There are two guarantees in life, death and taxes. This is unless you go hiking in the UK countryside, then its death, taxes and rain. Whether you’re a hiking newbie or a seasoned guru, eventually, mother nature will catch you in a downpour.
Knowing how to stay dry on the trail is a vital part of hiking, otherwise you could be in for a miserable, wet slog back to your car. We’ve pooled our collective hiking knowledge to bring you ten tips for staying dry while hiking in the rain.
Gear Up Early
If you can see rain clouds on the horizon, don’t wait until they are on top of you to go rummaging through your backpack for your wet weather gear. If it looks like rain is on the way, take a minute to find your gear and situate it near the top of your pack. That way, when the rain starts falling, you won’t have to start pulling things out of your bag. If it looks like it’s coming in fast, you might as well put your rain gear on then and there. A rain jacket is no use if you are already wet.
Carry Full Waterproofs
If you have a look in my day-pack, you’ll see I carry a full set of waterproofs. This is because I have been caught out so many times with the weather and is nothing worse than being cold and wet in the countryside. If you buy a decent 30-litre backpack, it will not be heavy but will give you enough room to carry everything you need, including a full set of waterproofs.
One point, even if you have the latest trend in hiking trousers, they aren’t waterproof. You may think it will be ok if your legs get a bit wet but trust us, it’s miserable. The same could be said for your hands, which can quickly get cold if it’s wet and windy. A pair of waterproof gloves will significantly improve your comfort levels if you get caught in a downpour.
Waterproof Jackets and Trousers with Vents
Throwing on extra layers in preparation for rain can cause you to get hot. This heat can turn into sweat and condensation on the inside of your protective gear if you aren’t careful, which will in turn make you feel very damp. Venting trousers and jackets allows more air flow helping to prevent moisture build up. It’s also a good idea to remove any mid layers before you put on a rain jacket to help you maintain a comfortable temperature.
Check the Forecast
This is something I hope most hikers have gotten into the habit of already, but if you don’t it is very wise to check weather services the day before your hike. It can also be good to check dedicated mountain weather services, as the weather on a summit can be drastically different to what is forecasted in the valley. In the UK the Mountain Weather Information Service is the best way to check mountain forecasts. If the weather is looking particularly wild it can be a good idea to take a rain check.
Adjust Your Plans
If you check the forecast the morning of your hike and it’s already looking like it might rain, why not swap your summit hike for a woodland one. Being on an exposed mountain ridge or summit in the rain can quickly become stressful and frightening. Instead, opt for a hike where you will have some cover from the elements.
A lowland walk through a forest is perfect for wet weather days. Alternatively, you could shorten your existing plans, rather than tackling an entire ridgeline of summits, why not just go up and do one. This way if the weather worsens, you can quickly retreat.
Waterproof Your Backpack
You will undoubtedly be storing some critical items in your backpack, at minimum your phone, wallet and maybe some dry layers. In heavy rain, your bag can quickly become absolutely soaked. There are two main options; one is to opt for a backpack cover. This is a fully waterproof cover that sits over the whole bag. The alternative is to put everything inside your backpack into a waterproof dry bag. However, with the latter, you need to do this at the time of packing. You don’t want to have to repack your entire bag as a rain cloud looms overhead.
Waterproof Your Boots
Having wet feet can not only be uncomfortable, but it can also increase the likelihood of blisters forming. If you get blisters halfway through your hike, it will cease to be fun very quickly. Firstly, if it’s raining, I would highly recommend that you wear gaiters as they will help to protect your boots and, more importantly, keep your feet dry.
Most boots will come waterproof, but it’s your job as the wearer to ensure they remain waterproof. There are various products available to re-waterproof boots, the manufacturer will probably have a recommended product and method for waterproofing. It can also be a good idea to bring a spare pair of socks, allowing you a change at the halfway point.
Lower Leg Gaiters
Walking through wet grass, rain can soak the top of your hiking boots, allowing water to seep down into your shoes. A pair of gaiters will form a protective layer between your boots and your waterproof trousers, helping to prevent the ingress of water.
A lightweight pair will take up very little space in your bag, and they can be used whenever you are walking off trail over long grass or through rough vegetation.
Pack Quick Snacks
There is nothing worse than getting peckish while it’s raining because then you have to rummage through your bag for food. Likewise, you don’t want to try and eat a sandwich while it’s raining. It’s best to pack a variety of quick snacks in easy to reach places.
The hip belt pockets and lid pockets of backpacks are perfect places to keep snacks. Good snacks are snack bars, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, sweets, and dried meat like jerky. Always try to pack a mixture of sweet and savoury snacks so you can satisfy whatever cravings you get.
Carry an Umbrella
While this may seem a little bit gimmicky, umbrellas are catching on in the thru-hiking community. They are great at providing a personal bubble of protection from the sun and rain. Manufacturers are starting to produce lightweight, strong, and compact umbrellas perfect for the hiking community.
However, like most umbrellas, they are still susceptible to strong winds. An umbrella is particularly useful if you need to get into your backpack, as you can shield the lid from rain while you have access to it.
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. While it’s best to take this with a pinch of salt, staying dry while hiking does require some good waterproofs and a bit of know-how. With these ten tips, you should be able to keep yourself and your backpack dry for your entire hike.