Have you looked out of the window today? It’s Friday and it’s raining again!
The inclement weather however has not scuppered my plans to go hiking this weekend. Indeed, as with many hikers in the UK, I actually like to be out in the countryside in the rain. Ok, there may not be so many amazing views as on a sunny day but you are certainly at one with nature, and it’s a whole lot quieter to boot. But I know many people will be looking at the BBC weather forecasts and thinking twice about going out into the countryside this weekend. So I want to share my top 10 tips for hiking in the rain.
- Invest in a good Waterproof Clothing
A good waterproof jacket and a pair of rain pants are the first real line of defence against rain. These are two pieces of clothing that can be worth their weight in gold. You want something waterproof and breathable to start with. Next you want something fairly bright for your waterpoof jacket if you are using it for hiking, this means should someone ever need to search for you, you will stand out against the background of the countryside more easily.
- Waterproof Boots are a must
Even if it’s not raining I’d always advise a good pair of waterproof walking boots for hikers. They maybe a little more expensive than non-waterproof counterparts but that extra few quid means you can always go walking and know you will be comfortable doing so. The most popular type we sell are gore-tex (on category pages look for products listed with GTX in the title), even after a year or two my Berghaus Explorer Ridge hiking boots are still in fantastic condition.
- Socks and Gaiters?
Any hiker will tell you a good pair of walking socks makes the world of difference, both during and after a walk. A good pair of socks will wick away sweat and keep you comfortable – plus probably dry much quicker than ordinary socks. Ankle Gaiters are also worth investing in, they are fairly cheap and do a great job. They mean, both rain won’t get into your boots and you can also jump in puddle without getting water in your boots (or cross streams, either way). They also have another advantage in the summer, in that you can often be out and caught in a shower – in this case no need for rain pants over your shorts, just stick on your ankle gaiters to fend off most of the rain.
Handy Hint: keep your gaiters on after the rain stops, it will take a while for trees and plants to dry out and brushing past wet plants means you will get water in your boots quite quickly without them.
- Keep Your Things Dry
There is nothing more annoying than breaking camp only to find your change of clothes sodden, simply because you thought you wouldn’t need a dry sack or rucksack cover. I learnt the hard way once, not only was my clothing wet but also my tablet computer was soaked – it hasn’t worked since. There are two ways to keep your things dry. One is to get a rucksack cover which are cheap and handy, the other is to get a liner / dry bag which is not much more expensive and more effective. Personally I use both methods but usually one would suffice.
Handy Hint: if you get caught in some unexpected rain you can use an ordinary plastic bag around the items in your bag. But be warned its a temporary solution and things will still get wet after a while.
- Keep Your Phone and GPS Dry!
We have all heard the horror story of someone accidentally leaving their phone in a pair of trousers as they are washed. Well consider that story a warning because pretty much the same thing can happen to your electronics devices, such as phones, GPS’ and mp3 players, even if you are wearing waterproof clothing. My tip here is to where possible put such devices in your map carry case if you have one, or use a specialist protector like the Seal Line E Storage Case.
- Pace Yourself
As with all hikes you should pace yourself, but maybe more so when it’s pouring with rain and you’ve been in it for a good few hours. Waterproof Jackets after a while in very wet conditions become saturated and are no longer as breathable as under normal conditions. If you notice yourself sweating when wearing a waterproof it maybe worth removing a layer or two below the jacket – indeed I know a few who in the height of summer will sometimes only wear the waterproof jacket. The amount of sweat can sometimes be alienated if your waterproof jacket has pit zips or pit ventilation systems. If you do start sweating, as always drink more – it may be raining but you will still get dehydrated.
- As Always, Plan Plan Plan
Its not often that you will set out without a clue as to where you are heading or when you will be back. But when it’s raining do a little more planning, look at weather forecasts (if it’s going to turn stormy forget going hiking), check the routes to and from where you maybe walking and if you don’t usually pack food and drink (walking in the rain can take longer than in the dry). Finally, make sure you let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back – if you aren’t back by an hour after you suggest someone may need to raise the alarm.
- Just in Case, Torch & Shelter
You may only be intending to go for a quick hike, but sometimes the weather can worsen and it gets dark quite quickly. So always keep a torch with you just in case. Next it may suddenly get very very bad and if there is no visible shelter to run too you may need an emergency shelter, such as the multi-person emergency shelters from vango.
- Read More About Walking in Inclement Weather
There are lots of blogs with tips like those above, the number one aim of them all is your health and safety when hiking. Getting off-track on a hike or getting a bit wet is one thing but getting seriously injured is another. So make sure your kit is up to the hike, double check the wear on your boot tred and make sure your you’ve let someone know where you are going. Also take a read of our tips for hiking in winter article, especially if you love hiking in snow.
- Be Safe & Plan for the Unexpected!
A number of times, Daniel and I have exchanged stories of being out hiking somewhere and having to turn back because either a stream is now flooded and impassible or something has changed along a well trodden route. It is not uncommon to hear similar stories when it’s been pouring down, conditions can quickly become tricky and dangerous. Paths become muddy, sometimes inclines can become like water slides making them impossible to climb up or down. Streams can break their banks and become more like a fast flowing river, impossible to pass. In extreme cases, excess rain can cause landslides, taking the footpath with them. So please, be careful at all times. Also plan a route where you can take junctions off to continue the walk in another direction and of course remember you can simply turn back on the route you came.
- Bonus Tip: Enjoy the Hike!
As I said in the introduction to this article, I love hiking in the rain and so do many others. You may not get hundreds of great views from the top of a mountain but you will get more views than you probably expect and the rainy weather can also bring your attention to things that you may never have thought of looking at or seeing as beautiful before (such as a tree you walk past each time you do a hike, or a stream that you usually ignore is suddenly making a beautiful sound). Enjoy the hike and be at one with nature.
Don’t forget to tweet your wet weekend photos to @cheaptents