Let’s talk about hiking in the rain. If you are like me and will not let a little bit of bad weather keep you from exploring, you know that the woods in the rain can be just as beautiful as when you have blue skies and it’s sunny. And if you are not like me, then you shouldn’t let a little bit of rain keep you from seeing the woods in all of their beauty. However, I will say that I am talking about a drizzle to a shower. When it comes to deluges, I prefer to sit at home by the window and read a book.
Also I am not talking about storms. Lighting is dangerous, and I prefer to not be struck by it. Heavy rains can also be dangerous because you might get stranded during a flash flood. So it is best to keep an eye out for severe weather when hiking in the rain.
Now that I stated I don’t go hiking in storms, let me clarify that is not entirely true. My brother, Jacob, and I backpacked last winter, and the weatherman called for storms on the second night of the trip. Instead of cancelling the trip, we simply changed locations. We hiked into Mount Magazine State Park where we knew we could take shelter in a bathroom instead of being stranded in the woods. And we were glad we did. We ended up sleeping in the bathroom the entire night as it stormed all around us.
Not being prepared for the weather can make you never want to go hiking in the rain again. If you are not dressed properly, have your gear properly protected, or are not mentally prepared for it, it can ruin a trip. Knowing what the temperature will be and how much rain to expect are extremely important.
Wear the right clothing
Cotton may be soft and comfy when you are lounging around the house, but for hiking in the rain it is not desirable. Apparel designed for working out, will be great for wet hikes. Choose materials that are wicking and quick drying. Wicking will help keep the water off your skin.
Also if it is cold, wet cotton will make you more cold. Wool and fleece can still keep you warm despite being wet.
You should also invest in a light-weight rain jacket. One mistake I made when I bought my rain jacket was that it does not have a mesh liner on the inside. Without a liner the jacket sticks to my skin when I wear short sleeves. It’s a great jacket for cool rainy hiking when I have on long sleeves.
Dry sacks, trash bags, and rain cover
Some people chose to line their backpacks with trash bags to keep their gear dry in the rain. A kitchen-sized trash bag is just about the right size to line your backpacking pack. It’s a lightweight and cheaper option to expensive rain gear. However, I don’t like packing all my things into one trash bag because it makes it hard to get stuff out as you need it.
Instead I chose to use a rain cover and dry sacks. Some of my gear, like my camera equipment, simply cannot get wet. I have a dry bag that I used for kayaking until a slit showed up in it. Although it won’t keep my camera dry if emerged in water, it will definitely keep the rain out. So I shove my foam divider from my camera bag into my dry sack to pack it. If there is a chance for a heavy rain, sometimes I put my sleeping bag in a dry sack just for extra protection. But with my pack cover I have never had my pack to get wet while hiking in the rain. A another cheaper option is a Frogg Toggs cover.
Most of my food comes prepackaged in plastic, or if not I use ziplock containers to store it. So far that has been enough to keep out the moisture.
Wear a baseball cap or visor
Sure a baseball cap or visor is great for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but it also keeps the rain off of your face. On a recent backpacking trip I tried to go without my hat for a little while. I was already soaked, and the drizzly shower didn’t annoy me too much. However, the rain washed the sweat from head into my eyes, burning them. I gave in and put on my hat.
Don’t go without your tent sack
While backpacking in Montana a few years back, I decided to save on weight by leaving behind the sack I store my tent in. I shoved it into my sleeping bag container and put the stakes and poles in another place. I felt smart and ultra lightweight cool.
That night a heavy storm blew through the area. No big deal, the tent kept us and all our gear dry. I shook the tent and rain fly out to get as much water off as possible. However, it wasn’t enough. The entire next day, the wet tent dripped down my legs and into my boots. Despite hiking under blue skies, my butt, legs, and feet in my boots were completely soaked.
This could also follow under the “be prepared” bullet. If there is zero percent, or extremely low percent, chance of rain, you are probably safe to leave the sack behind.
Simply know you are going to get wet
Lagena and I planned for a three-day backpacking trip in Washington State a few years ago. Our trip was in a temperate rainforest. When you hike in a rainforest, just expect to be hiking in the rain. And we did hike in the rain. We took all the steps to keep dry, but we still got a little wet.
Some times you just have to mentally prepare yourself and know you are going to get a little wet.
What tips do you have for hiking in the rain? How do you cope?