Once we can motivate ourselves to get out the door, we never regret taking a hike in the rain.
Whether it’s to get some shoulder season wiggles out or just a desperate attempt to breathe fresh air in the middle of a rainy Pacific Northwest winter, hiking in the rain is something we have learned to love doing as a family.
Familiar trails take on a whole new magic in the rain, and there are so many ways to keep kids engaged and having fun if you are able to keep them dry and warm. This is where the gear comes in, and it really does make all the difference in the world.
From socks and base layers to packs and boots, we’ve got you covered with recommendations on all the best gear for hiking in the rain! And if you need more inspiration for getting kids out on the trail all year long, be sure to check Stephanie’s post 9 Best Tips for Hiking with Kids.
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- Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Base Layers
- Best Rain Gear for Hiking: Jackets
- Hiking Gear for Rain: Rain Pants
- Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Footwear
- Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Socks
- Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Packs & Accessories
- Best Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Bottom Line
- Best Gear for Hiking in the Rain
Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Base Layers
First things first: what you wear next to your skin while you’re hiking in the rain really matters! Don’t be fooled into thinking that outerwear is the only thing that’s important.
You will likely underestimate how much you sweat, as well as how uncomfortable it will be if your next-to-skin layer ends up having water leak in through neck, wrist, ankle, or waist openings.
A few general rules of thumb you will want to take note of when looking for base layers for hiking in the rain:
- No cotton – once cotton gets wet, it’s just going to stay wet
- Moisture wicking – the best base layers will pull moisture away from your skin, rather than trapping it in
- Breathable – your core can warm up super quickly when hiking, and when the moisture is coming from your body AND the sky it can be especially tough to stay dry
- Quick Drying – if you do get some water intrusion underneath your outerwear, you want it to dry as quickly as possible
Best Kids Base Layers for Hiking in the Rain
For excellent performance synthetic fabric at an affordable price, it’s hard to beat these REI Co-Op branded kids base layers.
Merino wool is the “gold standard” for colder weather base layers because of the its temperature regulating and odor-resistant properties. For a slightly higher price, you will get increased performance from these merino layers versus similar synthetic options.
These are our absolute favorite hiking pants for kids! If it’s warm enough that insulation isn’t a big concern, these are high quality, adjustable, and built to last being passed down through multiple kids worth of hard wear.
Capilene silkweight is a super soft and comfortable fabric that is excellent for higher energy output adventures in warmer weather where kids are likely to heat up quickly.
Best Adult Base Layers for Hiking in the Rain
A classic, quality synthetic base layer with insulating properties for colder weather hikes.
If there’s a chance you may remove your rain pants at some point and want a more substantial base layer, these hike tights are comfy, stretchy, high-waisted, and durable.
This top does it ALL. It’s cozy and breathable, quick-drying and hooded, and has thumb holes AND zippered stash pockets if that’s your jam. Favorite shoulder season hiking top by far!
For a true full-merino top that will keep you warm and dry, this crew neck top is another staple for all kinds of wet weather activities. If you don’t like the feeling of hoods under rain jacket, this is an excellent option.
Capilene is just such a solid fabric for high activity. It is extraordinarily soft and breathable, so if you have any kind of sensitivity regarding what fabric touches your skin this is a fantastic warmer weather base layer option.
Best Rain Gear for Hiking: Jackets
Never underestimate the power of a good rain jacket! Keeping your core temp regulated and your skin as dry as possible makes it possible to stay out and enjoy hiking in the rain for miles upon miles.
Here are the key factors to look for in a jacket for hiking in the rain:
If you really want to geek out on what all the tech specs mean, REI has a fantastic post on How to Choose the Best Rain Gear that has you covered!
- Waterproofing – this goes without saying, but check what waterproofing technology is used and make sure it performs, because not all waterproofing is created equal
- Breathability – plastic bags are super waterproof, but if you’ve ever tried to wear one as a poncho you know that they keep every drop of sweat trapped inside and this is NOT conducive to maintaining activity outdoors
- Hood – a well-designed hood makes a huge difference in minimizing water intrusion, make sure your rain jacket has a hood that is as adjustable as possible to ensure a snug fit when you need it
- Pit Zips – if you’re really working up a sweat, these make all the difference in the world for keeping your core cool and allowing some heat/sweat to escape
Best Kids Jackets for Hiking in the Rain
Columbia has a well-earned reputation for making kids gear that is reasonably priced, performs well, and lasts through multiple hand-me-downs. This jacket is no exception and is lightweight and breathable with solid waterproofing.
We have had so many of these jackets as our kids have grown, and they have always performed solidly for hiking in the rain. Adjustable hoods, zippered pockets, and a super soft collar are some of our favorite features.
Slightly less breathable than the first two options, this jacket is a perfect choice if your “hike” is more of a slow meander with an emphasis on puddle splashing and mud play. Reima makes incredibly durable and easy-to-clean waterproof gear and this jacket is no exception.
