I love the lush, green British landscape and welcome the change of seasons and the variety this brings to my life. But sometimes, I wish it didn’t rain quite so much! Since the start of the new year, rain has been the dominant theme of our weather here in Yorkshire. But has that stopped me getting outside? Has it hell! Given the choice between a dry, bright day and a rainy one, most of us would choose to walk in the former. But there are reasons to enjoy walking in the rain, and at least one of them should make you force yourself outdoors whatever the weather.
Here are a few of the reasons why I love walking in the rain, plus my top five tips to make hiking in bad weather less of a chore.
1. Bad Weather Walks Can Be the Most Memorable
Now, I have plenty of memories of beautiful walks throughout my life. But some of the experiences that really stick in my mind have been the wet weather walks. A hike up the Merrick, when I was probably about seven years old, has gone down in family history as the day the rain never stopped. During the walk, we could rarely see more than 20m ahead and let’s just say that the view from the top was shades of grey…
Another one that sticks in my memory is a hike we did on a holiday to America. We’d been walking for hours, zig-zagging up through beautiful forests and lush meadows, but just as we reached the crest of the summit ridge, a thunderstorm drew in. Rather than turning around and hiking back down, we retreated a hundred metres down the path and huddled miserably in the rain while the path below our feet turned into a stream and lightning flashed overhead. But the thunderstorm passed and, in its wake, we submitted the peak and were rewarded with beautiful views.
There can be a fine balance between going out in weather that is safe but a bit miserable and weather that’s downright dangerous. Where you draw that line will depend on your level of outdoor experience, the type of activity you’re doing and the weather forecast, and is up to you to decide. Err on the side of caution, but don’t be put off by a bit of rain.
2. It’s Good Training
When I used to train with a search and rescue team, one of our training officers had the motto, “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training”. There is truth to this, in that training in bad weather is good preparation for races or other adventures when you’re not sure what the weather conditions will be like. (And let’s face it, if that event is in the UK, even in summer you can’t guarantee sunshine.)
If you train in bad conditions, then if the weather isn’t ideal on the day of the event, you won’t be thrown by this because you’ve prepared and trained for that eventuality. And if you do get a good weather day, then you’ll appreciate it all the more!
3. You Get to Properly Test Your Kit
There was a reason you bought that £300 waterproof, right? And if you never go out in the rain, how will you know if it was worth the money?
In all seriousness, and going back to the point above, if you’re training for an event that could be affected by wet weather, you MUST test out how your kit will work under those weather conditions. Midnight on the overnight camp of your first mountain marathon isn’t the time you want to find out that your tent leaks!
You also need to work out how your body responds to different weather conditions, particularly wind and cold, so you can make sure you wear the right kit and have spare layers packed.
4. You’ll Feel Better for Having Done It
When the rain’s lashing on the windows, it can be really tempting to scrap your outdoor plans in favour of curling up inside with a nice cup of tea. And if you can do this without feeling the teeniest bit guilty, then good on you. But for most people, you’ll feel better for getting out, if only for a quick breath of fresh air. There’s nothing more rewarding than a long hot shower and a mug of hot chocolate after a long hike in the rain. And you’ll sleep better for it too.
5. Rainy Days Can Be the Most Beautiful
There’s a reason photographers love mixed weather days. Unexpected rainbows, shafts of sunlight through dark clouds and dramatic, moody lighting can transform even the plainest landscape into something quite beautiful. Many of these moments come and go within minutes or even seconds, and if you hadn’t have been outside, you’d never have seen them. So, if the forecast is for rain or showers and you’re not sure whether to go out or stay at home, then go. Nature herself may reward you.
Five tips for walking in the rain
Here are my top tips for hiking, running or biking in bad weather:
- Invest in good waterproofs. If it’s torrential rain, nothing will keep you totally dry, but a decent pair of waterproofs will mean the difference between an enjoyable day out and a miserable, soggy experience.
- Choose the right route. Today may not be the best day to tackle that exposed ridge scramble or do a long circuit of high peaks. Going out in bad weather doesn’t mean ignoring the forecast and you may need to adjust your original plans to take into account the weather conditions. A low-level, straightforward route will probably be a more enjoyable experience and avoid potential epics. Also, pick a route that’s easy to navigate, so you don’t have to faff around with maps or GPS units in the rain.
- Plan a cafe stop (or keep moving). Standing eating soggy butties in the rain isn’t much fun. So if you’re going for a long walk, see if you can plan in a stop for food at a cafe or pub. If there’s nothing on route, then consider taking lots of snacks that you can eat quickly, and keep moving so you don’t get cold.
- Take a friend for motivation. If you’ve got someone to chat to, this will take your mind off the weather and make the miles fly by. You can keep each other’s spirits up if things start getting a bit damp and motivate each other to keep going.
- Stock up on podcasts. This may be a controversial one, and for many people (myself included a lot of the time), getting outside is about getting away from everything else and just enjoying being in nature. But as I found this weekend, if you’ve got your hood up against the driving rain and you’re plodding along a familiar route, listening to something fun and entertaining is a great way to both take your mind off the weather and make you walk a little faster. I selected a variety of podcasts, including my current addiction, Limetown, and tucked my phone into my trouser pocket under my waterproof overtrousers to keep it dry. My 16 km canal walk flew by.
I hope that’s encouraged you to get out and enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather! If you’re going backpacking, then check out my tips on camping in the rain. And if you’ve got more tips for getting outside in wet weather, please post them in the comments below.