To continue with what’s in your day pack, I am looking at rain gear today.
Why use rain gear
Rain gear is an important part of being prepared, staying dry can be a important for a comfortable experience and more importantly survival. When we get wet it can be difficult to maintain a core body temperature, especially if it’s windy. If you’re in a location you can’t get into a warm dry shelter then carrying rain gear should be on your list to carry in your day pack.
Unfortunately there is not one perfect style of rain protection, for day hiking and some backpacking I prefer a soft shell jacket with pants, I can layer a fleece or wool shirt below for added warmth. Choose your gear according to where you are going and the conditions you expect to find.
I also like to have rain pants with me as well. Trails are not always free from plants and trees which means you brush up against them often. Also as the rain jacket sheds water, it falls onto your lower half. Then you also have other things such as horse shit. When we were backpacking in Glacier we were hiking out 11 hours in rain and snow, down trails (rivers) of mud and horse shit. Needless to say we were covered in “mud”
Poncho’s. I have used them and they are ok, I am not a fan of them. That’s my personal opinion I am sure others love them and they do have the ability to be converted into a simple shelter.
Wind vs rain gear
Wind breakers and similar shells stop the wind and may even shed some water for a short time but don’t offer the level of protection as “waterproof” rain gear. On the other hand most rain gear can be used as a wind protection.
A quick look at how to choose rain gear
Hardshells, are more durable and abrasion proof, they also stay waterproof longer than softshells. Hardshells are usually more stiff and take up more room in your pack. There is also a newer type that is a hybrid. These get there waterproofing from multiple membrane layers and a DWR (Durable Water Repellent). Along with taking up more room they also weigh more than soft shell but if you are in a very wet environment this is what you need.
Soft shells are by the description are softer than hard shells, they can resemble a wind breaker making them lighter and more packable. Unlike hardshells they only have one or two layers and a DWR coating. The DWR coating is the first line of defense for most rain gear. With softshells when the DWR looses it effectiveness the fabric is still waterproof but gets what is termed wetted. The coating stops beading water and the fabric although still waterproof becomes wet. This can cause it to cling to your body and feel as if you are getting wet. This also stops the fabric from “breathing” as efficiently as it should building up a layer of moisture on the inside from sweat, adding to that clammy feeling.
Many have a pocket that they can be packed into, these pockets usually have a mesh lining to drain water if it gets in and also you can open them to help with ventilation.
A good quality rain jacket should also have adjustment cords for the hood and waist area, many will also have a way to adjust the wrist area. These adjustments can help with compensating for heavier rain and wind, along with being able to adjust for ventilation to help get rid of moisture from perspiration.
On either type this DWR coating will break down over time. How fast depends on how much it is used. Regular care of this coating will help to keep it performing as it should.
Take time to look around and choose your gear, not everything is made the same but if you’re going to be outside please consider having some rain gear. Good or bad weather it’s always good to be outside.