How To Go Hiking In The Rain – You Don’t Need To Look And Feel Like A Drowned Rat!

When you’re planning a hike, probably the first thing you look at is the weather. We all like hiking when it’s sunny and dry, right? But if you know how to prepare, there’s no reason the rain should stop you. Here’s my guide on how to enjoy hiking in the rain.

Clothing

The key to choosing the right clothing for rain is layers. This will give you the best chance of keeping as dry as possible and also staying at the right temperature. If you’re too hot, you can remove layers, if you are too cold you can add more.

1. Avoid Down And Cotton

The first rule for choosing clothing for hiking in the rain is to avoid down and cotton. Down is the best insulator – but only when it’s dry. If your down insulating layer gets wet it will be worse than useless as it won’t keep you warm and it will become heavier with the water.

Cotton is a bad choice for hiking in any conditions. It soaks up any moisture, including rain and your sweat, and then takes a long time to dry. Go for synthetics or wool.


2. Top Layer

The most important thing about your top layer is that you choose a breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar. If your top layer doesn’t let moisture escape, you might keep the rain out but you will end up soaked in sweat anyway.

Another important feature of good rain jackets is that they should have pit vents. This helps with airflow and lets moisture escape instead of building up inside.


3. Inner Layers

For your inner layers, choose synthetics or fleeces. These will help keep you warm and perform best when wet.


4. Bottoms

If the weather is changeable with rain showers coming and going, you may wish to take a pair of breathable rain pants with you to slip over your regular pants when they rain comes. Make sure they have ankle zippers so you can get them on quickly without removing your boots.

If you are expecting constant rain, you may wish to choose a pair of running tights directly under a pair of rain pants instead of regular hiking pants. This will keep you warm, give you maximum mobility and comfort and will keep you driest.


5. Footwear

There are a couple of tips for choosing the right footwear for a rainy hike. One choice is waterproof hiking boots. They will keep your feet dry even if you end up walking through puddles and give you good grip in slippery conditions.

Young Hiker In Hiking Boots

Hiking Boots

The disadvantage with boots are that if the conditions are particularly wet and especially if you have to ford streams, your feet will get wet anyway. If the water is above your boots, it will just enter over the top of your boots. Once wet inside, boots can take several days to dry.

Another option is to accept that your feet are going to get wet anyway so you can adopt a minimalist approach. Swap your boots for a pair of running shoes. Your feet will get wet but running shoes dry quicker. However, you sacrifice the grip of a good pair of walking boots.

Man Hiking In A Pair Of Running Shoes

Running Shoes

My advice is to opt for boots if it’s a one day hike – you can dry your boots at the end. If it’s longer, go for running shoes. You have more chance of getting them dry between each day of walking and you won’t have to wake up and put on soggy boots every morning.


6. Socks

Again, the mantra is: no cotton. Go for wool or synthetic hiking socks. This is particularly important since you are more prone to getting blisters when hiking in the wet and you should do everything you can to combat this risk.


7. Gaiters

Man Wearing Hiking Boots And Gaiters

Some people like to wear gaiters to try to stop the water getting in over their boots. Personally, I don’t bother, I think it’s extra kit I don’t need but that’s just personal preference.

Equipment

Here is some of the equipment you’ll need to combat rain on the trails:​

1. Backpack

Young Woman With Red Backpack Rain Cover Mountaineering

You have two choices, either a backpack with a rain cover or a fully waterproof backpack. The advantages of a fully waterproof backpack are clear but there are not so many good ones to choose from and they can be expensive. You can check out my guide to waterproof backpacks here.

Rain covers don’t make your backpack fully waterproof but keep the worst of the dampness out. The disadvantage is that you have to put them off on and take them off according to the weather and they prevent easy access to your kit. They also tear easily.


2. Waterproof Bags

Dry Bag Sack, Waterproof Bags For Kayaking, Camping And Hiking

Even if you have a waterproof backpack, it’s probably a smart idea to keep your valuables in plastic bags inside your backpack, things like documents and electronics as well as your map. The best choice is zip lock bags for small items.

You can use an internal backpack liner as an alternative which will keep everything drier than an external cover.


3. Poles

Hikers Walking The Forest With Poles

Some people like to take hiking poles for wet weather. They help you with balance and make it easier to avoid slipping, especially when going downhill. You can also gauge the depth of mud with them.


4. Trekking Umbrella

Some people like to take a special trekking umbrella.

Personally, I think this is extra unnecessary kit most of the time but in some conditions, it may be useful. This is up to you.

Couple Hiking With Trekking Umbrella Hands Free

Hands-Free Trekking Umbrella
Image: Outdoors.stackexchange.com

Preparation

With the proper preparation, you can improve your experience of hiking in the rain considerably.​

1. Choose The Right Trail

Young Couple Hikers On The Road In The Mountains

There’s no point slipping and sliding up to a viewpoint when…there’s zero visibility! Flat hikes are best for rain so perhaps choose something more suitable for the conditions like a forest trail.


2. Food

Young Hiker Having A Snack With Healthy Food In Lunch Box In The Rain Forest

Having a Snack with Healthy Food!

Realize that you’re not going to be able to cook properly so take food that you can eat quickly without preparing. Take meals and snacks that are easy to eat in the rain.


3. Hot Drink

Two Girls Hiker Drink Hot Tea While Relaxing

When hiking in the rain, it is vital to keep your morale up so take a thermos with hot tea or coffee in it. You’ll really appreciate it when you’re cold and wet and it will taste better than ever in these conditions!

Skills

There are a few useful skills you should learn when hiking in the rain.

1. Blister Treatment

A Hiker Inspecting A Foot Blister

Inspecting A Foot Blister

Take a blister kit and learn how to look after your feet. If you are hiking for several days, massage your feet in the evenings and apply moisturizer. You can’t let yourself get blisters.


2. Don’t Open Your Bag Too Much

Open your backpack as little as possible to prevent water getting inside. Carry essentials in your pockets for ease of access.


3. Wet Clothes

Store wet clothes in the vestibule, not inside your tent, or they will wet the rest of your gear. Make sure you dry your gear at every opportunity.

Conclusion

Hiking Girl In Raincoat Lead The Guy To The Mountain

If you follow my tips, there’s no reason why a little rain should keep you indoors. You’re going to get wet but as long as you manage it properly – and you keep the right positive attitude – hiking in the rain can be enjoyable too. It’s a different challenge but one that’s a lot of fun to take on.

Do you have any other tips for hiking in the rain? What suggestions do you have? Do you enjoy hiking in the rain or do you just stay indoors and wait? I’d love to hear your comments – and if you enjoy my article, please don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain
 

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I’m an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I’ve worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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