5 Tips for Hiking in the Rain: How to Stay Dry & Comfortable

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5 Tips for Hiking in the Rain

Ok…I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a fair weather hiker. I like my sunshine, a warm gentle breeze, and clear skies. In New Zealand, I struggled with this a bit – particularly in Milford Sound  where it rains like 200 days a year. The hiking there is truly EPIC, but I let a wet spell during my visit keep me off the trail. And guess what…now I feel like I missed out.

Now that Spring is here, I’ve decided that this has got to change. Bring on those showers that make everything so green and pretty…

In this guest post, Vancouver native and outdoor blogger Taryn Eyton shares her best tips for hiking in the rain. Now grab that rain coat and get out there!

by Taryn Eyton

I live in Vancouver, BC on Canada’s wet… I mean West Coast, and it rains a LOT here. If I waited for it to stop raining, I probably would never get outside. SO I hike in the rain.

Hiking in the wet might sound like no fun, but if you follow these simple tips I promise you’ll go from being a fair weather hiker into an all-weather hiker.

— Choose the Right Trail —

On rainy days there’s no point in hiking for hours to a summit if you won’t see the view. Forest hikes, riverside trails or trips to lakes are great on wet days, and waterfalls can be especially spectacular.

April showers bring....wet hiking. Learn how to stay comfortable and dry on the trail with these 5 simple tips for hiking in the rain (Photo: Fiordlands National Park, New Zealand)

Pick a shorter hike, something that will take you a few hours or an afternoon, rather than an all day epic. I like to choose hikes on a network of trails where I can head out for a longer loop if I’m feeling up to it, or choose a shorter route if the weather turns out to be truly terrible.  And of course trails that have a cafe nearby for post-hike lattes get bonus points.

Make sure you read up on the trail beforehand. If there are creeks to ford, steep slippery sections or if the trail is prone to flooding, save it for a dry day.

— Wear the Right Clothing —

You’ve heard the saying “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” and it’s mostly true. It’s a fine balance between getting wet on the outside from rain and getting wet on the inside from sweat. Make sure your jacket is both waterproof AND breathable (think Gore-Tex or similar) and make sure it has pit zips for venting and an adjustable hood. You may also want to invest in waterproof breathable pants. I also wear a nylon or polyester baseball cap since the brim keeps the water out of my eyes.

April showers bring....wet hiking. Learn how to stay comfortable and dry on the trail with these 5 simple tips for hiking in the rain

Underneath your rain gear you should wear a synthetic or wool baselayer like lightweight long underwear or running tights and a tech tee. If you aren’t wearing waterproof pants (they can be too hot), wear something water-resistant like nylon hiking pants with a durable water repellency (DWR) finish or just your running tights or long underwear since they will keep you warm when wet. Keep a warm layer like a fleece or synthetic puffy jacket in your pack to put on if you get cold. Whatever you do, avoid cotton clothing as it soaks up water and is not warm when wet.

Waterproof hiking boots are the key to happiness on soggy trails. The traditional choice would be leather hiking boots but lighter weight trail shoes made of fabric with a Gore-Tex lining work too.  Wear wool or synthetic socks. If it’s muddy or I expect deep puddles I like to wear gaiters too as they keep mud and water from sneaking in between the bottom of your pants and the top of your boots. (Of course I carry an extra pair of socks just in case.)

READ MORE: What to Wear Hiking

— Bring the Right Gear —

Invest in a lightweight silnylon rain cover for your backpack to keep it dry. You can also use dry bags, silnylon stuff sacks or even ziploc bags to keep gear dry inside your pack; I use them to make sure my extra clothes stay extra dry.

Bearfoot Theory tip: You can also avoid the need for a rain cover by investing in a waterproof backpack. Check out the Outdry and Scrambler packs made by Mountain Hardwear.

— Shop Popular Rain Gear —

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April showers bring....wet hiking. Learn how to stay comfortable and dry on the trail with these 5 simple tips for hiking in the rain

It’s unconventional for hiking, but you can also bring an umbrella. If it’s not windy and the trail is wide enough, an umbrella can keep you drier than raingear and can act as a mini shelter to take breaks under.

I like to use trekking poles for hiking in the rain. They help me keep my balance on slippery roots and rocks and they are also helpful for gauging the depth of mud bogs.

— Bring the Right Snacks —

Stopping to have a leisurely picnic isn’t going to happen on a rainy hike, so bring foods you can eat on the go. I like to pack granola bars or nuts into the pockets of my hipbelt and drink from a hydration reservoir so I don’t have to stop. Consider bringing a thermos of tea or hot chocolate to warm you up if it’s cold.

