12 Tips to Make Hiking in Rain Better
Hiking is awesome! Sometimes you just need to go out and bond with nature and there are not many better ways to do that, but to simply hike at a place you haven’t before. In some instances even hiking at a near trail that you know well will do just fine, as there’s always something new to find there as nature is ever changing. No matter whether it’s somewhere in the mountains or down a river valley you’ve went to since you were young, there are times when you can’t wait to go out and explore. In some instances this urge is so strong, that even the bad weather might not be able to stop you and the rain that is poring down is nothing but an inconvenience.
Well if that’s the case with you and you simply couldn’t wait for the storm to pass, we’ve got a list of things that will make your hiking in the rain much better and if you don’t know what gear to bring with you on your rainy hiking trip, we’ve got you covered here as well. We have a list of 12 points which will definitely help improve your experience and make you love hiking in the rain if you didn’t love it already
1.Wear waterproof hiking boots
Everybody knows that the foundation of a great hiking trip is making sure your feet are as comfortable as possible, just as everybody knows that once your feet get wet everything goes downhill from there. Even if you are just out grocery shopping and you get your feet wet it’s unbelievably uncomfortably. If you are a first time hiker and you get your feet wet for the rest of a day long hike, this might even make you hate this outdoor activity and not do it ever again. It is important to bear that in mind if you take a friend with you out for a hike on a rainy day and they don’t have the proper footwear for the occasion. You might end up getting this person to hate hiking and get the opposite result of what you were aiming for. A pair of waterproof hiking boots is easy to find and these days there are great hiking boots that will keep your feet dry even if you need to walk through a riverbed for a few miles. Just make sure that the level of the river is below the highest point of the shoes and you should be dry for the rest of your trip.
2.Keep your body warm and dry
Keeping your body dry is actually means that you should try to keep the rain water off your body and in the same time try to get all the sweat coming out of your body off of it as well. This is easier said then done, but with the right clothing you shouldn’t have any problems doing it. The clothes you pick for your hiking trip will actually depend whether it’s a long hike or a short one. If you’re going in out for a few hours, skipping the regular hiking pants might be a good idea, because tights will keep the water of your skin and will help keep your body temperature normal, without getting you to sweat excessively. A good synthetic base layer or even a long-sleeve cotton shirt will help your body keep cool and let the sweat evaporate of your body and to make the picture full, you would need a water repellent jacket as well. All of these clothes should allow you to move freely as this is also crucial to the final goal of having fun.
3. Keep your clothes comfortable
There’s a misconception that clothes that have one main purpose, can’t be practical as well. For instance, there’s an abundance of clothes out there that will both keep you warm and dry and let you move freely without any problems, making your hiking in the rain pleasant and getting you from point the starting point to the end of your journey safe, dry and will let you preserve energy for the adventures that await you the next day. Researches show that having comfortable clothes could help you use up to 10% less energy on a days hike, so if you are doing the Appalachian Trail for instance this amount of energy will help you do the whole trip in significantly shorter amount of time.
4.Keep your gear dry as well
There’s a lot of hiking gear for hiking in the rain, which could prove useful, but all of it should remain dry. Starting with your backpack and all the way to your smartphone, hiking gear should always be dry. Even a plain old map could become useless when it becomes wet, so make sure that you waterproof your gear before going out. Make sure that you have a good waterproof cover for your backpack to start with and build your way up to the waterproof cell phone cover.
5.Wear synthetic insulation for best results
There are times to wear synthetic mid-layers and a time to wear a long-sleeve cotton shirt. We’ll let you guess which one is best for hiking in the rain. If you guessed that hiking with a synthetic base layer in rain is your best choice, you were right. Cotton or wool shirts are great to keep you warm, but they also absorb a lot of the water coming from the rain and the water coming from your body as well. They will also help you lose temperature a lot faster then the synthetic shirts will and to be honest, the synthetic shirts made by the biggest names in the industry are actually quite comfortable. Some might even say that they are more comfortable then the good old cotton shirts, but we’ll leave that decision up to you. The decision to wear a synthetic base layer in rainy weather shouldn’t be put to question though.
