Once you get a taste of hiking, you can easily become addicted and want to go all the time. Hiking in early Spring and in the Fall can be times where weather can be unpredictable. While hiking in clear blue skies is the best condition, how is hiking in the rain? Rain can sometimes be cold or warm depending on where you live, and also be very fun to hike in. We want to shed some light on how safe it actually is to be hiking around the mountains while it is cold and wet.
Is it safe to hike in the rain? Hiking in the rain can be very safe depending on where you live and the conditions in your area. It is very important that you always check the weather before you leave, and let people know where you are going and when you should be back. Hypothermia is the biggest issue you will face while walking or hiking in the rain, so it is important you dress for the conditions. Slipping and falling is the second-largest danger while out in a wet environment so constantly check your terrain, and keep your bearing.
Read The Terrain
Before you go hiking, it is a good idea to get a map, Google earth, or anything that can give you a rough layout of where you want to hike. Check for steep inclines, and watch for valleys where water can pool, or cause you to hike miles out of your way. Always look for things like bridges, asphalt paths, and rock formations that might get dangerous if there is a mudslide. If your area has not seen rain in a very long time, you might want to stay inside until the heavy rain stops.
If you live in a very dry area that does not see a ton of rain like Southern California, if it starts to rain in any significant manner, you might be in for flash floods. Flash floods happen when the ground is too dry to soak up all the rainwater like normal, and so it just runs off.
When you have some significant rainfall in these dry areas, flash flooding can happen very quickly and is extremely dangerous. To avoid being caught in flash floods, you can make sure that you are not hiking anywhere near a canal, or anywhere that you might get caught in a flood. Make sure that you are on high ground, and do not go into any valleys if the rain starts to come down harder, for a long period of time.
Slippery When Wet
When you are hiking, especially in the woods and mountains where there are rocks, grass, trees, and other loose stuff, it could be very slippery when it rains. If you are in a place that has rocks, or pine needles, it is really important that you watch your footing and look for anything that looks extremely wet. If dirt gets on the rocks and it gets wet, it can cause a thin layer of slick mud that might not be visible. If you step on this, you could lose your footing and start sliding down the hill, or worse.
If you find yourself sliding down the side of a hill, try to get up onto your butt, and put your hands out at your sides palm down to slow yourself. Put your feet out in front of you and try to dig your heels into the ground, and that should slow you enough to stop. It is very important to look down at your surroundings and watch for leaves, pine needles, and anything slippery. If it starts raining, try to get off any rocks you might be climbing or walking on before you lose your balance.
How Can I Stay Dry?
At the first sign of rain, the first thing you will want to try and do is stay dry. I always go hiking with a small backpack or “fanny pack” for essential needs items while out on a hike. If you know it is going to rain, bring a waterproof jacket, and a hat to cover up with so you can stay dry. There are also things like poncho’s or even an emergency blanket you can wrap around yourself to stay dry, and at least make it back to your car without getting drenched.
Always bring a change of clothes with you, and leave them in your car just in case you fall and get dirty, or muddy. If you really want to stay out in the rain and finish your hike, at least bring a jacket or a poncho with you. You can bring a small umbrella if you have room in your backpack for it. It is really important that you try to get dry as soon as you start to feel rain because even if you cover up, you are not going to get completely dry until you get home.
Watch Your Feet
I always bring an extra change of socks just because my feet will normally get sweaty, but if you know you are going to hike with a possibility of rain, make sure to bring an extra pair. Most people that hike often, will have hiking boots to wear, which are usually waterproof, so they will keep your feet dry.
If you do not have hiking boots that are waterproof, you can get a spray that will make your shoes or boots resistant to water, which will help keep your feet dry. Never go out for a hike in flip flops or sandals because you could step on a branch or bush that has thorns that can go right through sandals. Your feet are the most exposed part on a hike, so never wear open-toed shoes out on a trail, unless it is paved, and you do not plan on going off-trail.
Is Hiking In The Rain Even Fun?
So it’s raining and you’re are wet, or at least starting to get wet, is it even fun anymore? Hiking in the rain is really fun if you can handle it, and do not get super cold quickly. Things seem quieter when it rains because everything is trying to get out of it, so you will have more time to reflect and think than paying attention to random noises in the woods.
You will hear fewer birds chirping, dogs barking, and will only get to hear the sound of the rain which is extremely relaxing. You will also get a different smell out in nature when the rain starts to fall. Hiking in the rain is a whole different type of hike and is not like hiking when it’s warm and dry.
Watch For Thunderstorms
One thing you really want to watch out for when it starts raining is thunder and lightning. If you get out there and still want to continue when the rain starts, make sure you only do it if they are not thunderstorms. While lightning normally strikes the tallest thing, it is important that if you are caught in thunderstorms, you do not hide under a tree, and whatever you do, put your umbrella away!
Umbrellas are metal, so even though you are shorter than trees, the lighting might be more attractive to your umbrella, so it is important to put it away. While it is rare, people have been struck by lightning and it does not feel good.
Visibility Can Be Challenging
If you are hiking up in the mountains, you might find yourself getting to the top of your hike, and you will see rain clouds or fog start to settle up against the side of the mountain. Be very careful because visibility can go to zero very fast up in higher elevation. Once you have zero visibility, you run the risk of getting turned around and lost in the woods. If you are too scared to move, try to call for help, or sit tight for a little while and see if the clouds start to disperse before making the trek down the mountain. If you get caught in clouds halfway up your hike, quickly turn around and go back the way you came.
Hiking in the rain can be a ton of fun and it is very relaxing which allows you to reflect on things that you normally don’t. It is awesome hearing the sound of rain coming down when you are walking through the forest, but as much fun as it is, you really need to think about survival as well. One wrong step could send you tumbling down the side of a mountain, or you could slip and hit your head on a rock. Walk slower and take your time, but make sure you put some protective layering on to keep you warm.