6 Steps to Mastering the Art of Hiking in the Rain

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Ah, the great British weather! As unpredictable as it is iconic, it’s something that’s bound to make an appearance during any outdoor adventure in the UK. But don’t let a few raindrops dampen your spirits – with the right preparation and attitude, hiking in the rain can be a delightful experience filled with unique sights, sounds, and memories (and fewer crowds). So, grab your waterproofs and join us as we explore six steps to mastering the art of hiking in the rain, British style!

Invest in high-quality waterproof gear

It’s not a secret that the UK is no stranger to a good downpour. As a wise man (my old Scout master may have mentioned this when I turned up in shorts for a winter’s hike one time…) once said, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” With that in mind, investing in top-notch waterproof gear is essential for any British hiking enthusiast.

Start with a reliable waterproof jacket, often referred to as a hardshell. Seek out reputable brands and materials like Gore-Tex, eVent, or Pertex Shield for excellent breathability and water resistance. Remember that one rainy hike when your ‘waterproof’ jacket left you as soaked as if you’d jumped in a lake? Don’t make that mistake again!

(As an amusing aside, it’s important to note that there’s really no substitute for a good quality waterproof jacket. Once, on a particularly rainy Lake District hike, we had to dress our fashion-loving teenage daughter in a bin bag (with holes cut out for her head and arms) because her ‘waterproof’ fashion jacket was not in fact waterproof. This didn’t go down well with her, but gave the rest of us a good laugh. When she reads this post I’m likely to be in a lot of trouble, but you should never let that get in the way of telling a great story, should you?)

Your waterproof jacket, or hardshell, (or bin bag) should offer both breathability and water resistance. Look for jackets with a high hydrostatic head rating (usually 10,000mm or more), which indicates the level of water resistance. Features such as taped seams, adjustable hoods, and underarm ventilation zips can further enhance your comfort and protection.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

Alfred Wainwright, British fellwalker, guidebook author, and illustrator

You’ll also need the following:

Waterproof Trousers: A good pair of waterproof trousers is essential for keeping your lower half dry during a wet hike. Choose trousers made from a breathable, waterproof material like Gore-Tex or eVent to avoid feeling clammy. Opt for a pair with side zips, so you can easily put them on over your boots when the heavens open without a moment’s notice.

Gaiters: In particularly muddy or wet conditions, consider adding gaiters to your gear list. These handy accessories cover the tops of your boots and the lower part of your legs, providing an extra layer of protection against water, mud, and debris.

Waterproof Footwear: Opt for hiking boots or shoes with a waterproof membrane, such as Gore-Tex, because there’s nothing worse than squelching through the countryside in soggy socks. Pair them with moisture-wicking socks made from merino wool or synthetic materials to keep your tootsies blister-free. Ensure your footwear has a sturdy, grippy sole to provide traction on wet or muddy surfaces.

Waterproof Gloves: Wet hands can quickly become cold hands, so invest in waterproof gloves to keep your fingers warm and dry. Look for gloves with a waterproof membrane and synthetic insulation for optimal performance.

Top Tip: Regularly maintain, clean (and re-waterproof) your waterproof gear according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure its performance and longevity.

Key points

  • Invest in a waterproof jacket, trousers, and footwear made from breathable and water-resistant materials like Gore-Tex
  • Consider additional accessories like gaiters and waterproof gloves for added protection
  • Regularly clean and maintain your waterproof gear to ensure optimal performance
READ THIS NEXT: Best Mid Layer For Hiking UK (Buying Guide)

Layer up for optimal temperature regulation

Dressing for a rainy hike in the UK requires a bit of strategy. You’ll want to layer up to keep warm, but also ensure you don’t overheat when tackling those challenging inclines. And, you never know, the sun might even put in an appearance at some point.

Striking the right balance between warmth and breathability is crucial. Here’s how to layer up effectively:

Base Layer: Opt for moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics such as polyester or polypropylene for your base layer. These materials will keep sweat away from your skin and dry quickly, helping to regulate your body temperature. Avoid cotton, as it tends to hold moisture and can leave you feeling damp and cold.

Mid-Layer: Your mid-layer should provide insulation to trap warmth close to your body. Lightweight fleece jackets or down jackets with water-resistant treatments are excellent choices. For those exceptionally damp days, consider synthetic insulation like PrimaLoft or Polartec Alpha, which retains warmth even when wet.

Insulating Accessories: Don’t forget about your head and neck when layering up. A lightweight, waterproof beanie can make all the difference in keeping you warm and dry.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher, and poet

Adjusting Your Layers: As you hike, be prepared to adjust your layers to maintain a comfortable temperature. If you start to feel too warm, vent your outer shell by opening zips (armpits ones are useful in keeping out the rain whilst letting out the heat) or removing your mid-layer. When you stop for a break, add an extra layer to stay warm and prevent getting chilled.

Top Tip: Always pack an extra insulating layer and adjust your clothing as needed to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout your hike.

Key points

  • Use moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics for your base layer to keep sweat away from your skin
  • Choose a mid-layer that provides insulation, such as a fleece or down jacket with water-resistant treatments
  • Don’t forget insulating accessories like waterproof hats and be prepared to adjust your layers as needed during your hike
READ THIS NEXT: How Many Miles Is The West Highland Way (Hiking Guide)

Choose the right trail and plan your route

Rain can transform even the most familiar landscape, so it’s essential to choose your trail wisely and plan your route accordingly. Opt for well-maintained trails with good drainage to avoid wading through ankle-deep mud or navigating treacherous puddles. Big patches of reeds, for example, are often a sign of boggy terrain.

