Hiking in a monsoon or a bone-crushing downpour probably doesn’t top too many “bucket lists.” But if you live in the soggy Northwest, you basically have two options when it comes to hiking: either quit for about half the year and wait for the trails to dry out, or deal with it.
I vote for the latter.
Here are Eleven Tips to help you ‘hike happy’ during a rainy day hike or backpack. Adapted from Karen Berger’s Everyday Wisdom: 1001 Expert Tips for Hikers:
- DO NOT HIKE IN JEANS or COTTON. Why? Because as the saying goes, “Cotton kills.” Cotton and denim get wet and stay wet, wicking heat away from your body and increasing your risk of hypothermia. Wear Gore Tex or something similar. (You can drop a fortune on high-end rain gear. Frog Togs [Wal-Mart] work just as well, at half the price.)
- Invest in a quality pair of waterproof boots. Don’t scrimp Tip: Cabela’s Bargain Cave. Other tip for ladies: Buy men’s boots. I don’t know why, but in 30+ years of hiking I’ve found that men’s boots are sturdier and last longer.
- Wear gaiters to help keep your boots and feet dry.
- Use waterproof stuff sacks for your gear, especially clothing. Color code them to indicate what stuff is in which sack.
- Use plastic Ziplocs to help keep items such as matches, trail mix, camera, map, etc., dry. Seal matches in a plastic film canister with a snap-on lid. You can also soak a few cotton balls in Vaseline and stash them in a similar canister as an emergency fire starter. A cut-up inner tube will also work.
- Dress in layers. Check the weather report and gear up accordingly. Keep a steady, slow-to-moderate pace until you reach shelter, especially if it’s cold. Keep an extra layer of dry clothing on hand. See #4.
- Be realistic about your physical ability and how far you can reasonably hike in a day. Don’t over-shoot, especially in inclement weather. Better to choose a shorter trail or come in early than risk becoming a Search & Rescue statistic.
- If hiking in on-and-off rain, try to plan your water and snack stops in between showers.
- Keep water and snacks in your larger exterior pockets or somewhere that doesn’t require taking off your rain gear or opening your pack in order to access.
- Don’t be too quick to shed your wet weather gear. Dense foliage along the trail and trees overhead will shed and drip water for some time after heavy rains. Keep your rain gear on awhile after the sun comes out.
- Wring out your wet socks at the end of the day and hang them up in your tent. Your body heat will help them dry a bit. You can also stuff them inside your sleeping bag while you snooze. If the next day is drier and sunnier, hang the wet socks up to dry outside. Then put them back on your feet for hiking if they’re not too wet. Save your dry back-up socks for the end of the day when you’re in camp, sipping a warm beverage around a crackling campfire.
One other thing. After a cold, wet day on the trails, a nice, hot dinner – preferably next to a roaring fireplace – works wonders in alleviating Wet-Weather Induced Curmudgeonliness and Overall Crankiness.
Don’t ask how I know that.
For more, see: How to Hike Safe and Sane