This time of the year can be a beautiful time to go hiking and/or camping. The air is cool and the trees and flowers are already in bloom. However, weather is also known for its unpredictability as well. One minute, you can experience unseasonably warm, dry weather, and the next it can turn cold and very, very wet.
If you are going to take advantage of the season to hike or camp, it is critical that you plan ahead to ensure you remain warm and dry, no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.
You’ll want to pack lightweight (often packable) rain gear that can be easily carried or packed when not needed. Again, even though it may be raining at any given moment, conditions could change quickly… and you don’t want to get stuck with heavy rain gear to carry, when it turns warm and sunny.
The following list includes eight different types of lightweight rain gear that you can plan to include in your next outdoor excursion:
Shell (Rain Jacket)
Often made of extremely lightweight and durable fabrics, the hooded, waterproof shell is a great option for a rain jacket, and is an obvious choice for your next hiking or camping trip. Look for such features as taped seams or DWR (durable water repellent) finish, for added protection from rain.
Although you can certainly pack the simple (and cheap) clear plastic or vinyl poncho, these are not recommended for extended use, as they are likely to rip as you walk along narrow trails, with brush and branches on each side. The other, and more dependable option, is the nylon poncho, which is still very lightweight but far more durable.
The major downside to the poncho however, is that it is really only effective when there is no wind. With ANY wind accompanying the rain, the poncho will become a more effective wind sail than rain protection.
Similar to the waterproof shell (rain jacket), rain pants are a great waterproof option for keeping your entire lower body warm and dry, and to help prevent hypothermia.
While rain pants can be a great option, they may add unnecessary bulk to your pack if your rain jacket or poncho is already long enough to cover your knees. If this is the case, it may make more sense to opt for gaiters instead of full rain pants. Rain pants are a must in cooler weather. In warm weather you can dispense with the pants, wear gaiters and allow the rain to cool you.
Gaiters are simply a covering for your legs and boots that are designed to protect your legs from inclement weather, brambles and brush. As mentioned above, these are a great, packable, lightweight rain protection option if your rain jacket, shell or poncho are long enough to cover from your knees to your waist, which is NOT covered by gaiters
A rain jacket is likely to have a billed hood to help keep the rain out of your face. Hoods, when they get wet, can flop into your face. A nylon ball cap worn under the hood can provide the necessary support to prevent the hood from falling in front of your eyes. A fully brimmed hat is a good choice if you are not using a hood and do not have a pack that will knock the hat around. A brimmed hat is good for canoeing and kayaking in the rain. Wind can be a problem with brimmed hats because the wind can lift the hat off your head, so it is a good idea to get one with a chinstrap to keep it secure. The wide brim all the way around the hat will help to deflect the rain away from your face, keeping your visibility high and your head dry.
The trekking umbrella can be easily collapsed into an incredibly small space, making it a fantastic option for packable rain protection. The only major downfall to the umbrella is that it must be held, which can create issues if you are hiking up (or down) steep hills or ridges. A little creative strapping and you can strap an umbrella to a pack. This is a good option for trekking across open countryside allowing you to walk within your own on-the-move awning.
Umbrellas will cover a large space to keep you dry. It will become less useful though if your planned hiking or camping area is known for (or is forecasted for) wind.
There are really two options here for protecting your feet from the rain. The first is the obvious rubber waterproof rain boot. These can do a fantastic job at keeping your feet warm and dry, and because they are often quite tall, can also offer better protection for your legs as well. However rubber rain boots are good for mucking out horse stalls but not very good for hiking.
A good waterproof hiking boot that is lightweight and has a sole that is designed to hold a grip is a much better choice. Most truly waterproof boots have a waterproof sock sewn into the boot to create a waterproof envelope for your foot. Most of these envelopes are constructed with a waterproof breathable material, so moisture from your feet wicks to the outside the inner part of the boot. Though these boots are waterproof in that they’ll keep your feet dry, they do require water repellent treatment on the outer surface, to get the best performance out of them.
The final piece of rain gear that will do a great job at keeping you warm and dry throughout your trip is a waterproof pack cover. This will ensure that your gear, clothes, guides/maps and anything else you bring with you will stay protected, as a standard backpack is lightweight but is made of a fabric that will become waterlogged within minutes of strong rain.
The gear outlined above will do a great job keeping you dry, but we would love to hear from you directly to find out what has worked well for you! Give us your suggestions and feedback in the form of a comment below.