Some experienced hikers will tell you that there’s actually something special about enjoying the outdoors when you know so many others are running for shelter and out of the rain. That being said, preparing correctly is essential to your ability to enjoy the outdoors when the weather isn’t necessarily at its finest. Staying dry on a rainy hike is about having the right gear and knowing when to use it.
Although a good foundation starts from the ground and builds its way up, rain tends (in all cases that I’m aware of) to fall from above (Forrest Gump scene notwithstanding). So, that’s why our focus will begin with our heads and work our way down to recommend gear items and offer several “pro tips” that will help you stay dry on your next rainy hike.
Covering your head is the first step to keeping yourself dry on a rainy day. While you can rely on the hood of your jacket to provide a little extra protection from the rain, a quality hat will serve two purposes.
Not only will a hat keep the rain off your head and face, but it will also help to hold more heat in where I’m prone to losing a lot. In fact, some studies suggest that we lose seven to ten percent of our body heat through our heads.
If you’re looking for quality waterproof (or, at least, water-resistant) headwear, I have a few options for you.
The Outback Crushable Leather Hat is a great full-brimmed option to keep rain off your head, face, and neck.
Dorfman Pacific also makes a great selection of full-brimmed hats for rainy hikes, including their Pacific All-Season Hat.
Even if your rainy hike is set in a warmer climate, there are significant benefits to keeping your upper body dry.
According to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), “wet clothing greatly increases heat loss through conduction and evaporation.” So, even if you’re hiking on a rainy day and you can’t avoid getting your outer layers wet, choosing quality outer layers can help you keep the clothing that is closer to your skin dry. This can have a large impact on your body’s ability to stay warm and comfortable when it’s wet outside.
If you mostly hike in warmer climates and just need a light shell that’ll keep your torso dry, check out the HUK Packable Rain Jacket.
If you need something that has a little more bulk and insulation to keep you both warm and dry, I recommend either the Ultimate Terrain Calhoun Insulated Jacket or the Striker Ice Climate Jacket (if, you know, you hike in the Arctic a lot!).
And, of course, if you’re looking for the most affordable option, you can always grab an always-reliable Emergency Poncho!
As our bodies get wet and temperatures drop, we naturally shunt blood from our extremities towards our core. This helps our bodies keep our most vital organs healthy and functioning properly, but it does mean that our poor fingers and toes are often the first things to get really cold on a rainy hike.
Fortunately, there are great options for both water-resistant and insulated gloves that will help keep your hands dry and comfortable.
If you’re looking for a reliable, cost-effective option that’s made for hiking in wet climates, check out the Black Diamond Lightweight Waterproof Glove. They’re made to be worn alone and to keep your hands dry in soggy conditions.
If cold temperatures are also a concern, Black Diamond also manufactures a heavyweight version of their waterproof glove that includes 100-gram fleece lining and extra insulation at the back of the hand for added warmth, in addition to waterproof hardshell fabric to keep your hands dry.
While you could opt for a full waterproof suit, like this one from Ultimate Terrain, it’s nice to have multiple layers that can be added or removed depending on conditions.
As I like to say in the guide world (and I’m sure this is said elsewhere as well), “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Even if your legs tend to stay warm in colder or wetter environments, a quality pair of rain pants will help you reduce your body’s heat loss via evaporation and conduction.
Your choice of waterproof pants will largely depend on the climate where you hike most often. A lighter weight pair of pants, like the Ultimate Terrain TecH2O Sheltered Rain Pant, will be easy to throw on over your regular hiking pants or shorts.
However, if you like to hike year-round and that means dealing with more precipitation and colder temperatures, you might opt for something like the Boulder Gear Storm Pant, which features a water-resistant shell and added insulation for warmth.
Waterproof Shoes and Socks
Truly waterproof footwear can, admittedly, be a little difficult to come by. The best water-resistant shoes out there will keep your feet dry in a solid downpour, but most aren’t exactly made for wading through mountain streams.
As I mentioned above, your extremities are usually the first things to get cold when it is wet outside, and wet feet typically means uncomfortable feet when you’re out on a day hike.
That being said, investing in a quality pair of water-resistant hiking shoes or boots is critical to staying dry on a rainy hike.
Options like the Guide Series Cascade Waterproof 6” Uninsulated Hiking Boot and the Hunter’s Choice 7” Venari Waterproof Field Boot will provide an added layer of rain protection that you can’t find in your standard trail shoes.
If you happen to be hiking in extremely wet conditions, you might even look into a pair of insulated, waterproof socks to go along with your preferred choice of rain-ready footwear.
Merino wool is a preferred material for hiking socks in wet weather because of its ability to retain warmth even if it does get wet. But pairing this type of wool with a more waterproof outer layer, like in some of the socks offered by Sealskinz, makes it even more effective at keeping your feet warm and dry on a rainy hike.
One More Tip for Staying Dry on a Rainy Hike
In addition to making sure your body stays dry, you’ll want to keep the gear in your pack protected from heavy rainfall as well. If your backpack didn’t come with a pack cover, grab one that you can keep in your pack for the right moment.
A pack cover will keep your extra layers, food, and even sensitive electronics from getting wet inside your pack. It will also keep your pack itself dry. This is extremely important because a wet pack is difficult to dry and uncomfortable to carry.
If you have any additional recommendations, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.