Hiking in the rain is enjoyable for many reasons. The plants and grass look greener, insects come out of the ground and attract birds, and the trails are less crowded. On the flipside, you have to take care to ensure that you and your gear don’t get wet.
Use these tips to stay dry and never let a light spell or heavy downpour dampen your mood.
Waterproof your gear
- Pack your tent, sleeping bag and other essentials in a stuff sack. Include a pack cover for an extremely wet environment.
- Place electronics, mobile phones, documents and other belongings that need to be kept dry in a dry bag.
- Vinyl dry bags are durable, resistant to tears and mildew, and suitable for small personal items.
- Nylon dry bags are abrasion resistant although they may not be translucent.
- As far as closures go, you can choose a dry bag with a roll top that rolls to create a watertight seal or a zipper seal.
- A lumbar bag with a roll-top closure is suitable if you will be bringing along fewer items. It can also serve as an extra bag for gear on overnight trips. A backpack with a roll-top mechanism secures small and medium-sized hiking, fishing, surfing or paddling gear against moisture.
- If you don’t want to carry multiple bags, consider a water-resistant cargo pack that stows various items and can be top-loaded onto your car’s roof rack.
Bring along hiking poles
In extremely wet conditions, hiking poles can help you estimate water and puddle depth. They also help you manoeuvre slippery ground with greater stability, minimizing the risk of losing your footing and getting your gear wet.
Hiking in tough terrain can put pressure on your knees and feet after a while. Trekking poles allow you to transfer some of this lower body stress onto your shoulders and arms.
Do your hands tend to swell from hiking? The use of hiking poles will activate your arm muscles, boosting blood flow and preventing fluid from collecting in your hands.
Pitch your tent wisely
- Pick an elevated spot so you don’t have to deal with accumulated rainwater, and pitch your tent there.
- Tighten loose rain-flies so they don’t flap or drip. Pitch the tent tautly to lower condensation, and to prevent stakes from pulling out of the ground and allowing rain inside.
- Although your tent may be water-resistant, you can keep rainwater out completely by covering the tent with a tarp. Pack a tarp that is big enough to cover the entire tent. Secure the four corners of the tarp to the ground to allow rainwater to runoff.
- Place a floor mat outside your tent to keep water and dirt from boots out of your tent’s living space.
Keep yourself dry
- Wear a water-proof jacket as a first layer of defence.
- Denim and cotton are ill-suited to hiking in wet conditions as they become heavy after absorbing water, feel uncomfortable against the skin and take a lot of time to dry off.
- Wool is a better choice for a base layer as it feels warm after absorbing moisture and offers your body good insulation. A polyester or synthetic mid layer is also preferable to cotton/denim as both fibres dry quickly. Top-layer jackets have ventilation zips to let air in and perspiration out. Some have zippers in the armpits to allow wearers to adjust airflow.
- Wrap gaiters around your hiking boots. They wrap around your calf and have a Velcro, zip or push stud locking mechanism, keeping your socks and feet dry.
Check the weather forecast
Although this may seem like a basic tip, a good idea about weather conditions is advisable to avoid getting caught in extreme weather conditions. It is even more important if you don’t have water-resistant bags or tarps. There is no fun in getting wet and staying overnight in a damp tent.
If you don’t already have one, consider downloading a weather app that offers weather maps, alerts, news or information such as wind speeds, humidity and rain predictions. Surfers will find surf forecast apps offering information on swell height and direction, water temperature and wind speed useful.