6. Let your body breathe
We already talked about keeping yourself dry and keeping yourself comfortable, but we haven’t discussed letting your body breathe. This is a really important issue that lots of people tend to forget as there’s no real way to keep track of how much your body is able to breathe. Fortunately though, even though there isn’t a way to track that, there is a way to make sure it does and it also does without compromising comfort or your dryness. Breatheability will most likely be a problem if you are off on a hike for a longer period of time and in such instances tights won’t really work. What will work though is a pair of hiking pants with vents. Just like with ski jackets or snowboard jackets, there are vents which let the air circulation around your legs and torso be good, without having to sacrifice their dryness. The way this is possible is that the vents are carefully place on places where rain doesn’t directly hit the pants or the jacket you have. In most instances these vents will be placed under your armpits and on the pants you will find them behind your knees. Make sure to take your time when selecting both your pants and your jacket as they are the two most important aspects of your hiking gear aside from the boots you wear.
7. Put your electronics in ZipLocs
The easiest and cheapest way to keep your electronics dry on a hiking trip is to simply vacuum seal them in a ZipLoc bag. It doesn’t really even need to be a ZipLoc, but simply a nylon bag that you could effectively seal, so no water can get to it. Once you have your backpack covered with a waterproof cover (see point 4), and you have stored your stuff in such bags, you shouldn’t have any problems using everything you brought on your hiking trip in the rain.
8. Bring a second pair of everything
Keeping your clothes, boots and socks could only last for so long. If you decide to go hiking somewhere where it rains constantly you will have no other choice, but to change your clothes from time to time. The easiest and quickest way to make sure you have dry clothes at your disposal, is to simply have a second pair to wear once the one you’re wearing gets soaking wet. If you plan to go light, make sure you get at least the things that don’t weight a lot such as a pair of extra socks, an underwear shirt and a synthetic base layer. All synthetic clothes are noticeably lower in weight compared to cotton or wool shirts.
9. Make sure you are hydrated
Rainy weather means high humidity. High humidity combined with cardio vascular activity such as hiking in the rain is definitely a recipe for sweating your butt off. Keeping your skin dry is a certain way to keep your body warm if the weather is cold or to keep the temperature low without getting too hot. We mentioned that synthetic base layers could help with that already and that is because if your sweat is evaporated it will be harder for the cold or hot air outside to transfer to your skin as easy as it would if you were all wet. With that being said and stressing on the importance of good base layer clothing, we’ll talk about hydration a little more. If the regular requirements to drink at least 2 liters of water a day apply in a day with moderate or no exercise, this amount should be doubled in a day of physical activity such as a day hiking in the rain. Our tips for hiking in the rain are based on real life experience and 4 liters of water a day in a humid hot day are basically nothing. Did you know that a person that is engaged in physical activity for a long period of time could sweat up to 15 liters in a matter of hours. For instance the people that take part in the Ironman challenge in Hawaii are able to sweat north of that. Bring plenty of water. I personally fill at least 25% of my backpack with water if I am hiking somewhere without fresh water sources.
10. Keep your backpack closed most of the time
Your backpack should only be opened and exposed to the rainy weather whenever it’s really necessary. If it’s possible use some sort of a water supply system coming from your backpack through a straw, so you don’t need to open the backpack often. Another instance when you might need to open it is to get a fresh set of clothes to change the ones already wet from the rain. Taking out a bandage to take care of blisters and other things like that are obviously smart too, but aside from those examples, there aren’t that many reasons why you should open the backpack. If you do this and it’s poring rain outside, the inside of the backpack will fill with raindrops, which will hardly escape a waterproof backpack and will add additional weight unnecessarily. It will also expose your dry gear and clothes to the rain water, which also isn’t ideal.
11. Keep your wet stuff out of your tent
Keeping your wet clothes, socks or whatever else you’ve got in your dry tent isn’t a good idea – ever. The moisture in them obviously won’t get to you in the form of rain drops, but water has it’s ways and it will eventually get to your pillow, sleeping bag or anything else you have struggled to keep dry during the day. Before getting in your tent (if you are on a multy day hike and you’re staying inside a tent that is) Ieave anything in a bag somewhere outside your tent. It will not only help keep yourself dry and significantly warmer, but it will also add some additional space that you could probably use to snuggle with someone.
