Your hike doesn’t have to go sour when grey skies turn black. Not if you’re prepared.
A lot of fair-weather trekkers won’t even give the rain a chance. When the heavens open up, they instantly jump on the phone to nix travel plans or back out of wilderness trips that have been in the works for weeks. It all comes down to perspective: if you only associate rain with floods, canceled baseball games and ruined weddings, of course you’re going to view that slog through the boonies as an exercise in misery.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change your perspective and take on a whole new attitude toward the wet stuff. In fact, there are some good reasons to schedule a quick overnight trek for when rain is forecast to fall. Yes, I’m serious.
Whether you’re a shower-shy trail hopper who cringes at every drop or a veteran trekker who just needs a little more motivation for when the storm hits, here’s some advice that will hopefully make those looming black skies a little less depressing.
Use the right gear for the situation
Getting the latest and greatest rain gear isn’t always the answer. You need to plan strategically for the climate you’re trekking in.
If you’re pressing through a storm on the Canadian west coast, you’ll definitely need a quality rain jacket and rain pants along with waterproof boots. Wear moisture-wicking shirts as a base layer to stay as warm as possible. Personally, I’m a big fan of UnderArmour (you’re damn right this is an affiliate link). Their shirts dry out quickly and they’re far more durable than any other tee I’ve worn. Definitely worth spending a little extra on.
But don’t expect any kind of rain gear or superstar shirt to keep you 100% dry in a downpour. It just ain’t happenin’. But what it will do is minimize how soaked you get while preventing your core from cooling too much. This is also essential for preventing hypothermia (you know the signs, right?).
Gearing up for rainy treks in warm or humid locales can be trickier. A rain shell won’t help much because you’ll be sweating all the time, so just make sure you’re wearing a shirt that breathes well and wicks away sweat. Then just tough it out until you arrive at camp and can dry things off.
Always take care of your feet
Sure, it sucks to be wet and cold. But if your feet are (relatively) dry, you’ll probably be OK.
Purchasing quality waterproof boots just goes without saying. You could also use a waterproofing spray on that raggedy-ass pair in your closet, but just remember to reapply the stuff before you hit the trail. It tends to wear off fast.
Also, get boots with high-tops at least to the ankle. Not only will they help keep your feet dry when stomping through puddles, but they’ll also provide some much-needed support for when you’re treading over slippery boardwalk.
Once you’ve got the right footwear, slip on some thin socks for a base and then pull on a thicker woolen pair overtop. If you plan on slogging through mud or enduring torrential rain, invest in a pair of Gore-Tex socks. They’re freakin’ expensive, but worth every penny. If you’re hiking in a warmer climate, just stick with what you normally wear.
Adding some lube to your feet (or anywhere else, for that matter) can also help prevent the extra blisters and chaffing that often occurs in the rain. Simple Vaseline works but many thru-hikers swear by Hydropel Sports Ointment.
Take in all that rain-soaked beauty
You’ve done all you can to minimize the discomfort rain brings, so there’s no point in dwelling on the fact you’re gonna get wet. Instead, focus on the muted beauty that a downpour creates.
It’s fascinating to watch water drizzle from the trees and then spill out along the trail, winding its way through tiny channels into the brush (really, it is). Hiking in the rain is a way to experience a different aspect of the environment that most people never see.
Colours become more saturated and vibrant in the rain. Leaves shimmer like polished jade and even dull-brown logs seem to pop against the grey backdrop. Photographers will benefit from more even lighting, erasing hard shadows that can ruin great pics.
Accept being wet and the rest will follow
It’s an almost Zen-like moment when you realize you just can’t get any wetter. You finally stop trying to prevent moisture from seeping in and then throw your hands up in surrender. It’s over. You’re soaked.
Sure, being wet all the time sucks. But at least now you can focus on the hike. Blast through puddles with blatant disregard for your gators’ limitations and throw off that hood ‘cause it hinders your vision and kinda pisses you off.
Relax and relish in the knowledge that you’re probably one of the people stomping along this rain-drenched trail. But if that isn’t motivating enough, just try to focus on how cozy and dry your tent will be.
Do you prefer the trails less travelled?
Join like-minded trekkers by signing up for the S&TT e-mail list. Every week, you’ll get:
- Profiles of little-known hiking destinations
- Gear reviews for backpackers and hikers
- Feature articles on strange and off-beat hiking
Plus we’re 100% spam-free (and proud of it)