Best rain gear for rainy San Francisco winters?
November 8, 2011 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend rain gear that will keep me dry and comfy walking around the city this winter.

Rainy season is coming to San Francisco.

I like to walk as much as possible - to the grocery store, to the library, to get exercise.

What's the best rain gear to keep me dry and comfortable in the city rain?

I've looked at previous questions but didn't see exactly what I'm looking for:

* I'd like to not get hot and not get cold - not getting hot is very important
* I'd like to keep my feet dry
* It would be be great to be able to take off the rain gear at a my destination (say, the library or a cafe) and not drip all over everything and yet still be able to put it on again without getting myself all wet when I leave (this may be asking too much)
* I'd like to keep my hands free, so umbrellas are okay but not ideal
* I'd like to keep my head warm (but not hot!) and dry, but still be able to see well in low-visibility rainy weather (when cars may have trouble seeing me)
* Cheaper is better, but I'm happy to pay for long-lasting quality

I would love specific brand and product recommendations and names of places you like to buy from.

I'm female, but suggestions for men are equally welcome.

posted by kristi to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's not stylish but here in Vancouver I wear my cycling gear even when I'm not on my bike. A good cycling rain jacket with pit zips is hard to top in the stay-dry-but-don't-sweat category.
posted by mce at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2011

I live in the bay area and I also just wear my cycling gear. I have a lightweight, waterproof shell that I just put over what I'm normally wearing (wool sweaters are good and breathable if it's cold out). A lot of cycling gear is very portable - my jacket can ball up into a small ziplock bag or pocket. I keep it in my bag and pull it out when it gets wet.
posted by bradbane at 11:49 AM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: Wall of Text warning on!

You should look at a jacket (and possibly pants if you're anticipating being out in particularly bad weather or for long periods) and boots that use a waterproof/breathable membrane. Gore-Tex is the best known, though there are some others like eVent, Conduit, etc. that are reputable. Now, this means you'll have to spend a bit, but it should be worthwhile due to the durability and quality you can expect. You can get a rubberized nylon rain slicker for $15, and although it will keep the rain out, because it's completely non-breathable you'll probably be covered in your own perspiration (especially in a relatively warm winter climate like SF). Waterproof/breathable membranes work by having tiny pores that are large enough for water vapor to pass through but too large for liquid water to move thorough unless under extreme pressure.

Good quality jackets of this type can be found from around $100 (Mountain Hardwear's Epic jacket or Patagonia's Torrentshell Jacket) and upward. Other brands to check out include Outdoor Research, Arc'Teryx, Rab, Marmot, REI, and EMS. As you spend more you'll get better quality membranes, better fitting hoods (a huge benefit given your stated desire to see where you're going), and features like waterproof zippers (which don't require a bulky flap) and armpit zips for ventilation. These kind of shell jackets use a DWR (durable water repellent) finish that causes water to bead up on the surface. This way, you can give yourself or your jacket a good shake upon entering a building to shed the water there so you don't create a puddle under the jacket while indoors. You'll need to use care when washing the jacket to preserve the DWR finish, which is basically sprayed on and "baked" into the exterior shell. Typical laundry detergents leave hydrophillic residue in garments, which will cause your jacket to "wet out" which makes it heavier, colder, and prone to condensation on the inside when the warm vapor from your body hits the cold interior of the shell. Washing with something like Nikwax will clean without leaving residue, and there are other products (Nikwax again, or Revivex) that can restore DWR finish.

As for footwear, there are many styles of shoes that use Gore-Tex, which will make the shoe waterproof so long as you don't step in water deeper than the height of the shoe. Once mainly found in footwear that was clearly designed with outdoor enthusiasts in mind, you can now find Gore-Tex in everything from hiking boots to trail runners to fancy business shoes.

I've personally owned numerous Gore-Tex jackets since the mid 90s. They have an amazing guarantee; I had one that was 5+ years old where the membrane was coming off (delaminating) from the shell fabric. I sent it to Gore, and they replaced it, free of charge, with a similar new garment of my choice. The whole process took about 10 days.
posted by EKStickland at 12:11 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I really really like my Torrentshell Trench coat. It breathes nicely. It looks pretty good on (it has elastic in the back so you have a bit of a waist in it). There are two sets of front pockets--the ones with flaps that snap shut and also lined hand warmer-type ones that are layered over that. It has a detachable hood. I wanted the trench for both coverage and a less sporty look. It was not cheap, but definitely worth it. And had I more patience I probably could have found one on sale online eventually. I still use an umbrella with it in heavy rain, however.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:31 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: Chiming on the Mountain Hardwear Epic Jacket as EKStickland linked above. Monsoon season has begun here, too, and I walk a mile each way to work wearing that in the pouring rain with no problems. I like that it has a visor which keeps the rain out but lets me see cars. I get really hot when I walk, and I haven't experienced this with this jacket--I can layer, it's breathable, and it has pit zips.
posted by stellaluna at 12:48 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: I walk a lot and find that gaiters (I have these from MEC) keep my feet dry and pants mud-free in a wide variety of shoes and boots, rain or slush or snow.
posted by thatdawnperson at 1:12 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: Buy a trench coat, this is what they're for. Look at Eddie Bauer. Buy it a hair big to prevent overheating.

Anoracks won't protect your legs and you will look awfully weird wandering around the city in gaiters. If you must wear a 2 piece rain suit in town get full leg zip off pants or a rain skirt from SKHOOP so they're not a pain to get in and off. I don't own a SKHOOP rain skirt but I have other stuff of theirs and its fantastic.
posted by fshgrl at 1:47 PM on November 8, 2011

I'd say galoshes and carry your shoes, and maybe something more of a rain poncho and a hat and/or umbrella. FYI, with the right clothes most SF rain is doable without an umbrella.
posted by rhizome at 1:48 PM on November 8, 2011

I wouldn't get too hung up on the fabric btw. Most waterproof/ breathable stuff isn't too breathable anyway and depends on pit zips and the like for ventilation.
posted by fshgrl at 1:50 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: I bought this Helly Hansen raincoat a couple years ago and live in it & love it! It's thin so you can layer or not, it zips from top & bottom (a must), has about ten seriously useful pockets, detachable hood, and more. It wasn't cheap but is well made and man what a great raincoat, I wear it everywhere & everyday during my rainy East coast winter. This and Eddie Bauer gumboots - you're done!
posted by henry scobie at 4:54 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: No one mentioned this, so rain pants, preferably Gore-tex or some similar material. I live in a town where it rains ALL THE TIME, so, that's what I do. Plus a raincoat that goes well below the waist, and Gore-Tex shoes from Merrell. The shoes are good, more comfortable than boots, for me at least, although the sole is a thick like hiking boots (although wouldn't bother most people probably, it's not thicker than any other pair of boots).

The rain pants are what will keep the lower part of your body bone-dry (and maybe the only way to do it). Easy to take off (you wear them over your regular pants). Shouldn't be harder to hang up somewhere than if you were just wearing a rain coat.
posted by Busoni at 11:44 PM on November 8, 2011

Response by poster: Many thanks for the great answers, everybody!
posted by kristi at 1:49 PM on November 12, 2011

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