Do you have a big hiking trip planned, but suddenly the forecast is calling for a day of rain?! Don’t let a little water spoil your plans. As long as you are prepared and have the right gear, it’s still possible to have a great experience hiking in the rain. And who knows, maybe it’ll clear up and you’ll get to see that view you’re looking for anyways! In this article, we’re breaking down all the hiking gear for rain that you need, plus a few tips on how to have the best experience hiking in the rain!
Hiking in the rain
Rain in the forecast can really put a damper on your excitement for that epic hike or backpacking trip you’ve been planning for months! We know that there’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when you open your weather app and see that dreaded rain cloud icon. Day after day leading up to the hike, you refresh the forecast hoping by some miracle to see that rain cloud replaced with a sun.
However, when the weather doesn’t go your way, it’s still entirely possible to have a great time hiking in the rain! With the right gear, the right expectations, and well-made plans, you can make the most out of a rainy day and still have an awesome time exploring the great outdoors.
In this article, we’ll share a list of hiking gear for rain, as well as personal recommendations on some of our favorite items. Then, we’ll end with a few tips we’ve learned from countless days of hiking plans gone awry, soggy socks, rain-soaked gear, and unmet expectations!
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Hiking gear for rain
This article is divided into the following sections including information on important hiking gear for rain, as well as a few general tips for hiking in the rain:
- Hiking gear for keeping dry in rain
- Jackets for hiking in the rain
- Footwear for hiking in rain
- Layers for hiking in the rain
- Safety hiking gear for rain
- Camera hiking gear for rain
- Other tips for hiking in the rain
P.S. Looking for more general information about what to pack for a day hike? We’ve compiled a complete list of hiking essentials in the article below!
Gear for keeping dry hiking in rain
We never hit the trails without these items to keep ourselves and our gear dry if the forecast calls for rain!
- Backpack Rain Cover | The most important thing to consider when hiking in the rain, aside from keeping yourself dry, is keeping your gear dry. That extra change of dry clothes does no good if it gets soaked in your backpack. The easy solution to keeping your gear dry in the rain is to purchase a backpack rain cover.
- Poncho | The simplest, easiest, cheapest and most effective piece of rain gear for hiking. It may sound (and look) silly, but a poncho is lightweight, covers more of your body and your backback, and serves as an extra layer of protection over a rain jacket. You can purchase a poncho online ahead of time, or you can typically find one in a local convenience store or gear shop.
Tip | If you aren’t able to find a poncho before your hike, you could make do with a large trash bag. Simply cut an opening for your head and arms and pull it over your backpack.
- Dry bags | These Sea to Summit dry bags are great for keeping things dry in your backpack, including an extra layer of clothes, food, and other valuables.
- Waterproof phone case | An extra layer of protection for your cell phone is never a bad idea. Toss your phone in a waterproof case inside a dry bag to be extra confident it’ll stay dry. If you don’t have a waterproof case, use a ziplock bag as a backup. It’s certainly not as reliable but should typically do the job.
- Lightweight towel | This REI Multi Towel packs down small and weighs only 6.5 ounces, making it perfect for drying yourself and/or your gear when hiking in the rain.
Footwear for hiking in rain
Keeping your feet dry is one of the most important factors to consider when hiking in the rain. A good pair of waterproof hiking boots will go a long way toward keeping you dry and warm.
You’ll also want to make sure your boots have solid traction for maneuvering over wet slippery surfaces. When picking a pair of boots for hiking in rain, look for full-grain leather as it offers superior water resistance. To make sure your feet stay dry, look for a pair of boots with a waterproof membrane.
- My Danner Mountain 600 boots are my favorite all-around hiking boot, and they are made of full-grain leather with complete waterproofing to keep your feet dry even when hiking in rain.
- Gaiters | These fit overtop of your boots and help prevent water and dirt from getting inside your boots.
Jackets for hiking in rain
- Hiking Rain Jacket | A dependable rain jacket is perhaps the most important piece of hiking gear for rain! I always wear my Patagonia Torrentshell rain jacket when hiking in the rain, and I’ve found it to be very reliable. The Torrentshell jacket also comes in men’s.
- Synthetic down jacket | Traditional down jackets lose much of their insulation capacity when wet, so try to wear a synthetic down jacket, like the Patagonia Nano Puff (made of 100% polyester so it doesn’t lose its warmth when wet). Once again, the Nano Puff also comes in men’s.
Layers for hiking in the rain
- Moisture-wicking base layers | For hiking in the rain, it’s best to avoid wearing cotton. Cotton materials hold water, so if you get wet it’ll be tougher to dry out, increasing the risk of hypothermia. Try wearing wool, nylon, or polyester instead of cotton. The Smartwool Merino is my go-to base layer.
