How to Choose Your Rain Gear

rainIf you’re ever been caught in a rainstorm without the proper gear you know what it means to be all wet. But you don’t want to spend any more time than you have to inside looking out. If you want to be outside on days when it might rain, you need some knowledge. It’s important to know how to choose your rain gear, and the more you know about rain gear the better prepared you will be.

Ponchos are a solid option when it comes to keeping dry. They offer plenty of coverage and they’re big enough to cover your back pack if you’re out on the trail. Even if your hiking pack comes with a rain cover, wearing just a rain jacket leaves a gap between your back and the pack that can get soaked. A poncho covers the gap, keeping you and your belongings nice and dry. The downside to a rain poncho is that it’s really not conducive to aerobic activities. It’s fine for walking but as soon as you’re trying to run, climb, mountain bike, or whatever it starts to get in the way.

When it comes to rain jackets you have a couple of options. There are hard shells and there are soft shells.

Hard shells are your traditional rain jackets. They’re typically made of a waterproof nylon. Plenty of hard shell rain jackets are marketed as being breathable, but that’s a relative term. They may be more breathable than say a trash bag, but you’re still wrapped in a water impermeable plastic. Hard shells are waterproof so they keep moisture out, but that means they also keep moisture in. Some hard shells are equipped with zippers under the armpits to help with breathability.

For activities where you’ll be working up a sweat you might want to go with a soft shell jacket. Soft shells are made out of a more cloth-like material and they are much more breathable than hard shell jackets. Of course, many soft shell jackets are water resistant rather than 100% waterproof. They’re fine for drizzles or snow, but if you’re in a monsoon you’re getting wet.

Even if a rain jacket has waterproof written on the tag, it may require regular maintenance. Seam tape, a film adhered to the inside seams of your jacket which prevents water from leaking in, can peel off over time. This creates entry points for water, so be sure to check regularly in case you need to re-tape the seams.

Some jackets will be treated with a durable water repellant (or DWR) coating rather than using truly waterproof materials. This treatment breaks down over time and your jacket will need to be retreated periodically. Luckily for you, we carry both seam tape and water repellant treatments like Nikwax here at Uncle Sam’s.

That just about covers the tops, but what about your other half?

Plenty of outdoor companies make hard and soft shell pants. The same qualities hold true for the pants as for the jackets. If you’re doing aerobic activities like cycling or hiking you might want to go with the breathability of the soft shell over the 100% waterproofness of the hard shell.

Waterproof footwear can be a little bit trickier. Sandals that strap on to your feet like Teva sandals are nice if you don’t mind your feet getting a little wet. You definitely can’t beat the breathability and they’re made for water so you don’t have to worry about getting them wet. In the winter, waterproof boots and gaiters are the ultimate combo for dry feet.

Staying dry isn’t always the hard part when it comes to choosing the right rain gear. It’s staying dry as well as comfortable that requires a little more thought. Think about factors like temperature and activity before you make your purchase. That’s how you avoid being “all wet”.

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