Article, Guide, Personal Story, Reflection

A Black Girl’s Guide to Hiking in the Rain by Tiffany Tharpe

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It was 6 AM when I woke up to the sound of rain hitting the roof. It was a soothing sound, but worry settled in and I wondered if I needed to send out a frantic “CANCELLED DUE TO THE RAIN” text. Michelle and I had tried, amateurishly, to track the SoCal storm, but Mother Nature proved superior and the rain was coming whether we liked it or not. We just had to buckle up and prepare ourselves…

Personally, I’m a fan of hiking in the rain. It comes with it’s own rewards and I’ve found it to be quite peaceful. I just like the rain in general. But taking a big group out in the rain can be a bit of a challenge– especially if someone’s never been hiking in the rain in before. You have to take into account if people will show up, have the proper rain gear, or if they’ll have a pleasant experience. Hiking in the rain isn’t a pleasurable experience for everyone and it’s our job as leaders to inspire our members to want to come back.

After our successful hike to Glendale Peak in the rain, I decided to write a guide, specifically for black women (from one black woman to another), on how to hike in the rain and what to expect when you’re hiking in the rain. I hope it’ll inspire more people to hit the trails when those rainstorms do roll in, and at least experience hiking in the rain once.


What to Wear

Rain Gear is super important when hiking in the rain! It really makes all the difference when you’re hiking dry in the rain versus when the rain has permeated through your clothes and you’re soaking wet. This can cause a very unpleasant experience.

Good rain gear really boils down to good waterproof hiking boots and a rain jacket. The boots help to keep our feet dry, especially since there’s lots of puddles and mud on a rainy trail. For boots, I’ve had good experiences with Vasque and Merrell. I’ve walked through puddles in my Vasque boots and came out of it with my feet nice and dry. I also double up on the socks, wearing thicker hiking socks as an outer layer and thinner, moisture-wicking socks underneath. The only time this didn’t work out so well for me was when I went hiking in the Narrows in Zion I was not prepared for the waist deep water and doubling up on socks did nothing for me as I walked deeper and deeper into that slot canyon. You want to make sure to bring extra socks like I did in case yours do get wet. Hiking in wet socks is an unpleasant experience and can even, in extreme cases, cause trench foot.

As for a jacket, a normal rain jacket will do. I wear my fiance’s jacket from The North Face. A poncho will also work and I’ve worn one when I’ve been caught off guard with rain. For clothes, do NOT wear cotton and put on extra layers if need be to keep warm. I tend to wear a long sleeved shirt with leggings (and a base layer thermal under those if I’m feeling extra). I don’t wear gloves, but I do bring them in my pack just in case it is really chilly out. Just make sure they’re water-resistant or you’ll be dealing with cold hands!

For us naturalistas (can I even call myself that yet, I’m still transitioning..) we can either keep our hair out and hydrate those curls or we can wrap it up to protect our hairstyle. For the pressed beauties, don’t let the rain deter you! Make sure your hair is nice and wrapped up and protected! I know very well what a rainy day can do to our straightened locks.

Some other things you’ll want to make sure to have are: a towel to dry yourself or your shoes off when you get back to the car, an umbrella in case it’s raining too hard or you want extra protection, and a pack cover for your hydration pack/bag to lower to risk of the things inside getting wet. Also, as usual, water for the hike and a first aid kit in case anything happens.

Safety Hazards

There is much to be aware of when hiking in the rain, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it alone— especially in the event that something does happen. The trail will be much more slippery and muddy. Even though our hiking boots usually accommodate for this terrain, it’s always better to tread carefully. There’s also the risk of mudslides and flash floods, so pay close attention to where you’re hiking and the signs that may be posted. Avoid getting caught in rushing water, as tree branches and debris can hit you once that water gets flowing. Always go for high ground immediately in the event that you are caught in a flash flood.

Rewards

One of the joys that rain brings to the busy SoCal trails is solitude. If you’re like me, spending time in nature and really listening to the sounds of the trees, animals, creeks, etc. is an important experience and a form of meditation and reflection. Hiking in the rain, you pretty much have the trail to yourself with the soft pitter-patter of rain to keep you company. If you’re lucky like our group was, the rain will break at the summit of your trek and you’ll get rewarding pollutant free views of your city or natural skyline.


We hope this encourages you to get out there and experience hiking in the rain, and can only hope that you have a positive experience with it. Just remember to be safe and stick to the “Leave No Trace” principles. Happy hiking!

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