Wet weather walking
'There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.'
I don't mind walking in the rain, especially a light drizzle. Jumping in puddles and squelching in mud are always fun unless you're unprepared. Wet feet and cold bodies don't make for happy children or parents.
If you spend any amount of time on Dartmoor, chances are that at some point it’s going to rain. Especially as we move into Autumn and the rainy days substantially increase.
This does not mean that you have to avoid the moors. Having the right gear can turn walking in the rain from a soggy trudge into an enjoyable adventure.
I know, I have said it time and time again but a waterproof coat is an essential bit of kit all year round.
Even the cheapest waterproof is better than nothing, but if you are walking quickly, uphill or carrying weight in your backpack you will sweat. Cheap waterproofs are often not breathable, meaning that the trapped moisture will quickly become uncomfortable.
Breathable jackets allow some moisture to escape while still being waterproof.
Outdoor equipment retailers like Go Outdoors and Millets or Mountain Warehouse will have various products to suit all budgets and staff should be able to offer you advice on which one is best for your needs.
Other features to look out for are good size pockets (one that can hold your OS map is especially useful), adjustable hoods with a stiff peak are always a must for me.
Whichever jacket you choose, make sure that you'll be sufficiently protected from the weather and that you will be comfortable even when carrying your equipment.
In addition, I usually carry waterproof over trousers. I deliberately purchased a pair a couple of sizes up from my usual dress size. This makes them very comfortable and enables me to add extra layers when the temperatures plummet.
With over trousers, it is useful to be able to get them on without removing your boots and therefore I would recommend a pair with side zips.
You can also add gaiters if you are walking in areas with long grass or vegetation. Even after rain the has stopped, grass will still be wet and water may wick up your trousers and down into your boots. Gaiters cover the bottom half of your leg and the top of your boots, giving better protection.
Under your waterproofs, you should consider a moisture absorbing base layer plus one or more extra layers for warmth.
Avoid cotton, including denim, as once it is wet it does not insulate well.
(see also my blog post 'These boots were made for walking')
Waterproof hiking boots! I wear my leather pair all the time, indeed I'm wearing them as I sit here typing this post. They are practical and very warm.
To maintain their waterproofing, I treat mine with Grangers G-Wax Natural Beeswax regularly and dry them slowly to prevent the leather cracking. I have also used Mountain Warehouse's leather conditioner. Both products do exactly as they are designed and are easy to apply.
With proper care leather boots can be almost entirely waterproof, and last for years.
Fabric boots need less care, but do need occasional cleaning and may need re-waterproofing. I'm not a fan of fabric boots but that is simply personal preference.
Rucksacks and bags
Most rucksacks are not waterproof, (although you can get some that are). You have a couple of options to protect your equipment. You can either cover the rucksack with a rain cover (usually built in to the bottom of the bag), or use a waterproof dry bag inside. A lot of people opt to do both, especially for protecting items like electronics, books and spare dry socks.
Maps and Navigation
Many OS Maps now come in an ‘Active’ option which have a waterproof coating. This adds slightly to the bulk, but makes them both water and tear resistant. I would never be on Dartmoor without mine.
Traditional compasses are generally waterproof, but wet weather is another reason for having a well made traditional compass and not relying on your phone or a GPS unit.
The biggest risk outdoors in wet weather is generally hypothermia, which can set in quickly if your clothes are wet. It’s a good idea to carry a foil emergency blanket or survival bag in your rucksack to help anyone at risk. Even the best waterproofs won’t help someone who has fallen in a stream, or is forced to stay out over a cold night, so having a survival bag and a working (dry!) mobile phone is important. It's a good idea to have a couple of emergency snacks as it will help fuel the body and regenerate warmth so don't forget those Wine gums.
Don't forget that, rain can make routes trickier and streams and rivers impassible. If significant rainfall is predicted, check your planned route for steep slopes and fords and plan alternatives if possible.
Always check the weather forecast before you visit. I find that the Met office website is generally the most reliable.