There’s nothing quite like hiking in the rain. The fresh smell of wet earth, the sound of raindrops pattering on leaves… it’s invigorating. Nevertheless, even the most passionate hikers might be hesitant to head out on a trail when rain is predicted.
But with the proper gear and precautions, hiking in wet weather can be just as enjoyable as hiking on a sunny day. Don’t let a little precipitation keep you from enjoying the trails! Here are some tips for hiking in the rain.
Gear for Hiking in the Rain
When rain is in the forecast, it’s important to come prepared. This means packing the right gear. Here are the essentials for hiking in the rain.
Rain cover for pack Keep your pack dry with a waterproof cover. Some packs come with a liner but not always.
Waterproof liner Lining your pack with something waterproof is like extra insurance for its contents. You can line it with a large dry bag, a legitimate pack liner, even a trash bag works great.
Dry bags or Ziploc bags Keep your important gear dry at all costs. Your sleeping bag, maps, electronics like your phone or GPS should all go into a dry bag or Ziploc just to make sure they don’t get wet.
Trekking poles Helpful when the terrain is slick, for crossing water that may be higher due to rain, and for staying steady in mud.
Hand and foot warmers Because no one likes to be cold!
Gaiters These will help keep rain and wetness from vegetation or the trail off your socks and out of your shoes. Definitely nice to have during active rain.
Blister “kit” Not a necessity, but it’s nice to have items to prevent and care for blisters since wet feet are more prone to them.
If you don’t already have them in your first aid kit, toss in some sock liners, toe socks are good for this) and some moleskin and tincture of benzoin (sticks that moleskin or a Band-Aid to your skin like nothing else!)
Clothing for Hiking the Rain
As anyone who has ever been caught in a summer storm knows, rain can come out of nowhere. If you’re caught unprepared, your hike can quickly turn into a disaster.
So what should you wear when hiking in the rain? First, make sure you have a good waterproof jacket. A hood is also essential to keep the rain out of your face.
You’ll also want to wear pants that won’t get soaked through, as wet clothes are not only uncomfortable but can also lead to hypothermia.
Waterproof boots are a must, as well as socks that won’t absorb too much water. Finally, don’t forget a hat or visor to keep the rain out of your eyes. With the right gear, you can hike in any weather – even the rain!
No cotton Cotton just holds moisture and takes forever to dry. It’ll probably make you cold and nobody wants that. Merino wool, alpaca wool, and synthetic materials are better choices for heading out in the rain.
Synthetic insulation Wet down doesn’t insulate well. For your jacket and sleeping bag, you’ll want synthetics for insulation. If your backpacking and your sleeping bag is down, take extra precautions to keep it dry in your tent.
Choose a hat with a brim Even if your jacket has a hood, a hat is super helpful in keeping water off your face if it’s actively raining.
Extra socks Because no one likes wet feet. And wet feet lead to blisters. And having wet socks is just miserable.
What to Wear for Hiking in the Rain
Base layer A merino wool base layer will help you stay comfy and dry, even if you get a little sweaty while wearing your jacket. Any moisture wicking base layer will do just fine, I just find merino wool especially comfortable in the rain.
Insulating Layer Temps can drop pretty quick when it rains and the last thing you probably want to be is cold. A warm mid layer, such as a fleece jacket will help keep you toasty while you trek.
Waterproof Outer Layer Probably the most important layer when hiking in the rain. You’ll need this to keep water out and stay dry. Rain outerwear comes in many styles with many different options and features. Trying to pick one can become dizzying. Some of the most important things to consider when choosing a rain jacket are
- How waterproof is it?
- Breathability- Waterproof clothing has a way of holding your own humidity (aka sweat) in, just like it keeps the rain out. Sweating in your jacket is still going to make you wet so you want something that gives you the option to vent or that is somewhat breathable. A lot of jackets have armpit vents that help with this.