Best Hiking Jackets Womens
This jacket is hard to beat for waterproofing, breathability, features, and weight. We especially love the torso-length pit zips (especially if you’re experiencing some pregnancy-related belly expansion!), highly adjustable hood, and fun color options.
Another thing we love about Outdoor Research is that they have done a lot of work on increasing their size range to work for all kinds of bodies! This jacket is available in sizes up to 4x.
Another lightweight and breathable jacket with durable 3-layer waterproofing, the Marmot PreCip Eco Pro has pit zips, an adjustable hood, and a storm flap on the main zipper for extra wind/rain protection. Team member Cait has put in a lot of miles in this jacket and loves how it performs!
For all the grown-up 80s and 90s kids out there, this jacket gets ALL THE STYLE AND COMFORT POINTS. Designed in collaboration with Outdoor Afro, a non-profit that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature, this shell provides countless adjustability points to enable customized fit to all different body shapes.
While it is technically “water resistant” rather than waterproof, I’ve worn it hiking in significant rain and was really impressed with how it performed. The only real issue I had was the lack of adjustable wrist closures to keep water from sneaking in through the cuffs.
Hiking Gear for Rain: Rain Pants
It can be tempting to think that wet legs don’t really matter that much…but if you’ve ever been truly soaked on a hike you know how uncomfortable it can be to put one drenched leg in front of the other.
Not only do wet pants lead to chafing (OUCH), but they make your legs feel both colder and heavier. And if your kids want to stop and splash in a puddle for 10 minutes, you can sit down on a stump or a log without ending up with a soaked backside.
Here’s what we suggest looking for in rain pants for hiking in the rain:
- Fit – you want hiking rain pants to be big enough to layer and support mobility, but not so big that they fall down or trip you up
- Waterproofing – similar to jackets, all waterproofing is not created equal
- Stretchiness/range of motion – some extremely waterproof fabrics are stiff and inflexible, and mobility is much more important with pants than it is for jackets
- Durability (especially for kids) – when kids wear rain pants, they tend to feel invincible…their pants need to be able to keep up
- Ankle zippers/adjustability – The ability to put on/take off rain pants without removing shoes is invaluable for transitioning between car and hike (and in the event of weather change while out on the trail)
Best Kids Rain Pants for Hiking in the Rain
These pants are packable, durable, and their ankle-knee zippers make for super easy on/off. They have withstood plenty of log sliding and rock crawling while maintaining waterproofing, which is critical for active and adventurous kiddos!
Just like the REI Co-Op Jacket, these pants hold up to rough play and last through multiple kids worth of wear. Waterproofing and durability pass the wild child test with flying colors!
Best Adult Rain Pants for Hiking in the Rain
These pants have 3-layer construction which prioritizes waterproofing over breathability, which makes them a fantastic choice if you’re planning on hiking with kids at a slower pace.
These are technically “men’s” fit pants, but several of our team members find the fit more comfortable than the women’s-specific Aspire pants. As always, try them on before you buy if you can (REI carries both the Aspire and Foray if you are close to one of their retail stores)!
The Gore-Tex PacLite fabric is perfectly lightweight and breathable for more strenuous hikes, and the length of the ankle zippers makes for super easy on/off.
Another great lightweight and breathable option, the Helium pants provide abrasion resistance and packability while still keeping legs dry. These are also available in both “men’s” and “women’s” fit, and you may want to try both to find the best fit for your body.
Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Footwear
Wet feet = NO FUN. If you’re hiking in the rain, you want a boot or shoe that will keep your feet comfortable AND dry while providing solid traction. Here’s what to pay attention to:
- Waterproofing – leather or Gore-Tex (or another option), research how the shoe performs in real-world conditions
- Flexibility – comfort becomes even more critical in wet conditions, especially for low-key hiking with kids where rigid support may not be necessary
- Ankle height – this is often a matter of preference, but if you’re likely going to have to trudge through deep puddles you will want to choose a boot over a low-top hiker to keep your feet as dry as possible
- Traction – everything becomes more slippery when wet, so you want to make sure you can keep yourself stable while hiking on wet roots, trails, and rocks
Best Kids Footwear for Hiking in the Rain
The Targhee is Keen’s tried and true hiking boot, and the kids version is a trusted choice for the majority of our team members. Waterproof and flexible with solid traction, this boot performs well in lots of conditions and hits the mark on all of our major considerations.
For bigger kiddos who are capable of higher mileage, the Keen Ridge Flex shares the waterproofing and traction capabilities of the Targhee with added flexibility and comfort.
While these boots felt heavy out of the box, my super active 7-year-old absolutely LOVES them and has never complained about how they feel on the trail. We have been incredibly impressed by the waterproofing and traction, which holds up equally well to mud slogging and rock scrambling.
We tend to do less mileage at a slower pace when we’re hiking in the rain, so a slightly heavier boot doesn’t have a significant impact on stamina and the level of waterproofing is more than worth the weight!
Best Adult Footwear for Hiking in the Rain
For those of us with wider feet, finding comfortable hiking boots can be a significant challenge. Oboz is one of the brands that offers a wide width that accommodates different foot shapes and still provides a nice balance of waterproofing and flexibility.
