DIY Gear: Learn How To Make A Tyvek Rain Kilt (Skirt) To Keep Your Legs Dry In Wet Weather

| | , ,

Hiking in wet weather can provide a whole host of challenges for the thru-hiker and day-hiker alike. When well prepared, there are few things that bring one’s senses to life like a mountain stroll in a downpour. I’ve tried all sorts of “waterproof” wet weather gear over the years, and have finally found my ideal gear setup. I’ll write about other pieces I use in other posts, but for today, I’d like to focus on my homemade Tyvek rain kilt, and offer some instructions if you’d like to make one for yourself.

Support Trail to Peak by purchasing your supplies at Amazon using the links below.

3m of Tyvek | Tyvek Sheathing Tape | VELCRO Industrial Strength

DIY Gear: Learn How To Make A Tyvek Rain Kilt (Skirt)

You might be asking yourself, “Why a rain kilt, why not just wear rain pants?”. The answer to this is simple, and follows the same logic I use when addressing the problems with Gore-Tex footwear. With Gore-Tex footwear, the intent is to have a membrane in the shoe that water cannot permeate. This can work well for some conditions, but it’s important to keep in mind that it will also keep water in. Waterproof shoes can take days to dry. They’re also a nightmare to wear in warm weather, as they don’t allow your feet to breathe (despite marketing claims). I found the same issues to be true with rain pants, as I sweat myself to a soaked state in any temperatures higher than 45 F. It’s like wearing a wrestlers weight-loss suit. In cold snowy weather, I think Gore-Tex shoes and waterproof pants can work really well, but for 3 season hiking and backpacking, I much prefer the more breathable options.

So, now that I’ve laid out the case against waterproof rain pants for warmer hikes in the rain, here is a list of my top reasons to opt for a rain kilt:

  1. Rain kilts are very lightweight, with my Tyvek option coming in at 2.48oz (69g).
  2. Rain kilts pack up very small, and take up very little space in your pack when not in use.
  3. Rain kilts are easy to put on and take off, saving you time and keeping you dry when showers come and go.
  4. Rain kilts are cheap and easy to make.
  5. Rain kilts are waterproof and durable.
  6. Rain kilts can double as a waterproof picnic seat or ground sheet when all of your surroundings are wet.

Julia and I used homemade rain kilts on the John Muir Trail this summer and absolutely loved them. We covered 25 miles on our first day out of Yosemite Valley, with about 15 of those miles in the rain. I loved how comfortable and breathable the kilt was, and more importantly, how dry my legs were.

If you’re looking to make your own rain kilt, like the one I made for the John Muir Trail, all you’ll need is some Tyvek, tape (I like Tyvek tape), a pair of scissors, and some Velcro.

You can buy all of these supplies on Amazon and support Trail to Peak at the same time. You’ll have to buy most of this stuff in bulk. Purchasing the minimum quantity available for each item still leaves you with enough for 2-4 kilts. The tape and velcro is enough for 5-10 kilts. If you want to purchase items in smaller quantities, you can try Michaels craft store.

3m of Tyvek | Tyvek Sheathing Tape | VELCRO Industrial Strength

DYI Do It Yourself Tyvek Rain Kilt Skirt John Muir Trail
DYI Tyvek Kilt

To start, I’d like to explain why I chose Tyvek as a base material. If you’re not familiar with Tyvek, here is a description from Wikipedia: “Tyvek is a brand of flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers, a synthetic material; the name is a registered trademark of DuPont. It is often seen used as housewrap, a synthetic material used to protect buildings during construction. The material is very strong; it is difficult to tear but can easily be cut with scissors or a knife. Water vapor can pass through Tyvek, but liquid water cannot. All of these properties make Tyvek useful in a variety of applications.” You can also use materials like cuben fiber and silnylon, but the cost and effectiveness of Tyvek makes it pretty tough to beat. I bought 3 meters of Tyvek on Amazon for $16.00, which was enough for 2 kilts and a groundsheet for our tent.

Once you get your master sheet of Tyvek, cut it down to match your preferred dimensions. I cut mine down to 53in by 28in. I stand 5’10.5″ and have a 31in waist. Start with a larger cut by about 2 or 3 inches for width and height, and then cut it down more, as needed. When your kilt cutout is sized and ready, you’ll want to add a little tape to the corners. You can skip this step if you’re really looking to cut weight, but I’ve found that the tape really adds life to the kilt and also keeps the edges from flapping in the wind.

DYI Do It Yourself Tyvek Rain Kilt Skirt John Muir Trail
Tyvek Tape On Kilt Edges

After you’ve added tape to the edges of your Tyvek kilt, you’re ready for the final step, adding a Velcro fastener. I like to make my fastener in two sections, to allow for a more “dialed in” fit. You can do this in many ways, just make sure not to go too light on the Velcro, as you don’t want this coming undone while you’re out hiking.

To get the positioning right, try on your kilt a few times, and wrap it around your waist for a comfortable fit. Once you’ve done this, take a pen and mark the kilt just below your navel. This is where you’ll want to put the loop(fuzzy) side of the Velcro. I used a large piece measuring 7 inches. Once you have the loop side of the Velcro attached, try your kilt on again, and mark your kilt for the hook side of the Velcro. As I mentioned above, I do the hook side of the Velcro fastener in two sections to get the best fit.

DYI Do It Yourself Tyvek Rain Kilt Skirt John Muir Trail
Velcro Hook Side

Once you have the hook and loop side of the Velcro attached, try it on and make sure you have a snug but comfortable fit. That’s all there is to it, you’re ready to take on the storms now! One word of caution when using your rain kilt is to unfasten it with your fingers on the Velcro and not on the Tyvek. I learned this lesson the hard way on my first kilt as I watched the fibers tear apart. Even with this tearing, the kilt still kept me dry through quite a few storms on the JMT, and aside from this issue, the kilt was flat out bomb proof.

