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Beginner Skills

How to Level Up Your Rain Game for Wet Hikes

The longer you stay out, the more likely you are to see significant precip. You can get by with less protection in warmer weather, but in temps below about 65°F, you’ll need to suit up to stay safe. Here’s how to dress for the occasion.

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When you’re planning what rain protection to bring with you, it’s important to plan around three factors: how hard you expect it to rain, how long you expect it to rain, and what temperature it is. Seam-sealed, waterproof rain kit will get you through any storm, but it doesn’t usually breathe especially well. Wear it when it’s too warm or when you’re working up too much of a sweat, and you may end up as wet as if you hadn’t been wearing a jacket at all. Instead, read the weather report in advance and use this simple guide to make your picks.


You don’t need much to fend off light drizzles. Opt for breathability over protection.

Body: Softshell with DWR

Good for a 10 to 15 minute sprinkle

Legs: Nothing

In light, intermittent rain and mild temps, you’ll sweat less (and stay drier) by forgoing  leg wear.

Tip: Fabric wetting through? Retreat it with a wash-in DWR treatment like Nikwax Softshell Proof.

Light Rain

As precip becomes more constant, it’s time to scale up your protection.

Body: Softshell with Taped Seams

New, hybrid fabrics feel like softshells but with nearly the same protection as a hardshell.

Legs: Gaiters

Even if it’s not actively raining, lightweight gaiters will keep your pants and boots dry from rain dripping off trailside vegetation.

Moderate Rain

Even the newest, most technical softshells wet out eventually. When it’s spitting, opt for something more impermeable.

Body: Poncho

Flimsy, steamy, and susceptible to wind, but inexpensive and can also cover your pack

Legs: Rain Skirt

Better than pants in warm conditions, rain skirts are airy but can get tangled up on obstacles or when you’re high-stepping.


We’re talking heavy, can-barely-see-the-trail rain here. Make sure you’re covered up or you’ll be wringing out your socks later.

Body: Hardshell Jacket

Keep the hood and hem cinched, the wrists tight (ensure no layers are peeking out) and, in the worst rain, don’t raise your arms.

Legs: Hardshell Pants

If it’s absolutely pouring and chilly, don the rain pants. You’ll sweat if you work hard, so you’ll have to slow your roll.