I think it’s safe to say this week’s weather is a solid indicator that the rainy season has officially begun in Portland. Maybe we should call it rainter, since it’s essentially our version of winter but sans snow and filled with… well, you know. This time of year can be hard on the area’s outdoorsy folk; it’s hard to find that extra motivation needed to leave a cozy home to head out into the dark, chilly, and wet wild.
But giving up hiking for five months or more will leave you out of shape for the big leagues – spring, summer, and fall! And being stuck indoors for all of winter is just a general bummer. Cabin fever is no bueno for mental health.
So don’t give up on the hiking just because the weather’s a little crappy. Here are some tips to getting out there in the rain, and enjoying it:
1. PICK THE RIGHT DAYS; THERE IS GOOD RAIN AND BAD RAIN.
First things first: do not hit the trail in dangerous weather. This includes torrential downpours (which can result in flash flooding), extreme winds, severe thunderstorms, and lightning. If you’re looking at high-elevation hikes, know that weather is less predictable there and beware of sub-zero temperatures and the resulting snow, sleet, or hail. Always check the weather beforehand (like right before you leave and not a few days before because it is ever-changing), keep an eye on the sky, and even if you’re even a bit skeptical, take a raincheck. When I’m talking about hiking in the rain, I’m talking about Portlandia’s everyday harmless drizzles – not the serious stuff.
2. GET THE RIGHT GEAR.
This is a no brainer but if you live in an area that endures large quantities of precipitation, like many parts of the Pacific Northwest, then you need to invest in some good rainwear. Opt for something waterproof like laminate material, which tends to be pricier but will keep you dry throughout the entire journey. Water resistant fabrics are can work for light rain or mist, but during a normal rain shower, you will likely end up a little soggy. In my experience, a wet camper doesn’t usually equal a happy one.
Grab the basics, including a waterproof shell and a pair of rainpants. I wear the Marmot Crystalline Rain Jacket and Red Ledge Unisex Thunderlight Full-Zip Rain Pants, but I am also a fan of the Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket. Tip: Size up so you can have some extra sleeve to keep your hands dry and room to layer when it gets chilly!
If you plan on backpacking or bringing along a smaller pack, it’s wise to purchase a rain cover. I use the Osprey Ultralight Pack Raincover.
Lastly, get a water resistant hat; it acts as a tiny, mobile head shelter. It makes a world of a difference to have damp hair versus soaking wet hair and to hike without rain pelting your eyes and face. I’m obsessed with my Outback Trading Co Men’s Co. Madison River Upf50 Sun Protection Oilskin Hat Black X-Large.
As for your hiking shoes – those should already be water resistant but you can further protect them with waterproofing sprays for leather and suede like Kiwi Camp Dry, Heavy Duty Water Repellent.
3. KEEP TRASHBAGS HANDY.
When rain and mud is involved, you should always have a few trashbags kickin’ around. Keep a few in the car for for wrapping up soaked clothes and boots before heading home and throw some in your backpack – they make for a great makeshift bag cover or seat cover when you take a snack break!
4. CARRY DRY CLOTHES – ESPECIALLY DRY SOCKS – TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS AFTER A WET HIKE.
Leave a clean and dry shirt, pants, socks, and shoes in the car for your return. Trust me, there is nothing quite like the heavenly feeling of putting on dry clothes after hiking in the rain. You feel like a new woman!
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TRAILS.
Some trails are better suited for rain hiking than others. Keep in mind that rain clouds = no views, so save the spots with epic vistas for the summer. Here in the PNW, hikes in overgrowth, woods or rainforests are ideal because you can count on the trees to keep you fairly dry. Hikes following a river or featuring some waterfalls are often better during a shower – everything is amplified and rushing!
Some of my favorite wet weather hikes in the area include: Siouxon Creek, Salmon River, Eagle Creek (with Punchbowl Falls), and it’s a prime forecast for the Multnomah-Wahkeena loop since the rain tends to scare off many of the tourists. I’ve also heard Clackamas River Trail and the Trail of Ten Falls Loop at Silver Falls State Park are also great, rain or shine!
6. MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
As humans, we naturally associate the rain with dreariness and it’s hard to break that stereotype. Don’t let the weather bring you down while on a rain hike! Try shifting your perception and seeing the bright side – you’re outside, enjoying nature, getting exercise, and avoiding the crowds. It’s very easy to get frustrated on a rainy hike – struggling on a difficult trail seems infinitely more devastating than it would on a sunny day – so keeping a positive mindset is crucial!
Do you put hiking on hold during the winter or rainter? How do you push yourself to get outside when the weather is less than desirable?
photo credit: stage 3: where are we? via photopin (license)
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