Q. I really like hiking but I don’t have anything for covering my backpack when it rains. What should I use?
— Soaked Spencer, Earlham, Iowa
A. Dear Mr. Soaked. Excellent question. You have a couple options to consider. First, there’s a waterproof pack cover, basically like a shower cap for your pack with an elastic band around the outer edge. They are cheap (today, I found a generic pack cover for $16 bucks on Campmor.com) lightweight, work relatively well, but tend to be not so durable—especially when hiking in heavily wooded areas where trees snagging your cover is likely. Some backpackers skip the pack cover in favor of something called a pack liner, which is essentially a large waterproof sack that slips inside your pack to keep everything inside dry. You can get a lightweight Sea to Summit Ultra-sil pack liner for around $35 at www.seatosummit.com. Meanwhile some guys simply use a plastic trash bag. Though not quite as durable as an actual pack liner, a trash bag will totally do the job and for next to nothing. You might also simply consider packing certain things that you don’t want getting wet (like your sleeping bag and your clothes) inside separate dry bags. Scoutstuff.org sells waterproof 10-liter and 30-liter Dry Packsacks for $10 to $17. Depending on how much rain you expect to encounter on the trail, you can use just a pack cover or all of these items together and you should be good to go. Stay dry, Soaked.