How to Walk in the Rain With the Right Gear

Walking in the Rain
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Yes, you can walk in the rain. Your body is drip-dry. You are not made of sugar and you won't melt in the rain. You may have had a concerned mother who wouldn't let you step outside without being swathed in all manner of rain gear. She thought you would surely die if you got wet.

You won't. There is no reason to stop walking just because the rainy season has arrived. Whether the weather is giving you April showers or autumn drizzle, you can boldly walk among the raindrops and survive.

Walking With an Umbrella

Umbrellas probably work best for standing rather than for walking, especially for walking in rain accompanied by wind. But they are made for the purpose of keeping you dry as you stroll, and they are your best choice if you don't have a waterproof jacket.

  • Umbrellas are best in moderately-hard rain when you can't keep the rain out, even with waterproof gear. An umbrella will keep more of the water from running down your coat or rain poncho and soaking in your pants.
  • Umbrellas are a poor choice in windy conditions. Often they invert and break in wind gusts. Look for umbrellas that are wind-tested and strengthened against inverting and breaking.
  • A lightweight, compact, telescoping umbrella can be carried in your pack, purse or in your hand while walking. It is a good choice to bring along for intermittent rain showers or "just in case."
  • Umbrellas are useful to have if you need to defend against a dog attack. Open the umbrella in the dog's face to startle him and distract him from the attack. Put the umbrella between you and the dog and he may be deterred from attacking an opponent that suddenly appears to be much larger.
  • A sturdy stick umbrella can be used as a self-defense weapon in a pinch.
  • The superstition is that rain showers prefer to rain on those who don't carry umbrellas. You will keep the rain away just by carrying an umbrella. Anecdotal reports say that carrying an umbrella on a 10K, two-hour volkssport walk prevents rain most of the time.
  • If you walk in low light conditions, look for an umbrella that has a reflective canopy or a reflective stripe around it. This will help keep you safer when crossing the street. Visibility will be worse for drivers when it is raining, so if your umbrella doesn't have these features, buy reflective tape and add it yourself.

Umbrella Walking Etiquette

  • If you are walking with a partner, either both of you should have an umbrella or neither should, to reduce conflict.
  • Take care when passing others that you don't poke them with the umbrella, whether yours is closed or unfurled. Don't carry your wicked-looking stick umbrella jauntily on your shoulder and swinging around unconcerned for those in the vicinity.

Umbrella Care

  • To prevent mildew, after the walk set the opened umbrella out to dry in a warm area before rolling it up.
  • Check your umbrella for wear and tear after you use it. If you see any rips, bent or broken ribs, etc., it is wise to look for a new umbrella.

Waterproof Shoes

Waterproof shoes can keep your toes dry for a little longer. You may think of full-grain leather hiking shoes and boots, but those are overkill for walking for fitness and are likely to slow you down. You can find waterproof running shoes such as the Brooks Ghost GTX and the New Balance 910 GORE-TEX. You will pay a premium for the waterproof feature, but having a pair can be a good addition to your walking wardrobe.

Rubber Wellington-style rainboots are an option, but they are best for shorter, slower walks, such as walking your dog. They are not designed for brisk walking for fitness. You need to ensure you have a good fit that isn't sloppy. Otherwise, you risk blisters and even black toenails from your foot sliding around in the boot. Your boots should provide support yet need to be flexible in the forefoot.

Gaiters

A problem with even waterproof shoes is that rain can still drain down your pants or splash up from puddles and enter your shoes next to your ankle. A gaiter extends from your ankle or shin and covers the back of the heel and the tongue of the shoe. Hikers wear gaiters to keep dust and trail debris out of their footwear. You can find waterproof or water-resistant gaiters that will help keep the splashes out of your shoes.

You can also make a shoe cover from hotel shower caps and duct tape that can keep water from entering your shoes. It will only last for one use, but it can help keep your feet drier.

Waterproof Jackets

Waterproof jackets are an essential for walking in the rain. Look for the breathable kind that will let sweat out so you aren't getting wet inside from your own perspiration. Warehouse stores such as Costco sell good quality waterproof jackets at a very low price. Or, you can find them at outdoor retailers such as REI.

A disposable plastic rain poncho can be a lifesaver in a real downpour. While a waterproof jacket can keep your torso dry, water will still drain down onto your pants. A long rain poncho can keep more of the moisture draining away from your body. As these come folded up in a tiny packet, it's easy to carry one along in your pack or pocket in case it is needed.

Waterproof Rainpants

Rainpants help solve the problem of water draining off your waterproof jacket. You can find lightweight waterproof rainpants at warehouse stores or outdoor retailers. The problem is that they often restrict your movement more than you want for brisk fitness walking. Be sure you can move well in them before buying them.

If the temperature isn't too cold, it can be better to wear shorts as water will drain off your bare legs rather than soaking into the fabric of your pants or running tights. The wet cloth will do more to lower your body temperature than bare skin will.

Racing in the Rain

If you're attending a race in the rain you'll need different tactics as you are likely to want to walk fast and can't be weighted down. You are also likely to be standing around longer waiting for the start. This is where using a disposable rain poncho and shower cap shoe covers can really help. Be prepared at the end with dry clothes and a space blanket to help you prevent hypothermia.