However fun backpacking during good weather conditions might be, there are few things more exciting than challenging yourself to do so during rain. It can be really fun – the sound of the leaves rustling as they are hit by the raindrops, the cooler temperatures that will ensure you will not feel like a dried-out raisin after sweating profusely, the smell of fresh plants, and many other things. The rain will also prevent any insects from, for a lack of a better expression, bugging you, which is a big advantage. So here are 5 secrets to stay dry while hiking in the rain.
Never forget the 10 Essentials
First off, before heading into the subject of the article, it is worth mentioning that regardless of the weather, all hiking trips should start with the ten essentials:
1. Navigation, which includes items such as map, compass, GPS device. You should also add a rain gauge to this list to measure the rainfall. This way, if the device indicates an approaching storm, you will know if it is wise going further or heading back. If you want to find the best rain gauge for your hiking trip, check the list provided in the linked article.
2. Headlamp and spare batteries
3. Sun protection, because you never know when the rain decides to vanish.
4. First aid items such as bandages, antibiotics, antiseptic, and insect repellents.
5. Survival knife for shelter building, fire starting, food preparation and other tasks related to survival.
6. Shelter, meaning a tent or an emergency bivy
7. Food, obviously
9. Spare clothes
10. Fire starting items like tinder, matches and a couple of lighters
These are the ten most essential items you will need regardless of the weather. Of course, this list is not set in stone, and you can easily adapt it with other items, such as umbrellas, emergency flares and other types of medicine.
Items for Protecting Yourself and the Gear
Now, as for protecting your gear against the effects of rain, you should also pack several items designed specifically for this purpose:
- Ziplock plastic bags. While not as effective against water as trash bags, they are quite inexpensive. They are ideal for short hiking trips. However, if you plan on staying longer, you should give these a pass.
- Trash bags. These are very resistant against water, with some people calling them the ‘’unofficial essential eleventh’’. Kind of like how fans used to call George Martin the ‘’fifth Beatle’’.
- Lightweight dry sacks. You can use these to add an extra layer of protection to perishable food items inside your backpack.
- Towels for wiping dry, wet gear
- Extra blister supplies, because wet feet are more prone to developing blisters, bunions, and other conditions.
- Handwarmers to prevent your extremities from getting uncomfortable.
- Headlamps. Since this is one of the 10 essentials (or 11, or 12, or who the hell knows anymore, there is so much stuff), you should absolutely pack it.
- Trekking poles. Actually, you might as well consider this the 12th essential item. Poles can be a huge help if the terrain is especially slippery.
Essential Clothing Tips
Now that we have established a clear-cut list of essential gear, it is time to talk about clothing. Ideally, what you will want to do is pick clothing in such a way that it will provide you with enough waterproofness without sacrificing mobility. More specifically, you will have to:
Go for bright colors. And no, this is not just to brighten up your mood on a gloomy day. In the case of an emergency, bright colors will help search teams locate you in a timely fashion. You never know, right?
Choose jackets with synthetic insulation, as standard downs ones gradually lose their insulation capabilities as they are getting wetter. Ideally, you should pick a hybrid that combines these two elements.
Do not dress in cotton under no circumstances. When it comes to rain hiking, cotton is a big no-no because it holds lots of water, including sweat, and you risk succumbing to hypothermia. Instead of cotton, go with clothes that are made out of wicking materials, such as nylon, polyester, and wool.
Obviously, since the extremities are the first to fall victim to the effects of cold and humidity, you should make sure to get waterproof boots and shoes. All waterproof boots are made out of special materials that counteract the effects of rain, keeping your feet warm and dry in the process. A good rule of thumb is to renew waterproof footwear after each season, especially if you notice dark spots developing after getting in contact with water.
With that being said, before advancing to the next entry, we should address a common misconception circulating around the internet, namely the fact that rain jackets can double as windbreakers while hiking. This is wrong (not to mention dangerous) for two simple reasons. First, rain jackets, due to the fact that the fabric is tighter in order to keep water out, do not breathe as well as windbreakers.
Second, sweating can break down the waterproof material. In other words, by wearing a jacket on normal weather, you will be sweating more than usual, advancing the rate of its breakdown. Keep the rain jacket for appropriate occasions and invest in a lightweight windbreaker for hiking in normal conditions.
Hazards to Check out For While Hiking During Rain
However, as fun as hiking in rainy conditions might be, there are still some hazards you have to be wary of. You need to be prepared in case anything goes wrong, and we can’t stress this fact enough. Here is what you should watch out for:
- In case you select a canyon country as your hiking location, you should check the weather forecasts before going out. To keep yourself safe in case of flash floods, always check for quickly accessible and easily reachable higher ground
- Be careful on slippery surfaces, meaning you keep a steady pace on slimy rocks, muddy slopes, and wet logs.
- Before crossing a creek, make sure to unbuckle your hip belt. The last thing you will need while being swept by a current is something weighing you down, and the best way to prevent this is ensuring that you can get free of your backpack.
- Hypothermia. Apart from avoiding cotton clothing, you should check for tumbling, stumbling, grumbling, and mumbling. If you are experiencing any of these things, it is a clear sign that you need to dry out and eat something. In fact, you will need to drink and eat much more on rainy weather.
What To Do In Case You Get Wet
If you get wet even by a large amount, there is no use in panicking. While, admittedly, it is not the most pleasant way to spend your day or night, if you layer your clothes correctly – for instance, workout tights under your pants, long sleeve shirts (wool, fleece, synthetic) under your outer layer – a few wet layers are not the end of the world. The most important thing is to assess the situation and start drying off the clothes as soon as it is necessary because it is easier to dry off half-wet clothes than those that are outright soaked.
Once you get back to camp, remove all your wet clothes and replace them with dry backups. At this point, you might be tempted to ball them up and throw them into the backpack – don’t do that. Not only will they stay exactly as they were, but at some point, you will need to replace your backups too.
If you arrive in camp drenched and remove the outermost layers and put on something dry. If you are cold, remove all of your clothes and lay them flat under the sleep pad. The compression will speed up the drying process.
Now, some people prefer starting the day in dry clothes, which is fine and all until you run out of backups, at which point you will end up having a bunch of wet and useless clothes. Always try, as much as possible, to dry as many of your clothes as possible overnight.
This is pretty much all you will need to know if you plan to hike on rainy conditions. Make sure to gear up accordingly, carry waterproof protection items for your gear, stock up on food, water, dry clothes and keep an eye out for any hazard. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some insight as to what steps you should take to have a safe and pleasant hiking experience. Have fun!
About the Guest Blogger
Carolynn Mims is the voice of ReviewsOutdoors.com, a website dedicated to reviewing sports equipment for outdoor activities. Her passions are hiking, trail runs and advising others on how to spend more time in nature.