Hiking In The Rain: 9 Tips To Make The Most Of It

Hiking in the rain can be a great experience, but it’s important to be prepared. Make sure you have the right gear to keep you dry and know how to hike as comfortably as possible on the trails in wet weather conditions. With a little planning and preparation, hiking in the rain can be a fun and rewarding adventure. Here are 9 tips to help make the most of some foul weather hiking.

Is It Ok To Hike In The Rain?

First, we’ll get this out of the way. Yes, in most cases, it’s perfectly fine to hike in the rain. You won’t melt. And it can be pretty refreshing in the heat of the summer. Winter not so much of course.

Some trails might specifically warn against hiking on them in rain due to erosion or otherwise damaging the environment. So just be weary of that.

But otherwise, you’re good to go!

Here’s Those Tips I Was Talking About

1) Dress Appropriately

Knowing how to dress for the rain is key!

hiking in the rain
Me and friends before while still learning the ins and outs of hiking in the rain

For Colder Weather

In colder weather, staying dry and warm is a necessity. Your outerwear should all be waterproof, including boots, pants, and a jacket. This allows all the layers under those items to stay dry. Thus keeping you warm and toasty.

Avoid cotton on potential rainy days as it takes longer to dry than synthetic materials. And doesn’t hold in heat when wet as wool does. Wool can be a bit more expensive so you can do several layers of synthetic clothing. Or find a garment that’s primarily made of synthetic materials but also has a little bit of wool to it. That’s generally a bit cheaper and a good blend of both worlds.

In The Heat

When I’m hiking in warm weather, especially in the summer, it’s a different ballgame. Instead of trying to keep the rain out, I’ll let it soak me. My focus shifts to all breathable and quick-drying attire.

That means thin and light trail running shorts, simple synthetic running shirts, and even non-waterproof trail running shoes. I prefer breathable shoes instead of waterproof shoes in warmer weather. As this will allow the shoes to dry faster and not trap water in the shoe. Most trail running shoes also have water drainage ports to aid with this.

I’ll have a hiking poncho with me for when it really pours to help keep my core temperature from dropping too much. But my clothing will still get wet. That’s why it needs to be fast-drying. Once the rain stops my clothing starts to dry off as I’m hiking. Or I can hang it up overnight at a shelter or on hiking poles and it’ll be good by the next day.

Have a few pairs of socks if you’re able to so you swap them out as needed.

Or you can ditch the shoes altogether and hike in Chacos or other hiking sandals. This way you won’t have to worry about getting your socks or shoes soaking wet. Just be mindful of rocks, roots, and whatever else you can stub your toes on.

You could always try and go the fully waterproof route in the summertime, just be sure the outerwear is also super breathable. Companies use tech like Gore-Tex, eVent, and other membranes to help them be waterproof but also breathe at the same time.

But those can all be pretty expensive and still may not breathe as much as you’d like, even with pit zips.

So I don’t fight it in the summertime. I just let it come.

2) Stay On The Trail

Avoid going off the trail while hiking in the rain. This will help protect the environment and avoid any unnecessary destruction caused by foot traffic.

This could also help keep you a little dryer as you’re not constantly rubbing up against brush, and leaves, or walking through wet grass.

3) Pack Cover & Keeping Your Gear Dry

This is a big one. Whether hiking in the winter or summertime. Keeping your sleeping bag, tent, extra clothing and the rest of your gear is absolutely essential!

I keep mine in an outside, easy-to-grab location. In the summertime, I’ll wait until the very last minute to gear up for rain, but once it hits, my pack cover is the first thing I’ll reach for.

For wintertime hiking, if there’s even an inkling of rain in the forecast, my pack cover will already have been on. And my waterproof clothing would be put in an easy-to-grab spot under the pack cover so I could throw those on next.

For certain items like my down sleeping bag, it’ll have its own waterproof bag. Because if down gets wet, it won’t do its job and keep me warm. This gives me peace of mind in case my pack cover fails or I can’t get it on fast enough.

Another thing I like to keep in its own waterproof bag is my food.

4) Waterproof Food Bag

It’s a terrible thing when you go to dig in your food bag for that glorious bag of Peanut M&Ms only to find out that the bag had popped open but also gotten wet overnight so the inside of your bag looks like a damn rainbow.

Not saying this very specific incident ever occurred to me…

But it can be a very mood-dampening moment on the trail.

This goes for all the food in your bag, whatever it may be. Water just makes it worse.

Also, I’ve found a waterproof food bag helps cut down on critter interest. I haven’t scientifically proven this but there’s been a few instances where my waterproof food bag was not touched by roaming hungry rodents or whatever else may come by while someone else’s was.

5) Plan Appropriately

If you can avoid hiking in a heavy bone-soaking all-day rain, that’s probably for the best. But sometimes you can’t. Maybe you’re gunning for a specific destination and have to crank out some mileage.

If you’re planning for a weekend hike, and the weather is calling for rain all day Saturday and Sunday, try to reschedule. Or maybe wait until the very last minute, Friday evening or whatever.

I’ve had trips turn out really well after almost getting canceled due to the forecast. Use your best judgment. But also know it can still be a crapshoot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

6) Don’t Forget To Stay Hydrated

Something I’m often guilty of. Not drinking enough water while cranking out mileage in the rain. Just keep reminding yourself or reaching for that Camelback bite valve every 20 mins or so.

According to REI, you should be drinking about “one half-liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures.” Or a 1 liter for every two hours.

7) Watch Your Step & Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

Everything is a bit more slippery in the rain, so watch your step. The rocks, roots, logs, etc.

Also, be wary of trees falling over during heavy rains. Or crossing creeks that have risen a bunch due to the rain.

This actually brings me to my next point.

8) Use Trekking Poles

When crossing those high creeks, going down those nicely laid out rock stairs, or stepping over fallen logs, it never hurts to have some extra support. Trekking poles are great in general while hiking but in the rain, they’re 10x better.

Get the poles with cork handles. Otherwise, your hands might be slipping on the grips in the rain. That can get pretty annoying.

9) Keep A Positive Attitude

Keeping a positive attitude in general is always a great thing to do But it can be even more beneficial when hiking in the rain.

Focus on the positive and allow the pitter-patter of the rain hitting your waterproof gear to help you zone off into happy thoughts.

hiking in the rain

Plus with rain, there’s a good chance the trail and its top-of-the-mountain views will be less crowded. And if the rain clears once you’re up top, you can be treated to some unique views!

There’s also the smell of the rain in the summertime. Although I can’t say I’ve personally experienced that because my sense of smell is terrible. But I know the feeling and have heard it’s a wonderful thing.