Tips for the Cold and Rainy Season!
Many folks will disagree with me on this, but hiking in the rain can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. The trails aren't crowded, the sound of water dripping from the trees is relaxing, and it helps you appreciate the wonders of modern living so much more!
However, it requires some extra preparation and precautions to avoid hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when your body temperature drops below normal. Here are my tips on how to prepare for hiking in the rain and avoiding hypothermia.
Choose the right trail. Some trails may be more suitable for rainy weather than others, depending on the terrain, elevation, exposure, and difficulty. Avoid trails that are prone to flooding, erosion, or landslides. Also, consider the length and duration of your hike, and whether you have enough time to complete it before dark or before the weather worsens.
Dress appropriately. The key to staying warm and dry in the rain is to dress in layers of synthetic or wool clothing that can wick moisture away from your skin and provide insulation. Avoid cotton, which can absorb water and make you colder. A typical layering system for rainy hiking consists of a base layer, a mid-layer, a rain jacket, and rain pants. You may also want to wear a hat, gloves, and gaiters to protect your head, hands, and feet from the rain. Make sure your clothing fits well and allows you to move comfortably.
Choose waterproof footwear. Your feet are likely to get wet in the rain, so you need footwear that can keep them as dry and warm as possible. Waterproof hiking boots or shoes are a good option, as they can prevent water from seeping in and provide traction and support on slippery surfaces. You should also wear wool or synthetic socks that can wick moisture away from your feet and prevent blisters. Bring extra pairs of socks and change them if they get wet.
Pack smart. Your backpack should be waterproof or have a rain cover to protect your gear from getting wet. You should also pack your items in dry bags or ziplock bags inside your backpack for extra protection. Some essential items to pack for rainy hiking include:
A map and compass or a GPS device to navigate in case of low visibility or trail markings being washed away.
A headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries in case you need to hike in the dark or signal for help.
A first-aid kit with blister supplies and hypothermia treatment items such as a thermometer, a heat pack, and a thermal emergency blanket.
A whistle or a mirror to attract attention in case of an emergency.
A fire starter such as matches, a lighter, or a flint to start a fire if needed.
Extra clothing such as underwear, socks, gloves, hat, and fleece jacket to change into if you get wet or cold.
Food and water to keep your energy and hydration levels up. Choose food that is easy to eat and prepare, such as energy bars, nuts, dried fruits, sandwiches, or instant soups. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you and impair your body’s ability to regulate temperature. If possible, drink warm fluids such as water, tea, or hot chocolate.
Stay safe on the trail. Hiking in the rain can pose hazards you need to be aware of and avoid. Some of these include:
Hypothermia. This is the most serious risk of hiking in the rain, as it can impair your judgment, coordination, and vital functions. To prevent hypothermia, you need to stay warm and dry as much as possible. If you notice any signs of hypothermia such as shivering, slurred speech, confusion, drowsiness, or weak pulse, you need to seek shelter immediately and call for help if possible. You should also remove any wet clothing and replace it with dry clothing or blankets. You can also use body heat from another person or a heat pack to warm up. You should also drink warm fluids and eat high-calorie food if you can.
Slippery surfaces. Rain can make rocks, logs, bridges, and trails slippery and unstable. You need to be careful where you step and use trekking poles if you have them to maintain your balance and stability. You should also slow down your pace and avoid jumping or running.
Water crossings. Rain can increase the water level and flow of creeks, streams, and rivers. You need to assess the water depth, speed, and temperature before crossing any water source. If the water is too deep (above your knees), too fast (you can’t see the bottom), or too cold (you feel numbness or pain in your feet), you should not cross it. You should look for a safer place to cross, such as a bridge, a log, or a shallow and calm spot. You should also unfasten your backpack straps and use a trekking pole or a stick to test the water and keep your balance. You should also wear your rain pants and gaiters to keep your legs dry as possible.
Have fun. I know hiking in the rain isn't for everyone, but I do recommend at least trying it. Just be well-prepared and have a positive attitude. You can enjoy the fresh air, the soothing sound of rain, the vibrant colors of nature, and the solitude of the trail. You can also spot some wildlife that may be more active in the rain, such as frogs, snails, worms, or birds. You can also take some beautiful photos of raindrops, mist, clouds, or rainbows. Just remember to protect your camera or phone from the rain and moisture.
I hope these tips help you prepare for hiking in the rain and avoiding hypothermia. Remember to check the weather forecast before you go, pack accordingly, stay safe on the trail, and have fun. See you out there!