Archives for July 2015

Rain makes a great hike

appalachian-trail-waterfallI love hiking in the rain, let me tell you why… First let me start by telling you that while on the trail one stretch of rain lasted 18 days. Some of those days the rain was long and hard. Other days it was light and short but for 18 days it rained.

Here is what I learned about hiking in the rain.

1. Attitude makes all the difference. At first I hated it and couldn’t wait for it to dry up and go away. Then I found myself looking for the good things about the rain. I can hear you now, “What can be good about rain?”

The rain makes the colors of the forest deeper and more vibrant , the greens are greener and the blacks blacker. Rain cools the temperature and the air is sweet, you can taste the air rather than breath it. I love it when it has been a really hot day and the rain soaks the ground and steam rises from the earth like a boiling tea pot.trail steam

2. Be prepared for rain. Not being prepared can make for a miserable and even dangerous hike.

How do you prepare, you ask? Have the right cloths. Synthetics, not cotton.

The really important thing to remember here is synthetics draw moisture away from your skin and help you stay warm. Wool works too but I don’t recommend wool due to the weight and how long it takes to dry out. The old timers out there are screaming at the screen “Wool is the best!!!” I do like wool for keeping warm even when wet but the problem with wool is that it fills up with water and then it is not as effective at keeping the surface of my skin dry. This is especially true of socks. during that 18 day stretch of rain I had both wool and synthetic socks. I found that if I did not stop and wring out my socks every couple of hours my feet would get pruned and start to blister. The synthetic socks did a better job keeping my feet dry. Wool also takes a really long time to dry out.

Side Note… How to dry out your socks when it is raining day after day. Here again synthetics are the hero. I found that if I put my socks under my fleece sweater on my shoulders or if I was napping I would put them on my chest under my fleece and the synthetic socks would dry in a couple of hours. Wool socks took too long to use this method.

During warm weather I find it easier to just get wet and dry out when it stops. Cold weather on the other hand can be life threatening. The problem with hiking in the rain in cold weather is two fold. First is getting wet from the rain coming down and second is getting wet from the sweat your body produces while hiking.

Proper clothing and outerwear can help with both of these if you have the right gear and or you use it properly. I use layering to regulate my body’s temperature and sweat production. The layer right next to your skin or base layer should be a synthetic thermal underwear(during cool or cold weather). Then a fleece(synthetic) sweater over your base layer and finally your outerwear.

What is outerwear? This can be many different things. This layer could be a $500 Gore-Tex Jacket (nope, not kidding $500) or it could be a $15 nylon wind breaker. The merits of these outerwear choices can be discussed in a different post. The proper use of these jackets is important. If you are getting hot and start to sweat a lot, then you need to unzip your pit zips if your jacket has them. You may also need to vent your main front zipper to let some heat escape. Whatever the options your jacket has for venting, use them to cool it down and not sweat so much that you get soaking wet. I have been soaking wet from sweat and then when I stopped found myself freezing my butt off and getting close to hypothermia. One last tip on this subject, when you are hiking and are about to take a break from hiking or stopping for the night you will want to zip up and batten down the hatches a few minutes before you stop. If you stop then zip up you may find your self with a chill and unable to get warm.

3. Rain can equal more wildlife. The wildlife will have a more difficult time hearing you coming and you can often time see them before they hear or smell you. You will have to be paying attention as they are often not moving and you can pass right by them if you are not observant. Bonus tip: If it looks like it might be getting ready to rain but you still hear birds chirping and being active then you still have some time to get to or make shelter. If you notice a significant silence in the forest (no birds) then you know the rain is about to start. There are other tell tale signs for coming of rain like curling of tree leaves and the thickness of the air but these are not as noticeable as the birds.

4. This point is sort of subjective but it is my blog so there you go. Rain makes things interesting and is memorable.  In other word I remember the sections hike with rain more than those without. I also feel like a real adventurer during these rainy hikes. After all most people are indoors, warm and comfy. They are not outdoors daring nature to smite them with wind and water.

Well there you go, this post is a rainy day reflection of what I learned those glorious 18 rainy days on the trail.

 

 

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