Are you wondering how to hike in the rain with kids? Hiking in the rain as a family offers many benefits and can be a fun way to explore the outdoors together. Plus, it is a safe experience for all ages when done thoughtfully. Kids love mud and jumping in puddles, so why not harness their natural curiosity and joy outdoors with a rainy hike? In this article, we have compiled several fantastic tips for hiking in the rain with kids, from how to do it safely to rain hiking gear that enhances the experience. All of our tips come from our experiences as outdoor parents, or those of our Explorer Families. We love embracing rainy-day hikes and time on the trails together – and we hope you do, too! Keep reading to learn more about hiking in the rain together and our top recommended rain gear options for kids!
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Is Hiking in the Rain Safe with Kids?
First, is hiking in the rain with kids safe? The answer is YES! Part of learning how to hike in the rain with kids is knowing how to do it safely.
There are five main potential safety concerns when hiking in the rain with kids. Be aware of what they are and how to address them when adventuring together.
- A significant storm system can create potential risks for hikers, like lightning. Double-check the weather before you go out – is it just a light rain or a major storm? While hiking, watch for sudden changes in the weather, like heavy rain, high winds, and dropping temperatures. Do not stay out if lightning is nearby.
- Slippery surfaces pose one of the most significant safety concerns, especially with tiny trekkers. Maneuver carefully across muddy areas, rain-slick logs, slimey rocks, etc. Hold your child’s hands when walking together, or use hiking poles to enhance stability.
- Swollen creeks/rivers. Rain can quickly change water levels and speed, even on familiar bodies of water. Be cautious if/when crossing creeks or rivers. Do not cross them if you’re unsure or are unfamiliar with the water’s currents or undertow.
- Flash floods. If you are in areas with canyons or areas prone to flooding, check the forecasts beforehand. Know your routes to accessible higher ground.
- Hypothermia. Know the signs of hypothermia (mumbling, grumbling, stumbling, and tumbling). Ensure everyone stays hydrated, warm, and has snacks available (more on these tips for hiking in the rain below).
Finally, leave a trip plan with someone. Let them know where you are going, and when they should hear from you again. Discuss what they should do if they don’t hear from you by then. As with any hike, having someone who knows your plan and where you’re hiking can be beneficial in an emergency (especially in this case, as weather can change quickly).
What If You See Lightning?
There are entire books and training guides written about outdoor adventure and wilderness safety with or without kids. With that said, here are a few bullet points that offer a great starting point if you encounter lightning while hiking with kids:
- If it is safe to do so, turn around and return to your vehicle. If that’s not possible, find shelter until the worst of the lightning passes.
- If you feel a tingling sensation, your hair standing up, or you hear a buzz, that’s your cute to move quickly! Run as fast and as far away as you can from that location.
- Avoid tall objects standing alone, like large trees, boulders, rock formations, power poles, signs), etc. Instead, look for groups of trees.
- Stay away from bodies of water or atop mountain peaks.
- Know how to read the clouds and what they look like when forming thunderstorms (thunderclouds tend to resemble anvils).
- Set aside anything metal you’ve been carrying, like hiking poles and other gear.
The Benefits of Hiking in the Rain with Kids
Now that we’ve covered a few notes about safety, did you know there are BENEFITS of hiking in the rain with kids? Generally, we know that hiking is a fantastic activity for our life-long health, both physically and mentally. And, specific benefits can come with hiking in the rain. Embracing these benefits is one of our tips for learning how to hike in the rain with kids.
Here are a few of our favorite benefits of hiking in the rain with kids:
- Hiking in the rain can increase our resilience and problem-solving skills – not to mention our ability to role-model these skills to our kids.
- The air is less contaminated during the rain, and the smell of rain (petrichor) is proven to have a soothing effect on us.
- Hiking in the rain heightens our senses, increasing blood flow and cognition.
- You might see more wildlife; some are more active before and after the rain.
- You’ll notice more greenery and flowers along the trail, improving things like perception, imagination, and creativity.
- Trails are less busy.
- Fresh rain means roaring waterfalls, rainbows, and rushing rivers – all of which can be really beautiful and fun to see together.
Tips for Hiking in the Rain with Kids
Next, when learning how to hike in the rain with kids, there are a few tips that you should know! From how to choose your trail to what to pack for snacks, these parent-tested tips will help ensure that you have a great day singing and playing in the rain with your kids.
Our 3 Biggest Tips
Just Go!: Sometimes, just getting outside together is the best goal. And, in the rain, the fresh air and time together are what matter most. There doesn’t need to be an epic view or a bucket list experience at the end of the trail. Don’t stress if you don’t if you don’t make it to the end of the trail (or even really leave the trailhead). Sometimes, kids just need the space to run around, splash in puddles, and enjoy the feeling of raindrops on their tongues. When learning how to hike in the rain with kids, sometimes the best advice is just to go and try it!
Carefully Choose Your Trail: Selecting the right trail for the day is often the first step in a fun day of hiking. On a rainy day, this can become even more important. Don’t choose trails with epic views, as they can be quickly diminished by cloud cover, fog, or limited visibility. Instead, explore trails that offer heavy forest cover, waterfalls, or rivers. Picking a trail with a lot of tree coverage will also minimize the amount of rain that reaches you. Then, it’s also okay to keep hikes short. In the rain, these trails can become even more beautiful and fun to explore as colors get deeper, and the sound of rushing waterfalls is always enjoyable!
Pack Easy to Grab and Eat Snacks: This is a biggie! When it’s raining, no one wants to sit and munch on snacks (well, almost no one – kids can be surprising!). Instead, you will want to pack items that are easy to eat on the go. Things like jerky, cheese sticks, carrots, apple sauce pouches, and apples or bananas can all be eaten quickly while hiking.
