You need to pack waterproof gear for hiking. Why? A rain forecast can really dampen your excitement for that hiking trip you’ve been planning for days.
Let's think about this.
The key to having the most fun hiking, even in the most inconvenient weather, is knowing how to stay dry and comfortable, right?
It is always good to be prepared, as you never know when you might get caught in a storm.
Let the Night Buddy team give you tips for hiking in rainy weather.
10 Must-Have Waterproof Gear for Every Hiker
Here is some essential hiking gear that your fun-filled adventure shouldn’t lack:
Perhaps a reliable rain jacket is what you need to put shine on a gloomy hiking day. Hiking rain jackets are tailored to be light, so you can easily carry them as you traverse terrains. A good rain jacket hiking should also have several insulating layers to ensure you stay dry.
Here are some of the factors to consider when buying a rain jacket for hiking:
Most technical waterproof jackets are commonly referred to as two- or three-layer jackets. Typically, the layers comprise a face fabric treated with a waterproofing agent like DWR and a protective lining on the inside to form a lightweight fabric ideal for outdoor fun.
Generally, if you want a rain jacket that stands the test of time, go for one with layers that have been laminated together instead of one that is merely coated with a waterproofing agent.
Breathability and Waterproof Ratings
The type of material you select for your rain jacket should be breathable and waterproof. Manufacturers categorize their fabric depending on their breathability and waterproofing. For instance, a 20,000 waterproof rating means that you can pour around 20,000 millimeters of water on the fabric before it begins seeping through.
A breathability rating of 20,000, on the other hand, means that around 20,000 grams of water vapor can infiltrate fabric.
While it is important to go for a rain jacket with a high breathability rating, it is also important to consider your comfort in the cold. Like water vapor, body heat can also escape a breathable jacket.
The fabric you choose for your rain jacket should be waterproof. While every manufacturer is trying out new weaving techniques, PFC-free waterproofing technologies are a hot trend that results in lightweight, waterproof, yet breathable fabric.
Zippers and Seams
Another thing to look at in a rain jacket for your hiking escapades is the seams. Shoulders are particularly weak spots seeing as your backpack handles may rub against them and damage them. It is, therefore, important that the jacket you select has seams in these areas. Well, seams aren’t the most stylish feature on clothing, but they guarantee longevity.
Also, look for protective zipper flaps and plasticized zippers.
Rain pants are the next piece of clothing you shouldn’t miss on your hiking itinerary list. While most rain pants will ensure you stay dry on an average rainy hike, you will need a pair made from tougher fabrics and with enhanced features if you plan to adventure in harsh weather.
These are some of the factors to consider as you shop for the best rain pants:
Nature of Trip
If you are a long-distance adventurer that likes disappearing into the woods and emerging several days later, you could use a lightweight, breathable pair of rain pants that can dry easily in short periods of sunlight.
For casual short hikes, you might want to consider more budget-friendly options. Also, if ease of use is an important factor for you, opt for rain pants with zippers that you can slip on easily.
While several waterproof fabrics are on the market, many of them do not have a good feel on your skin, and others aren’t sufficiently breathable. However, Gore-Tex is the fabric worth giving a chance. The hydrophobic membrane can be found on most rainwear, and although some of the materials used with it can seem thin and unpliable, they are breathable.
Another common material you might find in rain pants is nylon, thanks to its thinness and gentleness to the skin. However, waterproof nylon layers are often coated in polyurethane, giving it a plastic-like feel that produces an irritating noise whenever you move. Also, while nylon is lightweight and durable, it takes a long time to dry after getting wet.
Similarly, waterproof polyester has a polyurethane coat. The material may not be gentle on your skin like nylon, but it takes a shorter while to dry.
Elastic waistbands can feel too tight sometimes and become loose after prolonged use. Most rain pants come with a stretchy waistband and will generally feel the same save for the fabric and sizing variation.
Rain pants that are more top-tier feature fly zippers, button snaps, and belts for extra comfort. While these options are tailored with waterproofness in mind, they provide additional weak spots for water to infiltrate your pants, making them an inferior option to pants with waistbands.
