My son and I just got done hiking in the rain. I’m pulling cold, soggy socks off my 2-year-old in the car and trying to explain why he can’t wear his favorite red boots on the way home. They are wet, muddy and cold, but there is no reasoning with a toddler and he just keeps saying, “Boots. Red. Boots. Red.” We’re sitting just inside my Subaru after a morning of hiking on part of the Ice Age Trail, trying to de-layer and get warm.
The trail was a toddler’s dream mixture of mud, ice and water. The mud is fun to squish boots into and is sort of a means to an end for my little guy since he is mostly interested in getting through the mud and onto the ice! Breaking through any ice left after the winter thaw is really the mission. Most of the time he breaks through to water. Depending on how deep it is, he likes to splash around in it, throw pinecones into it or just announce and emphatically point to it and say, “WATER!”
Planning ahead for hiking in the rain
This is a tricky time of year to dress a toddler. The ground is still frozen in most places but melting in others, making an odd frozen but gooey mud mutation. The air is chilly, but the sun is warm and it could (and does) rain without any warning.
This morning I dressed my son in his usual snowsuit, winter boots, hat and gloves. Once we got on the trail, I was happy he’d be warm; but when it started to drizzle and he discovered all the puddles on the trail, I started to question if he would stay dry. But I felt confident I prepared for both the weather and wet, wintry play. Here are a few tips I’ve learned during our hikes in the rain.
1. Bring spare clothes
If possible, always hike with a spare set of dry clothes. I usually keep these in the diaper bag, but since the diaper also tends to get wet when we hike in the rain, I leave the clothes in the car for our return.
2. Consider a waterproof outer layer
Warm is good, but warm and dry is essential this time of year. I’ve started putting my son in his snowsuit and then dressing him in his rainsuit on top. The rainsuit is lightweight and won’t add too much bulk, but it will keep out the wind and the rain. When putting it on, make sure to cinch down the wrist and ankle straps over boots and mittens to keep any leaks out. As another mom noted, a one-piece rainsuit should be emphasized here because “… pants and jackets don’t help when the water is coming up from a puddle.”
3. Don’t forget little fingers and toes
Waterproof gloves and boots are paramount. They are the first areas of contact and most likely to get soaked. I’ve found that if I don’t have the waterproof gloves with me, doubling up on them is almost just as good. By the time the first layer is soaked through, the rest of him is cold and he’s ready to go home anyway. It’s sort of a makeshift hourglass.
4. Don’t forget about yourself
Keeping my son warm and dry is my first priority, but if I’m cold and wet, this is my preoccupation. I’m less focused on the little guy, making it easier for him to get into trouble. I also get grouchy and I don’t have as much fun – and I also love playing in the mud and ice just as much as he does!
To this end I’ve started packing back-up shoes and socks for myself. And another thing I’ve learned is no matter how long or short the distance, in cold, wet weather, we all burn more energy trying to stay warm and dry. So I make sure to pack extra food and water to keep my and the little ones’ tiny furnaces burning along with trail snacks and car snacks for the drive, because sometimes this is the only time I have to eat!
Happy spring hiking, and if you have any tips to add to this list, leave them in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!
- 5 Gear essentials for hiking in the rain with kids
- Kids’ perspectives: 5 Things kids like about hiking in the rain and cold
- What to wear: Hiking in the rain and winter
- Raincoats review: Staying dry on the trails
Photos by Michelle Pearl Gee and Arika Bauer.