Rain Gear Recommendations for Your 52 Hike Challenge

This blog includes affiliate links for products from our partner REI

Havasupai Rain Gear

Hiking year-round means you’ll encounter all the elements throughout your 52 Hike Challenge: you will have some sunny days and some rainy ones.

While you might find it more challenging to get outside when it’s cloudy or if precipitation is in the forecast, hiking in the rain can actually be a relaxing and enjoyable experience – with the proper preparation and gear.

This blog is dedicated to the days when you might make an excuse to stay inside, but these gear recommendations will change all of that. In fact, once you have rain gear, you might even look forward to the “less desirable” days on the trail.

In this rain gear guide, you will discover…

  • What rain gear is and why it’s useful for your hiking challenge
  • The difference between water resistant, water repellent & waterproof
  • The anatomy of a rain jacket including layers and materials to look for
  • Our favorite rain jackets for men and women
  • Gear recommendations for gaiters, rain covers and much more
  • Additional tips for what to wear in wet conditions

Now it’s time to gear up so you can stay dry while hiking towards 52. But first, what exactly is rain gear?

What Is Rain Gear and Why Do You Need It?

Rain Gear for Hiking Benefits

In short, rain gear keeps you dry while you’re enjoying the outdoors in all kinds of weather. Using water repellent properties, this type of hiking gear keeps water out while providing breathability so your sweat doesn’t get stuck inside.

During your 52 Hike Challenge, rain gear will come in handy on those days when the sun struggles to come out, but you don’t want to stay inside.

If you’re not sure where to begin when shopping for rain gear and rainwear, don’t worry. First, we’ll explain the different types of rain gear and their materials.

Water Resistant, Water Repellent & Waterproof: What’s Better and Why?

How Waterproofing Works

While water resistant materials provide the least amount of protection from rain, waterproof materials offer maximum protection. Both are considered water repellent meaning they are treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating.

What is DWR?

DWR is primarily responsible for making your gear – hiking footwear, rain jackets, rain pants, rain covers, tents, sleeping bags and more – water repellent. This coating creates a barrier so that water beads and rolls off surface materials.

This essential feature not only makes rain gear water resistant or waterproof, but it also provides breathability so that you don’t end up wet from sweat inside your gear.

In Summary: Water Resistant vs. Waterproof

  • Water resistant is a suitable option while hiking in light rain or mist.
  • Waterproof clothing and gear will support you on even the wettest of hikes.
  • Always look for rainwear treated with DWR for optimal water repellency

Now that you know the key differences between water resistant and waterproof, let’s cover the anatomy of a rain jacket.

The Anatomy of a Rain Jacket: Layers, Materials & More

Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket at REI

Did you know rain jackets come in multiple layers? Each layer is made of a different material with a specific purpose.

  • Single layer rain jackets, usually made of synthetic materials, are packable and lightweight offering the least amount of protection. They are ideal for wind and light rain.
  • 2-layer rain jackets have a water repellent outer layer made of synthetic, nylon or polyester. The second layer serves as a waterproof membrane. While more affordable than 2.5 or 3-layer options, a 2-layer jacket is often less breathable.
  • 2.5-layer rain jackets include the same components of a 2-layer jacket with an added textured treatment to the surface of the membrane, which makes it more durable and breathable. On top of that, these jackets are lightweight, packable and more waterproof.
  • 3-layer rain jackets offer the most comfort and protection. Combining all of the elements of a 2.5-layer shell with a GORE-TEX membrane plus an inner fabric backing, these jackets hold out in heavy rain year-round.

While there are lots of materials to choose from, these layers ultimately make the most difference between an effective rain jacket and a mediocre one.

Pro tip: Please note, you will want to buy rain gear based on how much rain you will be encountering. For example, if you occasionally or rarely encounter rain then a basic single layer rain jacket will work. If you are facing constant or torrential rain, you will want to invest in a 2.5 or 3-layer jacket with heavy duty materials like GORE-TEX. While a more advanced jacket is a bit more expensive, it will pay for itself in comfort and security while hiking in the rain.

The Best Rain Jackets & Rain Pants for Hiking

Best Rain Jackets - Recommendations

Still need some help deciding on your new rain jacket and pants? Our team has been taking 52 hikes a year for nearly 10 years. We’ve seen some weather, and we know which rain jackets and pants work best and last the longest.

Women's Rain Gear Recommendations: 

Men's Rain Gear Recommendations: 

Additional Rain Gear: Gaiters, Backpack Covers & More

Rain Gear for Hiking

Pro Tip: Carrying heavy duty trash bags as a backup when you might encounter rain can be helpful. For example, they can line the inside of your backpack so your items don’t get wet and or double as an emergency poncho. 

Get More Rain Gear Tips for Your 52 Hike Challenge

Hiking Tips for Your 52 Hike Challenge
  • For an extensive list of tips for hiking in the rain, read our Spring Hiking Guide.
  • Discover how to re-waterproof your waterproof gear in our new blog.
  • Learn how to hike in all the seasons when you take our Hiking 101 course.

Thank you for committing to 52 hikes. We are wishing you many happy miles no matter the weather!

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