- Fleece | The Patagonia R1 Air Zip is made of a lightweight, breathable polyester, meaning it dries super quickly – perfect for layering under your down jacket or rain jacket on a warmer day.
- Rain pants | They may not be the most fashionable apparel, but a pair of rain pants are best for keeping you dry and warm in heavier rain. These REI Rainier pants even slip on over hiking boots, making it easy to take them off if the rain subsides.
- Hats | A ball cap can serve as an extra layer of protection from the rain under your hood. On colder days, pick a close-fitting beanie that won’t bunch up under your hood.
- Extra clothes | It’s important to pack one extra set of clothes so that you can change into dry clothes if you get wet. This is especially important if you are hiking in cold rainy weather, as hypothermia can pose a serious danger when your body is unable to dry off.
Safety hiking gear for rain
- Headlamp | An item you should take hiking regardless of weather conditions, a headlamp can be particularly useful in darker conditions brought on by poor weather or in case of an emergency.
- GPS Device | We always hike with our Garmin InReach Mini but it’s even more important to have a reliable means of navigation when hiking in the rain, when visibility is low and weather conditions can cause unexpected challenges.
- Trekking Poles | We love hiking with trekking poles regardless of the weather, but when hiking in the rain, poles are essential gear to help with stability, especially on muddy terrain. Our go-to trekking poles are the Black Diamond Distance-Z poles. They’re lightweight, reliable and pack down small.
- Maps | We typically use pre-downloaded trail maps on AllTrails for day hiking. You need the AllTrails “Pro” version to be able to download the trail maps for offline use. . Again, because it can be easier for plans to go awry or to get off trail in the rain, it’s especially important to carry maps and have a well-thwell-thought-outought out plan.
Camera hiking gear for rain
Of course, the easy solution to prevent rain damage to your camera is to just leave it at home! If you can’t imagine hitting the trails without your beloved camera, below are a few items to help keep it dry.
- Water Resistant Camera Bag | The Matador Base Layer provides lightweight protection for your camera that’s easy to take on and off, and includes a water resistant layer. It isn’t 100% waterproof, but it protects against splashes and rain showers.
- Dry sack | We’ve already mentioned using dry sacks above, but they’re also great protection for your camera.
- Camera shell | Although not completely waterproof, this Peak Design shell repels water and allows you to take photos without removing the camera.
Other tips for hiking in the rain
In addition to having the right gear, it’s important to be well-prepared before you set off to hike in the rain. Below we’ve compiled a few extra tips for a safe and fun hike.
Always check the weather before you go, and throughout your hike
Weather conditions are constantly changing so it’s important to stay informed. If you have a GPS device, like the Garmin InReach, you can get an updated weather forecast while on the trail.
Reassess if the forecast calls for thunderstorms
Does the forecast call for thunderstorms? While a bit of rain may put a damper on your day, if the forecast calls for thunderstorms, make sure you understand the risk. If you are hiking in exposed rocky areas without much tree cover, it’s best to reschedule in the event of thunderstorms, as being caught in a lightning storm can be deadly.
- P.S. It’s always a good idea to read up on what to do in case of lighting.
Research your hike and know the trail conditions
Make sure that you know what to expect along the trail, and whether you and your hiking group are prepared to handle challenges that may arise due to rain. For example, river crossings pose an additional flash flood risk and can be particularly dangerous when rain causes rising water levels. Dry desert areas are particularly prone to flash flooding during heavy rain.
Steep trails are more dangerous when muddy, and slickrock becomes particularly slippery when wet. Furthermore, trails that aren’t well-marked can become especially difficult to follow when visibility is poor.
Be extra prepared during cold weather
Unless you are a very experienced outdoor adventurer, it may be best to reschedule your hike if the forecast calls for rain during cold weather. Wet conditions create a severe risk of hypothermia.
Rain can reduce visibility and make it easier to get lost off the trail. Inconvenient but innocuous rain conditions during the day can quickly become dangerous once the sun sets. Lastly, rain can quickly turn to snow or ice, creating dangerous conditions for the unprepared hiker.
Pack easy to access snacks.
It’s all too easy to eat significantly less than your body needs in the rain, since you may take fewer rest stops than usual. Pack snacks that you can eat quickly and on the move.
Keep an open mind, and be willing to reassess at any time, either before or during your hike! If you feel at all uncomfortable or unprepared, it’s best to reschedule your hike or even turn back before reaching your destination.
Other useful resources
Looking for more information and tips about hiking and outdoor adventure gear? You may also like the following articles:
- What Do You Really Need to Pack for a Day Hike?
- Best Hiking Jackets for Women
- Backpacking Gear Checklist & Spreadsheet
- Our Complete Road Trip Camping Essentials plus Checklist
- 59 Best Songs About Travel & Adventure
Still have questions about choosing the best hiking gear for rain? Drop us a comment in the section below!