How To Stay Warm, Dry and Happy While Hiking in the Rain

Hiking in the rain

It’s October here in England and the rains have resolutely arrived. Bringing with it shorter days and colder temperatures, the rainy season can be a big damper on outdoor plans.

Even if you love hiking, hiking in the rain can sometimes feel like more of a chore than a reward. Especially at this time of year, staying warm and dry inside can feel so much more appealing than venturing out into the wet for hours on end. That said, there are so many reasons to love hiking in the rain and it’s completely possible to enjoy it if you learn how to stay warm and dry.

Particularly if you’re travelling and are unlikely to come back to a destination, it would be a crying shame to skip a hike because of rain. Besides, I’ve undertaken some hikes where I feel the moody skies and drizzle actually added to the scenery. My experience on this coastal hike in Wales, for example, was enhanced by its dramatic atmosphere:

Port Eynon to Rhossili Coastal Walk

While it’s almost impossible to stay completely dry in torrential downpours, this guide will help you stay warm and dry as best you can, and maintain a positive attitude when hiking in the rain.

1) Bring the right gear for hiking in the rain

The best way to stay dry while hiking in the rain is to have the right gear. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but it’s essential to have genuinely waterproof gear if you want to stay dry.

Waterproof hiking boots: Besides just keeping your feet dry, the right pair of hiking boots will give you a sure footing over wet or slippery terrain. Opt for boots rather than hiking shoes to stop water trickling down your ankles and into your socks.

Waterproof trousers/pants: Good waterproof trousers will keep your lower half dry and will be comfortable to wear all day. I love my cheap but very effective waterproof trousers from Quechua.

Waterproof jacket: A high-quality waterproof jacket is the most important piece of kit for hiking in the rain. This will keep your core warm and dry. I love my Torrentshell Jacket from Patagonia.

Backpack rain cover: Most backpacks are not waterproof, so you’ll need to use a rain cover to keep your stuff dry. Most good outdoor backpacks come with a rain cover.

Dry bag: Even with a good waterproof rain cover, it’s a good idea to line your backpack with a dry bag for extra protection.

Lauren Pears hiking in the rain
Getting rained on while hiking the South Downs Way

2) Extra rain gear that might come in useful

The following items are not necessarily essential and will depend on the length and terrain of your hike, as well as how much it’s raining.

Spare dry clothes: If you’ll be out for most of the day and expect it to rain a lot, you may want to bring some spare dry clothes to change into.

Trekking poles: Trekking poles will help you to maintain your balance on muddy/slippery ground.

Waterproof phone pouch: If you’ll be needing to use your phone as a GPS, consider investing in a waterproof phone pouch so you can still use it in the rain.

Gaiters: Gaiters will stop water and mud from entering between your trousers and shoes. They should go over your hiking trousers but under your waterproof trousers.

Zip-lock bags: Consider putting things like your wallet in a zip-lock bag to keep it protected from the rain.

Waterproof gloves: Strong wind on wet skin can make you very cold. A pair of waterproof gloves will help keep your hands warm while hiking.

Hiking in the rain

3) Wear the right fabrics

Cotton is best avoided when hiking because it absorbs moisture like a sponge. It will soak up both your sweat and rainwater, becoming heavy and clammy in the process. Not only this, but cotton takes ages to dry properly and is ineffective at keeping you warm once it does get wet.

  • Cotton is a heavy fabric to begin with, and gets even heavier when wet.
  • Cotton will soak up sweat and rainwater and stay wet.
  • When cotton is wet, it no longer insulates your skin to keep you warm.
  • Cotton takes a long time to dry, meaning you’ll stay wet for the duration of your hike.

Instead of cotton, go for materials that wick moisture away from your skin. Nylon and polyester are two great options as they dry quickly and will keep you warm.

4) Choose your layers wisely

By dressing in layers, you can easily respond to the environment, adding or removing layers as you get warmer or colder:

  • Base Layer: The base layer goes right against your core and wicks moisture away from your skin. E.g. a t-shirt.
  • Mid Layer: The mid layer retains the body heat you generate. E.g. a fleece.
  • Outer Layer: The outer layer protects you from the elements. E.g. a waterproof jacket.

Waterproof clothing can be very clammy, making it easy to sweat. You’ll want to avoid sweating as much as possible, though, as this can make you very cold once you stop moving and your temperature starts to drop. With this in mind, you may want to avoid wearing a mid-layer that’s too warm. Wear just enough layers to stay warm and dry while moving, and keep extra layers in your backpack to add underneath your waterproof jacket if needed.

5) Bring a warm drink and some treats

Never underestimate the value of a good thermos. If it’s going to be cold or raining during my hike, I like to fill my thermos with some tea or hot chocolate and bring it along with me. Hydroflask is a good choice for an insulated canteen-style water bottle that doubles as a super-powered thermos. I like keeping two around — one for cold water and one for hot drinks or even soup.

In the UK, it’s a well-known fact that a warm cup of tea isn’t complete without some biscuits or a chocolate bar. Make sure to pack in some treats of your choosing to keep your spirits high and energy levels up — sitting down inside a shelter with a pick-me-up after hiking in the rain is a truly wonderful feeling.

Muddy hiking boots
You may have some muddy hiking boots to contend with, depending on the nature of the trail you choose!

6) Have a positive attitude

One of the most important things you can bring along on a rainy hike is a positive attitude. It’s all too easy to see a wet forecast and decide to cancel. But rather than waiting for a sunny day, or missing out altogether, think about the reasons why hiking in the rain can be a good experience:

  • There will be fewer people on the trail
  • You might spot more wildlife
  • It’s easier to stay cool
  • You’ll get to see places in a different light
  • Seeing a new place in the rain is way better than not seeing it at all
  • That warm bath will feel so much better after a day out in the rain

Your attitude plays a huge part in how much you enjoy any experience, including hiking in the rain. If you go out with the mindset that it will be miserable, then it probably will be. Just make sure to kit yourself out with good waterproof hiking gear and you’ll see that it really isn’t so bad. Oh, and don’t forget to bring along hot tea and chocolate bars to keep those spirits high!

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.

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Cheap flights – Skyscanner
Travel insurance – World Nomads
Outdoor gear – Decathlon / GO Outdoors
Cycling gear – Chain Reaction Cycles

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