Did you know, 11th November is statistically considered to be the wettest day of the year in Britain? But that shouldn’t put you off outdoor adventures this autumn. Paul Lewis runs Peak Mountaineering – a mountain training and expedition provider in the Peak District National Park. If there’s anyone who knows how to survive a wet day in the British countryside, it’s him! So from the comfort of our warm, dry desk (!) we gave him a call to find out.
“Expecting to get wet is just a part of it all!” he says. “We travel all over the world. Some of our wettest experiences have been trekking in Nepal in the monsoon season. But thinking closer to home, there are some pretty grim days in the Peaks and it can be unrelenting – but that’s the nature of British mountains.
“I can see how November would have the wettest day. It’s just before it gets cold enough for crisp, dry days. It’s a really in-between time of year and it can be a challenge getting out the door! There will be some days where you can step out of your door first thing in the morning and it will still be raining when you get home at night. But, providing you have the right plan and equipment, you can have a nice day and a good time in bad weather.”
“Scotland can be the worst – when it’s winter but not wintery! Particularly when you’re climbing and mid-way up the weather changes; you get a combination of rain on your back and mini waterfalls coming down the rock face. That’s inescapable as you can’t find shelter in those situations because you’re already half way up. I’ve had plenty of that!”
In fact, Paul, explained there are many positives to being outside in the rain:
“It’s generally accepted that you burn more calories in wet weather, because you’re having to work harder. On top of that, the air quality can be particularly good because there is less dust, pollen and other contaminants around so people who are affected by these things often find they struggle less.”
“Do you know that smell of rain – that earthy sort of smell – is called ‘petrichor’ and they say it has a soothing effect on people mentally. Mixed in with the glow you get to your cheeks when you’ve been out in the wind and the rain – you feel completely refreshed.”
So we asked Paul for his top tips on getting out into the rain and actually enjoying it:
If you’re already out and the weather turns, it’s best to find a forested area where you can shelter or continue to walk under the trees. If you’ve not yet left the house, then plan routes through woods and valleys, rather than along the higher tops.
- Weather forecast
Even on a small island like ours, we have a big variety in weather here, especially in the Pennines! It can be hammering it down on one side but protected on the other. Work out which direction the weather is coming from and use the landscape to protect you. If it’s coming from the east, then tuck yourself into the west face of the mountain.
Layer up! Opt for natural materials like Merino wool which can stay insulating even if they get slightly damp. Next, go for waterproofs. One quite extreme instructor tip is to double-up your waterproofs! Gaiters will also provide some extra protection. Just remember to place your waterproof trousers over the top – don’t tuck them inside the gaiters – so that any rainwater runs off, instead of into your shoes.
On that note, even the best waterproofs eventually lose their DWR coating. Reproof periodically to ensure you stay dry.
- Dry bags
Use dry bags inside your rucksack. Most outdoor rucksacks are water-resistant, not waterproof, so a dry bag can protect your kit from the elements (especially electronics!)– or keep pieces of wet kit away from your dry clothes. (Click here for Aquapac’s range of dry bags). Alternatively, Aquapac’s Expedition Backpacks are a waterproof alternative. Aquapac also make a wide range of waterproof cases for pretty much anything you want to keep dry including phone, map and VHF radio cases.
- Food glorious food
The food you take can be key. If you’re out in wet weather you don’t want to be pulling out a soggy sandwich so bring food that won’t dissolve in the rain. Snack food is good; things you can eat whilst walking because you won’t particularly want to stop for long periods. Just remember to take the rubbish home with you.
- Hot drink
Having a hot drink in a double-wall vacuum insulated flask can be a real morale boost during changing weather and make you feel warmer.
Think about bringing a couple of hand warmers with you. Choose ones which can be reheated rather than single-use plastic ones.
- See better
If you can, wear contact lenses instead of glasses. If you have to wear glasses, think about some sort of brimmed hat or cap to keep some of the water from landing on your glasses.
- Have a plan B
If you’re out and have bitten off a little more than you can chew have a ‘plan b’ to cut your expedition short is good – we call it an escape route! Plan your day by building in an alternative route that will allow you to get home more quickly if necessary.
Think about whether there are any waterways you might have to cross, like streams. If it’s been raining heavily then this can affect things quite dramatically.
- Serious stuff
Be knowledgeable on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia so you know what to look out for and always be aware that with rain you sometimes get lightening. On occasions you do need to consider whether it’s actually safe to be outside.