We’re just entering fall in the Pacific Northwest, which means the rainy weather isn’t all that far away. Hiking in the rain scares off a lot of people, however I don’t mind.
If I waited until the rain stopped, I wouldn’t go outside for five months. So, it’s just something I accept so that we can still enjoy hiking and trail running.
With the right rain gear, staying dry isn’t a problem. Plus, the trails are empty since everyone else stays inside.
Benefits of Hiking in the Rain
Yes, yes, the rain is dreary and the thought of getting outdoors for an adventure doesn’t exactly sound as inviting as curling up on the couch with a dog tucked between your legs and a good book.
However, as with most difficult things, the hardest part is getting started. If you really have a tough time with the rain, make a date with a friend to keep you accountable.
It’s always better to spend some time outdoors, especially when the winter days feel so dark and depressing. There are plenty of advantages to getting outside, even when the weather tells you otherwise.
Fight SAD. For those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), getting outside and taking in as much daylight as possible is one sure way to combat that feeling of being stuck inside. As with any form of depression, physical exercise, especially outdoors will help alleviate seasonal depression.
Fewer crowds. No matter how adventurous, few folks feel excitement over rainy day hiking. Many will cancel their plans and stay indoors, which means emptier trails for you and your pup. This is especially helpful if you hike with a reactive dog.
The waterfalls are epic. Waterfalls are already pretty wonderful sights, but in the rain, they swell and fill with even more water making the trek more worth it.
Earn badass points. You totally earn bragging rights for going out in the rain. Not only that, it builds your mental strength for challenges life may throw your way, from training for endurance events, losing a job, or going through tough times.
Experience mist and low clouds. Misty weather brings low-level clouds and fog that paint quite a beautiful scene. While the views may hide behind thicker clouds, there is always beauty when you look around.
Wear the Right Clothing
As they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Getting the right clothing for you and your dog will make for much more comfortable outings during the seemingly endless rainy season.
I use and love, love, love, LOVE the Voyagers K9 Apparel Dog Jacket. They make custom jackets for dogs, so they fit perfectly. Other jackets I’ve tried either never fit right or are a pain to put on. Not the case with these!
A hike in the rain means, well, you’ll probably get wet. The right gear will keep you warm and mostly dry.
The key is to staying dry in the first place. If you wait to put on your layers once you’re already wet, then it’s too late because you won’t be able to get your body temperature back up and could be risking hypothermia.
Water Resistant Pants
Waterproof pants are not all that breathable, so if you worry about overheating, then wear water resistant hiking pants. Otherwise, pack a lightweight pair of waterproof pants to keep the rain out and provide an extra layer of insulation. Some come with zipper vents to get some airflow. I have the Showers Pass Refuge pants that I use and they work just fine.
Waterproof Rain Jacket
I never go anywhere between the months of September to June without a rain jacket. There may be blue skies outside, but you never know when those clouds might roll in! The Deflektr Hybrid Shell from Kuhl has a long length to cover your bum and upper thighs, a large hood that actually stays on your head, and is made from recycled materials.
Buy at Kuhl.
Waterproof Hiking Boots
Waterproof hiking boots are an essential piece of hiking gear for wet weather hiking. Your feet will get wet and cold if you don’t have a good pair of waterproof boots. I’ve been rocking the Altra Lone Peak 4 lately and absolutely love them. I’ve walked straight through rivers without a drop seeping in.
Buy at REI/Amazon
Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm even if they get wet. Darn Tough makes my favorite socks for hiking. What I love best about the brand is that they have a lifetime guarantee. So if and when the socks start to thin, you can just replace them with a new pair.
Buy at REI
Additional items include gloves, a hat, and a merino wool base layer.
Protecting Your Gear
During a grad school trip to China, a typhoon rolled in while we were out sightseeing. I thought my backpack was waterproof, but alas, it was not. My camera was inside and I never got it working again after it essentially drowned. Since then, I’ve been very diligent about protecting my electronic gear when I am out in inclement weather.
Rain Cover for Backpack
Your backpack might say it’s waterproof, but if you have expensive gear inside, I wouldn’t trust it. Some bags like the Osprey Sirrus 24-liter day pack include a built-in rain cover, otherwise you can purchase one separately.
Alternatively, if you don’t carry anything on the outside of your pack that will become damaged in the rain, then use lightweight dry bags to protect the gear inside your pack. I love these REI brand waterproof sacks for storage. You can purchase various sizes to accommodate what you need, including your phone.
I protect my camera with a Peak Design Shell Camera Cover. I love that I can use it with the cover still on, or take it off easily if the rain comes and goes. Even with the cover on, all buttons and viewfinder are easily accessible.
Keeping the Car Clean Post-Hike
Muddy paws and boots can mean a filthy car all winter long. Prepping the car beforehand and bringing along a few additional items will mean less mess and clean up for later.
Weather tech floor mats. These super durable mats are easy to rinse off and clean after muddy excursions.
Keep a dog towel in the car to dry off your dog’s fur and paws as much as possible. I try to always keep two so that when I use one and bring it inside to wash, I still have another in the car in case I forget to replace it.
Car seat covers protect your seats from muddy paws and are super easy to clean. I use the Coast to Coast cover from Kurgo and it wipes clean easily with a wet cloth. I also love that it’s not slippery and therefore uncomfortable for my dogs.
Bring an extra pair of shoes and clothes to change into. Put the muddy shoes inside a small container to hold the water and mud and bring a waterproof bag to store your wet clothes for the ride home.
Hiking Tips for Rainy Days
You may have to make a few adjustments or take extra precautions for a rainy day hike. Understanding the conditions ahead of time will keep you and your dog safe as well as make you aware of what to expect.
Check the weather before you head to the trail. Rain at sea level can mean snow in the mountains, so be prepared for the weather. High winds can mean tree falls and pose very dangerous conditions. Avoid going if the weather calls for wind.
Days of rain can make the trail muddy and slippery. Walk carefully over terrain, wet logs and river crossings, and rocks. Trekking poles can be especially helpful navigating slick terrain.
Staying dry is the best way to stay warm and prevent hypothermia. Assess your and your dog’s comfort throughout the hike. Don’t keep going just to complete the hike if one of you is not doing well.
Check for trail and road conditions before hitting the road. I use All Trails and local hiking groups on Facebook to determine whether the trail and road leading there are passable. Mudslides are always a concern in rainy locations.