ULTRALIGHT ADVENTURE EQUIPMENT (ULA) RAIN WRAP
TEST SERIES BY EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN
LONG TERM REPORT
July 16, 2007
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE INITIAL REPORT, MARCH 2 2007
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT, MAY 14 2007
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG TERM REPORT, JULY 16 2007
Catskills, New York State
6' 1" (1.85 m)
215 lb (97.50 kg)
I enjoy walking in all its forms, from a simple stroll in the woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no means an extreme ultra-light enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is to carry a pack weight (before food and water) of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more or less. In recent years, I've rapidly moved to a philosophy of "lighter is better," within the constraints of budget and common sense.
Not quite the right weather...
PRODUCT INFORMATION AND SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA).
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.ula-equipment.com
MSRP: $25 US
Listed Weight: 3.2 oz (91 g)
Measured Weight: 3 oz (85 g) [the .2 oz may be outside the accuracy of either of my scales]
Color: blue [only available color as of this writing]
Size: Large, stated as 32 in (81 cm) in length. There is also a medium size available
Size in (integral) stuff sack:
Stated: 5.25" H X 4" W X 2.5" D (13 x 10 x 6 cm)
Measured: 5.5" H x 4" W x 2.5" D (14 x 10 x 6 cm)
Fabric: silicon impregnated nylon (i.e. silnylon)
Approximate size, as a groundsheet
Stated: ~32" x ~54" (81 x 137 cm)
Measured: 33" x 63" (84 x 160 cm) [N.B. the dimensions quoted on the site are presumably for the medium]
The ULA Rain Wrap
As stated on the ULA website:
"All Ultralight Adventure Equipment products are warranted to the original owner against defects in materials and workmanship. If an ULA product does happen to fail due to manufacturing defects, ULA-Equipment will replace or repair the product free of charge at our discretion. Necessary repairs due to improper use, unfortunate accidents, or general wear and tear, will be charged on a materials and time-spent basis. All packs returned for warranty issues MUST be recently cleaned.
Please keep in mind that ULA products are lightweight for a reason - the use of ultralight and lightweight materials carries a certain degree of responsibility by the user!"
All of which is, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable.
The Rain Wrap comes in a pouch that's integrally part of the Wrap itself. It stuffs easily into this, which then seals with a Velcro closure. The pouch dimensions given above are uncompressed, and it could certainly be squeezed into a smaller volume. The pouch has a small clip attached to the Wrap by elastic, presumably so that it can be stowed externally for easy access. There is no packaging as such, or any cardboard tags etc.
Instructions for use
None are given with or attached to the item, but the website states: "The Rain Wrap easily adjusts at the waist by tensioning the flat elastic band with a cordlock. A split center and Velcro tabs allow for a range of adjustment." Use seems to me to be perfectly obvious and intuitive.
The Wrap is soundly made. The stitching is solid. There are a few short stubs of thread, but this is a very utilitarian product, and these do not detract (and they can be snipped). The appearance is much as I visualized from the website, although mercifully the fabric is not such a vivid blue.
As noted, the Wrap folds neatly into the integrated stuff sack, which is shown below:
To use, the silnylon sheet is pulled out (in use, the storage pocket is on the inside). The Velcro tab at the waist (3/4" x 5", 1.9 x 11 cm) is used to close the Wrap, and a cord-lock attached to a length of elastic that runs the length of the waist is tensioned so that the Wrap doesn't slip. The elastic has a small D-ring attached, which prevents it from pulling through the cord-lock and also provides convenient purchase. There's a larger D-ring at the closure (at one corner of the silnylon sheet), presumably so the Wrap can be easily hung to dry.
In addition to providing rain protection for the legs (at a very light weight), the sheet may also be used as a groundsheet. For that reason, the other three corners each have elasticized loops. These (as well as the D-ring on the fourth corner) are necessary for this use, as the elasticized waist otherwise prevents the Wrap from extending to its full length. The website (and common sense) indicate that for groundsheet use the Wrap must be staked out, so the loops and D-ring may be used directly as staking points, or to attach cord for staking. The stakes, of course, need to fall clear of the tent floor. I anticipate that with tents with staked rectangular floors I'll use the existing corner pegs in conjunction with Spectra cords tied to the corners of the Wrap. With other tents, improvised or very light pegs of some form will be needed.
In its primary purpose, as rain gear, the Rain Wrap is sealed lengthwise with two more strips of Velcro. The seam so created can be worn in the front, side, or even the rear of the garment. In my Field Report, I'll provide an image of the garment in use, but as I write this we are in the middle of a March snowstorm that makes an appropriate photo op difficult!
The Rain Wrap is a simple idea, but seems very well executed to me. On both day hikes and backpacks I often carry rain pants, a layer that frequently sees no use and that weighs considerably more than the Rain Wrap. With (and possibly without) gaiters, it appears that the Rain Wrap will provide adequate rain coverage and let me leave these at home. It seems that it will probably offer some protection from the wind, as well, while providing excellent ventilation. I also often carry my silnylon poncho, which I use as a groundsheet far more often than rain protection, on all but the roughest ground. The Wrap may enable me to leave that at home also, for a significant total weight savings. ULA also points out that it can be used as a modesty wrap, and it is pretty much opaque. In short, this has the potential to be a very handy multi-use ultralight garment. I look forward to seeing how it works in the field!
