Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Discussion: Hiking in the Rain


Water drops collecting on Redwood Sorrell, Henry Cowell State Park

Last year I broached the topic of camping in storms and decided that storms were fun so long as you were huddled in a tent listing to the monsoon millimeters away from you beating on your rain fly.

I've reversed my opinion on this now and actually feel like hiking on a stormy day, provided you have the essential gear, can actually great experience and a more memorable one as well.

A little rain never killed anyone, plus the discomfort of being wet can be mitigated by wearing proper gear which will keep you bone dry. Yet trailhead parking lots are all but vacant on an afternoon that even threatens to storm.

Having the “essential gear” certainly excludes a good percentage of the hiking population. I don’t know too many hikers besides myself with rain pants. Navigating the roads to reach the trail head can also be a bit of a burden, if not an outright hazard. Certainly this plays into the equation as well.

The payoff though is open trails, which you can have all to yourself, all day. Trails shrouded in an atmosphere which is totally unlike a bluebird day. In the hills patches of clouds will roll through, reducing visibility to only a dozen or so feet in any direction with only the faint black shapes of trees around. In the valleys rivers swell with storm water, and waterfalls reach peak volumes.

As the storm clears the lingering remains of clouds get trapped giving the mountains a misty, dramatic look. The crisp, clean air, after the storm opens visibility up for miles and miles. and the cloudy skies make for spectacular sunsets.

If you are comfortable hiking in the rain, what got you to that comfort level?

If you’re not, what do you think it would take to hit the trail during a storm.

14 comments:

  1. Experiencing a storm can be very cool, although I've been known to get off the trail when the wind is so bad the rain is sideways. Still, they are some of the most memorable times and a wonderful part of nature.

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  2. I have hiked in the rain on many occasions simply because it was the only opportunity I would have to get outside. Better to deal with a little weather than endure cabin fever by spending a whole weekend indoors. I do have rain pants and anorak. I don’t have a pack cover, but I do have a heavy duty garbage bag with some holes cut in for my head and arms. We also sometimes use GoLite umbrellas. My biggest issue with rain is cleaning all the mud off of my boots. But hiking in the rain can be a really nice experience if you decide to savor it. I especially like to hike in a deep forest in rain.

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  3. I love hiking in the rain. Sure you don't get the views or the sunshine, but everything changes in the rain. Its a different world altogether and seems somewhat magical. On my AT hike we had rain for weeks on end and I don't think it stopped raining for a minute the entire stretch from NY to NH. It definitely gets old after a few weeks, but it can be an amazing thing when the rivers swell, the trail turns to a flowing creek and the leaves are thick with rain. Now sometimes when we have a rainy day at home I just start itching to drive back up to the mountains for a quick hike.

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  4. I love the rain. And I love to hike in the rain. Rain always seems to add adventure. I once
    lost the trail
    due to keeping my head down too much in the rain. I ended up finding great views I otherwise would have never found. Another time it started raining on me a half mile form reaching a summit. Lightning struck the summit with a frighting display. I never made it to the summit that day. But I did enjoy hiking in the rain.

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  5. @John - Sideways rain & freezing rain are the two exceptions where the fun just turns to misery.

    @Randy - Earlier this year I think we had a string of about 4 weeks where we'd have sunshine all week and storms all weekend. It's tough to get motivated sometimes but other times you just don't get an option.

    @Patrick - Did you through-hike the entire AT? As a former resident of NH I can attest to their truly horrid weather. When I wrote my post earlier last week about hiking in the mud I specifically had NH mud season hikers in mind.

    @Steven - Mountain summits can be a bit dicey when confronted with storms. Even if its just rain at the moment you never know when a big cumulus cloud is bearing down on your ready to unleash some energy. In the sierra's I don't take chances with summits on stormy days. Plenty of lakes & valleys to explore on those days.

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  6. Hiking in the rain can be a wonderful experience...taking down or pitching a tent in the rain...I absolutly hate it. I also use a Golite umbrella and seldom wear a rain jacket unless it's really pouring and blowing in side ways. Things here in the Smoky Mountains take on a spooky, misty quality in the rain.

    Jack

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  7. I'm not personally a fan of umbrellas because I like my hands free when I'm hiking but it seems like a perfectly viable option especially after extended exposure to heavy rain. Also much cheaper than buying a high quality hard shell and waterproof pants.

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  8. I hiked in the rain in waterfall country of North Carolina. Surprisingly, there were a lot of other hikers on the trails. They were probably like me...they had make the trek to this area and not about to let a little rain get in the way.

    http://www.wanderandexplore.com/us-travel/asheville-north-carolina-and-surrounds/

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  9. Rain and hiking in the Adirondacks is like peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich. Sadly, after having moved out to LA, everyone warns me about hiking during/after rain due to poor trail conditions. I am not sure if I am willing to risk it yet. Thoughts?

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    1. I have a LA hiking group and rain does not cancel our hikes. Trails can get muddy in some places, but that's half the fun. It rained yestderdy Check it out: http://www.hikingwithdean.com

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  10. In LA especially, but throughout California, the conditions are so nice most of the time whenever the slightest hazard rears its head people flip out. My advice? GO! and if you feel uncomfortable on the trail, head back.

    I was tempted to write a CYA response but I reminded myself one of my goals for this year was to get more people to hike. Go for it man!

    It may be worth checking out my tips on hiking in the mud: http://www.backcountrybliss.net/2011/01/how-to-8-tips-for-hiking-in-mud.html

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    1. I have a hiking group in LA and a lot of people in the group will cancel their plans to hike if the news forcasts any chance of rain -- even a week in advance. Yesterday was the first time it actually rained at our trailhead after a forecast of rain, with rain the evening before. Still we has 13 people show up. It was a great 8.5 mile hike. http://www.meetup.com/localhikers/events/90262762/

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  11. I'm in the Pacific Northwest and have trained myself to love backpacking when it's 34 degrees and pouring. Once I attained that level, everyday is absolutely beautiful here.

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  12. Ick, 34 and pouring is about as bad as it gets. You've got to just wish the temp would plunge a little more to get some snow instead. I'm not sure I would be willingly out in that.

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