How to dress for a rainy hike
Nothing puts a damper on hiking like a dreary forecast, but it doesn’t always mean you need to cancel your outdoor plans. Hiking in the rain can still be a fun and rewarding experience as long as you know how to dress for the weather. Choosing the right jacket, pants, footwear and accessories can make all the difference between a soggy outing and a pleasant day spent in nature.
In this guide, we cover all the essentials needed for a rainy hike so you can feel confident no matter the conditions.
Best clothing for a rainy hike
While the type of clothing you’ll need might vary slightly depending on season, location and type of hike, most of the core components will remain the same. Whether you’re out for a short day hike or planning a multi-day backpacking trip, following these simple guidelines will help you prepare for your next rainy trek, and more importantly, keep you comfortable while you’re out on the trail. When selecting the option that works best for you, fit, material, breathability and weight are all factors that should play into your decision.
Hiking rain jackets
Let’s start with one of the most important articles of clothing — the jacket. If you want full seam-sealed protection, make sure you choose a waterproof option. Compared to water-resistant softshell jackets, which are meant for milder weather or as layering options, waterproof hardshell jackets are designed to keep out even the harshest downpour.
Normally constructed from synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester and finished with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, many waterproof hiking jackets, like the men's North Face Resolve or the Columbia Watertight II, are easily packable, breathable and lightweight. Even on days when no rain is predicted, it's never a bad idea to pack a waterproof jacket, or even an inexpensive rain poncho just in case.
Not only is it important for a jacket to keep you dry on the outside, but those that also allow for interior moisture to escape can aid in your rainy day experience. The breathability of waterproof jackets can vary by brand and style, but many options provide some degree of water permeation, preventing sweat and moisture from building up inside.
The women's Columbia Arcadia II is made with breathable OmniTech fabric technology for superior breathability. Underarm vents or "pit zips" are an added feature of certain rain jackets, such as the Patagonia Torrentshell, which creates airflow and helps keep you cool and dry. It also uses responsibly sourced recycled nylon.
Rain jackets should fit slightly larger, allowing for enough room to comfortably layer your clothing underneath. Synthetic or merino wool shirts, sweaters and base layers are always preferred over cotton. Once wet, cotton loses its insulative properties, which can lead to dangerous situations in colder climates.
Hiking rain pants
Now that you’ve arranged to keep your torso nice and dry, it’s time to focus on your lower half. Waterproof pants might not be quite as popular or widely-used as waterproof jackets, but when it's raining steadily with no end in sight, you’ll be glad your legs aren’t soaked to the core. Employing the same basic principles and technology as hardshell jackets, waterproof pants are a synthetic outer layer that can be worn over shorts, leggings or other forms of hiking pants.
The North Face Venture 2 Pants are another trustworthy half-zip option that shields your legs from both wind and rain, then pack away into their own pocket when no longer needed.
Hiking rain boots
Constantly feeling water slosh around inside your boots usually results in your hike being cut short. Fortunately, with the correct footwear your feet can remain completely dry, even on the wettest portions of the trail. Finding the right hiking boot depends a lot on fit and comfort, but there are numerous options available that do a fantastic job of keeping water out.
If you know trail and weather conditions are going to be exceptionally poor or if you know you'll encounter any stream crossings, wearing a pair of breathable waterproof socks can add an extra level of protection. To some it may seem like overkill, but over time, wet feet can lead to unwanted health problems.
It doesn’t matter how watertight your boots are if rain is still able to seep in around the ankle. Waterproof hiking gaiters are essentially protective ankle wraps that prevent water, dust, dirt, pebbles or other nuisances from finding their way into your boots. On days when it’s actively raining, gaiters can be a lifesaver.
The Rocky Mountain Gaiters from Outdoor Research utilize both a low and high model, so you can decide which is best for your needs. These versatile gaiters can easily strap onto your hiking boots or even your everyday shoes, providing protection both on and off the trail.
Waterproof hiking gear
Most waterproof jackets feature adjustable hoods. However, some hikers prefer to wear rain hats instead. Hats like the lightweight Seattle Sombrero offer more head and neck mobility, while the full brim prevents water from dripping into your eyes or onto your face. Made from breathable GORE-TEX, this rain hat won't cause sweat build up, meaning it can also be used as a sun hat once the weather clears.
Though not technically something you'd wear on your body, a waterproof pack cover is necessary for protecting the contents of your hiking backpack. Assuming your pack is not waterproof on its own, a pack cover acts as a rain jacket for your gear. The last thing you want after a long hike is to find out all your snacks, or even your spare change of clothes, have become waterlogged. Models like these CamelBak Pack Covers are great low-cost options for day hikers or backpackers and offer a secure fit on a variety of pack sizes.
Matthew Young is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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