A few More Parent-Tested Tips
- It’s okay not to go on days when it’s pouring down rain (these are great days for indoor forts, games, and puzzles). Choosing to hike on days with an on-and-off light rain is ideal!
- Staying dry is easier and more effective than drying out after you’re already wet. Know what to wear when hiking in the rain (see more below). Then, do not wait to use your rainshell or covers. Have them ready as soon as the rain starts.
- If your little one is in the carry, use a fleece onesie to help with warmth and boot warmers. If it’s cold, add a bunting suit under the rain suit.
- For toddlers and older kids, let them walk. It’s easier for them to stay warm when moving. They should still be in layers to keep them warm, too!
- Check out for kids getting cold and check in with them often. Bring extra layers, dry gloves, and easy snacks in your day pack if you notice little ones getting chilled. Everyone’s mood can also indicate being cold – are kids running around singing? Or, lagging behind you, grumbling?
- If it’s your first time out in the rain, keep your hike short. Let kids get used to hiking in new weather before you embark on long treks.
- Let someone know your plans. Leave a trip plan with a family member or friend before you leave. This way, someone knows what you are doing if something happens and where to send help.
- Make it fun! Let kids get muddy. Let them jump in puddles. Encourage them to sing with you and play games. Even though it’s raining, it doesn’t mean your day out will be gloomy – find ways to make it silly and engage their natural desire to have fun with you.
- Join them in jumping in puddles. Adults also like to jump in muddy puddles! Show your kids what it looks like for you to embrace “bad” weather. Splash with them. Tip your head to the sky, and catch raindrops on your tongue with them. Laugh with them.
Rain Hiking Gear for Kids
Wondering what to wear when hiking in the rain with kids? We’ve got you covered! Knowing what hiking gear to use is next on our list of tips for hiking in the rain with kids. Not to mention, an important step to learning how to hike in the rain with kids. All of the gear on this list has been tested by us or recommended by our Explorer Families. We trust this gear to keep us warm and having fun – even in the rain!
First, three important tips for selecting rain hiking gear:
- Avoid cotton at all costs.
- Choose pieces with good ventilation. Waterproof fabrics tend not to be very breathable. Look for gear with features like pit zips, leg zips, or other ways to assist airflow/regulate your body temperature.
- Know the difference between waterproof and water-resistant. In a light rain or drizzle, water-resistant gear works in a pinch, but it will eventually soak through. Look for genuinely waterproof items, especially if you plan to hike or camp in extended wet weather.
The Best Gear for Hiking in the Rain with Kids
- Shoes/Rain Boots: If you’re wondering how to keep shoes dry when hiking in the rain, you can’t. The best thing to do is invest in waterproof shoes or rain boots to keep your toes dry. We like Boggs, Keen, and Jan & Jul (use our discount code: kidswhoexplore10).
- Thick Socks: Just like hiking in the winter, keeping your feet warm is critical. Kids and adults should wear thick wool socks when hiking in the rain. We love Lamington (Use our code to save 20% off Discount Code: EXPLORE2022) and Darn Tough.
- Warm Layers for Legs: When it comes to splashing in puddles, keeping your legs dry and warm is also important! Have kids wear thermal base layers to keep their legs warm while enjoying rainy day hikes. We love layers from Iksplor (Receive 15% off your purchase with code: kidswhoexplore2023).
- Waterproof Outside Layers: Waterproof pants and jackets are also recommended! These will ensure everything underneath stays dry, too. Consider a MEC Newt Suit or a Tuffo Muddy Buddy waterproof coveralls for babies and toddlers. Alternatively, for toddlers and older kids, consider rain paints from Jan & Jul; they go up to sizes 10-12 Youth (Use our discount code: kidswhoexplore10).
- Gloves: Water-resistant or waterproof is best. Either way, ensure you have an extra pair or two in case they get wet. Consider Reima waterproof-lined rain mittens.
- Waterproof Hats or Umbrellas: A lot of heat escapes through our extremities (hands, feet, heads), so keeping heads dry using waterproof caps and/or umbrellas is necessary.
- Rain Covers: Have a rain cover for your hiking pack and hiking carrier, if you’re using one. Keeping your gear and any extra clothes dry will help you stay safe and warm.
What to Pack
- Extra Blister Supplies: Wet feet are more likely to blister. Have extra bandaids and supplies on hand.
- Hand Warmers: These can help keep hands warm, especially after kids have been splashing or their first pair of gloves get wet.
- Water Bottles and Snacks: You will need more water and snacks while hiking in the rain than on a warm, clear day. Make sure you pack enough grab-and-go options for your hike. And, keep everyone well-hydrated.
- Clean Clothes for the Car: No matter how you prepare, someone or everyone will likely get at least a little wet. Have clean and dry clothes in the vehicle to change into before going home. This might be one of our most important packing tips for learning how to hike in the rain with kids!
- Plastic Bags: Have plastic bags on hand to keep wet clothes together. And, have them on hand in your vehicle for muddy shoes.
- Mini Explorers Runny Nose Cloth – Kula Cloth x Kids Who Explore: So handy when wiping runny noses or clearing rain away from eyes.
- A carrier from Trail Magik (discount code: kidswhoexplore): These are helpful just in case your toddler wants to be carried during the hike.
Keep Exploring with Kids!
Now that you know how to hike in the rain with kids, we hope that you give it a try! Using these tips for hiking in the rain with kids will ensure that you can do it safely and still have an excellent time exploring. There are so many benefits of hiking in the rain with kids, so get out there and have fun together!