How To Hike In The Rain

Anne Wild
Derwentwater In The Mist

Cover image: Derwentwater in the mist. All images: Anne Wild

Rain is not the most enticing of weathers for walking. And while you might be tempted to avoid it, if you live where rain is part of your daily life, or if you’re simply keen to hike, you ought not stay inside because it's wet outside.Food is still delicious—even more so, sometimes—in the rain. 

Pack Right

Being British, it is instinctive to expect some rain, and a lightweight waterproof is always stuffed into my backpack, to guard against any showers or sudden change of weather. Getting wet on a walk in Britain also usually means getting cold, so good waterproof walking boots are really important. More, a good pair of gaiters helps prevent water seeping down your legs and being siphoned down your socks into your boots. (Choose these carefully as they can be a hassle to put on.)

The author, dressed for the weather.

The waterproof over-trouser, a particularly unfetching garment, could be an useful addition to your wet weather kit. I don’t own any but friends recommend zip up leg styles so they can easily be put on and taken off as needed. A waterproof jacket should be breathable, with an adjustable well designed hood. A hood which blocks your peripheral vision when you turn your head is very annoying.

Always take a hat and gloves. I always take a Buff, great for keeping your neck warm and can double as a lightweight non-itchy hat. For long distance multi-day hikes use dry sacks to store changes of clothes, and a use waterproof backpack cover. My son advises walking in shorts in wet spring or summer weather, as legs dry much quicker than clothing. He does have a point. (His twin suggests staying indoors.)

Pick Proper Routes

It really helps to tailor your route to work with the weather conditions. For example on a misty drizzly day, a walk by a lake can be atmospheric, as a recent walk around Derwentwater with a friend recently proved.

Interesting weather makes for interesting shots, like this one in the Howgills.

Walks featuring waterfalls or along rivers can be great in in the rain, there’s always something mesmerising about a swollen river or a gushing steaming waterfall after heavy rain.

Rainy woodland walks can be rewarding and provide some shelter, and there’s something about the sound of raindrops falling on and dripping from trees. A rainy day is a good excuse to choose a route with a pub or tea room along the way for shelter and refreshment. Even better in colder months if there is a roaring log fire, somewhere to warm the feet and dry damp clothing.  

About Mud…

Unfortunately walking in rain is often accompanied with having to trudge and squelch through mud. I do not like walking in mud but it really helps to have walking boots with a really good tread, such as Oboz. Gaiters also come into their own here. And a towel and some dry clothes to change into back at the car after any wet hike.

On one walk with a friend I slipped and fell into a very nasty deep smelly muddy puddle and since then I keep wetwipes in my backpack. My trusty friend had some with her on that very rainy day and I was very grateful. After a wet walk boots should be cleaned then dried slowly, stuffing with scrunched up newspaper helps, before reproofing them according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Appreciate Rain’s Bounty

Finally, whilst rain is not ideal hiking weather, it contributes to the beautiful green countryside which we enjoy so much on finer days. Today is such a day and it’s time to put on my Oboz Bridger B Dry Low hiking boots and head to the bluebell woods. In fact ironically it hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks here in the usually wet English Lake District and the local papers are starting to mention the words “drought” and “hosepipe ban” and a river in the wettest village in the Lake District has dried up.  But it’s glorious and I’m going to make the most of it while it lasts.

 

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