpack like a second skin. There should be minimal room, just enough to let the fabric breathe without compromising the air-blocking facility. Because when hiking at great heights, in areas with water bodies, damp air manages to sneak in without preamble. Once it condenses into droplets, there is no respite from clammy insides. The whole purpose of rain covers becomes a moot point.
Another way to eliminate occasional mishaps is to opt for an elasticated gusset. Elastic can preferably stretch for a snug, tight fit. And the gusset shall assist elastic in returning to its original shape post deformation. Few other proclivities like these save a lot of time. There is only one thumb rule to finding the right size- labels on both backpack and rain covers should co-align.
Most rain covers are portable as they are self-contained in a pouch that comes attached. They can be safely shelved. At the same time, some rain covers have a drainage point situated at the bottom side, permitting the outflow of water that might have settled in the crevices. Some rain covers even go the distance to exercise protection from UV rays by applying different coatings.
It’s often said of the cluttered details that people miss the forest for the trees. Above mentioned features glorify the product, but what makes it sell is another set of traits.
Premium graded rip-stop nylon, or polyester, which can handle the wear and tear, wins over, say, UV rays coating.
It’s a win-win if rain covers provide easy access to buckles, straps, and attachment points. And it should facilitate enough friction, that is, be anti-slippery and not stick on the backpack to the topic where they need to be peeled off. Lastly, the one with taped seams is better off because, like it or not, seams rive, taking some fabric with them.
Purchases that seem innocuous on the budget thrive on the replacement mentality. This is okay if backpacks can survive a rain or two on their parade, but in the long run, the lifespan of the fabric, ease of adjustment, and backpack size take precedence.
So whether it’s hiking, office travel, bike trailing, or any outdoor water activities, rain covers exponentially increase the margin of safety for a backpack. Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference and is subject to purpose.