In which riding trails in the rain doesn't have to be miserable

Although I'm not back to riding (quite) yet, a question has come up regarding riding in the rain.

April Daze ride at Riverside Park 2015
torrential downpour for 75 miles

I'm so glad you asked.

There's a saying about weather:  there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices.

And I can assure you that good clothing will make riding in the rain much more enjoyable.  I've drawn photos from past blog posts, including THIS ONE , but this post has some updated information and (most importantly) links to buying good gear!

When you know the weather will be wet, plan ahead.  Start with your bottom layers:

synthetics, silk, or wool next to your skin
 Everything touching your skin should be a wicking synthetic fabric or wool or silk. 

 I've come to value merino wool socks (Costo often carries them, Sierra Trading Post ALWAYS carries them!) and thinly-woven long-sleeved merino wool or silk shirts (Costco is a good source this time of year, and Dover sometimes puts them on sale) as a bottom layer.

Continue with synthetic, silk or wool for the
mid layers. 
Your undergarments should be wicking synthetic or silk also.  High-five to Title 9 for making sports bras for all sizes and shapes of ladiez in sturdy, wicking fabric!  I've found their garments quite sturdy as well--wash according to directions, and they will last years.

Synthetic tights, too, of course.  Remember that the knee patches will hold water.  If you don't need a knee patch or padding, order the kind without.  I like Kerrits, but as long as the tights you choose are synthetic (preferably polarfleece) and not cotton or a cotton blend, you'll be happier.

(PRO TIP: the padded crotch in many "distance" riding tights is super-absorbent...and when you sit on a wet saddle, that padding holds water like a soggy diaper.  Desitin will be your friend for the resulting rash.  Ask me how I know.)

Over the top of a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, I often add another shirt, also synthetic.  This one is easier than the bottom layer to remove and stuff in saddle bag if I get too warm (doesn't happen very often).

Half-chaps will help keep rain out, and will also give a layer between cold wet branches and your legs.  Mine are synthetic.  Leather is okay, too.

Outer layers:  synthetic half-chaps, a long drover-style
rain coat, and rain chinks.

I also like rain chinks lined with wool or polarfleece (American Trail Gear sells these, but they just re-whomped their website and not everything is represented yet--just CALL THEM at 866.237.6006 and ask about colors and sizes)

Even high-quality raincoats do not stay waterproof forever, btw.

This Muddy Creek "short" coat will last me about another year, max,
before the waterproofing gives out entirely.

When you find a good raincoat, wash it as infrequently as possible using a "tech" wash (REI sells this) and treat with a good quality waterproofer, not the cheap ScotchGuard from the grocery store.

Of course, your boots should be waterproof also!

Even waterproof boots will leak as the leather weakens (and tromping through mud mixed with manure and urine is guaranteed to weaken leather over time) so protect your boots starting when they are brand-new by using a leather treatment balsam and oil.  I like the heavy duty leather protection cream made by Obenauf's, which was formulated for use on the leather boots worn by firefighters.  It's non-toxic and doesn't give off horrible fumes (like many waterproofing substances) and lasts for several months.  Put more on after your boots get wet and then been allowed to dry, and it will add years to the leather.

(Obenauf's works on leather saddles and tack, also)

Gloves are the bane of my existence.  Too thick, and I can't move.  Too thin and my fingers freeze.  I have a few suggestions:

Gardening gloves by LFS.  Good for wet-but-not-freezing conditions.
Available from Amazon.

Work gloves by Bellingham.  More insulation, less nimble.
Available from Amazon

Sometimes I put one set of gloves on my hands and the other set in my pockets and trade mid-ride.

If you chill easily, this will help:

Amazon always carries them, but they are cheaper at Target this time of year!
These heat wraps are made from the same stuff as the chemical handwarmers (also a good idea if you chill easily) but they last a lot longer and heat your core rather than the extremities.  Although the label says they last 8 hours, I've had them last up to 12 hours at a time!

What about your head?  Of course, you won't forget your helmet, but those vents allow plenty of opportunities for drips.  Here's what I use:

synthetic headscarf made by BUFF

tubular headscarf can be configured to cover just the top of your head, or act as a head/neck cover, and lots of other alternatives.  The fabric is thin enough not to bunch up inside a helmet.

On very cold/wet/rainy days, I also pull my jacket hood over the top of my helmet, but it invariably blows back when we trot.  So, that's mostly for the cool-down walk back to the trailer.

Of course, sometimes the rain will come down unexpectedly, and you may not have all your gear with you.  For that, I have a recommendation, field tested over many years by Pacific Northwestern fishers and farmers, hikers and riders:.

Cut a hole for your head, and put it on!

Garbage sacks may not be glamorous, but they WILL keep the rain off!

UPDATE:  There's a new, lightweight "duster-style" raincoat available now, designed for equestrians and built by an endurance rider in Washington State.

Built in the USA, and named for a
horse-and-rider team you recognize!

 Details about the Dragonwalker Duster are HERE.

Be happy!  Stay dry!


  1. Call me naïve but I didn't know that waterproof raincoats don't stay waterproof overtime. I know that we washed one of my co this year with exactly the REI stuff you suggested and I'm a little disappointed that it didn't restore the waterproofing. Now I'm thinking it might just be old enough I'm working up hill. Interestingly my Gore-Tex jacket I got from Cabela's years and years ago when I first started endurance riding still does a great job of keeping me dry. It's a very simple jacket and not very cozy but that just means I add more layers underneath!

  2. Ha! This is perfect timing!:) I love all your recommendations, especially the garbage bag, which is my current go-to raincoat, mostly because it is often quite warm when it rains here. What do you use for waterproofing your coat? Do you use the same thing for horse blankets? I am always having issues with waterproof sheets. Even washing one time using special horse blanket wash seems to ruin the waterproofing.

  3. To keep your hood over the helmet put the scarf on AFTER you pulled the hood on. The scarf will keep it in place.


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