Staying dry and cool in the rain
November 6, 2014 10:28 AM   Subscribe

What is the best lightweight breathable gear to wear over normal clothes that will keep me dry through long walks in the rain?

I walk a couple miles back and forth to work daily, but with fall in full swing the rain is getting a lot less manageable. A basic Colombia hooded windbreaker works well enough for keeping my shirt and head dry, but as I sit here in soaking wet jeans & shoes I know I need to figure something else out. I tend to "run hot" and want something that is light / uninsulated - I can bundle when needed. I won't carry an umbrella. I really don't want to have to change when I come and go.

This question is similar and has some good info, but it is mostly focused on stuff for women.

I've done the Amazon research but would really appreciate the mefite insight.
posted by SpookyFish to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
When I bike or walk commute, my almost good enough answer is a spare change of clothes and shoes at work.
posted by advicepig at 10:34 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of Frogg Toggs; I have worn them on a motorcycle in the rain and they did a good job, so walking a couple of miles should be bad at all. Over the last few years they have added a lot of styles as well.
posted by TedW at 10:38 AM on November 6, 2014

Wool trousers. Wool is breathable, can be light depending on the thickness you buy, and naturally beads up moisture if not completely soaked. There's a reason why cloth diapered babies often have wool diaper covers.

I'd recommend wool trousers and some ankle-height leather boots to keep your feet dry. There's a reason why wool suits and ankle boots have been in style for men for over a century.
posted by jillithd at 10:43 AM on November 6, 2014

Lightweight and breathable would have automatically meant Gore Tex but these days there are many options. You'll want both a jacket and rain pants, and waterproof shoes too. Those were some of the best investments I ever made - walking in through the rain without feeling the slightest bit damp afterwards was well worth the money, and my previous jacket lasted just over 10 years before basically wearing out.

I currently have a lovely Haglofs jacket - check SierraTradingPost and Amazon for clearance items.

My one special piece of advice: make sure the rain pants have wide zippered foot openings so that you can slip them on and off over your boots. Very convenient.
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:50 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you 'run hot' as it were, regardless of actual fabric, I would find a top garment with armpit zippers. That venting helps remarkably. You might have pretty good luck finding lighter weight items if you search for bicycling gear. Those items tend to be lighter weight because cycling=heat production.

Goretex is good, but Scholler also has quite a few good fabrics that several manufacturers are using.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:44 PM on November 6, 2014

What's your budget? There have been a lot of advances in waterproof-breathable raingear in recent years, as a number of companies have been competing to come up with better and better fabrics. In the past, waterproof-breathable raingear (usually based on Gore Tex) has tended to be a bit of a compromise (either fully waterproof but not very breathable, or breathable but not very waterproof, or sort of in between on both) but this is not necessarily the case anymore.

Unfortunately, the really good stuff is pricey, as in a few hundred dollars for a set of jacket and pants. In my experience, most of the best stuff is high-end backpacking gear; lightweight, waterproof, and breathable (meaning cool and comfortable). This type of gear is made for folks who want to stay dry and comfortable while spending multiple days out of doors and who need to carry all their gear on their backs, and who have money to throw at the problem.

I've heard great things about the Outdoor Research Helium II series, which is super duper lightweight and said to be quite waterproof although people consistently ding it for having zero pockets (which would be a problem for me, as it means that there's nowhere to put your hands to keep them dry). I've got a fair bit of Outdoor Research stuff scattered throughout my gear and have always found it highly satisfactory.

I did a quick look around on some of my favorite review sites (ones whose recommendations I've followed in the past and been happy with) just now and I'm seeing the Marmot Aegis being consistently placed at or near the top of the competitions. It does have pockets, though it's heavier than the Helium II (the jacket is 13 ounces rather than 6.5). This may not matter to you, though. My current raingear is from Marmot, but I don't like it very much. However, it's not as high-end as the Aegis and is made from an older fabric type.

Anyway, for me I think it'd be between the two of those depending on whether I cared more about light weight or more features. So far I've never regretted choosing light weight in those kind of decision-making situations, though the lack of front pockets on the Helium II gives me pause. I wish I could give you more of a first-hand recommendation, but hopefully I at very least have pointed you toward the kind of stuff that you might want.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:57 PM on November 6, 2014

Response by poster: I should have added that. Cost is basically no object, I won't spend stupid (no platinum zippers) but have no problem spending a lot for a really good solution.

The jacket definitely needs to have standard hand pockets.
posted by SpookyFish at 3:14 PM on November 6, 2014

I would search "Foul Weather Gear" used for sailing, it comes in a variety of weights, to get an idea of what you want and then find a local store that sells the items you are interested in and try them on. Be sure to read reviews though because more than most products there is not necessarily a correlation between price and quality.

I grew up in a rainy climate [Seattle] and footwear is more problematic. I never liked overshoes or galoshes. In your circumstance I would keep my work shoes at work and find some comfortable waterproof shoes or boots for walking back and forth between home and work.
posted by vapidave at 5:49 PM on November 6, 2014

Hey, I forgot about the footwear thing. If you want serious rainboots for walking around all day long in, I have two recommendations: either Hunter or Le Chameau. As a field biologist in the tropics, I have spent months during the rainy season basically living in my rainboots and can wholeheartedly recommend both brands. The specific model isn't so important, and in fact they tend to all be similar within each make; both brands have a standard boot and then a number of variants based on that.

Both brands make a comfortable, durable, high-quality boot with a good tread that you can walk long distances in and depend on to keep your feet dry. Hunters are a little stiffer, Le Chameaus a little softer; just a matter of personal preference.

Hunters seem to be the boot of choice among field biologists as a whole, whereas Le Chameaus are my personal choice. You'd probably be very satisfied with either option, though of course you'd need to bring a pair of dry shoes with you to change into once you were somewhere dry.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:37 PM on November 12, 2014

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