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Dolomites--(1) packing and (2) rainy weather

I am going to the Austrian Alps and the Dolomites in 2.5 weeks. On one hand, I am very excited. On the other, I am apprehensive about the weather forecast for recent days. It's basically rain and more rain. I don't even know if I need to abandon the Italian Alps and seek the sun further south (I will have a rental car). I understand that alpine weather changes all the time but I just can't get over this worry.

Also, how should I pack? Layers are key but how much fall/winter clothing do I need? Should I bring thin thermals in case of sudden harsh weather? I have my hiking boots ready and am water proofing them. At dinner time, I want to look "local" (i.e., smart casual attire) and am packing two pairs of slacks.

I live in CA and therefore don't have a good collection of clothing for colder temperatures. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

Added after initial post: When you were in the Dolomites in early fall and had rainy forecasts, what really happened? I recall one time in Southeast Asia when Google's forecast predicted thunderstorms and rains, but it turned out to be ok. Hope this is also true for the Alps.

Posted by
19380 posts

I'm cold-natured and would certainly take a pair of lightweight long johns. I have both polypropylene and merino wool. I'd take the wool for the Dolomite because you just never know about mountains. I've found 97% nylon slacks with merino wool underneath is a relatively comfortable combination in chilly, wet weather. That combo worked for me in Scotland (which wasn't all that cold) and in northern Andalucia in early April (chilly when the rain arrived). By comparison, I was much more uncomfortable on a gully-washer of a day in Provence in mid-May when I was wearing regular polyester slacks and no base layer. I got soaked to the skin and was not happy.

Posted by
91 posts

Being in the Dolomites in the fall means packing for 4 seasons. You must be prepared. A rainy forecast has no bearing on your packing, you should be expecting all weather including rain with or without the forecast -- you will be there in the fall, you need to be prepared for a full cycle of weather from warm and sunny to rain and even snow.

I advise you to not stray too far in your hiking since you are asking these questions. Hiking in rain easily turns into hiking in snow and ice... hypothermia, don't become a statistic. "Hiking" can be a lot of different things depending on the individual. To some, "hiking" could be parking your car next to the lake and walking around a wide path around the lake for 1/2 mile. To others, hiking means a 15-mile hike with 5-6K in altitude changes being isolated and route finding on barely discernable trails with treacherous exposure on cliffs.

Please do a bunch of research about alpine hiking in the Dolomites in the fall before your trip, be very prepared or limit your hiking to beginner trails that are short and at lower altitudes.

Posted by
612 posts

Thank you.

I will stick to the easiest trails. The only exception is the Tre Cime loop trail, which I plan to do only if the forecast is good.

BTW, is it necessary to bring mosquito spray?

Posted by
266 posts

As Mike says in the Alps you must be prepared for a 4-seasons weather. When at the bottom of the valley is like be on the plan, maybe 27/30°C, but at 2000m the temperature could be 15°C and easily go down if start to rain. Over 2500m a little of snow isn't strange even in full Summer, but if it's sunny the temperature is high (and the sun is brighter, so bring protection). Usually we calculate to lose 1°C every 100m, so if you are hiking on a mountain knowing the departure temperature you can forecast the temperature at the top.
One thing to keep in mind is that along paths, even in secluded areas and high mountains, there are shelter and lodges, so always be sure to have a good map and know where they are, so if you are in trouble you know if you are close to an help or not.
One suggestion I can give is to don't be too worried about clothes, because locally you can find shops where to purchase what you lack. Start during the first couple of days with something easier, daily (or half a day) and not dangerous, to understand if you need something lighter or warmer or stronger. I know that in Italy prices are higher, but it solves you a lot of problem.
Mosquitos aren't a real problem. there are normal ones, but not so many. Are worst horseflies when you pass through cow pastures, but there aren't dangerous insects (only annoying ones...).

