Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Raingear for the rest of you

As I was walking in to work in the absolutely pissing down rain I thought of this post. Much of the world, at least where I am from, can get away with a simple hooded sweatshirt. I used to. Now, I am absolutely snotty about my foul weather gear. I am choosy and have different rain outfits for different occasions. Oh yes, I even have "fancy" rain gear.

When I first moved to the great, rainy southeast of Alaska I bought a full set of slicks. Mine were a deep green Grundens/Helly Hansen set. Like below.

These totally keep the rain out. Also Hellys have a petroleum smell when they're new and everybody can tell when you have a new jacket on. They also create an issue I like to call "Swamp ass" Where you pretty much sweat as hard as it's raining. I stopped wearing slicks in the woods because I couldn't stand hiking in rubber. Plus they're really heavy to wear and carry in your pack. I learned there is a balance between keeping the rain out and breathability that foul weather gear misses.

I still wear my slicks in the boat because that's really what they're for--places where you don't move much and there is a lot of cold water coming at you.
Here is me, in the snow in Yakutat taking of my rain gear because it was too dang hot. See the snow? It was better than being soaked from sweat.

After I ditched the slicks I moved onto tin pants/jacket combo. What are tin pants? Why, they are the best thing Filson makes. BUT if you don't need them then you don't want them. They are not really that comfortable. Think of coating a really heavy pair of jeans with beeswax and walking around. Also getting your legs waxed all the livelong day. Not that awesome, but for what I do they're perfect. They repel water, breathe, and don't get ripped up by the brush. They cost a pretty penny. Expect to pay at least 100 big ones for a basic pair of tin pants and upwards of $130 for hunter style or double fronts. Also, remove the buttons if you are a lady since suspenders make it difficult to poppa-echo-echo in the woods and if you wear a belt, the buttons dig into your hip bone.
Here I am in all my field glory. Those are tin pants I have on. I'm on my second pair, the first got turned into a skirt. I love my tin skirt, it's the only one I know of. Anyhoodle, tin works until it gets really, really cold and it stiffens up to the point where it won't bend at the knees and I have to use my arms to pull my legs over blowdown. It is well worth it, though. Plus I look like a logger. Everybody wants to look like a logger. Notice my lack of rain jacket? It is indeed raining in that photo but hiking is sweaty and I only put on a jacket if it's really coming down.

And now for the townie rain gear I sport now. I only buy uninsulated, unlined rain gear since I'm good at layering and I tend to overheat in the woods easily. Contrary to popular belief it really isn't that cold here so arctic gear and heavy jackets are inappropriate for 98% of the year. Plus LAYERS. I have burned through 1 ultralight jacket and am working my way through my second. (First one was a Patagonia something or other and my current one is a Mountain Hardware thing.) I am really hard on rain gear since I am usually both wet and covered in dirt the cuffs of the sleeves wear out first. I am willing to shell out some dollars on a decent jacket. My mountain hardware jacket has pit zips--a great feature for jackets under normal circumstances. There aren't really any pictures of these since I hate wearing them.

I have a janky pair of Red Ledge rain pants that are regularly abused. They used to be for walks to work but they get deployed in the field quite often.
Here I am on the Stikine flats with my trusty .375 and rain pants. They weigh nothing, dry quickly and keep most of the rain out. I really need a new pair because these are rain pants in the academic sense anymore. That is an really huge white bog orchid. They normally are only about 6-8 inches tall.

I know nobody cares, but up here it matters. FYI the worst day in the field was in Yakutat where it rained 12 inches in 24 hours. It was a mess and it didn't matter what you had on, you got soaked. The hardest part of that day was getting out of the truck,


  1. You are (1) the funniest person I know, (2), the smartest person I know, (3) the most beautiful daughter on the planet, and (4), it is utterly B.S. that you think I'm saying that only because I'm your mom, because it is true and I just happen to have the intelligence and high-level observatory skills to note it. Period. To wit: Poppa-echo-echo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Way to wear a hard hat in all your photos. Carol would be proud. Sadly, my rain gear here is covered in dust. Here I look for snow gear.

  3. Thanks mooooom.

    The appropriate field gear is important and it takes a few iterations to get it right. Good luck on snow gear, Mary.

  4. No mention of WaterShed? Pah!

  5. Don't wear WaterShed, but know plenty who do.

  6. I haven't made a study of it as you have, but I have noticed my rainwear purchasing has changed since moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. I used to be all about light rain layer, plus add warm layers underneath.

    Here in NorCal, though, it only rains in the winter, and it is cold when it rains. Since it is a contest of wills to get my boys to put on ONE jacket, never mind 2 (1 for warmth, 1 for wet-proof), I only buy rainjackets for the family that include warm linings too.

    And yeah, I am sure the boys could survive with just a fleece hoodie--but it makes me cold just lookin' at 'em.