The ULA Rain Wrap is simple, but ingenious. As a ventilated rain cover for the lower body, it appears that this is likely to be more effective than a poncho, and much lighter than rain pants. The dimensions are also appropriate for a partial groundsheet under my sleeping pad, the most critical area of a tent floor. I think it's a terrific and sensible concept, and look forward to trying it in the field.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
The ULA Rain Wrap accompanied me on all day hikes and backpacks during the field test period. Elevations were to a maximum of 4180 ft (1036 m), all in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. This includes perhaps ten day hikes, both on and off trail, and three backpacks. Terrain ranged from merely hilly to mountainous, with some fairly serious scrambling involved on occasion. The weather during the field test period wasn't especially rainy this spring (at least at the times when I was out and about). Temperatures have ranged from daytime highs of around 40 F to 65 F (4 C to 18 C), to night lows of 35 F (2 C). As a consequence, the Wrap was actually used (rather than merely carried) only on the two backpack trips detailed below.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Despite the fact that my use has been, as just noted, limited by the weather, when it has rained, the Wrap has been indispensable. It is now on my list of "must carry" items, for both day-hikes and backpacks. Both times I have needed to use it, rain was not in the forecast, and so it has proved a handy and exceptionally light fallback for the (many) occasions when I don't wish to carry rain pants, just on the off-chance. I still tend to prefer rain pants when I know from the forecast that I'm in for a protracted heavy downpour, in part for reasons I'll discuss momentarily.
My first backpacking use was on a longish (26 mile, 42 km) circuit in the southern part of my region, in which I experienced occasional showers. One of these occurred while I was eating my lunch, and another a little later. Neither was especially heavy, but I had not brought along a spare pair of shorts or briefs, and had no desire to have mine soaked. While seated at lunch, I grabbed the Rain Wrap and quickly donned it, and it kept my shorts and legs perfectly dry while I ate.
I used the Wrap later the same day, in another brief shower. This illuminated one potential issue with the Wrap, which I had previously had concerns about when testing it at home before taking it into the field. I find that when making long strides (particularly going uphill), or when executing the sort of moves I need to get up steep sections of ledge (moderate scrambling), my knees tend to separate one or both of the Velcro fasteners along the split of the garment, unless the Wrap is worn well above the waist so the bottom hem mostly clears my knees. There isn't any flare in the cut to allow sufficient clearance for my legs when they are fully extended.
There is, however, an acceptable workaround incorporated in the construction. There is an elasticized loop on one side of the split, on the lower hem, and a corresponding fastener on the other side. When this is engaged, while the Velcro strips may separate, the elastic provides enough "give" to allow extended movement, while holding the gap closed enough that not too much rain will get in. Then, when opportunity presents, the Velcro can be resealed, if required. Putting the split so it faces away from the rain helps, too. I've generally moved the split to the rear, running below my pack, unless the rain is driving from that direction.
The length (see photo at top) means that I need to wear (or carry) gaiters to protect my boots, if they are to stay reasonably dry on the interior. Most of the time I do indeed wear these, but by no means always, especially in milder weather when rain is not expected. These are precisely the occasions when I'm most likely to be relying on the Rain Wrap. In mild weather, I'd generally rather pick out the occasional twig or rock from my boots than deal with the humidity a gaiter tends to create.
Therefore, I'd ideally like to see a trifle more length to the wrap, so that my boots would be somewhat protected (this is also a function of my height, of course, and shorter people may not have the issues I mention here). More length would definitely require greater diameter to the wrap in the knee area, or perhaps a knee-area fastener like that on the hem, that has some "give," supplemental to the Velcro. I'll continue to evaluate this aspect, which is the only significant limitation I have found.
I also used the Wrap when perched on a ledge campsite on bare rock at 3400 ft (1036 m). As I started to prepare my evening meal, a few drops began that soon turned into a steady, albeit fairly light, rain. I wore the Wrap while I was sitting cooking, and until I retreated to my tent. Not only did it keep the rain off me, but it also kept my legs warm (I was wearing shorts again, in which I hike whenever possible). In the morning, the rain had long gone, and it was gloriously sunny, but also cool with a stiff wind. I had long pants with me, but rather than dig those out just for the short period in which I was cooking my breakfast tea and oatmeal, I wrapped my legs with the Rain Wrap. (I didn't bother to fasten it, but just used it loosely wrapped around my bare legs.) This made breakfast a comfortable and indeed leisurely meal.
I have not yet had a chance to use the Rain Wrap as a groundsheet, as the ground on which I have been camping still needs full coverage, because the residue of spring melt has left things somewhat wet. I will test this aspect during the Long Term Test period. I did try it when pitching on bare rock, but it involved too much fussing around for my taste (four weighted tie-outs are, to say the least, a nuisance). This would have been an extreme use for the garment, in any case, though it is true I subject my silnylon poncho to such indignities often. I have also used the Wrap under me as protection when sitting on damp ground for lunch.