Posted by
9857 posts

Good packing advice above,

AS to weather, it is usually better than forecast when we go, which is usually in Sept. if the morning is rainy, the afternoon is often better. If the morning is great, get out early as conditions change after noon. Take a rain jacket on every hike.

We have had one exception in 9 years of going to the Val Gardena and that was in 2017 when most of Northern Europe and the UK had terrible weather. We got soaked in A,sterdam, froze in Munich, and encountered ice on a trail above Ortisei. We bought fleeces that trip! I learned from a local friend after our stay that the fall weather was exceptionally nice that year.

Posted by
10 posts

I posted similar questions a few days ago, which I must have deleted by accident.
I am going to be in Val Gardenia area (Ortisei to be precise for lodging) from 9/8 until 9/13 and had the exact same concern over the rainy forecast. It seems the rain is mostly limited to night or scattered based on the last several trend versus the forecast.

I have purchased a pair of Black Diamond trekking poles and a new pair of hiking boots just in case of slippery trail conditions. I will try to report back once I get there. Fingers crossed for no changes for covid border restrictions.

Posted by
612 posts

Hello everyone: thanks again for your help. I will just stick to the easiest of the easy trails and use cable cars or gondolas to descend and ascend.

I will purchase some ponchos in case of rain, so that I can protect myself and my backpack.

Minpal2002: all the best to you. Please report back. Happy travels!

Posted by
2496 posts

You probably won't need them, but a pair of thin fleece gloves takes about as much space and weight as a pair of socks, so why not?

Posted by
488 posts

Spending my holidays in the Alps, I always bring with me some cold weather clothing - a pair of long intermediate wool pants, usually you do not get snow unless you are climbing over 2000 meters, but rain and temperatures under 10 °C are fairly common even in August. A rain resistant cap is more useful than gloves, in my opinion, and a rain jacket necessary; also one or two long sleeved shirts.
In reserving an holiday anywhere in the Alps, you must understand weather is very variable. On a long enough stay, you will get on average a couple of very good days, a couple of very bad days and a string of intermediates; the usual summer pattern is that weather is better in the morning that in the afternoon. But these are averages, nothing rules out having all exceptionally good or bad days - the longer you stay, the more likely is having a good day. - Alpinism as a sport was born with aristocrats staying three months in a place and having the possibility of choosing good days for difficult hikes; I am told that now there are a lot of people that, having only five days in a place, are determined to take hikes whatever the weather and this can get dangerous really fast.

Posted by
83 posts

I will be going to the Dolomites Sept 21 to 26. I am hoping to do therefor four short hikes and was thinking of having two places to stay-one in South Tyroll and one in Cortina area. Anyone have favorite places to stay or hikes. I am more interested in maximum 10 km hikes. TIA everyone :)

Posted by
8618 posts

@Minipal - hopefully you'll have had time to wear your new boots to make sure they are broken in. If you have not, put them on now and wear them all week. I am not kidding about this.

Barkinpark - I'm sorry to say that any waterproofiness you add to boots will not be as effective as actual waterproof boots. The seams will leak and the tongue usually isn't built properly to keep water out. I'd plan on packing a dry pair of socks when you hike, preferably wool ones. I'll add that I have had better luck with a waterproof pack cover keeping my day pack dry than a poncho which blows around. I've not been to this area of Italy so I don't know if wind is common with rain here or not...where I usually use the pack cover it's always windy with rain so a poncho is a nuisance. The pack cover I currently use was inexpensive - maybe $20 at Cabelas a few years ago. Folds up in it's own sac to the size of my fist.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
6830 posts

Buy a layer by Icebreaker brand. Found at REI. REI also has their own brand of these merino wool layers.Easy to pack, not bulky at all.

Posted by
1480 posts

We did just a day tour from Venice to the Dolomite,s around the Cortina area, a few years ago in mid-September.
It rained, you couldn't see the tops of the mountains, and it was quite cold.
I have photos of me wearing long waterproof pants, boots, and jacket, and gloves too.
I always pack a set of lightweight long underwear, it's a lifesaver in the wind too.

