As the average working person would know, weekends are precious.
Weekends are one chance we have to escape and forget tiring weeks. Plus, we recharge our batteries for the week ahead! So, we all know the feeling of having our weekend outdoor plans interrupted by a couple of rainy days.
It never fails… you are stuck at work during the week wistfully looking out the window wishing you were hiking or camping. You get pumped for the weekend and make plans to be outdoors and then… rain. Rain “ruins” your plans and you’re stuck indoors dreaming of what could have been.
Don’t let this happen!
Rainy days outside can be just as fun as those beautiful sunny days. There are plenty of pros to hiking and camping in the rain. Firstly, fewer people are out so you have the place all to yourself. Waterfalls are running and the creeks are bubbling. Plus, the weather makes for beautiful, moody pictures. I personally love the way the bark on the trees gets dark from the rain. The contrast between the dark trees and the light foggy background makes a great shot!
Where to go
I prefer waterfall hikes or hikes along rivers/creeks during rainy season. The extra water makes waterfalls more powerful and impressive.
Summit hikes can still be a lot fun, but of course don’t expect sweeping views. However, when the clouds do begin to break, or in the morning when the clouds are low and fog settles in the valleys, the scenery can be beautiful.
Clothing can make or break your rainy weather outdoor activities. Being wet while you are outdoors may not only be uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous. Damp clothes will suck the heat out of your body. This leaves you chilled to the bone and in danger of hypothermia. So, be smart!
- Avoid cotton: Cotton will absorb sweat and moisture like a sponge and will take a very long time to dry. When it is wet, it loses all of its insulating qualities. It won’t keep you warm or dry. You can get hypothermia even when the air temperature is well above freezing. Go for alternatives to cotton!
- Wool: Wool doesn’t wick away moisture well, but it will keep its insulating abilities even when wet. Wool also gets less stinky than other materials after multiple days of use and sweating.
- Synthetics: Synthetic materials made to wick moisture away from your skin and keep you warm are the ideal material to wear.
If it is cold, you may want to wear a down jacket over your layers of synthetic and/or wool. However, remember that when down gets wet, it loses its insulating abilities. So, make sure you have a shell.
Your shell should be a rain jacket that is waterproof yet breathable. Rain jackets with pit zips are ideal to maximize air flow. Rain pants or gaiters will help your hiking pants stay dray and mud free, and also help prevent water and mud from getting inside your shoes.
For shoes, take in consideration what kind of hike you are going on. What terrain you are crossing and the length of your trek? How much rain are you expecting? If you are going on a short trek with little to moderate rainfall, wear waterproof boots (leather or with a waterproof liner). You can wear waterproof boots on longer treks with any amount of rainfall, but you will find that after a while your feet will get wet no matter what. Waterproof boots are only waterproof up to a certain point, and once your feet get wet inside the boot they will stay wet until you take them off to dry.
If you know you are going to be crossing creeks or going on a longer hike with a lot of rain, I would recommend wearing lighter weight shoes like trail runners. Accept that your feet will get wet no matter what. But with lightweight shoes, your feet will have a chance to dry and air out even while walking.
Dry bags are essential to keeping gear dry in your pack. It keeps moisture from getting into the bag on your gear or clothes. Dry bags are also good to put wet clothes and gear in to keep water from getting on other stuff in your pack. It is essential to keep things like your sleeping bag dry, so keeping wet stuff separated in a dry bag while in your backpack prevents that from happening.
To keep electronics (like phones and cameras) dry, a small dry bag or even a Ziploc baggy can get the job done.
To protect your entire pack if you are backpacking, make sure you have a pack cover. There are pack covers that are made to fit certain sizes of packs. If you don’t have a chance to go out and get a pack cover before you hit the trails, a trash bag can work as well.
Once you get to where you are camping, look for higher ground to pitch your tent. Waking up in a pool of water that collected overnight does not make for a fun camping trip. Pitching your tent underneath trees will offer a little more protection, but be wary of damaged or dead limbs that could break off and fall in a gust of wind. If you can, bring along two tarps; one to lay on the ground to protect the bottom of your tent, and one to put inside your tent for even more protection.
There are also protective sprays that you can use on tents for extra durability and weatherproofing. Weatherproofing sprays can extend the life of your gear.
It is super important to keep your tent ventilated in any kind of weather, but even more so when the weather is damp. Water in the tent can rapidly lead to moldy gear.
Practice setting up your tent several times before you need it. Knowing exactly how to put up your tent ahead of time will lessen the time you have to stand in the chilly rain struggling over a mess of poles and fabric. Many tents have the ability to be put up rain fly first, so you can be under a dry shelter while setting up the main tent underneath. Know that this way may take a little more time to set up.
Don’t rely on a fire for cooking or warmth because, as you might know, it is very difficult to start a fire with wet wood. Make sure you have a stove for cooking and boiling water.
Bring along a clothes line to hang wet clothes and gear on to dry, or lay them over a tarp string.
Don’t let rain be an excuse to not get out there!
Take advantage of those precious weekends no matter the weather, but be prepared to stay warm, dry, and safe! Rainy days outside doing what you love will lead experiences and new memories that will last a lifetime!