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have, and make sure to share your pictures with me if you make your own rain kilt!

Support Trail to Peak by purchasing your supplies at Amazon using the links below.

3m of Tyvek | Tyvek Sheathing Tape | VELCRO Industrial Strength

DYI Do It Yourself Tyvek Rain Kilt Skirt John Muir Trail
Pull On The Velcro, Not The Tyvek

Isla and Lilly Explored The Huntington Dog Beach And Had A Great Time!

Gear Review: Ridgemont Outfitters Monty Lo Shoe


50 thoughts on “DIY Gear: Learn How To Make A Tyvek Rain Kilt (Skirt) To Keep Your Legs Dry In Wet Weather”

  1. Oh that JMT sign looks familiar! 🙂 Just to make sure that I’ve got it straight what you did, it’s just one big rectangle wrapped around your waist like a sarong?

    • Thanks, Robb! I was in a similar position last year, where I wanted to try a kilt, but didn’t want to drop a bunch of money on a cuben fiber option. This tyvek kilt has worked great.

  2. Great write up, I’m making one for each of my 5 kids, one question and this may seem obvious, how do you attach the velcro?

  3. I bought a small roll of tuber from lowes, one side has the tubeless label on it, is one side more waterproof than the other? I plan on making some rain kilts, and would prefer to have the writing on the inside. Does it matter?

      • Thank you for your response, I just noticed auto correct struck not once but twice in my comment. One more quick Question, and perhaps you’ve already answered this but how does washing tyvek to make it a little softer effect it’s resistance to water?

        • I’m not sure how washing tyvek alters it’s waterproofing. I’ve read online that it can handle multiple washes. I’ve gotten my kilt wet a bunch, packed it up, and used it as a ground sheet, so it’s been used an abused. It still is just as water repelling as when it was new.

  4. I made a rain kilt out of ripstop nylon with some interesting features, researching the commercial offerings available. Design features I considered that others might wish to as well.

    – thin ripstop tent-fly nylon, not crinkly cuben or not-quite-waterproof silnylon. Tyvek is great but I wanted something more durable and less dorky looking.

    – conical shape, not cylindrical, to allow legs and knees to swing wide and step up high when climbing large rocks etc, yet not waste excess fabric weight or volume or be puffy and oversized around the waist (which might look dorky and/or billow in the wind or rain)

    – use of a very lightweight “boning” strip (ask at a fabric store) along the bottom seam, to make that edge of the cone a little more stiff because: (a) so the skirt does not billow around in wind as much and (b) less clammy against my leg skin when it’s damp (a real issue with urethane-on-the-inside nylon and near-plastic cuben; less of an issue with silnylon or tyvek). This is similar to what the author did with tape around the edges.

    – use fabric strips of preinstalled plastic snaps (ask at a fabric store) for the closure instead of velcro or zippers like the commercial kilts, or nothing like the authors (which requires additional overlapping material). Having a closure should help in wind-blown rain and/or to block wind on chilly windy nights camping.

    – use *flat* elastic with an adjustable fastex closure for the waistband, instead of round bungee material like most of the commercial kilts, because it will be under the backpack hip belt and pressed hard into my bony flesh: important that it be flat and smooth not small and round and pokey.

    Now doing it this way took many hours to prototype on paper and then sew (a walking foot was essential on my sewing maching with the slippery nylon). The tyvek design posted here is a great version 1.0 prototype.

  5. I made my own tyvek quilt and used it recently on 7 days in the South San Juan Wilderness. I discovered that when tyvek gets wet, it stays wet – for a quite a while. Better silnylon as a material. Thats’s my next project!

    • Thanks for the note. Mine was able to dry out pretty quickly on the JMT, but I didn’t get to test in on consecutive days of rain. I was thinking of making one out of silnylon as well. It’s a great fabric for tents and cheaper than cuben fiber.

  6. Been checking out these rain kilts and I’m wondering; when your walking in the rain or through wet brush, what’s to keep moisture from the brush or moisture from the exterior of the kilt from draining off of the kilt, getting on your lower legs and running into your shoes?

  7. I am thinking of creating a hiking kilt with a bit more tailoring to allow for trail running movement. Can you successfully sew tyvek or will it compromise the material?

  8. Hi Drew, love your kilt! Am going to make one, and a pair of matching gaiters!
    Tyvek sheathing tape – finding this difficult to source in the UK. Are there any alternatives you could suggest?

  9. Kiwi tramper here. What is the advantage to keep your legs dry? I like the idea of what you’re doing here, but skin is waterproof and breathable…

  10. I have a couple of old tents that I will never use again. can this material also be used to make the kilt and gaiters?
    I understand I may need to treat it to make it waterproof.

  11. Hi, I was looking for something I could wear in the summer to trim bushes in the back of my house. But the mosquitoes are awful, and I don’t always want to shower just because I have Off all over my legs and arms. I got a pair of Tyvek sleeves working at a pharmaceutical type company and that helped my arms but now I was looking for something like that for my legs other than my sport pants in the 90 degree heat. I didn’t want a pantsuit but something to just cover my legs that would be easy to put on and take off and keep the mosquitoes and other strange bugs away from my legs. The kilt or sarong style is a great idea. I think I can make one out of the Tyvek envelopes anyone can get from the Post Office and go nuts with scissors and tape. I wish my mom came up with this when we were camping. I would have worn the kilt every time I was outside and everywhere. Especially at the beach (Assateague with horse flies) and anywhere in Canada. I bet it would make a great summer bed sheet too…like netting for the no seeums.


Leave a Reply to JaxCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.