Wet weather riding gear for any trails!
Mountain bikers are experts in accidentally seeking out unfavorable weather. Usually there are only two options when riders find themselves staring down inclement conditions: suffer through it or hunker down and wait it out. However, if a mountain biker believes in the age-old philosophy that “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation,” then they will be ready for whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at them. After over 14 years of mountain biking in Peru, Ecuador and other parts of the Andes, we’ve seen everything, from Biblical rains to dust storms to llama stampedes. Through all these trials and tribulations we have learned that wet weather riding gear are indispensable pieces of equipment that will save you from getting soaking wet and freezing your butt off which could hinder you riding back to safety.
We are going to break this down into 6 different pieces of wet weather riding gear that we think are an absolute must to bring on any mountain bike ride!
First piece of wet weather riding gear is: A pocket-sized rain jacket
This is that rain jacket/windbreaker that does that nifty little Macgyver move where it stuffs into its own pocket. These things are light, pack down to the size of a deck of cards, and will keep you warm and dry for a least a couple of hours of unfavorable weather. A regular rain jacket is also a fantastic option but might not pack down as small.
Second piece of wet weather riding gear is: A puffy vest
So, we’ve tried puffy jackets, fleece vests and even baby alpaca sweaters, and we’ve found that the best mid layer to stay warm in any conditions is a puffy vest. They pack down even smaller than your pocket-sized rain jacket, keep your core extremely warm, fit under even the tightest of rain jackets, and are totally in right now, at least last I checked.
Third piece of wet weather gear is: A Buff®:
As children we were always told that your head is where your body releases the most heat. On the trail, we do lose a lot of heat through those cool vents on our helmet, and in cold situations we want to keep that heat as close to our bodies as possible. Our solution to this is to always have a Buff® (cotton or wool) that you can pull up your neck covering your ears and head. We have also found that a cold head makes people lose focus and control of their bike which can lead to more falls and more dangerous situations. Trembling from the cold is no way to ride epic trails.
Fourth piece of wet weather gear is: A pair of rain pants
Ok, so we know you are probably shaking your head right now and saying that we are total gear geeks for even mentioning rain paints, but here’s the deal: mountain biking in the high Andes during the rainy season can be like riding a waterpark. The difference, though, is that you’re not in Dallas, Texas in the summertime, you’re most likely over 4000 m/13,000 ft — it’s beyond cold and wet, and you may be riding in those conditions for hours. When you ride in the rain, your shoes, knee pads, and shorts are all going to be the first thing to get absolutely soaked, and then those items are going to begin to make the part of your body that is responsible for keeping you on your bike numb and unresponsive. Rain pants catch all the water and mud, keep you warm by insulating your body, and keep you dry. Let’s be honest — most rain paints can be rolled up to a size smaller than a Pringles can. Furthermore, when you get to your vehicle, all you have to do is take off your rain pants, climb in all warm and dry, and not worry that you are going to leave a huge mud-spot on the seat. If you want to be the envy of your buddies then buy yourself a DirtSuit, this fabulously Swiss engineered waterproof shorts and long sleeve one piece is made for MTB’ing. It has plenty of ventilation and will keep you dry and warm all day long. Expensive but cool as hell.
Fifth piece of wet weather gear is: A pair of washable wool socks
Mountain biking in the mountains either at high elevation like Peru or in the tropics of the Andes like in Colombia, you need socks that will keep your feet warm if they get wet. Smartwool socks come in all thicknesses and sizes. For any MTB vacation I take at least three pairs of these amazing socks.
Sixth piece of wet weather gear: A light wool base layer
Our last necessary item for riding in the rain is an upper wool base layer. With this layer you will be much warmer if your jacket doesn’t keep you 100% dry or if you are sweating while riding. There are many companies that make washable wool base layers. We recommend a lightweight or ultalight version of these base layers over the heavier pieces while mountain biking. This layer is great for both wet weather and just plain mountain weather where you never know what the temperature will be.
All of these pieces of wet weather gear are perfect for MTB tours like our 10-Day Ecuador Mountain Bike Trip or our Tropical 9-Day Colombia MTB holiday. They are also perfect in any backcountry medical situation to bandage wounds, pad splints, keep you warm if you have to hunker down, and can even be used as a pillow in the car ride to and from the trailhead. So, think about the gear that you use and how it compares to the suggestions that we have listed above, and consider taking our advice. Or, just keep shivering in a cotton tank and denim Daisy Dukes — as long as you’re out there shredding!