While basic rain pants come with no pickets, top-tier options have zippered pockets, while others have watertight storage pockets. Therefore, before finally making your purchase, consider your basic needs. Does your rain jacket already have pockets? If so, you may make do with a pocket-less pair of pants.
One important tip to note is that if you intend to keep your phone or other valuable gadgets in your pockets, ensure they (pockets) have waterproof zippers to keep your items moisture-free.
Waterproof and water-resistant zippers indeed create a barrier between your rain pants and outside weather, but there is no denying that errors are bound to happen. Therefore, it is safer to have no zipper at all.
Next on the list of must-have waterproof outdoor gear for your hiking trip is a backpack. This is where you store your essential electronics, bedding, wallet, and even snacks, so it is important that it is as waterproof as it can get.
One common mistake that newbies make is bringing a regular backpack on a hiking trip. While it is okay for one to do so, having a waterproof backpack keeps you ready for anything.
When scouring for a hiking backpack, keep the following in mind:
Whether expensive or cheap, your backpack should be comfortable. After all, what is the need of going on a supposedly fun trip in the woods if your bag is going to constantly bug (no pun intended) you? So as you shop, check to see if it is a perfect fit for you and has the proper padding.
Waterproof not Water-Resistant
As usual, waterproof wins again. With a waterproof backpack, all your essentials inside remain dry and functional.
Water-resistant and waterproof backpacks are often made of high-quality fabric, such as polyester and nylon fabric. Although polyester is water-resistant, it isn’t completely waterproof. Therefore, for a more waterproof backpack, these fabrics should be coated with a polyurethane outer layer that offers excellent protection from moisture whilst being light and strong.
When it comes to backpack padding, more is always better. A backpack with sufficient padding feels comfortable on your shoulders, hips, and back. You should, however, be wary of options with excessive padding as, over time, the padding could exert uncomfortable pressures against your body parts, resulting in soreness.
A hiking backpack with little padding won't be a comfortable fit and may lose some of its weight-supporting abilities. In addition, it won't protect your body from enduring the stress of its weight and could result in unpleasant chafing or blisters.
Bottom line? Go for a backpack with padded shoulder straps, hip or sternum straps, and a back panel.
If a backpack has a robust suspension system, its weight is spread over the body, and you'll hardly notice it. A good suspension system may have a high initial cost, but it will be worth it in the end. It enables you to move around easily for longer periods.
Breathability is another factor to consider when shopping for a waterproof hiking backpack. Having a well-ventilated back panel on your backpack ensures sweat and heat dissipate without even you noticing.
Your bag’s storage capabilities significantly impact the quantities of supplies you can take on your hike. Typically, a daypack has a 20 to 35-liter capacity. Smaller sizes are best suited for partial-day or multi-hour treks.
All in all, ensure the pack option you go for can accommodate enough food and water for your entire hike.
Lastly, your backpack should support the correct weight. Depending on your choice of the backpack, you need to be aware of the weight restrictions. This is because packing an overly heavy pack could cause pain to your body.
While some hiking enthusiasts prefer the limitless breathability of non-waterproof boots, others love the extra protection waterproof footwear offers.
Below is a breakdown of considerations, including performance, breathability, and waterproofing technology.
Waterproof hiking boots feature a lining beneath the outer shell made from a waterproof membrane. This membrane consists of expanded ePTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), and it is wedged between a knit backer and lining. The three pieces are sewn together and positioned inside the shoe’s upper for a comfortable fit.
In addition to the waterproof membrane, a shoe’s upper may contain a water-resistant material. Alternatively, it could be treated with a DWR coating. All these function to offer additional protection.
Sealing moisture out also means you are sealing it in. put simply, a non-waterproof hoe breathes better than waterproof options. Usually, non-waterproof boots comprise ventilated uppers and more breathable mesh liners, allowing easier sweat escape.
