How to Stay Dry in Heavy Rain

If you're hiking for hours in a steady downpour, it's inevitable that you're going to get soaked eventually, no matter what you're wearing. There are, however, some simple things you can do to stay drier, longer.

Seal your wristsJacket cuffs are a common leak point. As your hands get wet, water dribbles down toward your wrists. If the cuffs aren't sealed tightly, the water will continue its journey along your forearms and into your clothing. When shopping for a rain jacket, look for cuffs that seal tightly, but comfortably, with wide Velcro strips for assured closure. And make sure to seal them!

Push up your sleevesIf you're wearing a long-sleeve garment underneath your rain jacket, push the sleeves up your forearms or even over the elbow. This prevents cuff-leaking water from wicking quickly up the fabric toward your shoulders and core.

Ventilate to the maxForget about your jacket being "breathable." Even the fanciest waterproof-breathable materials stop breathing once the outer layer of nylon becomes saturated from incessant rain. This means that all your sweat and other trapped moisture can't pass through the jacket. (You can increase the time your surface layer stays dry by regularly applying a durable water treatment, but it too will eventually fail.)

To allow some vapor to escape, open your pit-zips if you've got them. Loosen the jacket around your hips so that air can flow freely upwards. Open your top zipper as much as conditions allow—it doesn't help your ventilation cause if rain is pouring in.

Accept wet feetEven if you have fully waterproof boots, they'll still steadily fill with moisture as water wicks down your socks from above the boot tops. Long rain pants that extend over your boots help some, but much better results come from wearing a pair of waterproof gaiters, which seals the crucial ankle gap (though even then, water will eventually drip down your rain pants and under the gaiters...).

Carry an umbrella?In a sustained deluge, an umbrella may actually be your best protection. Several ultralight hiking models are available, such as the seven-ounce Dome Trekking Umbrella from GoLite.

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.