Each year in the fall, we head to a gathering of long-distance hikers sponsored by ALDHA (Appalachian Long Distance Hiker’s Association) to visit with like-minded souls, attend workshops on backpacking, watch slide shows about long-distance trails around the globe and to shop for the latest in lightweight gear. Long-distance hikers are an innovative lot. They spend long days in the woods analyzing how their gear isn’t working and figuring out better alternatives. Then, as the snow flies and buries their beloved trails, they return to their homes and in basements, garages and spare bedrooms they create gear that’s better. Better than anything you can purchase at your local sporting goods store or outdoor retailer.
Such was the genesis of our Packas. They were designed and made by Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Edward Hinnant. The Packa is a full coverage backpacking rain parka with a built-in pack cover, made of lightweight sil-nylon. Edward brought a supply of Packas to the 2003 ALDHA Gathering. Rich & I tried them on and immediately bought one for each of us.
Then came “test” time. In April 2004 we headed to England to hike the 190-mile-long Coast to Coast Trail from St. Bees Head to Robin’s Hood Bay and parts of Hadrian’s Wall Trail. England as it turned out, was a great place to test a new rain parka. In 3 weeks of hiking we had one day without rain. The trail took us up over mountain peaks above tree-level where we were pelted by hail in gale force winds and down through valleys where the temperature soared. Through it all, our Packas kept us dry and warm but not sweaty. In the worst weather we wore them with hoods up and fully zipped. If internal heat built up we could open the pit zips, drop the hoods, pull our arms out of the sleeves, and eventually roll the entire jacket portion back into the pack cover. That way, with pack cover on, we were always ready for a quick cover-up when the next downpour began. The Packas were lightweight, yet a solid barrier against rain and strong winds. They worked superbly and we’ve used them many times since then (including on the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska pictured above). Trust us, we’ve tried enough other rain coverage options on our many long-distance hikes to know what we’re talking about.
Check out the Packa and other custom-made sil-nylon gear made by Edward at www.thepacka.com