Knowing this, you could consider boots made of Gore-Tex membranes for hiking in the heavy rain. They are designed to let out moisture, therefore providing ventilation from the inside out.
Unfortunately, no hiking boot is entirely waterproof. This is because for a fabric to provide complete waterproofness, it must sacrifice all breathability. While regular footwear is more breathable, it has no waterproofing capacity and will, therefore, not be an excellent choice for wet conditions.
On the other hand, waterproof hiking boots will work well in heavy rain for a while before external factors like sand and dirt compromise their ability to keep your feet dry and prevent moisture entry. The best way to conserve your shoes’ waterproof nature is to clean them consistently.
A waterproof hat may seem insignificant until that first drop of rain during your hiking trip falls. However, selecting the best option can be an uphill task, especially if you’ve never owned one before.
Here are some of the important factors to take note of during your purchase:
The most important thing is that your hat is comfortable and is composed of breathable, durable materials. The best materials for this piece of clothing are polyester and nylon with mesh lining. What’s more? Even when the weather changes from light showers to a sunny day, you can still keep your hat on to shield you from the sun's rays.
Also, consider waterproof hats with wide brims. These ensure the rain falls far from your face. Some of these hats feature adjustable brims that you can lower or raise as you wish.
While it is important that your hat prevents water seepage to the inside, it should also feature an anti-sweating belt on the inside to keep your head cool and dry. Also, consider wearing a sweatband for the same purposes.
Washing and Drying
The waterproof hat you opt for should be made using easy-to-wash-and-dry materials like polyester. If you are going to hike in wet conditions, you want a hat that you can easily clean and dry during brief sunny periods.
Safety Hiking Gear
Safety is key whether you are on a solo trip or hiking with friends. So as you pack your food supplies and clothing, also remember the following:
Hiking trails can get dark, especially during rainy weather, which is why a headlamp will come in handy. A headlamp will help you identify potential obstacles in your path and avoid injuries.
In addition, since you wear them around your head, both your hands will be free to enable easy navigation. During the evening, some headlamps have a green light option to help keep bugs and insects away and improve your visibility to other hikers. In addition to the headlamp, you can always carry a tactical flashlight for when facing danger.
LED lights are particularly dependable on hiking in rainy weather compared to their fluorescent and incandescent counterparts. This is because their performance increases as conditions get colder.
Here is what to look for in a headlamp or flashlight for hiking adventures:
- Excellent battery life
- High light output
- Green and red light settings are fantastic
- High IP rating
- Additional features like the SOS flash mode and wave sensor
- Lightweight design
Proper navigation is non-negotiable, so a GPS device should never miss in your hiking itinerary. This way, if you ever get lost in the woods, you can always find your way around.
Trekking poles can be used during any weather but are particularly helpful when hiking in heavy rain. They aid in stability, especially on a slippery landscape. In addition, they are an excellent choice for setting a rhythm and also reduce load and impact on knees, ankles, and hips as you descend a hill.
As with most outdoor gear, balancing durability and weight is a major consideration here. Here are some factors to consider as you explore various trekking pole options:
- Shock-Absorbing Abilities
A trekking pole for use in wet conditions should have a stiff design, durable material, and interchangeable baskets.
Digital maps on your phone can help you find your way home, but with bad weather, anything can go wrong. This is why all kinds of outdoor people should always remember to pack maps.
Camera Hiking Gear
An easy way to save your camera from damage during your hike is to leave it at home. But if you want to document your adventures, here are some items to bring along:
Waterproof Camera Bag
Besides shielding your camera from knocks, a good waterproof camera bag will also prevent any water from seeping into the inside. Consider a bag made from fabrics such as waxed canvas, leather, and polyester enhanced with a polyurethane outer layer. The bag should also have waterproof zippers to seal any possible entrances for moisture.
What’s more? Go for options with detailed, waterproof designs, such as a roll-top closure and a leather bottom.