Take the time to study your route in detail before setting off. Utilise Ordnance Survey maps or GPS devices to ensure you’re prepared for any unexpected turns or obstacles. Remember when you took a wrong turn in the Peak District and ended up on an impromptu 15-mile detour? Yeah, no fun, and not one to repeat any time soon.

Additionally, be aware of potential hazards such as flooded areas or landslides and stay informed about local weather conditions. The Met Office and the Mountain Weather Information Service are excellent resources to help you prepare for your rainy hike.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist, author, and environmental philosopher

Top Tip: Always check weather forecasts and local alerts before setting off, and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary.

Key points

  • Opt for well-maintained trails with good drainage to avoid muddy or flooded conditions
  • Study your route in detail and use reliable resources like Ordnance Survey maps or GPS devices to navigate
  • Stay informed about local weather conditions and potential hazards to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike
READ THIS NEXT: Walking In The Lake District For Beginners (How To Get Started)

Adapt your hiking technique

Hiking in the rain can be a slippery affair, so it’s important to adjust your technique to stay safe and steady on the trail. Begin by taking shorter strides and maintaining a steady pace. This will help you keep your balance and minimise the risk of slipping on wet or muddy terrain. A leisurely stroll through the Peak District can suddenly become an impromptu ice-skating routine if you’re not careful!

Trekking poles are a fantastic addition to your rainy hiking arsenal. Not only do they provide extra stability, but they can also help to distribute your weight more evenly and reduce the impact on your joints. Plus, they make for an excellent impromptu depth gauge for assessing river crossings!

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.”

Aristotle, Greek philosopher and polymath

When traversing wet surfaces, be mindful of your footing. Think about each step carefully beforehand and opt for solid, stable ground whenever possible. Avoid stepping on wet rocks, exposed tree roots, or slick mud, as these can be treacherous underfoot. Having once gone headfirst into a bog in the Yorkshire Dales, I can confirm that a bit of caution goes a long way!

Top Tip: Practice mindfulness while hiking in the rain, focusing on each step and maintaining awareness of your surroundings. Stay dry and mud-free whilst maintaining inner peace and harmony 😊

Key points

  • Take shorter strides and maintain a steady pace to minimize the risk of slipping
  • Use trekking poles for added stability and to reduce the impact on your joints
  • Assess each step carefully and avoid slippery surfaces like wet rocks or exposed tree roots
READ THIS NEXT: 8 Secrets to Safely Hiking Solo in Britain

Protect your gear

Water and electronics are not the best of friends, so it’s crucial to keep your belongings dry during your rainy hike. Start by using a waterproof backpack cover or lining your rucksack with a heavy-duty bin bag (unless your daughter has already pinched this, obviously). This simple trick can make all the difference when you’re caught in a sudden downpour.

Store your mobile phone, camera, and other electronics in waterproof cases or ziplock bags to keep them safe and dry. Nobody wants to relive the heartbreak of losing all their photos from that epic trip to the Scottish Highlands because their phone took an unexpected swim!

“The best journeys answer questions that, in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask.”

180 Degrees South, 2010 documentary film by Chris Malloy

Pack extra clothing, such as socks, gloves, and base layers, in dry bags or sealed plastic bags too. There’s nothing quite as comforting as changing into warm, dry clothes after a long, soggy hike. Trust us, your future self will thank you!

Top Tip: Regularly inspect your waterproof storage solutions for any signs of wear or damage and replace them as needed to ensure your belongings stay dry.

Key points

  • Use a waterproof backpack cover or line your pack with a heavy-duty bin bag to protect your gear from the elements
  • Store electronics in waterproof cases or ziplock bags to prevent water damage
  • Pack extra clothing in dry bags or sealed plastic bags for a dry change of clothes when needed
READ THIS NEXT: Best Base Layer For Hiking UK (Buying Guide)

Embrace the experience and practice Leave No Trace principles

Hiking in the rain is a quintessential British pastime, and with the right mindset, it can be a uniquely enjoyable and memorable experience. Embrace the opportunity to see the countryside in a different light, as the rain brings out the vibrant colours of the landscape and creates a symphony of soothing sounds.

As you revel in the beauty of your rain-soaked surroundings, remember to practice Leave No Trace principles. Stick to established trails to minimise your impact on the environment, dispose of your waste responsibly, and be considerate of other hikers and wildlife.

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.”

Alice Walker, American novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist

Rainy hikes can offer unparalleled tranquillity, as the crowds often thin out and you may find yourself with the trails all to yourself. So, take a deep breath, let the gentle patter of raindrops wash away your worries, and enjoy the simple pleasure of a good old-fashioned British walk in the rain.

Top Tip: Keep a positive attitude and view rainy hikes as a unique opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of the rain-soaked landscape.

Key points

  • Embrace the experience of hiking in the rain and enjoy the unique sights and sounds it offers
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment and promote responsible outdoor recreation
  • Appreciate the tranquillity and solitude that often accompany rainy hikes, as crowds tend to thin out
READ THIS NEXT: Best Rucksack For Hiking UK (Simple Buying Guide)

Conclusion

There you have it – six steps to help you master the art of hiking in the rain, British style! With the right gear, planning, and attitude, you’ll soon find yourself looking forward to those drizzly days and the unforgettable adventures they bring. So, what are you waiting for? Pop on your waterproofs, embrace your resilient inner Brit, and discover the unique joys of a rain-soaked hike in this glorious green land.

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