Some seasons or climates are consistently wet. You may face rain and wet weather for a good portion of a hike or backpacking trip. So, hiking in the rain requires a different focus when it comes to preparation and gear selection. If you are not prepared, get wet, and have days of rain, hiking can become miserable. Let’s get you ready!
Benefits of hiking in the rain
For some people, the idea of hiking in wet weather is a turn-off and not a fun time at all. However, there are certain benefits.
- Some really cool, beautiful places are rainy (Pacific North West, Ireland, UK) most of the time – not much you can do about it
- Locations that get a lot of rain can be super green and gorgeous
- Less crowded – rainy hikes and hiking days are less busy on the trails – solitude!
- In hot/humid climates, it can be welcome and refreshing
- Wet weather is so different and is an experience in itself just like Winter hiking
Must-have gear for hiking in the rain
First, take a look at the ten essentials of hiking. This is always a great starting point for developing your checklist for a big hike or backpacking adventure.
Your backpack: keep it dry (and your gear inside)
It is super important to keep your gear dry. Even if your hiking backpack or hiking daypack claims to be waterproof, it likely is not. If you face heavy rain (and downpours) for hours or days it is likely that water will eventually seep through the seams or the zipper. Once things get wet they can be challenging to dry out. Especially if you face persistent wet weather. Being wet and cold for days is not fun. Protect what’s inside your pack!
How to protect what’s in your pack:
- Backpack raincover – keep the rain away from your pack seams and zippers
- Dry sacks – use one for gear/electronics, one for clothing (or divide
- Waterproof cases – another option for phones, sensitive gear
- Garbage/trash + Ziploc bags – affordable, quick and easy extra protection (use sparingly and recycle usage)
- Duct tape – great for fast emergency repairs and waterproofing
Okay, now you know how to keep your backpack and gear inside it dry. Super easy.
So, what’s next? Let’s take a look at some additional gear that can make hiking in the rain a good time.
More hiking gear for rain + wet weather
- Waterproof map
- Trekking poles – no need to slip around, stay stable, and conserve energy
- Extra blister treatment supplies – wet feet often lead to blisters (no fun)
- Bandana or small towel – keep your face and eyewear dry
- Waterproof matches or fire starter
- Decent Tent – get the best tent you can afford that is waterproof and has a good rain fly
Clothing tips for hiking in the rain
Are you ready for the rainfall?
Before you hit the trails take a look at all your rain gear and hiking clothes. Lay it all out on the floor. You never know what condition it may be in if you have not used it for a while. Without taking a close look I threw my lightweight softshell jacket (aka my rain jacket) in my bag for a spring ski. When I got to the hill I realized all of the water-resistant treatment on the inside fabric was flaking off. It had totally decomposed. The jacket was ineffective. So, these things can happen! Be safe and thoroughly review your chosen hiking outfits.
Okay, let’s get into some of our top tips for wet weather.
- Do NOT take/wear cotton or denim clothing (it holds water, makes you feel cold and can lead to hypothermia)
- Pack clothing made of moisture-wicking materials such as wool, nylon or polyester
- Opt for synthetic insulation in your jackets and pants because down becomes less effective when wet (brrr…chilly)
Rain gear tips
- Examine your current rain gear (rain jacket, rain pants, rain hat) to see if it is in good condition
- If you are buying new rain gear buy a quality rain jacket and pair of rain pants
- Should be waterproof/breathable (Gore-Tex) and windproof
- Get rain gear with ventilation zippers to regulate your body heat
- Take a rain hat (many hikers overlook) – it’ll keep the rain well off your face which is more comfortable
- Renew DWR on your rain gear each hiking season – eventually, it decomposes and becomes ineffective
Footwear (hiking boots + hiking shoes) tips
- Check your footwear – make sure your hiking boots or hiking shoes are in great condition
- Be sure there are no rips in fabric/leather
- Renew waterproofing (leather hiking boots)
- Treads and lug patterns should not be worn out – deep lugs are necessary for navigating mud and gripping wet slick grounds
- Other footwear considerations
- Hiking boots/shoes with synthetic uppers dry more quickly, are waterproof (with Gore-Tex), are lighter and more nimble, and most often more comfortable
- Hiking boots with leather uppers are naturally waterproof (if sealed), more durable and protective, but are heavier/clunkier, and often cause blisters
- If you are backpacking for days you might want some campsite shoes
Other wet weather clothing tips
- Take gaiters to keep your socks dry and prevent water from getting into your footwear
- Pack extra hiking socks – comfortable, dry socks prevent blisters and keep feet warm
- Take extra clothes because once they get wet they often remain wet
- Get a good base layer and mid layer that has some wool content to keep warm
- A wool/synthetic blend is ideal because synthetic materials wick moisture and dry more quickly
Final tips for wet weather hiking
At times, hiking in the rain can be draining in mind and body. Here are some tips to help cope with long stretches of hiking in wet weather.
- Take food and snacks you love and that are easy to eat and prepare
- Be sure to drink an adequate amount of water to avoid dehydration
- Some hikers drink less in cold and wet weather however if you are working hard you need the water
- Choose interesting trails that have rewarding destinations (killer views)
- Work at staying dry because once wet it is tough to dry out
- Take shelter and a break if it can help stay dry
- Weather – be safe and watch for lightning and severe weather storms
- Your attitude/mindset determines your experience – if you know it is going to be wet and rainy accept it and embrace it