Things You Need to Hike in the Rain

RainHiking in the rain can be a surprisingly pleasant experience. Obviously, you want to steer clear of slots canyons when those fat drops start falling, and you will want to stay home during torrential downpours when flooding is a possibility, but hiking in light and moderate rain is definitely doable. You just need to make sure you have the right gear to hike in the rain.

Staying completely dry while hiking in the rain is a tall order. Your goal shouldn’t be utmost dryness, but instead managing moisture. The key is staying comfortable. You want to stay as dry as possible, and as comfortable as possible. Here’s what you need to hike in the rain.

It might seem counter-intuitive not to obsess over staying dry, but here’s why that’s the best plan:

  1. Temperature and humidity can negate the waterproof properties of rain gear. Rain gear keeps moisture out, but it also keeps moisture in. You will work up a sweat while hiking, and rain gear is typically not very breathable.
  2. When hard rains are falling, things are going to get wet. If you’re hiking in the rain for hours on end, your gear will get saturated, and weak spots and leaks will be exposed. This doesn’t mean you will be soaked, but it’s likely that areas around your cuffs, your collar, etc. will have received a little rain.

That’s why staying comfortable should be just as high priority as staying dry.

You need a hardshell jacket and hardshell pants to stay dry in pouring rains. The water resistance of a hardhsell rain jacket far exceeds that of a softshell jacket. However hardshells aren’t nearly as breathable as softshells meaning, that while you’re staying dry from the rain, you could be getting drenched in sweat.

In a drizzle you might be able to get by with a pair of softshell pants and a softshell jacket that have been treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. However, over time this DWR coating will need to be reapplied to keep its water resistant properties, and it’s possible that a softshell garment with a DWR finish won’t be enough in heavy precipitation.

Waterproof shoes or waterproof hiking boots are kind of a matter of preference. Some people opt out of the waterproof footwear for hiking because waterproof liners take longer to dry once they do get wet. Some people choose footwear that drains and dries quickly.

One of the great things about wool is that it insulates even when wet. Wool socks will keep you comfortable even when waterlogged, and they dry relatively quickly.

Wear wool or synthetic base layers instead of cotton. Again, these materials insulate when wet, they stay comfortable, and dry faster than other fibers.

A hat with a bill or brim will keep the rain out of your face. You won’t realize just how necessary this is until you try to hike in the rain without a hat.

Moisture amplifies any chill that’s in the air. A pair of waterproof gloves can keep your hands from freezing.

Ponchos are a great way to stay dry. They provide an incredible amount of coverage and are surprisingly breathable.

While it’s important that you stay dry, it’s almost more important to keep the things in your pack dry, like your sleeping bag, and extra clothing. A pack cover is a good way to keep you belongings dry when hiking in the rain. Dry bags are also good for keeping gear dry.

Carrying a compact and lightweight towel, like a PackTowl, can be a life saver. Use it to dry off, or dry your gear after a hike through the rain.

Is there something that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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