by Diane Spicer
Hiking rain gear fact: not all womens rain jackets and womens rain paints are created equal.
As women, we’re schooled in the fine art of attraction.
As hikers, we should be interested in keeping our core body temperature right where it belongs.
Yet we’re intrepid enough to get out there and face the wrath of Mother Nature.
What’s a rain loving hiker to do?
Plan ahead and wear the best women's hiking rain gear!
Or keep reading to learn how to get the best hiking rain gear for your style of hiking and destinations.
The first thing I’d advise is to read clothing labels on hiking rain gear very carefully.
Look for “weasel words” such as “repellent” (also spelled "repellant") or “resistant”.
Sounds like splitting hairs?
Not at all!
You need to know the difference when you shop for hiking rain gear, because your hiking clothing keeps you safe when the weather turns nasty.
Let's go through these words and figure out exactly what type of hiking rain gear you need for the trip you're planning:
If you already know you need a waterproof backpack, read this.
Water repellent hiking rain wear has been coated with something to repel water, but there are definite time limits to its function.
Repellent fabric will create beads of water on the outside; that’s a good clue that you have some time before you get soaked.
However, don't expect to stay dry forever.
Or even an hour, in a deluge.
Water resistant? It doesn't offer as much protection as "repellent".
After a few minutes in “real” rain, you’re gonna get wet.
The fabric cannot prevent water molecules from passing onto your skin or clothing.
This fabric is best suited to warm climate day hike jackets, or situations where you know you can duck out of a downpour.
If you can afford it, go for water repellent over resistant hiking rain gear every time.
Now let's kick it up several notches.
I'm the kind of hiker who wants “proof”, as in “no way is a water drop going to contact my delicate skin through this barrier.”
Anything less, and eventually water will seep in and cost me body heat, comfort, and peace of mind.
And that can translate into less elevation gain, less mileage, less fun and possibly hypothermia (reduced core body temperature).
My hiking rain gear is as waterproof as possible, after many years of wearing suboptimal gear that left me damp and chilly.
So what's up with this magic waterproofing?
To be waterproof, the fabric is unusual, possibly magical. The weave does not allow water molecules to penetrate.
In other words, the water is excluded, trapped on the outside.
Enter a new issue:
It is possible to get drenched INSIDE your rain gear due to your own sweat if you’re hiking in the rain wearing water proof hiking rain gear.
Water proof breatheable gear is going to set you back price-wise, no way around it.
Prepare for major sticker shock when you start reading labels.
Speaking of labels, which is where we started, you might see the word “Gore Tex”, although there are lots of other options and more every day, it seems. I don't have one particular recommendation.
It's kind of amusing to read ads
regarding the latest, greatest hiking rain gear fabrics. You'd think
they had invented sliced bread, or something :)
So once you pay your hard earned money for waterproof breathable hiking rain gear, be sure that:
It's an investment in your comfort and safety, right?
I'll show you my favorite brands of rain proof jackets and pants to give you an idea of the price ranges you're looking at.
I've put my Arcteryx jacket through so much wind, rain and mud that I'm amazed I can still zip it up. I can't say enough good things about this brand.
The price point might seem high, but if your life depends on your clothing, it doesn't make sense to skimp. And you can always put it on your watch list for when sales come along.
Waterproof rain pants should keep your legs not only dry, but warm. I have 2 pairs, one for warmer summer weather and a heavier pair that you see below, for winter outings or really brutal summer hiking.
Here's a good lightweight pair, with some nice features like taped seams. These come in sizes up to 3X.
Here's the high end pair I'd recommend for really big, wet, cold adventures.
Take notice of the excellent features these pants have:
If you're an REI member, you can find these pants here, sometimes on sale!
And you can read my review of my REI Talusphere rain pants here.
Once you decide which price range you want to be in, factor in the clothing you'll already be wearing when you pull on your rain gear.
So don't buy your usual size unless you plan to pull this gear on over nothing but your skin!
For warm weather rainy spells, you could go minimalist by pulling on a piece of lightweight, waterproof fabric that shields you from moisture to below your knees.
Kind of like wearing your own personal tarp ;)Rain Wrap by Enlightened Equipment
Tip: If you wear plus size hiking clothes, this could be the answer to not being able to find decent rain pants to pull on over your hiking pants.
If price is the most important thing in your quest for reliable rain gear, take a look at FrogTogs.
These waterproof jackets and pants are inexpensive, lightweight and may be just what you're looking for as a beginner hiker or thruhiker.
