Hiking in the Rain

Hiker in the rain, Copyright Auke Holwerde, used by permission, iStockPhotoLet’s face it, if you’re in Tennessee and waiting for a spring or early summer day where the forecast doesn’t mention rain or showers to go hiking, well, you probably won’t do much hiking. Tennessee weather is so unpredictable. Someone once told me that weathermen are right often enough that you can’t ignore them, but wrong often enough you can’t depend on them.

My advice: pick a day and go prepared. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Communication. I make sure my companions know there’s a possibility of rain. There’s only one thing worse than hiking unprepared and being soaked to the bone: hiking with others who are unprepared and soaked to the bone (and probably complaining loudly).
  • Proper Footwear. Hiking in soggy tennis shoes is about as close to miserable as I want to get. And hiking in the rain I will inevitably have to wade through at least one 1″-2″ puddle on the trail. That’s why I wear waterproof hiking boots for longer, rougher treks. For most shallow puddles, I just walk right through. For shorter, lighter hiking, I just wear water sandals like Teva, Chaco, or Keen. My feet will be wet, but at least they will drain quickly.
  • Rain gear. I always carry my rain jacket and pants in my day pack, sunny and clear or not. But you don’t have to spend that much money. For a short walk, a cheap $2 poncho or a trash bag will suffice. They don’t breathe very well though, so you might end up soaked with sweat instead of rain.
  • Hat. I wear a nice wide brimmed hat will help shed the rain when I don’t have the hood up on my jacket or poncho. I got a Tilly hat as a Christmas gift and it is perfect for keeping the head dry.
  • Change of clothes and a towel. Once I come off the trail, I change into dry clothes as quickly as possible. A drive home while soaked is not an enjoyable experience.

I avoid severe thunderstorms, lightning, hail, tornadoes, high winds or other such severe weather. But I’ve found that hiking in a light rain shower can be downright enjoyable. I saw quite a few frogs out and about on my last drizzly hike.

What are YOUR suggestions for hiking in the rain? What did I miss?