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Tips for hiking in the rain

17 April 2023

Most hikers love spending as much time outdoors as possible, and although we may try to plan our trips around good weather, it's not always feasible. Whether you're thru-hiking on a multi-day trek or just out for a short day hike to your favourite waterfall, if you spend enough time in nature, sooner or later, you'll have to do some hiking in the rain. 

In this article, we will discuss how to plan for inclement weather, what types of clothing to wear outdoors, what to do during the hike, and how to handle things once the rain has stopped. If you've taken the time to prepare correctly, hiking in the rain can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Preparing

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Planning and preparation are the keys to any successful outdoor adventure, and being unprepared for rain is the quickest way to ruin the trip. Light summer rain is one thing, but often when hiking, we find ourselves in mountains and canyons where heavy rainfall can cause flash floods and turn small streams into raging rivers.  

The first and most obvious way to plan is by checking the weather forecast, but keep in mind that, especially in the mountains, the weather can change quickly. The other crucial thing to be aware of is the time of year and location you'll be hiking. It is not uncommon to be hiking in shorts and a t-shirt at the trailhead and have it start snowing on you at the summit. Also, consider the potential nighttime temperatures at different elevations and what you might want to have if you were forced to stay the night on the trail in a thunderstorm.  

That brings us to gear. Keeping your gear dry is the name of the game. There are lots of expensive pieces of equipment out there that you can buy to keep your gear dry, but one of the most versatile is the simple heavy-duty garbage bag. A garbage bag can be used as a pack liner similar to a dry bag, function as a pack cover, and be made into a tarp.  

Another handy item to bring along is a Ziplocbag for your electronics and any other small items you may not want to get wet. It's also a good idea to bring along some duct tape or repair tape to patch any holes that might let water in.

A satellite communicator or SOS device is another piece of kitthat is always a good idea topack in case you find yourself injured or stranded due to wet weather. If you plan ahead bychecking the weather forecast, are mindful of your location and the potential for changes to thatforecast, and bring emergency items to keep everything as dry as possible, you will be wellprepared for your next outdoor adventure.

What to wear 

Your clothing is your first layer of protection against the elements, and choosing the proper clothing is essential for any trip outdoors. The first rule to remember regarding outdoor clothing is the old adage, cotton kills. Cotton doesn't retain its insulative properties when wet like wool, nor is it quick drying like synthetics. For these reasons, cotton is not recommended for outdoor clothing, especially clothing worn next to the skin, like your base layer.  

A lightweight insulating mid layer is also an excellent item to throw in your bag if you need extra warmth on the trail. Bringing a windproof and waterproof shell is vital for keeping dry out on the trail. Make sure you choose a jacket with an adjustable hood so it stays tight and keeps the rain out. Wearing a cap underneath the hood can also help keep water off your face when it's really coming down.  

Unless you only want half of your body to be dry, a good set of wind and waterproof pants is also worth your consideration. Make sure they are long enough to cover the tops of your hiking boots so that the water doesn't run down your pants and into your shoes.  

Speaking of boots, it doesn't do you any good to waterproof your whole body but leave out your feet. Having wet feet is one of the quickest ways to make a hike miserable. Not only does no one like hiking in wet boots, but keeping your feet dry will also help prevent blisters. Waterproof boots are always recommended to avoid soggy feet, and it's a good idea to bring along a spare pair of dry socks just in case.  

No matter the weather, choosing the right clothing can make or break a hike. Keep these tips in mind so you can stay dry when everything else is wet. 

During the hike 

During your hike, a few simple tips will help you make the most out of the experience.

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  • The first is to open your pack as least as possible. The more you open your backpack, the more you run the risk of getting your gear soaked.  

  • Trekking poles are extremely beneficial when the trail gets wet, and taking shorter strides can help you to maintain your balance on slippery terrain.  

  • A warm drink can brighten the darkest and dampest days, so packing a small stove to brew your favourite cosy beverage might not be a bad idea. It's also a good idea to bring snacks that don't turn to mush if they get damp, like trail mix.  

  • With rain often comes thunder and lightning. If you find yourself on a summit when a thunderstorm hits, get down as quickly and safely as possible.

  • Stay out of the open and avoid any high ground, lonely trees, or metal fences.

    If you follow these simple tips, you'll be well on your way to a safe and enjoyable hike, even in the rain. 

After the hike 

Once you've finished your hike in the rain, the first thing to do is to remove any clothes that may have gotten wet, dry yourself as thoroughly as possible, and put on fresh dry garments. After any hike, it's important to replenish lost fluids by drinking plenty of water and restoring lost electrolytes. Additionally, eating a nutritious meal can help restore the energy you lost while trekking.  

Once you've gotten home, hanging up your wet gear and letting it dry is essential, as packing away wet equipment can lead to mould and mildew. Taking care of ourselves and our gear after an adventure ensures that we are able to continue our outdoor pursuits long into the future. 

Embrace hiking in the rain 

Part of spending time doing what we love in the outdoors is dealing with the elements. Rain can be an annoying element to deal with, but with the right knowledge, and a little bit of preparation, a hike in the rain can be an enjoyable experience.  

It's always important to plan ahead. Look at the forecasted weather and expect it to change. Always let someone know where you're going and when you plan to be back. Bring emergency items to keep you and your gear dry. Proper clothing is your first line of defence and the most critical component of a successful excursion in lousy weather. Remember, cotton kills, and bring extra socks.  

During a hike in the rain, it's vital to have safety at the forefront of your mind. Using trekking poles and shortening your stride can help keep you from slipping. After your hike, rehydrate, refuel, and thoroughly dry your gear before packing it away.  

Follow these tips, and you can turn a hike in the rain from a dreaded experience into a pleasant outing. 

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