If you only go hiking when there’s zero chance of rain, you’re going to miss out on some pretty magical and mud-luscious adventures. So rather than shying away from some mud, embrace hiking in wet weather and all the benefits that it brings.
Here are some simple tips to help you stay dry, comfy, safe and sane when hiking in the rain.
Why you should get excited about hiking in the rain
There are so many benefits to hiking in wet weather that far outweigh any perceived downsides.
1. You will have the trail to yourself. Unless everybody out there suddenly reads this article and specifically chooses to hike in the rain, chances are you'll still have more of the trail to yourself. This is great when you want to take on those more popular trails that, during those sunny days, tend to make you feel like a sardine in a tin, which is not how you want to feel when hiking.
2. Everything comes to life when it rains. Ever been in a national park just after a fresh downpour of rain in spring? There are few experiences like it to improve your mindset and get you feeling alive. And you are not going to be able to experience that unless you get out there during the downpour.
Animals tend to come out just after a downpour of rain to feed on the various insects that themselves become more active. At the same time, you will encounter sweet and fresh smells that appear like shy animals only when it rains. There is no way to get the same experience of a forest as you will when you hike in wet weather.
3. Rain adds to the mystique of a destination. While hiking in sunny weather has its own benefits, there are places that you simply won't be able to hike without seeing some rain. These places often take on a whole new feeling when rain clouds start to swirl around peaks and cliffs, further reminding you that you aren't in the office today, but in the wild.
4. Hiking in the rain helps to keep you cool. It might seem obvious, but hiking in the peak of summer can be a miserable experience.
Check the weather forecast
Hiking in the rain is one thing. Hiking in a cyclone is another. It’s important you know the limitations of your gear (waterproof, water-resistant or not at all!), the suitability of the trail during wet weather, and to dress appropriately for the conditions you’ll be in. Don’t go if there are extreme weather warnings.
Essential rain gear for bushwalking
The best gear for hiking in the rain will not only be waterproof, but lightweight, so it’s easy to carry in your pack, and highly breathable too. You want to minimise perspiration getting trapped on your skin as it can make you feel damp and clammy and can lead to hypothermia in wet and cold conditions.
The best waterproof jackets will have fully taped seams, adjustable wrist cuffs, zipper flaps, a fully-adjustable hood and a stiff rain-shedding brim. This brim will play the fundamental role of keeping rain from dripping down your face and down into your bottom layers.
It’s also important to note a lightweight jacket may not be as durable as a heavier jacket, so you will need to decide if durability is more important than weight for your needs.
Wear layers when hiking in wet weather
If you’re hiking in wet weather, it’s important you stay as warm and dry as possible for comfort and to avoid hypothermia. Opt for polyester, nylon or wool layers as they are generally quick-drying, moisture-wicking, lightweight, insulating and quick-drying (with the exception of wool, which is not especially quick-drying).
Don’t wear cotton, which is the worst fabric for wet and cold conditions. Cotton holds moisture and takes a long time to dry, hence the saying ‘cotton kills’.
Durable, waterproof hiking boots with a good tread on the bottom will help keep your feet dry and protected and will prevent slipping. More than anything, they will help you to prevent blisters.
You can wear waterproof gaiters over your boots to minimise water getting into your boot mouth. If your feet do get wet, keep in mind that soft, soggy skin is more susceptible to blisters. If you feel hotspots developing attend to them immediately.
Waterproof your backpack
Getting wet is one thing, but you don’t want your backpack belongings — such as food, spare clothes and a sleeping bag, if you’re on a multi-day hike — getting wet too! You can use a raincover to pull over the outside of your pack while also using a pack liner to weather protect your belongings. Place your important and water-sensitive items (such as mobile phones, wallet) in a seam-sealed, roll top dry sack. These three steps are all fundamental to keeping your pack dry. Just using a raincover may not adequately protect your belongings, especially if it becomes dislodged as you walk with mud and water being flicked up onto the underside of your bag from your feet.
Fuel the body
When hiking in wet weather, we often focus on staying dry and warm and getting to our destination rather than stopping to eat and drink. It’s really important you stay hydrated and have enough body fuel to get you to where you’re going, plus adequate food and hydration helps the body stay warm and regulate temperature.
Dry wet gear ASAP
Avoid mould developing by drying out your wet gear as soon as possible. If you’re on a multi-day hike that involves camping, you should dry your wet gear in your tent’s vestibule so there’s no chance they’ll drip and wet the dry gear inside your tent, like your sleeping bag.
Your small, quick-drying inner layers can be kept inside your tent where your body heat will quickly warm and dry them. Ensure sure there’s ventilation in your tent to minimise condensation forming.
Pitch your tent on a raised area
If you are camping, avoid pitching your tent on dry riverbeds or dips in the ground where torrential rain could create a puddle around or under your tent — or worse, sweep it away!
Maintain a positive attitude
Lastly, don’t let a bit of rain dampen your spirits. If you have the right gear, take a few precautions and have an up-for-anything spirit, you’re much more likely to have a worthwhile adventure. Look for the positives: listen to the dulcet sound of raindrops on leaves, admire the atmospheric mist and the way fresh rain turns flora emerald green. With less people on the track, you can better take in the blissful serenity of the outdoors.