12. Keep an eye on your feet and take extra care of them against blisters
Blisters are the hikers natural enemy. They could make even the best day into a nightmare and if you don’t take care of them things could really get ugly. There are natural oils in the skin on your body and in the skin on the back of your foot, that are easily rubbed of when friction and water are involved. These natural oils help prevent the skin from tearing when it is in contact with other skin or material, such as, oh I don’t know… the leather on your hiking boots. Even with the best socks this process is inevitably and you will have to eventually either rub some natural oil extract to supplement the one your body creates, or you’ll have to figure out a way to keep the friction low somehow. There are ways to do so, such as wearing looser footwear, but when hiking in rainy weather, on wet ground, that is not really advised. It’s hardly a surprise to tell you that hiking in the rain causes at least 30% more injuries then hiking in dry weather.
We wouldn’t like to end on such a bad note though as hiking in rainy weather could be a great joy and in some instances it’s one of the most peaceful experiences one could have. Hearing the raindrops hit the leaves and the thunder rumbling far in the distance somewhere. When you take the necessary steps to ensure you are prepared, hiking in the rain is great for the family too. Just make sure that you get everyone prepared with the necessary gear.
We have also created a list with gear which you should consider to make the experience that much better.
Additional tips for hiking in the rain
We couldn’t really conclude this article without writing some more stuff about hitting the trail when it rains. Although we believe to have provided you with some useful information that will help make things easier once you’re already out there, there’s more about the topic which we want to cover as well. One of the most important aspects of hiking in the rain is keeping the right mindset for the occasion. If you often go on the trail to experience nature, it’s inevitable to catch some bad weather and experience rain yourself. Having the right mindset will definitely help you overcome the unpleasant feel at first and in some instances might even get your spirits to rise even more. Try not to think of the wet clothes as much as to experience nature even better that way. Focus on the good things instead of the unpleasantness. Feel the muddy trail beneath your feet, inhale the fresh air and enjoy the sounds of the raindrops hitting the trees and the water meeting when raindrops hit the puddles. Life is about experiences and I’ve found that great quote somewhere online, which said
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass
Some people actually like the sound of rain and feel it soothing and so do I. People can actually endure a lot of rain during the hike, but at the end it’s really important to sleep somewhere dry. This is exactly why we wrote this guide to hiking in rain and we listed some of the essential gear for hiking in rain as well, so you can enjoy the hike, but can get a good night sleep at the end of the day for the adventures that await you on the next morning.
Another great advise that you could take advantage if you don’t have a rain hat is to use a baseball cap over the hood of your rain jacket. There are a couple of upsides of doing so, one of which is that water won’t get on your face and in your eyes in case it rains hard and the other one is that when you decide to turn around, the cap helps turn the hood too, letting you see wherever your head is pointing, instead of being blindsided by the hood.
One more upside to hiking in the rain is that most people get discouraged to go out, because of various reasons such as being unprepared or they simply don’t like the idea, which makes this perfet for you, as you are well prepared and can easily enjoy the less crowded hiking trail. Less crowded means you can enjoy the great views without waiting and many more.
Where to position your tent in rain
This one is quite important. Positioning your tent at the end of the day at the right spot could mean the difference between sleeping like a baby and not being able to blink the whole night. We already covered the fact that you should keep a fresh set of clothes which are dry inside your backpack. That’s the first important rule to be able to sleep well, with the second one being the right positioning of the tent, which should cover these few points:
- Make sure you pick a raised mound
- Look for a raised mound between two trees for easier tarp set up
We’ll make sure to continue updating this guide as hiking in the rain isn’t a rare occasion, especially in some parts of the US and if you are hiking somewhere in the United Kingdom for example. Many countries have over 50% rainy days which lowers the chance of going outdoors without experiencing the conditions we went over in this article. To conclude this article and leave you with only one final thought we have decided to put things in a simple perspective.
Embrace the rain, embrace nature as it is and enjoy the simplest things while you’re out there
Essential gear for hiking in rain
- Waterproof Boots
- Wateproof Socks
- Waterproof Backpack Cover
- Waterproof Hat
- Waterproof Poncho for Hiking
- Waterproof Tent with a vestibule for your wet gear (if the forecast for rainy weather is long and you don’t have any accommodation)
We are currently working on an infographic which will include all of the essential gear for hiking in rainy conditions, which should be published in the next week or so. Hopefully you’ll find it useful and it will save you time reading the whole article next time you are up against unpleasant weather.