With the return of fall to the Pacific Northwest, so comes the clouds and the rain. Sure, not every day is going to be full of precipitation quiet yet, but chances are it may threaten to rain just when you have a hike planned. No matter though, wandering through nature while the drops come down can be beautiful and serene. Here are some helpful hints and tips to make hiking in the rain a truly enjoyable and safe experience.
Waterproof It Up
Waterproof is a necessity, not water resistant or a windbreaker. You want something that will successfully repel water like a rain shell, but make sure it’s breathable. If fact ones with underarm zippers or zip pits are recommended so that dampness can quickly escape and not get trapped to cool you down. Don’t forget the rain pants too, and try to find types that have zippers on the sides so that you can get them off and on without taking off your boots!
The Glorious Gaiter
Simple trail gaiters, or coverings that protect the vulnerable tops of your footwear, calves, and shins can make you feel almost invincible. They also add an extra layer of waterproofing to make sure your feet end up dry at the end of the day. Gaiters are even better at keeping mud and grime off your rain pants and boots.
Wick It Away
Always wear a layer of moisture wicking clothing close to you skin. Remember the adage: “Cotton kills”. These days polypropylene or newer wool offerings, like those from Smartwool or Icebreaker is a great choice. Wicking under garments are very important as they transport the moisture away from your body so you don’t get chilled.
Layer and Layers
As any good Northwesterner can attest, layers are the keys to success. As weather conditions can change in an instant and you want the ability to monitor your comfort by adding or removing a layer easily. Think vests and light fleece that can add warmth simply and comfortably.
The Amazing Plastic Bag
Simple plastic bags that zip close can keep everything in your pack and pockets dry. From your map, journal, and camera, to matches, flashlight, and lighters, this inexpensive protector is must for hiking in showers. And throw in a couple of thick millimeter black plastic garbage bags while your at it, as they can double as ponchos, pack coverings, or even shelter if needed.
Keep It Off Your Face
Though some rain jackets come with hoods that are perfectly adequate in keeping your head dry, a hat that is waterproof and breathable is a must better option. Hats won’t impair visibility and hearing when you’re hiking the wilderness. Wide brimmed hat varieties are a great option, but most outdoor companies offer many different styles to choose from.
Again, waterproof and breathable are the names of the game, but you’ll also want to try to find options that have rubber soles that stick to rocks and other slippery surfaces. High tops are best, as you’ll probably be treading through many puddles and small streams. Don’t forget the importance of socks too, as a layer of liners and then some thicker woolen hiking socks can keep you feet warm and happy. Carrying a pair of hiking extra socks in a plastic bag in your pack is also a great idea in case your boots leak or you end up trotting through high water.
Eli Madrone writes about hiking and health in the Pacific Northwest. He learned about hiking in the rain from, Donald J. Lanahan, a dentist in Grants Pass.