A dry sack is a bag in a cylindrical shape with a roll-top closure. Notable, it is made from waterproof material to keep its items secure and is a great way to store sensitive electronics like cameras. All you need to do is place your camera in and shut the bag firmly at the top.
a camera shell can best be described as a camera’s form-fitting design that uses elastic fabric coated with a waterproof membrane to protect your camera from snow, water, and abrasion. Therefore, you can use your camera without having to remove the shell. During hiking in rainy weather, a camera shell plays a significant role in shielding your camera from potential harm.
After trekking in heavy rain, you may want to change into warmer clothes. This is why it is important to always pack an extra pair of clothes. Cold weather poses serious health risks, such as hypothermia, so it is important for your body to dry off.
Waterproof Phone Case
Your phone may be totally fine in the waterproof confines of your backpack, but it never hurts to go the extra mile and get a waterproof phone case. However, no need to worry if you can’t get a phone case, as a zip-lock bag will get the job done.
Other must-have outdoor camping gears include hand warmers to keep you comfortable in the cold, blister supplies for your feet, and a multi towel to dry off your gear.
General Tips for Hiking In the Rain
Hiking adventures with your friends are supposed to be fun, so don’t let unpredictable weather take that from you. To ensure you have a good time while also keeping safe, there are basic tips for outdoor people to consider before embarking on their hike:
Check the Weather Forecast
The biggest hiking mistake you can ever make is stepping out to the woods without checking the weather forecast. Hiking in light rain is one thing, and doing so in a furious storm is another. Knowing what weather to expect informs your choice of outdoor clothing (whether to go for waterproof or water-resistant) and hiking trails.
If there are showers, you can opt for water-resistant clothing if you will be out for only a few hours. However, if the forecasts warn of extreme conditions, for instance, hurricanes, it is advisable to stay home and plan your hike for another convenient date.
Dress In Layers
Hiking in rainy or cold weather calls for throwing in an extra warm layer underneath your rain jacket. However, because you'll be constantly moving, overheating is common. So, as you walk, ensure you remove some layers depending on how hot it gets.
Here are some typical rainy hiking looks for different seasons:
- Hiking pants
- Running shorts
- Lightweight synthetic t-shirt
- Lightweight rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Hat or baseball cap
Spring, Fall, and Winter
- Rain pants
- Rain jackets
- Long-sleeve base layer top
- Hiking pants
- Fleece sweater
- Rain mitts
- Liner gloves
Select the Right Fabrics
Hiking constantly exposes you to moisture through precipitation and sweat. Because of this, it is important that you get clothing that can quickly dry off. Fantastic options include synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester, thanks to their durability, affordability, and their moisture-wicking abilities.
You could also consider gear made from woolen fabric, which gives you warmth even when wet. Besides, they have natural antimicrobial effects, so there is minimal odor buildup. However, you should avoid cotton, as it stays wet for prolonged durations, holding moisture against the skin. As a result, you may develop blisters, chafing on the skin, or hypothermia.
Select Footwear Wisely
As mentioned earlier, waterproof hiking boots are essential wear for wet day hikes. Knowing this, these shoes aren’t as breathable as non-waterproof options. Also, once wet, they take longer to dry.
If you bring waterproof shoes on a multi-day hiking trip, remember also to bring lightweight camp shoes to use when crossing streams and fords. If you wear non-waterproof boots on a rainy hike, do not forget to pair them with wool socks for warmth.
Get Quality Socks
Socks made of high-quality fabric can make all the difference in how well your feet hold up in rainy conditions. Wool or synthetic socks are great pocks for keeping your feet comfortable and warm as you traverse terrains. Make a note to pack two pairs–one for when you're on the move and the other for camp.
If waterproof footwear isn’t appealing to you, you can opt for waterproof socks. However, these are only recommended for short hikes since you risk overheating if you wear them for multi-day adventures. Besides, you cannot reuse them without first washing them.
Backpack Liners Are a Must
Most packs are only water-resistant, so water could percolate into the inside and ruin your precious items. This is where backpack liners come in. they are essentially pack covers that conceal the outside of your bag and pack liners that go on the interior to function as a dry bag.