I use a wash-in product called Nikwax on my pants and jackets once they’ve been through the washing machine a few times.
It's important to keep them waterproof (or resistant) because I rely upon these critical pieces of gear to keep me out of the Land of Hypothermia.
There's one particular company I turn to again and again:
As for waterproofing my leather boots, here's how I do it.
For boots made of synthetics, I use this product.
Also, I hang dry my rain gear whenever possible, and brush dirt off with a dry brush rather than wash it after every outing.
Duct tape ain't pretty, but it's cheap AND waterproof.
This brings up a good point: how to do field repairs. Here's how to put together a repair kit that will help you out.
Have I answered the question "water proof vs. water repellent hiking rain gear?" for you?
Here's the bottom line:
If you’re a casual weekend hiker who can cancel plans if it looks stormy, don’t spring for expensive water proof rain gear.
But if you're going to be outdoors with no options to bail on your plans, carefully consider the cost-benefit ratio of expensive but high performance rain gear.
Sometimes cheap will cost you. What is your comfort, and possibly your life, worth?
I always wear gaiters in snow, when the trail is brushy and wet, and especially in rainy weather.
The gaiters keep my legs warm, my boots dry, and my pants from becoming mud/snow encrusted.
I've found that the life of my expensive waterproof hiking pants is extended because the grit and grime hits the impermeable gaiters, not my pants.
Bonus: They are inexpensive and so lightweight you'll never notice them in your pack when the sun shines.
I carry mine year round (because of the type of hiking I do), but if you hike where it gets dry be sure to take them out and hang them up in your gear locker.
Cover your head as soon as you feel a chill preceding a down pour or snow flurries.
I rotate through an ear band (see photo above), a lightweight fleece cap, a so-called Seattle sombrero, and sometimes all 3 at once in order to keep my head warm and dry when Mother Nature can't make up her mind.
Do I look dorky?
Am I dry?
I've learned not to skimp on hiking rain gear, and nowhere is that more important than my head.
I also cover up my hands right away when I feel chilled, again starting off with lightweight fleece but graduating to water proof glove covers if the moisture level warrants them.
The downside is that my manual dexterity is compromised.
However, I feel that it's better to have warm fingers in case I need to make a tricky maneuver across a talus slope, or pull myself into a tree if a bear charge is imminent or I have to tear off the wrapper on my energy bar.
If you don't have any hiking gear from Mountain Hardwear, you should give this company a good look.
I'm accumulating more and more of their products because they really do stand up to hard wear, and they look good doing it.
These gloves, for instance:
I like their versatility: They can stand alone as a quick way to warm up my hands so I can keep gripping my trekking poles.
Or they can be used as liners inside of my clumsy but waterproof glove covers.
For more glove options, read this.
Here's something a little different: some hikers swear by hiking umbrellas to keep their upper body even drier, with or without covering hands with gloves.
A few words about waterproofing your pack are in order.
If you choose to stick with water repellent gear, please water proof your pack as a precaution against having soaked clothing in cold weather.
You need to be able to change into something warm and dry, not something soggy, once you're safely in your dry tent.
The best approach is to buy a pre-treated pack with a pack cover.
At the beginning of every hiking season, spray your pack with waterproofing.
Put on your pack whenever the weather looks threatening if you're taking a trail break or setting up camp. Why?
Please believe me when I repeat this basic fact: a rain cover for your backpack is essential.
It will do you no good to keep your body dry if everything in your backpack becomes soaked.
To take this advice and not spend a lot of money:
As mentioned above, some backpacks come with an integrated pack cover, usually stowed in a Velcro closed pocket at the base of the backpack.
If yours doesn't have this feature, I'd recommend that you skip the garbage bag hack and order a pack cover and carry it in an outside pocket.
This one is a good all purpose pack cover for daypacks under 45 liters, although REI offers them in sizes up to extra large to accommodate your largest volume backpacks.
To sum up, there are 2 variables in your cost-benefit analysis to consider:
You must choose one of two routes when shopping for rain gear:
Pay a lot for waterproof breathable hiking rain gear and have tremendous peace of mind knowing that your core body temperature will remain in a viable range regardless of how long you're outside in cold wet conditions.
Pay less, but have less peace of mind when the weather turns wet.
Maybe you don't put yourself in situations where you need to stay warm and dry at all costs (literally).
Now that you know the pertinent facts about choosing the best hiking rain gear, don't let a few clouds or snowflakes stand in the way of an adventure.
Hiking Rain Gear
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