Posted by
663 posts

Check Out Gillian Price's guides for long and short hikes in the Dolomites. Lots of trails. Lots of information. We use the newest one whenever we go there. Gore-tex lined boots. Gore-tex rain jacket, down sweater (lighter than fleece and packs smaller), merino wool top and bottom base layers. Long sleeved quick-dry shirt. plus Normal clothes. Spending a little extra on the appropriate clothing is a minor expense to be comfortable; how much would you pay while on Alp to be more comfortable? "Looking local" depends on whether you are a serious hiker (tattered and torn usually but with excellent equipment) or a weekender (tattered and torn daywear and one-two sets of nice clothes worn between 5 and 10 pm only).

Have fun.

Posted by
612 posts

Thanks yet again for the great advice.

How do I find more accurate weather forecast of specific areas/altitudes in the mountains? For example, the approx. conditions at the Tre Cime loop trail. I find very different results from Google vs. http://www.dolomitimeteo.it/en/veneto/tre-cime-di-lavaredo/
I guess this is because different altitudes are considered for each forecast and that different sources provide different predictions.

In general, I find Google weather (from weather.com) pretty good for domestic locations, but not for more precise locations overseas.

I am just wondering what permutations of clothing to pack now and to bring on the actual hiking day.

The Tre Cime loop trail is probably the longest trail I will hike during this trip and the one that i am most nervous about. For the Val Gardena area, I will likely take the cable car up, walk to a good hut, enjoy some refreshments, take some photos, and descend by cable car at the end. So, I am slightly less worried about this second part of my Dolomites trip.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks and happy travels.

Posted by
9857 posts

Gloves, yes! I wore them yesterday, August 29, in the Swiss alps. Felt like October at 8000 feet.

Hiking in the mountains requires being ready for anything. You may be in a tee shirt in Ortisei at 9 am but by noon in the mountains need your rain jacket. I always leave my base wearing a tee, wearing or carrying a warmer layer (fleece, jersey, scuba jacket), and always carry a rain jacket, gloves, and hat. Oh, wool socks in every season.

Posted by
266 posts

For meteo in the Alps a very good service is the Meteomont, from the Italian Army (Alpine troops). This is the webpage: http://www.meteoam.it/previsioni/nord
In the Meteomont webpage of the Carabinieri there is even the forecast with temperatures at different heights (clicking on the different areas): https://meteomont.carabinieri.it/home For example for tomorrow in the "Dolomiti meridionali" (where the Tre Cime are) the temperature at 1000m should be around 12°C at midday, but at 3000m only 1°C.
For the province of Bolzano i find very helpful even the local meteo radar: https://meteo.provincia.bz.it/radar-meteorologico.asp
In general this is the webpage for rain radar: https://mappe.protezionecivile.gov.it/it/mappe-rischi/piattaforma-radar
I usually don't trust very much on general international meteo service, because they are collecting datas from everywhere so often are late or not so precise. In the Alps is much better as to locals!

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is very scenic, but not so difficult and not so long, so with a good equipment you can do it without worry (but always careful).

Posted by
14 posts

Don't fret about the forecast. It will likely rain at some point every day but rarely will it rain ALL day. Just be prepared and you will be fine.

Posted by
49 posts

Picking up from another thread, we are at ValGardena now, and the above comments are accurate to the T, we did experience all 4 seasons within a span of a few hours (or in a day) - from scorching sun, to wind to cold to rain and even very slight snow at Seceda and Tre Cime. The weather at Tre Cime was colder and windier than Seceda and we definitely thought a pair of gloves and cap would have been helpful. But a few minutes later, we wanted to layer down from our rain /wind jackets. :)
Don't worry about the weather so much, decathlon has some really good light weight fleece and thin wool thermals and they all work well.
Have a great trip.