Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hiking with Kids in the Rain: Surprise, it's Wet!

Hiking in the rain is better with a pink umbrella. Photo by C.G.
It's raining, it's pouring,
We're all going hiking!

If the idea of hiking in the rain with young ones gives you cold feet, think again. With the right prep, a hike in the rain is the closest you'll get to a VIP park experience: no crowds, vibrant greens, shiny leaves, slimy creatures and any parking spot you want. Yes, even at Muir Woods National Monument, the parking nightmare of all Bay area parks. So?

Kids + rain + redwoods = happy. Photo by C.G.
Come winter, rainy days become a staple of our weeks. Actually, it's raining outside my window right now and it's been raining since this morning. Usually rainy days mean indoor activities but I can only take so many days of non-stop downpour and home stay. Staying indoors too long drives me nuts. Same for my girls - they get cabin fever after 4 hours and after the 4-hour threshold their creativity and noise level reaches levels no human should have to endure. Getting them outside is not only a good idea, it's a physical necessity! So there: hiking in the rain.

Last week when we were in Redwood National Park to re-stage our home-made version of The Return of the Jedi, we took a hike with the girls in the rain. The hike to the Tall Trees grove of Redwood National Park is a 4-mile affair with 800 feet elevation drop. When it rains up there, it's cats, dogs and the entire elk herd too. No kidding, rain drops are the size of a fat pea!


Kids can have fun with their boots too. Photo credit: Western Chief 
 Since I knew it was going to be wet, here is how I prepped the hike:
  • Kids hiked in rain boots. Unless you get the very top of the line in kids hiking boots, they're always going to get wet after 2 hours of rainy trails and puddles. Good rain boots seal the deal.
  • Inside the boots, make sure those feet wear socks that are not going to slide down when walking. For girls, I'd even suggest tights to avoid complications. Our oldest one became miserable when her socks started crumpling at the base of the boot and gave her blisters around the ankle. Though her socks were the right size, they were just too stretchy and didn't stay in place. The end of the hike required fortitude and courage for her blistered feet.
  • On that note, pack blister-specific bandages. I'm now the proud owner of Up & Up Blister Care Cushions and Band-Aid Blister Bandages and I intend to pack them for all future rainy hikes.
  • Our girls each carried their kid-sized umbrellas. They're relatively small, bell-shaped and a pink shade of clear which makes sightseeing easier.
  • Legs were protected by snow pants and tops stayed dry and warm with snow jackets. Temps were hovering in the 30s, we didn't want to have to deal with hypothermia too. If you have good rain coats that are long enough and lots of layers, you're good to go.
  • Back at the car, I had a clean change of clothes for the girls. Minutes after we came back rather drenched from the hike, the kids were dry, warm and a lot happier.
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    The redwood life seen from a kid's perspective. Photo by C.G.
    
  • I protected my backpack with a rain cover. Sports stores carry them in all sizes, from the city day pack to the multi-day ginormous backpack. Light weight, useful and effective.
In hindsight, the only item I should have thought about was the blister bandage kit or thick tights to avoid the blister problem. Snacks were eaten, water was drunk (though not a lot, you don't get that thirsty when it's cold and wet outside) and a good time was had by all.

Know what happens when you're not prepared? Another family started hiking with their kids just before us. When we arrived at the trailhead, they were wrapping their feet in plastic bags before slipping into their running shoes. Plastic shopping bags, I'm not making this up. Not sure that's a great idea.

4 comments:

Debi said...

Walking in the rain is a unique experience - especially for kids. Things just smell, sound and feel different. Thanks for the great tips!

Stephanie said...

We love a fellow rain hiker. There is nothing like the squish of mud or the ticklish feeling of a raindrop sliding through your hair. And it always ends with hot cocoa! Love the tips as well!

Eva said...

I'm not very good at getting out when the weather is not so nice - but it IS fantastic to be in the woods when it rains, with the intensified smell, the soft forest floor, and the sound of the rain falling through the trees - lovely!

Angela said...

This is an awesome post! Thank you for notating your family's rain hiking experience. The pictures are lovely, and it is nice to see another family that will not let the weather restrict their outdoor play. And also thank you, for your tips! I plan to adopt your prep work when my own clan goes on a rain walk in the woods.