Gear: rain protection, jacket

With standing puddles in the side yard and a squishy sound under-foot everywhere you go, it seems like an appropriate time to talk about rain gear.

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Bellingham, WA gets three dozen inches of rain in a year and that total doubles as you approach the Pacific Crest. Most of this precip comes in the form of a seemingly endless light rain and rarely opens up into a downpour.

Oddly, it is so rare to see anyone using an umbrella that your immediate thought is, “they are surely not from around these parts.”

Perhaps it is simply utilitarian. It is said that “if its doesn’t get done in the rain, it doesn’t get done.”  Its just nice to have your hands free to do stuff whether it is picking up after the dog or fording a stream with trekking poles.

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Even though there are ultralight umbrellas designed for hiking, my wife and I don’t even own a $5 emergency special (though we have wished we did at times).

I do own a rain coat or two. Or five.

Is that excessive? Sure! Do I regularly use them all? Yep. You see, not all rain jackets, or “shells” in outdoor parlance, are created equal.

For starters, there are varying degrees of waterproof fabric. This essentially means how long it will take for moisture to work its way through the fabric. My PVC fisherman’s gear will withstand an all day downpour. And it is stone-tough.

You might as well be carrying a hair dryer and portable generator, however, as the trade-offs to super rugged fabric are twofold. First, the weight and packability.  Secondly, with any amount of exertion, you will create a steam-sauna experience and be soaked from the inside-out. This is an extreme example, but some fabrics simply breathe better than others.

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I’m fur-ever jealous of Dusky’s two coat system.

Wool, which I love, will resist moisture and be warm, but eventually, in steady rain, you will be wet. I resisted the monopoly Gore-Tex had on the waterproof fabric market for a long time. When I finally broke down, I was pretty impressed with how it let my perspiration out and kept Mother Nature’s from getting in.

The only alternative fabric to Gore-Tex that I am familiar with is called eVent. Wow, I’m a believer! I’ve hiked in heavy snowfall, sat in lotus position in more-than-drizzle, and even ran in it. All while staying comfortable and dry. I have to say, the extra cost is well worth it when doing activities that call for a BTU output or a meditational input.

No shell is as effective as this guy’s…

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Galapagos giant tortoise

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3 thoughts on “Gear: rain protection, jacket

  1. I’ve got a goretex jacket. Wish it breathed a little better, but it’s great to have in the rain, or in the wind.

    Since you mentioned wool, if you haven’t tried this already, go to your local thrift shop and pick up a cashmere sweater. It’s amazing how well the stuff breathes. It’s like wearing kittens! The warmth-to-weight ratio is fantastic, making it a good choice for backpacking trips (or bike rides over the passes), and the softness is a luxurious touch when you go camping.

    • Forrest, good tip with the cashmere! I’m always on the lookout for wool at thrift stores. Its hard to find a good fit though as the items are usually dried on high heat and shrunken; hence why they are there. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Here’s something wonderful my ex-girlfriend did.

        Go to Value Village, buy a cashmere sweater for $5 to $10. Cut the sleeves off at the shoulders. Sew a loop of elastic near the top (shoulder side) of the sleeves. Now they’re leg warmers. The wrist goes around the ankle, the shoulder is held in place near the knee by the elastic. Then she’d make the rest of the sweater into a hat or something. The warmers are comfy and warm, and make half-decent gaiters if you tuck them into your boots. I still have a few pairs. 🙂

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