How To Hike In The Rain Safely And Comfortably

Rilor Staff
Update: November 5, 2021
Table of Contents

Rain presents a unique challenge to hikers. While it can be a beautiful and liberating experience under some conditions, it can also put you in uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations. 

Essentially, hiking in the rain can be a great adventure to try on, but only if you know how to stay safe and dry. Below are tips to help you hike in the rain, so you can enjoy the great, wet outdoors at your own pace.

How To Hike In The Rain

Waterproofing Your Gears

One of the things that you need to prepare for hiking under downpours is your gear and equipment. Specifically, you need to make sure that all your belongings--including your pack--are waterproof. 

Many packs advertised themselves as waterproof. But that's not entirely true, as their seams might not be sealed. Furthermore, their zippers and other access points can also serve as gateways for the water to gush in. 

To prevent these things from happening, you need to get a rain cover for your backpack. It should provide a snug fit, as a loose one could still expose your pack. 

If you are packing sensitive gear inside your bag, you might want to stuff them inside a dry sack. Waterproof cases are essential for your gadgets and devices. 

The Essentials For Hiking In The Rain

Your trip under the rain would be more convenient and safer if you bring along the following gear and items. They should be able to let you continue your expedition while there's a vertical waterfall. 

  • Trekking poles - When hiking in the rain, trekking poles are an absolute must. They are lightweight, extremely durable, offer excellent support, and are ideal for minimizing risk to your feet in case of slips or falls. They can also support your body when crossing rivers and creeks. 
  • Hand warmers - No one really enjoys having to deal with chilly conditions while they are out hiking. If you are planning on hitting the trails on a cold winter or rainy day, you may want to think about having your favorite hand warmers with you. Not only will they keep you nice and toasty, but they are also great for getting rid of the moisture that comes with the cold conditions.
  • Flashlight - When you're hiking in the rain, you want to have some sort of backup plan. A flashlight or headlamp could serve as one. It is pretty evident that once it rains, the skies get dark and gloomy. Additional light sources can help you continue your journey during low-visibility conditions. 
  • First aid kit - Keeping a first aid kit in your backpack is a necessity when going hiking in the rain. It is undeniable that you are exposed to more dangers and hazards when the weather is bad. If you sustain wounds and injuries, you would want to treat them right away. 

What To Wear While Hiking In The Rain

The proper clothing can make your rainy adventure safe and comfortable. If you are expecting rain on your hike, you should pack clothing and footwear that can help you overcome the challenges of slippery terrain and muddy trails. 

  • Before anything else, don't wear cotton - Cotton is great for sleeping in, but not so great if you intend to be out in the elements for any length of time. Cotton absorbs water pretty efficiently; they don't wick them. Furthermore, they don't dry fast. Because of these things, cotton can make you feel extra chilly, which could result in serious problems--such as hypothermia. Instead, wear clothing that is made from polyester, nylon, or wool. 
  • Use a jacket with synthetic insulation - I know that down jackets provide more insulation and comfort than synthetic ones. However, their biggest downside is that they are water absorbent--which is pretty similar to the case of cotton garments. Synthetic jackets may not be as cozy and thermally efficient as down jackets, but they can ensure that the rain won't ruin their insulation. You may also pick those hybrids (combination of down and synthetic fills) if they can guarantee optimal water resistance. 
  • Wear a rain jacket - Rain jackets should be the exterior part of your layering system. They are the ones that can solidify your defenses against precipitation. Make sure that the rain jacket that you offer breathability and waterproofing--aside from the fact that they should be waterproof. Water-resistant jackets are decent, but in heavy rains, they can't hold long. Furthermore, the rain jacket should have a durable water repellent so that it can bead off moisture. 
  • Get a rain cap - The humble rain cap is often ignored because rain jackets usually come with a brimmed hood. What many people don't realize is that this inexpensive piece of hiking gear can keep the rain away from your glasses and or face. A good rain hat should have a wide brim since it reduces the amount of water you are exposed to when hiking, increasing your time outdoors by days at a time. Get a ballcap-type rain hat if you want to wear the latter under the hood of your jacket. 
  • Bring the right footwear - When hiking in the rain, certain footwear is useful for many reasons. Most importantly, the right footwear helps to keep your feet dry and make sure that you don't slip. Waterproof shoes and boots are efficient in keeping your feet dry. If the rain is just moderate, you are free to pick mesh footwear. After all, mesh quickly drains the water that gets inside the shoe. They can dry fast, too. Regardless of what footwear you choose, make sure that it has deep crevices on its lug soles. In this way, you can deal with the mud and prevent yourself from slipping. 
  • Bring extra clothing - One of the essentials that you should pack is an extra set of clothing. Even if it doesn't rain, you should still have another pair of dry clothes. In this way, you remain fresh and hygienic during the trip. 
  • Use gaiters - These gaiters will protect your socks from getting wet. After all, wet socks can make hiking inconvenient. They also prevent you from having the proper pronation while on the move. 

What To Watch Out For When Hiking In The Rain

If you've ever hiked through a downpour, you know how uncomfortable it can be. But, if you take a few steps back and look at why the weather is so bad, you might be able to avoid some of the dangers that come with hiking in the rain.

Hiking in the rain poses many challenges, from the dangers of slipping and falling, which could result in injury and the need to seek medical attention, to potential hypothermia and the risk of getting sick. Hence, being extra careful is essential. 

Here are some of the things that you need to watch for:

  • Hypothermia - Hypothermia is something that you shouldn't exclude in your expectations while hiking under heavy rain. The cold weather can easily cause your internal temperatures to drop. Signs such as tumbling, grumbling, mumbling, and stumbling are indicative that you need to halt your journey, dry yourself, and eat some calories. Doing these things help regulate your internal temperature, effectively preventing hypothermia from happening.
  • Slippery surfaces - You should be cautious when trudging on slimy rocks, wet logs, and muddy terrains. Tread carefully so that you'll remain stable and not lose your balance. 
  • Surging rivers - Before you cross rivers, assess if the current is too strong or dangerous. If you think that the flow of the water can overwhelm you, just don't cross anymore. Instead, wait for it to subside. You might also want to look for alternative routes so that you will not put yourself in danger. 
  • Flash floods - Flash floods can happen quickly; they are the ones that can easily catch you off guard. To avoid them, you have to be wary about your terrain. Always look for areas where it is elevated so that you can access them whenever needed. Furthermore, you should never hike on areas that are prone to flash floods, such as slopes and dry rivers.
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