Tips for Hiking in the Rain
Tips for Hiking in the Rain
Here’s everything you need to know about taking rainy-day hikes
BY ALI WUNDERMAN
You may think of hiking as a summertime activity that requires sunshine and warm weather. But hiking in the rain is actually a lot of fun—sometimes it’s even more fun. In addition to the general badassery that comes from trekking in the mud while everyone else is watching Netflix, you’ll enjoy empty trailheads and beautiful misty views. Rainy-day hiking is an adventure that everyone should get to experience at least once. All you need is the right gear and a few pro tips. Read our favorites below.
Hiking in the rain can be just as much fun as sunny day hiking—sometimes it’s even better. Plus, it brings a new perspective to the beautiful scenery you’ll get to enjoy.
What are the benefits of hiking in the rain?
A wet weather forecast is no reason to dim your excitement about going for a hike. In fact, there are many reasons to actively seek it out. Here are just a few:
No crowds: Until everyone else figures out how much fun it is to go hiking in the rain, you’ll have the trails practically to yourself.
Pick up new skills: Slick conditions mean there will be new obstacles to overcome—leveling up your hiking ability and teaching you new outdoors skills.
Unique sights and sounds: Between beautiful rainbows and unique birdsongs, rainy-day hiking offers sights and sounds you probably won’t experience on sunny days.
Break out the camera: Rainy days offer unique lighting opportunities, and wildlife tends to make an appearance in between showers. You might even catch critters huddling together for shelter, offering a truly unique photo op.
It smells amazing: There’s actually a scientific reason why the rain smells so good. “Petrichor” is a term that describes the odor created by chemical reactions that linger in the air after a fresh rainfall.
Hiking in the rain is a lot of fun as long as you have a high-quality rain jacket to keep you dry.
How do you stay dry when hiking in the rain?
It's easy to stay dry when you're hiking in the rain if you heed the following tips:
Invest in a high-quality rain jacket: It may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people skimp on quality when it comes to rain gear. Trust us, this is one area where it pays to invest in the best raincoat you can find. At the end of your rainy-day hike, you’ll thank us when you’re warm and dry.
Leave the cotton at home: The coziness of cotton can be tempting to wear underneath your rain jacket, but the highly absorbent material has a tendency to stay wet for a long time. Instead, stick to moisture-wicking, quick-drying baselayers made from nylon, polyester, or other similar fabrics.
Avoid natural down: Natural down does a fantastic job keeping you warm, but its performance features go out the window when it gets wet. If you want a jacket with insulation, opt for raincoats made with synthetic down as they tend to perform better when wet. (If you don’t know the difference, check out our quick-guide on Synthetic vs Natural Down.)
Bring dry bags: A good set of dry bags will help keep your phone dry, as well as items like cameras, GPS devices, warm midlayers, snacks, and anything else that isn’t meant to mix with water.
Wear waterproof footwear: When it’s really raining hard, water-resistant hiking shoes won’t quite cut it. Choose fully waterproof hiking footwear, preferably with technologies such as OutDry.
Your feet always have your back, so be sure you have theirs by placing them inside a pair of cozy waterproof hiking boots.
Is hiking in the rain safe?
Hiking in the rain can present obstacles that you don’t typically encounter on warm, sunny days. But it’s generally safe to hike in the rain as long as you take some necessary precautions and ensure you’re dressed properly.
Keep in mind that weather can change quickly, so it’s important to check forecasts before you go and monitor them throughout your hike. Watch for wind gusts, which can lead to falling branches and debris, and tell others where you’ll be hiking. (You should do this regardless of the weather.) It’s also a good idea to learn and practice basic survival skills in case your rainy-day hike turns into an extended stay in the wilderness. Finally, know when to call it quits. If Mother Nature is telling you to go home, listen to her.
Here are some potential hazards to keep on your radar:
Slippery surfaces: When it’s raining, things like rocks, trails, leaves, wooden bridges, and moss can become slippery. This is another reason to wear high-quality hiking boots with excellent traction—ideally, those made specifically for the rain. If possible, opt for hiking footwear with Omni-Grip™ or other advanced traction technologies.
Lightning: Rain can also mean lightning, so it’s essential to know what to do if you encounter it before going outside. The best thing to do is seek out a structure or find shelter indoors. But if you can’t do that, the next-best option is to get away from elevated areas—find the lowest area possible. And stay away from any bodies of water (rivers, lakes, etc.). You also want to avoid lone trees and other objects that can conduct electricity. For more information, read the CDC’s recommendations.
Flash flooding: Flash floods can be dangerous due to how quickly they come on, often with no warning. Watch the weather reports as you hike, and never attempt to cross a creek or river when it’s actively flooding—the force of the current is stronger than it looks. If you encounter flooding, seek higher ground and follow the USDA’s advice.
Rising water levels: In addition to presenting danger when crossing, rivers and creeks can potentially trap you somewhere if the water rises rapidly enough. Slot canyons in particular are notorious for surprising hikers and posing serious threats, so avoid these entirely if there is any chance of rain.
Hypothermia: Staying warm and dry is your best defense against hypothermia. Wear high-performance rain gear and always dress in layers (ensuring that you have a moisture-wicking layer directly against your skin). Eat lots of carbs—both before and during your hike—and if you start getting cold, increase your cardio activity.
Bringing the right gear is the best way to stay warm on the hiking trail.
What gear do I need to hike in the rain?
In addition to having a high-quality rain jacket and footwear, it’s helpful to bring other rainy-weather gear along. Here are some items to consider:
Rain pants: It’s not only your top half that needs to stay dry. Bring waterproof or water-resistant rain pants, along with a good hat, socks, gloves, and a balaclava.
Trekking poles: These convenient trail accessories give you the surefootedness of a mountain goat. Trekking poles help you stay stable, especially in slippery conditions, and they’re also useful for testing water or ice depth. Trekking poles have a number of other benefits out on the trail.
Flashlight or headlamp: Hiking in the rain can mean dense clouds and fog, which often make it hard to see. A flashlight or headlamp will help you see through any weather-related darkness or tree cover, and might be essential if you accidentally stay out too late.
Towels and rags: Rainy weather often creates muddy trails, so having a rag handy at the end of your hike can help keep the muck out of the ride home. And having a warm towel to dry off with is nice too. Food and water: Hiking in the rain will make you hungry, so bring plenty of food and snacks, along with an ample water supply.
Change of clothes: Although high-quality rain gear will help keep you dry, it’s still nice to have a full change of warm, dry clothes stashed in the car to step into before heading home. And don’t forget socks!
Excited for some rainy-day hiking? Scroll through our wet-weather gear.