- Comfort- If it’s not comfy you’re not going to like it
Some of the best rain jackets for men include
- REI Co-op XeroDry GTX
- Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket
- RAB Kinetic 2.0
- The North Face Men’s Altier TriClimate Jacket
and some of the best rain jackets for women
- Outdoor Research Aspire II
- Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic
- Arc’teryx Beta LT
- MARMOT Womens Precip Lightweight Rain Jacket
Last but not least, waterproof pants will help keep your bottom half dry in torrential downpours. They can be stifling though, so I usually just pack these in my bag in case the rain gets bad.
Wet Weather Hazards
When the weather takes a turn for the worse, even the most experienced hikers can find themselves in danger. Wet weather hiking can be hazardous at times, and it’s important to be aware of the risks before setting out on your next trail.
Slick rocks and muddy conditions can make footing unstable, and cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia. In addition, wet weather can create visibility problems, making it more difficult to spot potential dangers. Flash floods are also a concern in areas prone to heavy rains.
To stay safe while wet weather hiking, you really just need to use your head. Here’s some of the dangers you can face while hiking in the rain, and tips to help prevent injury.
Slips and falls are never fun, but they suck even more when it’s wet out. Wear boots or shoes with good traction to help give you a grip. Trekking poles can help make you more stable and keep you upright if you start losing balance.
Same as for slick terrain, you’ll want to make sure your footwear has good traction to prevent slipping. To keep wet mud out of your shoes, gaiters come in handy.
Flash floods and Rushing or Deep Water
Flash flooding can occur quickly and without warning, so it’s important to be aware of the current weather conditions before heading out. Deserts and areas with canyons or ravine like terrain are prone to flash flooding and you should avoid these low areas during a rain.
Rain runoff can cause streams and other bodies of water to swell quickly. This extra water can make water crossing treacherous or cause flooding in the nearby area. Sure to take extra precautions hiking near bodies of water as they can rise rapidly during a storm.
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water, and it can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech. To prevent hypothermia, it is important to dress warmly in cold weather and to avoid staying in wet clothes for extended periods of time.
Symptoms of Hypothermia
- Feeling tired
- Slurred Speech
- Memory Issues
- Clumsy Hands
If you suspect that someone has hypothermia, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Hypothermia can be treated effectively if caught early, so don’t hesitate to call for help if you think someone may be suffering from this condition.
Rainy Day Hiking Tips
Watch the weather
Know the forecast before you leave and keep your eye on it during your hike. Know the signs of storms and have a safety plan in case you get stuck in one. Thunderstorms can happen quickly and without much warning.
Read: Lightning Safety for Hikers
Try to stay dry
Sounds obvious but it’s easier (and warmer) than trying to dry off after getting wet. So doing your best to stay dry can really help with the comfort level of your hike. Plus, hiking in wet clothes isn’t much fun anyway. Hellooo chafing….
Take snacks you can eat on the move
Finding a dry place to sit is probably going to be difficult, so packing snacks you can eat on the move ensure a stress-free snack time. Try packing some jerky, cheese and crackers in a Ziploc, trail mix, or energy bars.
Take a hot drink
Hot chocolate or coffee in a thermos will help keep you warm when the temps get chilly.
Dry Your Gear
As soon as you get home, dry out your gear. Mold and mildew can happen fast and wreak havoc on your gear and clothing.
What to Do if You Get Wet
It happens to everyone at some point – you’re out on a hike, and it starts raining. Suddenly, you’re soaked to the bone and feeling miserable. But don’t despair – there are a few things you can do to make the best of the situation.
First, try to find shelter as soon as possible. If there’s no shelter available, try to create your own by using a tarp or poncho. Once you’re out of the rain, change into dry clothes if possible. If you don’t have any dry clothes with you, wring out your wet ones as best you can and put them back on.
Next, focus on staying Warm. Hypothermia is a real risk when you’re wet and cold, so try to generate some heat by doing some light exercise.
And finally, don’t forget to stay hydrated – even though you’re already wet, your body still needs water to function properly. So, drink up and enjoy the rest of your hike!
Now that you know how to properly prepare for a rainy-day hike, get out there and enjoy the almost guaranteed solitude. With the right gear, mindset and weather watching, a little wet weather won’t put a damper on your adventure.
However, if you find yourself UH-OHing more than OH-ing during your time on the trails it’s probably best to err on the cautious side and just call it quits until the clouds clear.