Venturing out into nature comes with inherent risks. Ok, ok, maybe that's a bit over the top. Whether you're a diehard trail junkie or the recreational weekend fair weather trekker the forecast can sometimes be fairly hit or miss.
In the summertime, it's relatively easy to throw on a light shell and weather rain. In the wintertime, it's a bit more tricky. I've said it in other Blogs and will say it again - water is wet. And wet is unpleasant in the wintertime. There are strategies that you can employ to mitigate the risk of rain or snow.
Basics of Inclement Weather Apparel
Start with the core items, check out our Gear Guide for more detailed equipment, and take a peek at the Blog post on Layer for your wintertime adventures. Let's talk about the core essentials for venturing out regardless of the forecast.
GORE-TEX Shell Jacket
DWR (Durable Weather Resistant) Pants
Hiking Boots - Waterproof
Backpack Rain Cover
Hanky (or we prefer Flannel Baby Wipes)
Towels / Rags in the Car
And a good attitude :)
Jacket and Pants | GORE-TEX & DWR Pant
This is the core element of your adventure if you plan to hike in inclement weather and/or potential for weather, a reliable shell jacket and DWR pant are a must.
There are 3 pieces that are fairly reliable in our opinion. We have weather tested these components on both heavy rain days and sprinkles during the summertime.
Summertime Shell Jacket ... Arc'Teryx Zeta SL or Beta LT: These jackets are lightweight GORE-TEX shells. If you can manage to find the Arc'Teryx Alpha FL, you'll have struck gold
Wintertime Shell Jacket ... Arc'Teryx Beta AR or Alpha SV: The wife wears the Beta AR, I wear the Alpha SV. The Alpha shell is GORE-TEX Pro and is crunchy, it's not for everyone
Pants ... Arc'Teryx Gamma LT: These pants are light and stretch great for hiking. Under these pants, you'd want to wear 250 Merino (or possibly two sets) base layers. These pants are DWR coated, so they are not fully waterproof - but that's less important than the shell
You do not need to go with Arc'Teryx, other brands like REI, Patagonia, and Outdoor Research all make great products.
We're an Arc'Teryx house, the product is battle-tested and designed for backcountry expeditions
Check out the Cole Weather Layer Blog for some thoughts on other substitute brands
You don't have to wear Arc'Teryx to be comfortable outside - but you do need a GORE-TEX shell jacket
The shell jacket is the single most important aspect of trekking outside during weather. And the great part about the shell is that you can put it in your backpack and break it out when you need it.
Boots, Backpack, and Bath Sheet (towel)
The other elements that you need to consider when hiking in wet weather are the pieces that you have on your and in your backpack.
Hiking boots are a must in the wintertime. There is a growing movement to shift to Trail Runners, but our opinion is that they don't make a pair that keeps the water or snow out when it's cold. Check out the Blog post on Trail Runners vs. Hiking Boots for some additional detail on why.
Waterproof Pack Rain Covers
Run over to your local REI to grab a Rain Cover if you don't have one. They are great additions to your equipment essentials. These come in multiple sizes and they wrap around your backpack with an elastic drawstring.
Hanky, Towels, and Rags
Sounds fairly straightforward, but sometimes a forgotten step. You're back at the car, you need to get the water off your jacket, boots, and backpack. We've all been there where it's the one thing that we forgot to bring with us.
Hanky (or Flannel Baby Wipes)
These are probably one of our best finds to date - about 8" x 8" with great absorption and fold up into the pocket without issue.
Outside of these few things, all the other essentials are what you would expect to take on the trail with you for a normal hike. These extras are great to have with you (and on your) when the weather changes.
We hope this helps and happy hiking!