Hiking in the rain can be a pleasant experience where you can feel at one with nature. It also has the added benefit of making other hikers think twice about heading out, leaving popular trails less crowded. But hiking in wet weather can be a miserable experience If you are unprepared and have the right gear. As we say in Sweden, there is no bad weather, only bad outfits!
There is a thing as being too waterproof. It may sound strange when dressing for a rainy hike, but too much water protection can make you hotter and thus sweat a lot more.
Sweat is the enemy of all rainwear. Most shell clothing is both waterproof and highly breathable. This means they have a waterproof membrane laminated into the fabric that can vent water vapour.
When you are very hot and sweaty, for example, if you dressed too warmly or moved more intensively than you intended, the membrane does not always have time to let all the water vapour through. To regulate your body temperature and quickly release excess moist air, you can open the ventilation zippers under the arms or on the side of the thighs. Venting quickly is important to help the membrane take care of all the water vapour that forms when you sweat and get hot. Different materials have different breathability and are measured by how much water vapour a fabric can let through over time.
If the outer fabric gets soaked, the effectiveness of the membrane is reduced. To prevent the outer fabric from absorbing water, it is treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent). The DWR treatment means that the water droplets settle like small pearls on the fabric and cannot be absorbed by the outer weave. This keeps the passage through the membrane open, making the breathability as efficient as possible. The DWR treatment wears out over time, and it is essential to renew it to maintain the water-repellent effect.
Rainy weather can feel hot and humid or cold and icy. Layering will help you regulate your temperature, wick moisture away from your body and keep you dry.
The base layer is the foundation of your outfit and should not be overlooked. The most important task for the base layer is to wick moisture away from your body. Good moisture-wicking materials like polyester are perfect for this.
When it's warm, a functional t-shirt will work perfectly as a base layer, but when the rain feels cold and icy, you may need a base layer with both trousers and a long-sleeve top to keep you warm and dry. A base layer set in synthetic materials is not too warm, even for summer, and can also prevent your shell trousers from feeling like they stick to your legs while hiking.
The mid layer is to help you stay warm if the temperature drops. Choose a thinner mid layer in fleece that is easy to zip on and off. Then you can take it off if you are too hot and put it on when you feel cold.
A mid layer that zips all the way is also a perfect outer layer if the rain stops and you want a break from your rain jacket.
The shell layer is often the star of the show during rainy hikes. It needs to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Choose shell jackets and trousers with ventilation zippers under the arms and along the thighs to help regulate your temperature and release moist air more quickly when you get hot and sweaty.
An oversized hood will help keep the rain away from your face and prevent water from getting into your outer layer by the neck.
Also, avoid choosing a rain jacket with a fleece lining since this can soak up water that has been collecting on your rain trousers. The water can then travel up through the lining of your jacket and make it wet from the inside.
To be prepared for wet and rainy hikes there are some additional gear your might want to consider adding to your outfit and your pack.
• Baseball cap. To help keep the rain away from your eyes and face, a baseball cap underneath the hood of your rain jacket can be a good addition.
• Good socks (and bring extras!). Socks made from synthetic materials or wool are perfect for rainy hikes since they are moisture-wicking and don’t chafe even when wet. You can even double up on socks to prevent chafing and keeping your feet warm and dry. Don’t forget to bring extra socks in your backpack to change into if the ones you are wearing becomes too wet.
• Waterproof hiking shoes. To keep your feet dry as long as possible, choose a pair of waterproof hiking shoes with good breathability.
• Raincover for your backpack. Even if your backpack has a DWR coating, it will not withstand heavy rain forever. Bring a rain cover for your pack if it rains heavily or consistently during your hike.
• Additional, dry clothing. Even the best outfit for rainy weather can fail, so always bring an additional set of dry clothes in your pack to change into. For safety’s sake, pack them in waterproof packing cubes or plastic bags as an extra protective layer against the rain.
If you are heading out in light rain, choose a moisture-wicking and quick-drying base layer like our Vagabond Tee, available with both short and long sleeves. If it’s a bit colder, layer up with the Trekker Fleece, or pack it in your backpack if you get cold later on.
A stretchy and waterproof shell layer, like our Silence Proshell or Whisper collection, is perfect for light rain. It’s comfortable to move in and does not rustle.
When the rain is pouring down and does not seem to be letting up, you need a waterproof shell layer with high breathability, like our Aphex or Cyclone Jacket and Trousers.
Underneath, it can be a good idea to add a base layer with both pants and a long-sleeved top to help wick away moisture from your body and regulate your body temperature. A base layer in synthetic materials, like our Sneaky Balaclava, is perfect for all seasons. Don’t forget to bring a light fleece hoodie, like our Trekker Fleece, as an insulating layer in case you get cold.
Not sure if it’s going to rain? Or maybe you just want to be prepared for all eventualities (we approve!). Choose a pair of hiking pants with DWR treatment, like our RVRC GP Pro Trousers. They can stand up to light rain, giving you time to don the packable shell layer you also brought in your pack. Did you know our Typhoon set can be folded down into its own pocket?
With a quick-drying base layer in functional material, like our Vagabond Tee, you can stay comfortable during both sunny and rainy weather. A thin fleece hoodie, like our Trekker Fleece Hoodie, can serve as both a mid layer under a rain jacket and as an outer layer when it’s not raining. If it’s overcast with a risk of light and short rain showers, a softshell jacket with a DWR treatment, like our Tornado Jacket, is excellent.
The DWR coating on your gear will wear off over time with heavy use and several washes. It is therefore important that you take care of your clothes in the best way to ensure that they perform optimally for a long time. Never wash your clothes with fabric softener, as this can clog the membrane and damage the DWR treatment.
Also, be sure to reapply waterproofing to your clothes before you head out to get the most out of them. Make sure the clothes are clean, and then spray them with waterproofing spray made for clothes. Also, don't forget to activate the DWR treatment with heat for it to take full effect!
Are you a beginner at hiking? Read our hiking guide for everything you need to know to get started!
To the hiking guide for beginners
Like to be prepared? Learn more about the ten essentials you need to pack when you are going out for a hike.