Tackling wet and boggy hikes

min read
Tackling wet and boggy hikes Tackling wet and boggy hikes Tackling wet and boggy hikes

A hiker’s ear has heard this phrase countless times: “There’s no wrong weather, only wrong clothes.”

And boy, oh boy, there certainly are wrong clothes for hiking.

Of course, depending on your level of experience, ‘wrong’ weather can clearly pose problems. Inclement conditions can turn a planned route into a muddy causeway in the blink of an eye and even when wet and boggy terrain is expected, it can pose a serious challenge to your progress and safety.

Preparation is key. Keep reading for advice on how best to dress for unexpectedly difficult hiking conditions and other tips to ensure your time out in the wild is as enjoyable as possible.

Singing in the rain

“Rain, rain, go away”, mutters the hiker that starts their journey only to find the weather forecast, which earlier predicted sunshine, now says: “Build the ark, Noah!”

If this happens to you, bad luck. If you’re not ready to take on the slips, slides and puddles that accompany rain + nature, then turn back and try again another day.

If you think you are equipped to take on the challenge or are reading this in advance of heading out on a torrential weekend hike, here’s some advice for what to bring.

If the shoe fits

When it comes to hiking, your shoe should be your best friend. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to get away with trainers or walking shoes. But nothing really beats a snug-fitting pair of hiking boots. They should support your ankles when going downhill and have a good grip on slippery or uneven terrain.

You will definitely need to break in your hiking shoes beforehand. Wear them to the grocery store or go for a Sunday morning stroll through the park with them. If you’ve found yourself in the position of being on top of a mountain, wearing new boots and questioning how on earth you’re going to make it downhill because blisters are causing you pain – that’s where Compeed comes in!

Be sure to pack plenty of blister plasters and a Anti Blister Stick. The latter is designed as a preventative measure to help with chafing anywhere on the body. If your legs are rubbing together in shorts or your backpack is irritating your exposed shoulders, it can help to alleviate the friction that causes blisters.

It’s worth remembering that your shoe is only as good as the socks you choose. Walking socks will provide extra cushioning and there are lots of different materials you can choose from depending on the conditions. It’s also a good idea to pack a spare pair in case the ones you have on get damp or soaked through.

It might also just be a nice treat to change into a dry, fresh pair of socks back in the car on your way home.

We also recommend packing a spare pair of shoelaces. If your shoelaces happen to break, you could be left with a loose and uncomfortable shoe on your walk back.

If it really starts pouring down with rain and your shoes are at risk of becoming wet and dirty inside, you’ll want a pair of walking gaiters with you. Worn over the bottom of your trousers and with straps for the underside of your boots, they work a charm when it comes to keeping excess water at bay.

Boot care

As much as hiking shoes are made for the mud, that doesn’t mean you should just chuck them in the closet after use and forget about them until the next hike. Treat your shoes well and they’ll treat you well in return.

The easiest way to clean them is to use a boot brush with a mild solution of dish soap and water, or a boot cleaner of your choosing. You’ll want to remove the laces prior to cleaning, then using the brush take off any excess dirt and add the water/soap solution for the more stubborn bits. If the dirt on the outsoles is lodged in place, try soaking them or even using a hose to blast away the dirt.

Afterwards, you’ll want to remove the insoles and allow them to dry separately. You can stuff old newspaper into the shoe to aid drying, replacing the paper once damp. Avoid putting your shoes next to a heat source, such as a fireplace or radiator, especially if your shoe is leather as this can prematurely age it.

What to wear

Shrek once said “ogres are like onions” because of their layers. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you wear a Disney costume in the countryside, however, the bit about layers is important.

Start with a base of a lightweight thermal top and build upon that. This way you can shed or add layers as necessary. A waterproof jacket is always essential when you live in the UK. It’ll also keep you warm at high altitudes. Opt for a breathable fabric if you’re going on a more sweat-inducing climb.

Waterproof trousers are also a must. You don’t necessarily have to wear these from the off, but if the heavens decide to open, it’s a good idea to have them in your bag so that you can quickly whip them out and wear them over your shorts or walking trousers.

When it comes to washing your hiking clothes, remove any dirt before adding them to the washing machine as this could clog up the filter or drains. If your item is waterproof, be sure to refer to its washing instructions on the inside label. In some instances, you may need to re-proof the garment with a specialist spray.

Other useful tips

On long journeys, on rough terrain and in swamp-like conditions, walking poles can be very useful. While you might look like a lost skier, they can provide you with extra grip and stability; a bit like a set of extra limbs. They can also help you keep your balance when crossing swiftly moving water, trekking along narrow ridgelines, or going up and down a steep hill. If you’re with a friend who’s fallen in the mud, they could even help leverage them out!

When deciding to go on a hike, it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected. If you end up lost and it’s raining and nightfall is approaching, your body temperature can quickly drop, which could be serious. Always pack a foil or emergency blanket. These can reduce up to 90% of heat transfer from the body and will be a real lifesaver.

On top of this list, it would be irresponsible to not mention a few of the other essentials you should consider bringing too. For example, a first aid kit, a map and compass, a torch, and some long-life food like nuts and dried fruit.

And remember!

When it comes to hiking, it’s best not to leave anything to chance – plan your hike and check the weather beforehand. We’re not suggesting you avoid heading out when it’s raining or even post-heavy rainfall; we’re just saying it’s best to know what you’re doing or go with someone who does.

Whatever terrain you end up tackling, be it boggy or perfectly dry, be safe, know your limits and have a super time!