Another tried and true comfortable hiker with solid waterproofing, this boot is a favorite of several team members.
Team member Cait has rocked these Danners for over a decade and they are still at the top of her list for all things hiking!
Danner also makes an updated version of this boot, the Mountain 600 Leaf, which has added Gore-Tex waterproofing and a unique “recraftable” design that allows the boots to be repaired and resoled.
While low tops can be less than ideal in truly sloppy conditions, when paired with a solid rain pant they can provide a more comfortable fit than a lot of ankle-height boots. Altra has been working hard to improve their all-weather lineup, and the Lone Peak is one of the most solid hiking/trail running shoes in their lineup.
Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Socks
In general, we recommend following the same guidelines for socks as with other baselayers. Wet feet can end a hike (or make it super miserable) in no time, so you want to make sure you’ve got high quality socks that keep your feet as comfortable, dry, and blister-free as possible.
Remember: no cotton (wool is best!), quick-drying, breathable, and moisture wicking socks to keep those toes happy!
Best Kids Socks for Hiking in the Rain
Darn Tough is one of the most trusted names in the sock game, and they offer a lifetime guarantee to back up their promise of quality. These 46% merino socks stay in place well, keep feet cool in summer and warm in winter, and last through countless washes which makes them a team favorite.
The amount of cushion in a sock is mostly a matter of comfort preference, along with the fit of the shoe or boot. If your kiddo’s boots are slightly roomy or if they like a more plush feeling sock, these are a fantastic option.
At 60% merino wool, these also have excellent moisture wicking and odor-reducing properties.
These 55% merino socks offer slightly less cushion than the Smartwool Classic Hike, while offering a similar level of softness, breathability, and overall quality.
Some kids prefer a lighter weight sock, and at 37% merino wool these are still an excellent choice with a slightly slimmer profile than a full-cushion hiking sock.
Best Adult Socks for Hiking in the Rain
These socks are designed by women, for women, and are some of the most comfortable and breathable hiking socks out there! At 45% merino, they perform to all the standards of quality wool and dry incredibly quickly.
Another fun fact, they make their socks at a women-owned and women-operated factory so 100% of the dollars heading to this company are supporting women in business!
A classic lightweight hiking sock, these 79% merino beauties are ideal for summer hiking in warmer weather (or if you have notoriously hot feet!).
Again, these Darn Tough socks are made to last! And they are also beautiful if you’re into having some upper ankle flare.
At 46% merino with a lightweight cushion, they work well for summer and shoulder season hiking.
Smartwool does not mess around with its sock design, and these are no exception. With dialed-in cushioning and reinforcement zones and 56% merino they provide a comfortable fit and an excellent balance of support and breathability where you need it most.
Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Packs & Accessories
Perfect for day hiking in the rain, this pack has a built-in stowable rain cover and a sizeable mesh stash pocket as well as a roomy main compartment for snacks, first aid kit, and any other extras you might want to have on hand.
We have been super impressed with the DWR coating on these packs – our kids love carrying a few special items when we hike, and even in significant downpours these have kept precious stuffies cozy and dry.
The design is perfect for younger kids and has enough features for them to feel like they have a “real” hiking pack!
If you want to use a pack you already have and it doesn’t have DWR that performs to your liking, REI offers a stand-alone rain cover that comes in a variety of sizes to fit packs from 18L – 100L+.
This is a great item to have when the weather is unpredictable or on a multi-day backpacking trip where conditions may change from dry to wet quickly!
Available in a variety of sizes, these dry bags are super handy for adding an extra layer of secure dryness to especially critical items. We always fill one with a pair of dry socks for everyone in the family since wet feet can be a major downer!
First aid items and snacks can also benefit from maximum protection from the elements, as well as electronics that you don’t need to access quickly but want to bring along.
It never hurts to have a towel on hand when you’re hiking in the rain, and these microfiber towels are lightweight, compact, and quick-drying. We stash one in each kid’s backpack just in case.
If you have kids like ours who love nature journaling and drawing, these are such a rad item to have! The paper is designed to maintain its integrity in the rain and prevent both ink and graphite from bleeding.
If you’re hiking with a baby, here’s how to Choose the Best Hiking Carrier – remember for wet weather hikes to avoid cotton wraps and carriers and if possible use a framed pack with a rain cover.
For colder weather, check out Jen’s round-up of Best Kids Winter Hats (just make sure whatever you use for headwear it follows the same material recommendations for other next-to-skin items like socks and base layers!)
Best Gear for Hiking in the Rain: Bottom Line
With the right gear and the right preparation, hiking in the rain can be rewarding, fun, and memorable!
An investment in high quality gear for hiking in the rain is definitely worth it in our opinion. Make sure you properly clean and care for all your waterproof gear so it lasts and does its job for as long as possible, and you can count on getting your money’s worth and then some.
What must-have items did we miss? Let us know your favorite gear for hiking in the rain in the comments!
Best Gear for Hiking in the Rain
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