Brave the rain
Whatever your adventure in the great outdoors, it’s always a smart to pack rainwear. Staying dry can be about comfort for your activity, and even safety. A wet body is one that risks hypothermia when colder weather creeps into the equation – and the effects of that can range from energy loss to complete shutdown. So yeah, it’s kinda important.
Warm or cool?
Once you’ve stashed the skis for the season, you might be asking yourself “how warm do I need to be when my jacket gets wet?” It’s exactly why some waterproof jackets are insulated and others aren’t. Sure, you can wear your waterproof ski jacket in a July downpour, but you might be risking heat exhaustion. For those warm adventures when showers threaten, you’re better off with a light un-insulated jacket designed to nothing more than keep you dry and comfortable.
Soft or Hard?
This is a question that really depends on your activity. Softshells tend to be less waterproof than their hardshell cousins, which makes them perfect for brief rain showers when you’re doing a lot of moving – like rock climbing. But if you’re planning a long trek in areas where rain is heavy and constant (hello West Coast Trail!), you’ll likely want to have a hardshell that’s fully seam taped, with storm closures under the front zipper, drawcords and vents…AND a healthy dose of breathability.
Active or Urban?
If all you have to do in the rain is stand by the soccer sidelines, you don’t really need a breathable jacket – just one that keeps every droplet off your phone in your pocket. The great news is that these jackets cost less than the ones that offer “moisture management” in the form of breathable technologies. Those are the ones you need when you’re going on long and strenuous hikes or steep trail runs.
Hood or No Hood?
Some people just don’t like wearing hoods, which means the open bucket on their shoulders is doing nothing more than collecting rainwater. A better solution is a hoodless rain jacket (preferably with a light hood stuffed in the collar) that gives you the option of wearing a hat. Need to keep that dome bone dry? The best way to go is with a stout and peaked hood that you actually use, with drawcords to seal out the elements.
Long or Short?
The best reason for wearing a long trench coat is to keep your legs dry, unless you enjoy the sensation of rain rolling off your short waterproof jacket onto your very absorbent jeans. If you’re going to be wearing rain pants, the “shortie” is more than up to the task, but if you enjoy going for walks in the rain while wearing your trusty old blue jeans, you might well consider a jacket that extends beyond your hips.
Solo or 3-in-1?
With a jacket dedicated solely to keeping you dry, you can start to layer up for total comfort, adding your favourite pieces like a baselayer or insulating layer. It’s all about choices, right? But if you want to keep it dirt simple, you can consider a 3-in-1 jacket that does it all, including keeping you dry. Just toss it on over your t-shirt and you’re good to go when the heavens open up.
Different brands use different waterproof technologies. Some use industry standards like GORE-TEX, while others develop their own. And some, just to keep it interesting, use both. Here’s a look at some of the technology you’ll see:
- GORE-TEX® – Arc’teryx, Salomon, Merrell, The North Face
- POLARTEC® NeoShell® – Marmot, The North Face,
- MemBrain – Marmot
- Dry.Q – Mountain Hardwear
- HyVent – The North Face
- Helly Tech® – Helly Hansen
- H2No®– Patagonia
- Omni-Tech – Columbia
- M-Select DRY – Merrell