Gear Selection Part 2: Right as Rain (Jacket)
A key piece of equipment for any outdoor enthusiast is the rain jacket. Every Hante Participant will need one. The right jacket will last you much longer than any one Hante and will be handy in your everyday life too. So let’s take a look at picking the right one for you.
First off, you should always make sure the jacket is labeled as “waterproof” and not “water-resistant”. Resistant fabrics will end up saturating with moisture in anything more than fog. Waterproof jackets may include numbers like 10K (10,000) or 25K (25,000). This number refers to the millimeters of water required to seep through 1 square inch of fabric. The higher the number, the more pressure the fabric can withstand, i.e. the more waterproof it is. 10,000 is the lowest recommended for moderate to heavy rain. Currently the industry leader in waterproof technology is Gore-Tex. Jackets with Gore-Tex Fabrics are always a good choice, but tend to be pricier since you are paying for a premium brand. That said, most jacket manufacturers have their own technology at a lower price point. For example: Patagonia makes waterproof items with Gore-Tex Fabrics but you will find other jackets with their “H2NO” fabrics at a lower cost.
Next you will want to look at the breathability of the jacket. A waterproof jacket won’t keep you dry if it traps in all of your body heat and turns your torso in to a sauna. Along with the waterproof rating you may also see a breathability rating. These ratings tend to vary more widely across the industry. Read the tag of the jacket to see how the company measures breathability. For summer treks you will want a jacket that is more breathable to allow heat and evaporation in the jacket to “breathe out” of the fabric. Gore-Tex generally has above average breathability. Vent and “pit-zips” help with breathability. These options tend to be available on technical shells where the wearer exerts high energy and needs to “dump” heat from the jacket. If you’re backpacking in the wet summer months, these features are great! Remember to make sure that the zipper on your jacket are either waterproof (they have rubber sides and might be harder to zip) or have a fabric covering to prevent moisture from seeping through the zippers.
Finally, you’ll want too look at fit, weight and insulation. Summer travels will want to look for a lightweight waterproof “shell”. These tend to weigh less, pack down small and have little to no insulation to prevent heat buildup and keep you cool when it’s hot. Shells should be a bit loose to allow airflow. You can also put warmer layers under a loose shell in the cooler months. When you try on jackets, raise your arms over your head to test coverage. A pro-tip for climbers/backpackers: look for pockets that are placed higher on the torso to allow you to keep your hands warm and in your pockets while wearing a backpack waist strap, or while you’re waiting in line to climb.
To wrap up, there are many, many jackets out there and finding the right one can be tough, but the right rain jacket can work for so much more than just rainy days. Most rain jackets are generally windproof and will help cut the chill on windy days while simultaneously offering protection from wetter elements. Jackets can also work to keep warmth in when layered underneath as the temperatures drop. My recommendation is to find a shell with a high waterproof rating, pit-zips, and a slightly loose or athletic fit. This will be very versatile. You may also consider purchasing rain pants. Keep in mind that in the heat of the summer rain pants tend to be very steamy. Look for brands with lifetime guarantees. They will be more costly upfront but in the long run they will last longer and should be able to be replaced if necessary.
P.S. Don’t forget to read the washing/care instructions. Many waterproof fabrics are now fine for the washer and dryer. Following those directions along with the use of approved cleaners and “re-waterproofers” like NikWax products, will keep your jacket fresh and dry for many years to come.
Marlin Sill, Hante Director