The two are used alongside each other because, used alone, pack covers leave a significant portion of the backpack exposed and therefore are ineffective at keeping your items secure.
Your Gear Should Be Easily Accessible
If the weather is uncertain by the time you step out, ensure you keep your rainwear in an easily accessible area, such as at the top of the backpack. This way, when the weather changes, you can easily pull them out without throwing out other items. I
Protect Essential Items
Imagine reaching camp and starting to unpack, only to realize that your sleeping bags, socks, and electronics are all soaked. Terrible, right? You may barely sleep throughout the night; the next morning, you may be forced to wear wet clothing unless the sun chooses to show up.
This should teach you to always protect your essential items, or your trip could be cut short. Consider using backpack liners or, better still, buy a waterproof backpack.
Take Advantage of the Brief Sunny Periods
Even if you pack extra clothing, something will always get damp on multi-day rain hikes. The good news? Most rainwear dries quickly. An important tip to consider is attaching wet socks on the outside of your bag using a safety pin as you continue moving. Also, if you are on a break and the sun pops up, get the damp gear out and air them.
Your feet, too, need to dry out if you wish to avoid blisters. You can air them out during the day or at nighttime.
Bring an Umbrella
A windproof umbrella is a great tool for portable shade from the sun and rain. It is easy to fold and stash away, so it won't inconvenience your trip. It is important to note that while these umbrellas shouldn’t replace proper outdoor gear, they can make hiking during a heavy downpour more bearable.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
It is not the fancy waterproof boots or lovely beanie headlamps that make hiking in heavy rain fun, but rather the attitude you keep. The right doses of enthusiasm go a long way to lifting your spirits and those of your hiking teammates. So, even when the cold is seething through you, add an extra layer of clothing and return to a cheery mood.
Other hiking tips to prepare you for a rainy trip include renewing your clothing’s DWR, getting gaiters to protect the top of your feet, and staying hydrated.
Making Your Normal Backpack to be Waterproof
While you always have the option of getting a waterproof backpack for your outdoor adventures, there are also several ways to waterproof a regular backpack and keep your gear dry.
Here are some of them:
- Pack Covers: These are usually made of waterproof fabric and are meant to be put over the outside of the backpack. A pack cover is simple to use; all you need to do is pull it over your bag to keep your items secure from damage.
- Pack Liners: These are just like pack covers, only that they are designed to be placed inside the backpack. They are cheap and allow you access to the exterior pockets of your bag.
- Lightweight Drybags: Drybags come with roll tops and taped seams, enabling you to pack items separately.
- Hiking Rain Poncho: Wearing a poncho that extends to fit your backpack can help create a watertight layer and keep your items dry.
- Zip Lock Bags: Although they aren’t waterproof, they can be fitted over your backpack to protect your items.
- Trash Bags: For extra weather protection, you can use a trash bag to double-bag essential items.
Waterproof gear is essential, especially when hiking in wet conditions. Safety should also be an essential part of your hiking trip, and what better way to ensure this than to get a bright headlamp to illuminate your trail? Due to the rugged nature of hiking trails, getting a waterproof lamp that can survive rain splashes is equally important.
From Night Buddy flashlights to headlamps, we offer a huge variety of lighting solutions depending on your needs. Whether you are going cave diving or hiking, you can always find something that suits your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Purpose of a Waterproof Bag?
The purpose of a waterproof bag is to protect your items from being damaged by water. It keeps your gear dry and functional, making your trip more enjoyable.
What is the importance of raingear clothes in hiking?
Rainwear does not only keep you dry, but also keeps you warm. Keeping you warm is the most important as far as safety is concerned. It is advisable that you keep warm especially when hiking during the rainy seasons.
How Do You Arrange Your Hiking Backpack?
The best way to arrange your backpack is by layering. The bottom layer should comprise the items you won't need during the day as you hike. These include a sleeping bag, pillow, and tent. The middle layer is for the heavier items, such as food supplies, and the top layer is where you put the stuff you'll need throughout the day, such as a rain jacket, umbrella, among others.