How to Handle (& Enjoy) a Hike in the Rain


how to hike in the rain

Let’s be real here, a hike in the rain is no picnic. However, there are a few tricks of the trade that will make your hike in the rain tolerable and possibly even fun. Through my long distance hikes, I have endured rain varying from enjoyable summer downpours to hellacious and life-threatening thunderstorms. The best advice I can give you is to know when to stop and pitch your tent and to know when to just keep trekking forward. If you are a day hiker, your best option is simply to check the weather and avoid rain altogether. However, if you are on a multi-day, week, or month trek, rain could happen. These tips will prepare you for your wet hike in the rain.

Be prepared and accept the fact that you will get wet.

You will not get through this rain storm untouched, believe me. If you accept the fact that you will get a bit wet, your experience will be slightly more tolerable. Embrace the suck, my friend. So you aren’t scrambling in your pack for your rain gear during a storm, keep your rain jacket and pants in a handy, easy-to-get place in your pack.

Also, knowing the signs that a storm is rolling in is a great way to stay ahead of the rain game. Dark clouds will form, the temperature might drop, and the smell of moisture will be in the air. My favorite part of a storm is hearing the rain release from the clouds before it actually hits the ground; this moment is worthy of goose bumps.

next to stream after hiking in rain

Relief after an autumn storm in Maine, USA

 

Find the right rain gear and waterproof gear for you and for the season.

Your waterproof and rain gear will vary depending on the outside temperature (or season). During summer, you might actually be fine without a rain jacket or pants. Summer storms can be a light relief from the blistering temperatures. Enjoy this. However, the second you start feeling cold is the time to put on your rain gear.  In this earlier article we talked about how to choose a base layer and how to wash your GoreTex gear.

  • On Your Body
    • Shoes/Boots
      • There are different opinions on if you should hike with waterproof shoes or not. If the rain is expected to pour a good few inches, your waterproof shoes could possibly fill up with water and make things just a lot more frustrating. Know that waterproof and leather shoes do dry slower than simply mesh-made shoes. I tend to prefer waterproof in the cooler months and breathable, mesh shoes in the summer.
    • Rain Jacket
      • Rain jackets can help or hinder. You will want to find a waterproof yet breathable jacket. If your jacket does not breathe or does not have vents, your body heat will be trapped and you will start sweating, resulting in your interior being just as wet as your exterior. Check out BC 25’s waterproof jacket reviews for the Arc’teryx Alpha LT and North Face Men’s Condor Triclimate Jacket.
    • Rain Pants
      • With my experience, I have seen hikers ditch the rain pants and some hikers bless them. I am definitely one for wearing rain pants, especially when temperatures start to drop.
    • Long Compression Shorts
      • Chaffing is real whether you are hiking in rain or not. However, when moisture gets in the mix, chaffing can be down right uncomfortable. That is why I recommend investing in polyester compression shorts to wear underneath your hiking pants/shorts.
    • Gaiters
      • Gaiters are great to have to keep mud and water out of your shoes, especially if you choose to wear waterproof shoes. Gaiters are also a great alternative to rain pants in the summer time months.
    • Hat
      • Some rain jackets have a little bill to avoid rain getting in your eyes. However, if you wear glasses or have a jacket without a hood, I recommend a waterproof cap with a bill or waterproof wide-brimmed hat.
    • Umbrella
      • Some gear companies actually make lightweight umbrellas specifically for backpacking hikers. I’ve never heard a complaint from an umbrella-holding hiker but these folks also don’t carry two trekking poles.
  • On/In Your Pack
    • Pack Cover
      • A pack cover is your pack’s first defense against the rain. These affordable, waterproof covers just stretch around your entire pack.
    • Waterproof stuff sacks
      • Waterproof stuff sacks are a must for your clothes and your sleeping bag. Never doubt the power of rain; water can and will get in your pack after hours of trekking through rain. ALWAYS keep a set of clothes dry. If you can’t do that, at least keep a pair of socks dry.
    • Plastic Zip Bags
      • The most notable brand being Ziploc, plastic bags can keep your food and smaller gear items, like your headlamp and first aid, nice and dry.

Know the signs of hypothermia.

Knowing the signs of hypothermia is something ever hiker should know, whether you are hiking in the rain or not. Do remember that hypothermia can strike you during warm yet wet weather. The easiest way to remember the first signs of hypothermia are the “umbles,” meaning stumbles, grumbles, fumbles, and mumbles. 

getting cold after rain

Cold hike after the rain storm in New Hampshire, USA

 

Never attempt to summit a mountain when rain is on the forecast.

From firsthand experience, summiting a mountain in a thunderstorm isn’t fun and isn’t safe. Not only is lightening an issue but the rain turns the trail more into a stream than a walkable path.

Don’t forget to hydrate and eat!

Your focus might totally be on the weather and your misery but you cannot forget to drink water and eat snacks. The best thing to do is to keep snacks handy in your pack’s hip belt or a jacket pocket. If you have no other option but to cook, check out this windproof and stormproof fire source to light your stove.

Take a day off.

If you wake up to a downpour, there is no shame in taking the day or morning off from hiking. I have spent hours in my tent waiting out storms. Sometimes, it’s just plain smart to wait it out. Now, to actually stay dry in your tent, invest in a good quality, waterproofed tent and a nice tent foot print. Did you know you can get stronger by relaxing?

waiting out rain inside my tent

Waiting through a rainstorm on the Appalachian Trail

Embrace the water and mud.

The tips above will keep you comfortable in the rain but what about having fun in the rain? Embrace your inner child. Enjoy every sloppy, wet puddle and every lovely drop of precipitation. A rainy day hiking is better than a dry day inside, right?

hiking on muddy trail

Wet and muddy hike in Vermont, USA

Rain has stopped but you could still get wet.

The rain has stopped. The sun is coming out. But, you are not free from nature’s wet grasp just yet. Trees will still drip rain’s leftovers and bushes and weeds could still get their rainy day moisture on your pants and inside your shoes. Keep your gaiters, hat, and pack cover on to keep comfortable once the storm has passed. Now, keep your eyes out for the rainbow after the storm!

lake after rain

Foggy landscape after the rain

 


Since spring is here, rain will most likely be on the weather forecast. Take these tips and make the best out of the rain. Always check the forecast for any dangerous thunderstorms to prevent a potentially life-threatening hike. If you find yourself in a troublesome spot, pitch your tent or turn around. Hiking in the rain is only enjoyable when you are smart and plan ahead.

Do you have any tips for hiking in the rain? Let us know in the comments below!

Madison Dragna

Madison Dragna

Madison is a long distance hiker and devoted yogi. She completed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and Corsica's treacherous GR 20 in 2014. When she's not traveling, she enjoys life as a freelance writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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Comments
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