Your Guide to Hiking in the Rain

What do you and a housecat have in common? You hate getting wet.

Hello fair-weather hiker! Let me paint you a picture: you love the outdoors. You love the trails, the trees, and the fresh air. You love warm summer days in the mountains, but the days are getting pretty short, and the weather has started to turn. But you sit at home, scratching at your rainy window like a confined housecat. I know you, because I used to be one of you. And, like the classic prank we play on our neurotic pets, it’s time for you to get tossed into a bathtub of water. And trust me, as a reformed summer-only adventurer, it’s actually really nice to hike in the rain!

Not convinced? Here are some reasons to hit the trails on off-weather days:

The peace and quiet. The throngs of summer have dissipated, and you can finally bask in the quietude of nature without being forced to listen to Katy Perry blasting from a dangling backpack speaker.

The smell. Nothing beats fresh and rainy forest smell. Plus, rain cleans the air, meaning your lungs will thank you.

The mysteriously clouded mountain peaks. Who doesn’t love a good tease? But seriously, low-lying clouds can actually make for some really cool photos.

The parking. We all know the famous trails to avoid on a summer weekend. Should you be lucky enough to find parking at the Grouse Grind, Quarry Rock, or Joffre Lakes, your hike is guaranteed to be packed in tighter than sardines. Rain scares away the timid, but not us, my friends!

The temperature. While dripping with sweat has its own charm, consider how cleansing that rain will be for your pores instead. Don’t people pay hundreds of dollars for mud baths?

Clouds on the mountaintops.
Wasn’t sure if I was soaked from the rain or the waterfall…

Do I have you convinced? The next step is preparation. We’ll draw on some established trail wisdom: there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Here’s what you should bring when tackling a rainy day hike:

  • Things to keep you dry: proper rain jacket (with a hood, and none of that ‘water-resistant‘ stuff – it’ll just soak through . You want water-proof), rain paints, and waterproof hiking boots.
  • Things to keep your stuff dry: dry bags, or failing that, a pack cover for your backpack, or a garbage bag to use as a bag liner to keep your gear dry.
  • Things to keep your electronics dry: consider bringing a ziploc bag for your phone, keys, headphones, etc. You can also buy some nice waterproof phone sleeves that are touch-compatible.
  • Things to keep you warm: remember that you get cold faster when wet. Consider bringing extra layers (kept dry in your bag) to swap out for wet ones if you plan on stopping for any extended periods.
  • Things to keep you going: even though you’re swimming, you still need to drink water! It’s a whole lot easier to forget in the rain. You also burn more calories in the cold, so considering adding a few extra snacks to your bag.
  • Things to keep you safe: Since it’s darker and colder and slipperier, it’s more important than ever to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and to bring your ten essentials: flashlight/headlamp, whistle, matches/lighter, warm clothes, multi-tool, emergency shelter, water and food, first aid kit, navigation, and a cell phone
The glacier below Iota peak in a cloud.
Misty and wet days in the North Shore.

And finally, some pro-level tips:

  • Leave a change of clothes and shoes in the car for after the hike. You’ll be warm and cozy when you stop for a post-hike beer that way.
  • Bring a hot beverage in a well-insulated travel mug. Nothing says mountain luxury like a hot cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate & Baileys on a cold, wet day.
  • It’s a bit of a misconception that an item is either ‘waterproof’ or not. In fact, it’s not black and white – there are grades of waterproofing. Given enough time and water, pretty much everything will eventually get soaked. However, there’s a reason Goretex gear is coveted in the outdoor world. It is leading edge technology. If you’re looking for a new raincoat or boots, go with Goretex.

No more weekends spent hiding indoors! Promote yourself to an all-weather hiker, and reap the benefits of being labelled a badass by your friends, family, and coworkers!

Love the rain or hate it? Have any great stories about getting rained out? I’ve got a few myself… Share them with me in the comments below!

9 thoughts on “Your Guide to Hiking in the Rain

  1. Barbara Von Grohs says:

    The smells of the rain is fabulous. The only downside to rain is how slippery it can get.
    Always enjoy your posts Emily.


  2. pam@ichoosethis says:

    I hiked the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in a torrential down pour for at least 7 days. I donโ€™t think I saw a thing other then my feet and the giant cow patties my feet were trying to avoid. There are many more but this came to mind first. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚


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