It’s raining? So hike! (Here’s how)

It was raining. I felt like hiking. So I did. 

It wasn’t a long hike. But it was just enough. Just knowing the rain couldn’t stop me was enough. It couldn’t stop me, because I was prepared.

Hiking in the rain can be a delight — if you’re prepared. The following tips for hiking in the rain were taken from our GetHiking! Hiking in the Rain tip sheet. For the entire 3-page guide visit our website and enter code RAINTIPS at checkout to get the guide for free through this weekend (March 30).

  • Let's GetHikingTake note of the sky. Before heading out, check to see which way the clouds are rolling. Then check periodically on the hike: if the clouds moving in grow darker and more foreboding, consider an about-face.
  • Listen. If you hear anything that remotely sounds like thunder — a tree falling, your stomach growling, actual thunder — stop and listen to see if you hear it again, keeping your eyes on the sky for lightening.
  • Creek crossings. Hopefully, you already have experience crossing bridge-less streams. Even if you do, be aware that those rocks you use to hop across are now wet and, likely, slippery. A few creek-crossing pointers (borrowed from our Water Crossings tip sheet: 
  • Scout the route you plan to take before doing anything. If you can’t find a safe and doable route, do not cross. Tip: look for the widest spot in the river; it’s usually also the shallowest.
  • Look for flat rocks to hop across.
  • Avoid rocks that appear green (though a thick mat of moss can sometimes improve grip). 
  • Cross the stream on a diagonal, angling upstream (walking slightly upstream keeps the force of the water from getting the best of you).
  • DO NOT CROSS IF: the water is swift,  you can’t see the bottom,  it appears over its banks. You’ve had your time in the rain, now head back.
  • Multiple crossings: Keep in mind that if you do cross a high creek, if you have to cross it again, especially downstream, it will be higher.
  • Nix the notion of an aerobic workout in the rain. Some hikers seek a PR every time they punch their Garmin and speed down the trail. Speed is not your friend on a rain-slicked trail. Slow down and enjoy.  
  • Don’t get cold. If you have proper rain gear, this shouldn’t be a problem. But it can be, even on a relatively warm day. Let a desert of heat build up under your rain gear and it can soak your clothes and, when you stop, send a chill. Hypothermia can happen even in warm weather.
  • Remember to drink. Again, even if you’re pleased with your rain gear heat regulation, you will still sweat a little more; plan to drink more water than usual.
  • Snack. You’ll burn more calories slogging down a wet trail, tensing up over creek crossings, hiking in cooler weather. Keep popping those Snickers Minis.

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More hiking tips

You’ll find our GetHiking! tips sheet for hiking in the rain plus tips on everything from layering, what to take, hiking with dogs and more in our “Let’s GetHiking! A Quick and Comprehensive Guide for the Aspiring Hiker,” a 109-page guide. Check it out here.

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