I am a big fan of hiking in the wet. A big fan. I prefer to come home sopping wet from hard rain than overheated, sunburnt and sweaty. But, there are a few things to consider before you head out on the trails in the rain.
There’s nothing more annoying that getting to a significant summit only to release the view is spoiled by low cloud cover or hard rain. That said, wet weather makes waterfalls and rivers more spectacular than in the warmer weather. As such, it pays to choose your rainy trail carefully to take advantage of beautiful waterfalls whilst mitigating the risk of climbing a summit only to be disappointed with the available view.
In Australia it’s often not particularly cold even when it’s bucketing with rain making clothing choice super important if you’re looking to avoid sweating under a weatherproof layer. I opt to use a light weather proof cover over an ordinary polo shirt when I hike in the rain and I find this to be both cool enough for when I’m working an incline and dry enough when walking in a downpour. It’s important to me that my top layer has a hood as I definitely don’t like the wet head feeling but I also wear a light hat under the hood to offer my face (read: glasses) some rain protection. I am not a fan of weatherproof pants as I find I sweat too much in them so in the wet I opt for gym tights that are thick enough to keep my legs dry (to a certain extent) whilst also drying quickly after down pours.
Adequate footwear is also essential to enjoying wet weather hiking. I recently had my trusty Columbia’s serviced and had a new layer of leather added to the top of my toes to ensure I avoid that soggy sock feeling when walking in puddles etc. I also always carry a spare pair of socks when I’m doing a longer walk so I can change them if I do suffer a soggy sock injustice.
My Black Wolf day-pack comes with an in-built weatherproof rain cover that I can deploy over the entire pack when I’m expecting rain. This keeps the rain out of my pack but just in case I forget to deploy the cover I also put things like my keys and phone in a zip-lock bag.
I also ensure that I take my hiking poles in the wet, regardless of the length of the trail as I find my heavier frame can sometimes make me unstable over wet, mossy rocks. In my opinion, the additional point of balance is essential to a safe winter hike.
Lastly, I always carry my ethanol fuelled burner for winter hikes so that I can find a sheltered spot and boil up some water for a coffee or a hot chocolate. This helps warm me through if it is particularly chilly… plus it soothes my soul and enhances my enjoyment of the mist.
You really have to learn to love wet weather and the rain if you’re going to enjoy hiking. In Australia winter and early spring is undoubtedly the best time of year to get out on the trails and so if your schedule is as jam packed as mine usually is you’ll want to get out on the trails literally rain, hail or shine… ok maybe not in hail… but you certainly can’t guarantee that hiking time will be available when the weather is dry.
Rain makes water courses more spectacular, it makes the bush so much greener and richer and misty photographs are always way more awesome! So my advice is simple, get prepared, get geared up and get out there.