As to the dress-like appearance, while it has elicited some genial chaff from my hiking companions, I have no issues with this. It's a good conversation starter (or, I suppose, stopper, depending on the audience). The good people I hike and backpack with are generally inured to my various eccentricities.
For 3.2 oz (91 g), this is a multi-purpose garment that's indispensable when rain pants are overkill, or are buried in the pack. It can be worn for warmth as well as wet. It can be carried in a pocket for easy accessibility. I do wish there was a little more play in the region of the knee, and perhaps a bit more length. These are minor objections. The Wrap has proved a very handy addition to my backpacking kit, and I very much like the fact that with a lightweight windshirt in one pocket and the Wrap in the other (and gaiters on my boots), I'm prepared for at least moderate showers.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
The Rain Wrap was carried (and used when needed) on all of my trips during the long-term test period. These included one three-night backpack over varied terrain in the southern Catskills; a two-night trip to Harris Lake in the Adirondacks (car-camping, as this was my base camp for a traverse of the Santanoni Range); and (at least) three overnight backpacks; these in addition to numerous day hikes in the Catskills. Elevations have ranged from 1700 to about 4440 feet (518 to 1353 metres). Daytime temperatures have ranged from about 50 F (10 C) to 85 F (29 C). In general, the weather was rather dry during this period, unusually so. Although I did encounter occasional rain, it was rarely more than sporadic, and much of it fell at night, so the Rain Wrap was generally needed more against wet fern and brush the following morning than active precipitation.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Rain Wrap was combined with a windshirt and a pair of gaiters (this last usually carried rather than worn) as my sole rain protection for this period, except for a couple of times when I carried a heavier jacket and pants for bushwhacks. The Rain Wrap/windshirt combination proved sufficient against the light rains and wet brush I experienced over the test period. I didn't experience any torrential deluges on the trail and therefore I still can't speak to the performance of the Rain Wrap under conditions of heavy or extremely prolonged rain.
It has proved a very efficient, lightweight solution to the conditions I have described. I've already remarked (in the Field Report) on the utility of this garment, and my opinion is unchanged. For the weight, it would be hard to find a more efficient solution for rain protection for the lower body; the possible catch being that, for truly adequate protection, gaiters must be carried or worn. I tend to carry these with me in any case on most hikes and backpacks, though I avoid wearing them where possible in summer. (I tend to put them on for crossing fields of stinging nettles and the like).
I have tried to use it as a groundsheet, but I found rigging it awkward and rather inconvenient, though feasible, at least with the Tarptent Double Rainbow that I'm presently testing. I can't speak to other tents. I attached a cord with a rolling hitch to each corner of the Rain Wrap (so I could tauten these lines) and then connected the loops of the rolling hitch to the four corner stakes of the tent. While this worked OK, and I'd use this method again if I found that I had forgotten to pack a groundsheet, it took significantly more time and energy to put the Rain Wrap in place than to erect the tent (part of the trouble is the elasticized waist). In addition, it then meant that I didn't have the garment readily accessible if needed.
Unfortunately, the protection from seepage through the floor provided by the Rain Wrap is not especially satisfactory, due to the short length. (Floor seepage is a minor issue with silnylon tents, mostly when they are erected on saturated ground. It is especially a concern when pressure is put on the tent floor by the weight of the occupant, which can force moisture through the silnylon.) This is the main reason that I've not pursued this matter further. The Rain Wrap had virtues enough for its primary purpose as rainwear that groundsheet use is not (for me) a high priority, although this is a use suggested by the manufacturer.
I did use the Rain Wrap in a mixed backpacking group as a "modesty wrap," for a night-time foray to the bushes. I cannot personally see hanging out in a laundromat wearing it while my clothes wash. I would feel like a "flasher."
This is a very handy addition to my pack, for both backpacking and (perhaps even more so) day hikes. Worn with gaiters, the protection it affords the lower body against rain has been excellent, in the conditions I've experienced. By the nature of the garment, it's much better vented than rain pants, and I've not found condensation an issue even at high activity levels. I do wish that a slightly longer length was offered, as that might enable me to forgo gaiters. A little more "give" in the area of the knee would be a good thing, too, though there is an elastic loop at the hem that (if the Velcro separates due to motion) helps keep the Wrap loosely sealed.
The garment shows no signs of wear so far, and has held up to occasional brushes with briars on trail. I'd certainly not use it (as I have used rain pants) in an emergency to protect my legs from briars when wearing shorts. This is clearly not a good thing to do to rainproof clothing, by any means, as it usually results in the application of gobs of seam sealer to pinhole tears afterwards.
I expect to continue to carry the Rain Wrap for the foreseeable future. While it has some minor limitations, as I've indicated, it's an extremely handy creation. Kudos to ULA for coming up with the idea.
This is the final report in this series. I thank Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) and Backpackgeartest for the opportunity to test this handy multi-purpose garment. This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.