Recently I seem to be in the habit of choosing the wettest of wet days to go hiking. And camping. I mean, this year alone I’ve done Kinder, Lancashire, and the Yorkshire Three Peaks in absolutely terrible rain. A lot of people say “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad kit” or something like that, and while I don’t agree with that statement whole heartedly (sometimes you’re best option is to not go!), there are some important items of kit that help me enjoy the outdoors even when the weather is a bit meh.
Hiking in the rain from Edale.
The Obvious Gear – Jacket, Boots and Over Trousers
Let’s start with the obvious. A decent waterproof coat and a pair of waterproof boots (or shoes) is the combined number one priority for sure, as without either of those two you are going to be miserable very quickly if the weather is wet.
My official GetOutside photo, I quite like it 🙂
My current favourite waterproof coat is the bright blue Craghoppers Sienna* that Ordnance Survey gave me as a thank you for being one of their GetOutside Champions this year. The colour, fit and performance is just perfect for me. Perhaps a teeny bit thick for warmer days, it really has done the job well in very (very very) wet conditions, has washed well (I use the Storm Wash and Proof), and I can bundle it into the mesh pocket on the front of my day pack when I don’t need to wear it. Choose Gore-Tex or similar if you can afford it, or look for the most breathable waterproof material you can within your budget. I recommend a shell style jacket for hiking that you can layer up with a fleece underneath if needed – rather than a padded jacket that you’ll struggle to regulate your heat in when exercising. And choose one with a hood that stays put, no-one wants to hike along with their hand in the air holding their hood up all day!
On Kinder. Thanks Andy for the photo!
Boots wise, my KEEN Aphlex* and my Merrell Chameleon Shift* have both proved to be waterproof to the extreme – I can choose either pair and be completely confident that the outside won’t get in (well, unless I wade too deep and things go in the top…). Some people tell me that waterproof hiking boots aren’t as comfortable as non-waterproof as they don’t breathe as well, which is a problem I have never considered; choosing the right moisture wicking socks for the occasion can help overcome problems of dampness from the inside.
Walking off Pen y Ghent in the rain. All waterproofing gear required!
I recently replaced my old and worn out Peter Storm waterproof trousers; and I mean old, maybe 20 years, costing a tenner at the time from the local Millets in town. These are the sort of thing you buy once and use for all kinds of things; mine have kept me dry hiking, cycling, motorcycling, kayaking, and on plenty of other random occasions. After asking twitter for advice, I was inundated with recommendations for the Berghaus Deluge waterproof trousers, and I’m very happy to pass on that recommendation here. I purchased mine from Go Outdoors (the best price I could find at the time) ready for the Yorkshire Three Peaks hike. I’m very glad I did, the weather was atrocious and they were very much needed – they did the job superbly and, thanks to the fact that they come in a short length, fit me really well.
Sometimes the obvious is not enough and you need to add extra gear into your waterproofing arsenal. And after that hike from Edale earlier in the year , I knew it was time to get serious with my kit.
So, I got myself some gaiters. Actually, Simply Hike sent me some – they saw my post about Kinder and thought they had just the thing to help me out. They sent me the Berghaus Glacier* gaiters, one of a couple of styles they have available on their website.
Berghaus Glacier Gaiters from Simply Hike.
Gaiters are kind of over-socks, worn over the shoe and bottom of the trouser leg as protection from the elements. When used for hiking and similar outdoor activities, they are made from waterproof material and their job is to keep water and mud out of the boots and stop it creeping up your trouser leg.
And what a great invention they are! Not only do I look like a serious hiker now (!), but I will never get water (or peat bog) down inside my boots again. The main benefit I can see is I now walk through puddles and along muddy paths without worrying about getting wet or dirty; not that I cared too much to start with. Hiking in the rain is much more pleasant!
Bridge versus river… I think I’d still take the bridge!
These particular ones from Berghaus are made from 300D polyester and weigh 70.5g each, slipping on easily over my walking boots. They are low cut, just slightly taller than my ankle, providing resistance against water as well as dirt and debris without going all the way up to my knee. They are ideal for general day-wear when there is a good chance of rain and mud, but no need for a full gaiter – so most lowland hiking and trail walks here in the UK, which is where I tend to be. I would happily walk through puddles and streams in these, and they will be very useful the next time I head into Kinder Low, but I wouldn’t wade through a river or trek through deep mud as they would be too short.
Berghaus Glacier Gaiters from Simply Hike.
I was worried putting them on would be a bit of a faff, but now I’ve done it a couple of times I’m a dab hand! They have a front zip for easy donning and doffing on the move, and this is protected by a velcro baffle over the top to aid waterproofing and protection. The strap that goes under the boot is made of rubber and can be adjusted to create a good fit. And at only £25 they are great value, too.
And the Rest
There are a few other bits and bobs that help getting outside in the rain be a much more pleasurable experience. I always wear a hat when it’s wet to keep my head warm and dry as much as possible. Actually, I generally wear a hat whenever I’m hiking, but especially when it’s wet. None of mine are waterproof themselves, although they are available, but any kind of head covering will help. If it has a peak it’ll also help keep your jacket hood in place, which is an important bonus.
I carry a waterproof case for my phone and use carrier bags or dry bags inside my day pack to prevent my bits and bobs from becoming soggy (no-one wants soggy sandwiches). For mapping, OS do some cool waterproof maps now that won’t tear or disintegrate in the rain, or you can print out your route from OS online onto waterproof paper (a great tip from fellow GetOutside Champion Jason).
Next on my list of things to buy to keep me outdoors when it’s wet are a pair of waterproof gloves – maybe the Sealskinz Dragon Eye Gloves, but I’m open to suggestions so please send me your recommendations.
My KEEN Aphlex boots doing their job.
How do you waterproof yourself for hiking? What are your top gear/equipment tips? And how do you keep motivated to go out even when the weather is poor? Share your advice in the comments below.
*I was sent some of the products mentions in this post for free, but as always I write with honest words based on my experience.