READ MORE: Simple Hiking Food Ideas

— Have the Right Attitude —

Learn to love the rain! Here in the Pacific Northwest we call it liquid sunshine. If you only go out when the weather is fine, you’re only seeing part of the story: In the rain everything looks greener, the creeks burble louder, the waterfalls gush and you get beautiful misty and moody photo opportunities. The trails will be much less crowded and you might even have them to yourself.  And if the sun does come out in the end you’ll get to see my favorite weather phenomenon: sunbeams floating through mist.

April showers bring....wet hiking. Learn how to stay comfortable and dry on the trail with these 5 simple tips for hiking in the rain

 

HappiestOutdoors.ca

About the author:  Taryn’s home is in Vancouver but her heart is in the great outdoors. Her first ever backpacking trip was a 5-day blitz of the West Coast Trail over a decade ago and she’s been hooked on hiking ever since. You can often find her on the trails of Vancouver’s North Shore on weeknights and somewhere in the backcountry of Southwestern B.C. on weekends. Keep up with Taryn’s adventures on her blog, HappiestOutdoors.ca and on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

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There are 11 comments on this post.

About the author

Taryn’s home is in Vancouver but her heart is in the great outdoors. Her first ever backpacking trip was a 5-day blitz of the West Coast Trail over a decade ago and she’s been hooked on hiking ever since. You can often find her on the trails of Vancouver’s North Shore on weeknights and somewhere in the backcountry of Southwestern B.C. on weekends. Keep up with Taryn’s adventures on her blog, HappiestOutdoors.ca and on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

11 Comments on “5 Tips for Hiking in the Rain: How to Stay Dry & Comfortable

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  1. Fantastic post! As a novice backpacker, I’d also love to hear a few tips and tricks for setting up/breaking down camp in a rainstorm (and keeping everything dry in the process).

      Great question. It’s tough to stay keep your stuff dry when you are breaking down in the rain. There are some tents that you can keep the fly up while the rest of tent is stowed….it’s called dry pitching. Maybe we will do a follow up post on this….Thanks for stopping by!

      Hi Maddie! If it’s raining I often have a lightweight silnylon tarp set up as a kitchen shelter. I pack up everything inside the tent, then take my pack and any other gear out and store them under the tarp. Then I pack up the tent (in a lightweight waterproof stuff sack), then run over under the tarp to pack the tent into my backpack, put on all my raingear and put the pack cover on my pack. After everyone else in my group has their stuff ready, we all help to take down the tarp super fast and head out into the rain. We dry everything out at home. Happy camping!

        Taryn, thanks so much for sharing – it’s super helpful to be able to visualize the whole process!

    This is such a great post! There isn’t too much hiking close to Chicago where I live, but definitely lots back home in Wisconsin! And being in the midwest… when it rains, it pours. Thanks for all of the great info on how to properly prep Taryn and Kristen! Truth be told, I had not even considered waterproof backpacks!

    Advertised as waterproof … are not. Read the deails carefully and do your research. These boots are only waterproof to a point. That point is related to the amount and duration of exposure. The top of the line “waterproof” boot will keep your feet dry f you occasionally step in a shallow creek or puddle that does not top the boot. But if you walk in the rail for the entire day or walk in shallow water all day your feet will be as wet as if you had been barefoot all day. No boot can take it forever. And by the way, St of the top of the line boots are leather. Once wet they will take FOREVER! to dry. And they will swell and cause problems if you continue to walk in them. Solution: Unless you’re in the types of terrain that requires the sturdiness ofnthenbug, heavy, leather 6 or 8 inch boots get a pair of the trail runner style hiking shoes that are completely porous. As you walk in the rain or water you want to see the water inside the shoe comslapshing out the top and sides as your foot presses into the soul with each step. No leather … Or as little as possible. The quality ones don’t cost that much less than the heavy boots but their design is the key. At the end ofmthenday hang them in a place where the wind will blow through them and they will be dry in the morning. Again: “WATERPROOF” BOOTS ARE NOT ACTUALLY WATERPROOF. I found this out the hard way on the AT Thru-hike. I suggest something like the Salomon XA Pro 3D.

    To take photos without a care consider getting an Olympus Tough camera: waterproof, submersible, drop-able and takes great pictures.

      Thanks for the advice Harry! I’ll have to check out the Olympus line. Happy shooting!

      I am so glad to see your post. I bought the Olympus Tough camera a couple of years ago. I don’t use it often because I use my DSLR as my go-to camera. I am climbing Mt. Meru in Tanzania in August and I didn’t want to bring my DSLR on the climb. My Olympus Tough was my second choice because of weight, waterproof, and shockproof features. I also need it to take great photos. Now I need become more familiar with its features.

    Great tips! Hiking in the rain might sound like a miserable experience, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Taking a rainy day hike can offer solitude and a special ambiance, especially if you’re dressed to stay dry and warm.

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