Most of us don’t plan to go hiking in the rain, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Besides, a little water shouldn’t stop you from a rewarding outdoor adventure. If you’re planning to hike in wet conditions, here are some precautions you can take to make sure you and your gear stay as dry as possible. Following these hiking tips will help you to have a safe trip and allow you to embrace Mother Nature in all her stormy and wonderful glory!
So, keep a close eye on the weather forecast leading up to your trip. If it looks like a wet hike, don’t forget these tips.
Keeping Yourself Dry
First and foremost, you need to keep yourself from getting soaked. If you don’t wear the proper gear and get drenched, you’ll be extremely uncomfortable. In cold enough conditions, you will also be more susceptible to hypothermia.
Waterproof Outer Layers
The first step for hiking in rain is to wear waterproof gear. An outer shell that is waterproof and windproof will keep you warm and dry underneath. When shopping for such gear, one with a hood is key. While a hat may keep your head dry, you don’t want cold rain dripping down your neck and back. I always keep a poncho in my pack for this reason. Even if I think the weather will be nice, a small and lightweight poncho protects me from an unexpected downpour.
Waterproof pants are another key ingredient for a happy hike in the rain. In my opinion, insulated waterproof pants are better than a thin shell that you wear over other pants. One solid layer is a good way to prevent cold air or water from sneaking up under a baggy shell. Also, keep an eye open for rain pants that zip up the entire leg length, allowing you to put them on without needing to take off your boots.
If you like a little music while you hike, you may want to grab a waterproof speaker like the Turtle Shell.
Boots and Socks
Finally, waterproof hiking boots are a must. This applies to all weather conditions since you never know when you’ll find a puddle or shallow stream. As all experienced hikers know, wet feet are a surefire way to end up with blisters. There is nothing worse than hiking in wet boots, so it’s no surprise that most hiking boots are waterproof.
But in addition to waterproof boots, you should also pack an extra pair of socks at the very least. If you are on a long camping trip, pack at least a few extra pairs and plan to dry them out every night. Allowing your feet at least twenty minutes to air dry before putting on dry socks is a great way to prevent blisters. If you’ve gotten wet on a rainy day or if your feet have gotten sweaty (as all ours do!), you will want to change socks during your lunch break.
Don’t forget to check out our Guide to Outdoor Apparel to make sure you’re prepared for any type of weather.
Keeping Your Pack Dry
It goes without saying that you can’t stay dry if all your gear gets wet. Here are a few great hiking tips for preventing even the wildest rainstorm from getting into your pack.
First, I like to pack all my gear in garbage bags when hiking in rain. There are purpose-built waterproof bags and pack liners, but garbage bags are a great budget alternative. You can bring multiple bags for different bits of gear (clean clothes, dirty clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries) so you can keep everything separate and easy to find. It’s especially important to keep your wet clothes separate from the dry ones, so you don’t accidentally ruin your dry socks.
Another key piece of gear is a dry box. I have a small Pelican dry container that perfectly fits my phone and wallet. The sealed edges and heavy-duty latch keep my gear well protected from a rainstorm or even a dip in a lake. For a simple budget solution, head to your kitchen for some Ziplock bags. Sandwich bags are perfect for cell phones because you can keep an eye on the time and notifications through clear plastic.
It’s essential to keep important gear in watertight containers. You want to make sure your wallet, camping permits, maps, and such stay dry. You should also have a dry box for your first aid kit and fire starters. Waterproof boxes for matches are obviously important if you plan to start a fire after the weather clears – though you might have trouble finding dry wood!
Lastly, pack covers will keep your whole pack protected from the elements. While some packs come with them, many you have to buy separately. Luckily, pack covers are not too expensive, and they really are worth the cost. They are extremely lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about carrying extra pounds. Mine folds into a tiny bag that I keep on the outside of my pack for easy access should I get caught in a surprise storm.
If you buy a pack cover separately, make sure you get the correct size for your pack. The cover should fit pretty snugly around your pack. A pack cover that is too loose can come off in windy conditions. Your cover should have elastic or drawstring to tighten around your pack and keep rain from sneaking in.
Keeping Your Tent Dry
Hiking in rain is one thing, but camping in rainy weather adds a whole new component. When you need to camp in the rain, you’ll need to think about where to put your tent to keep you and your gear dry.
First, your tent should be on a gentle incline, with the entrance facing downhill. Having a tent on flat ground is a bad idea as the water won’t drain away, and you’ll wake up in a puddle. Also, you might think that having your tent under a tree will keep you drier, but a shady spot will prevent the sun from drying you off the next day.
Tarps and Tent Flies
Before you set up your tent, first set up your tent fly or tarp. This way, you can put your gear down out of the rain and stay dry while setting up camp. Keep in mind that a tent fly or tarp needs to be extremely taut in order to be waterproof. Wrinkles or folds in the material will allow water to pool and drip down onto you.
Next, you absolutely need a ground tarp under your tent – often called a tent footprint. I use one even when it is totally dry just to give my tent a little extra protection from the rocks below. Again, being on higher ground and at a slight angle will allow water to drain off your tarp instead of pooling around your tent.
Rope, Towels, and Newspaper
The final pieces of gear that are essential for hiking in rain are micro-cloth towels, a rope or string to make a clothesline, and newspaper. These are gear items that you will likely already be bringing on a hike. Okay, maybe not the newspaper, but I’ll explain why you should pack some, and it’s not for reading.
Micro-cloth towels are great for drying up after you wash your face, but they also come in handy when hiking in rainy conditions. You should always dry off your gear before putting it away to ensure your pack stays dry. It is even more important to dry the tent off before packing up since the material can soak through once folded.
A rope or string will allow you to set up a clothesline to dry key items before the next day. If you have piles of wet socks, set up a clothesline next to (not uphill from) your tent so you can dry your clothes out. If it’s still pouring out and you have limited space, you can even set up a clothesline inside your tent.
Finally, newspaper is a great material for absorbing moisture. Stuff some crumpled pages into your hiking shoes to help them fully dry out overnight.
Hiking in rain doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. If you prepare with the proper gear, you can enjoy the outdoors in any weather conditions. Hopefully, these hiking tips will keep you from canceling your next trip when the weather turns! Stay safe, stay dry, and have fun.
*This article written by BestDraft contributor Ben Panico.