My White Whale: The Perfect Raincoat
December 16, 2018 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Background: I live in Richmond, VA (so it's rarely super cold), I walk dogs for a living (so clothes have to hold up for 6-9 hours at a time and also be tough enough to deal with the job), I HATE sweating inside my clothes (Id rather go cold than sweat or deal with condensation). We sometimes have days where I spend the entire time in medium/heavy rain, so I need something that will hold up that long. Style is important to me, but not as much as function. Bullet points inside!

bullet list!

Layer-able - I should be able to wear at least a fleece l/s shirt underneath it. I prefer lighter weight materials to one big coat.
-Move-able - I do lots of bending, walking, etc on the job, so I either need something with flex or room. And I need something pretty tough.
-Breathe-able - I mean it when I say I hate to sweat. I'll walk in cold rain before I'll put on something heavy or plastic-y, but this is definitely not the smartest thing to day. The coat I have now is useless because it traps all the moisture that *I* produce in what amounts to a slightly vented greenhouse. I also need it to dry quickly (overnight, usually).

Other requirements:

- a hood and inner pockets would be nice
- no belts or other super dangly bits
- zipper closure
- less than $200 (it's going to be destroyed by the end of spring, no matter who makes it, so there's no point in me spending a ton of money....)

Hopefully that's enough to give you an idea of what I want!
posted by megan_magnolia to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My Marmot precip is a workhorse, meets all your requirements, and is less than $100 if you catch it on sale at REI. It might even last you more than one Spring.
posted by somanyamys at 6:23 AM on December 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

The hardest part, I think, is going to be the sweat issue. You're definitely looking at some kind of waterproof-breatheable shell here, since that will be nice and layerable and you can have your waterproofing separate from any insulation that you may or may not need. I would also suggest sacrificing any pretense of style and just going straight for something big and floppy, since that will give you more freedom of movement (especially when worn over layers) and will give you more airflow inside in warmer temperatures. However, at the end of the day I have just never found a waterproof-breatheable garment (and I've tried lots!) that was both totally waterproof and totally breatheable. It's always a compromise, and if you wear it long enough you're gonna be damp one way or the other. Your skin exudes moisture at all times, even if you're not sweating, and it will eventually build up in there. Sorry.

Still, waterproof-breatheable fabrics are a heck of a lot better than nothing. I'd recommend something in Gore-Tex rather than one of the newer WPBs for your application, because of its durability. Gore-Tex is a little bit deprecated in the hiking community these days because it's on the heavier side and most hikers' rain gear falls into the "carry often, use rarely" category, but you're not carrying a pack and if you're wearing this thing it'll be because it's actually raining. Gore-Tex is still considered to be one of the most effective and most durable WPB fabrics, and as a bonus it's usually less expensive than some of the newer ones. So in general, I'd look for an oversized Gore-Tex shell of some kind.

I don't have a specific recommendation, but I've had great experiences with Outdoorgearlab's recommendations, and they recommend the Outdoor Research Aspire as their top overall rain jacket. (Note that the Marmot Precip which is definitely a classic choice is their number 2) It is a Gore-Tex jacket and its main drawback aside from price is that it's heavy and bulky, which doesn't matter to you. They say it is extremely waterproof and has excellent ventilation. I'd give it some serious consideration.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Wool base layer.
posted by aniola at 7:36 AM on December 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The is correct that it's always going to be a compromise between breathability and waterproofness. I only wanted to add that you should prioritize something with pit zips (or side zips like the Aspire, which I've never tried but sound amazing) to help with venting.
posted by misskaz at 7:54 AM on December 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Make sure all your under-layers are breathable or wicking. No use having an outer layer that breathes if moisture is trapped before reaching it.

I bought my first real Gore-Tex shell last summer (Marmot Minimalist). Only used it a few times, but have been astonished at how well it breathes as long as I follow my own advice.
posted by ClingClang at 8:46 AM on December 16, 2018

Look for something with pit-zips. Those will ventilate a lot better than "breathable" fabric (properly waterproof fabric isn't breathable and breathable fabric isn't properly waterproof).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I recently purchased that Outdoor Research Aspire jacket for hiking in the PNW, so i can speak a little bit to that specific coat. I was actually surprised at how light and thin it was, so its great for either layering with a fleece or for the summer when it’s raining but not cold out. It has full side zips, which can either be opened just under your armpits for extra ventilation, or opened fully. It’s pretty easy to move around in, and so far it’s been pretty darn waterproof in my experience, with nice details like velcro to tighten the wrists and a hood that extends out past the face. I’m very happy with it for my hiking pursuits. I got it on amazon for maybe around $130? I’m hopeful it’ll last a long time. The other brand recommended to me by other PNW outdoorsy folks was Marmot. Hope that helps!
posted by carlypennylane at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Tagging on, you'll also want to ensure that you're not wearing too many layers under the jacket. If you start out a little cool, you'll be more appropriately warm, rather than hot, when you get active and heat up.

Fabric-wise, the above advice to go for a true waterproof breathable fabric is correct. I'd suggest, contra Anticipation [etc] above, that you look at some of the newer fabrics. Specifically, Gore Tex Active, Ascentshell, Polartec NeoShell, and similar. They're generally more breathable than classic Gore Tex while still being completely waterproof, which is exactly what you want. They'll be a little more spendy, but generally these things are designed for stuff like ice climbing, so I have to imagine that they'll be more robust than you picture in the dog-walking space.

For what it's worth, I have the men's version of the aforementioned OR Aspire; it's generally great in the endless-but-not-too-cold PNW rain. My only gripes are that the DWR coating isn't the best (though I think I've heard they've improved that?) and when you really get going, i.e. hiking fast up steep inclines, it's not as breathable as it needs to be to prevent clamminess. For dog walking, though, it should be fine (I have firsthand experience) unless you're really going for it on steep inclines.

Lastly, look at the weight of the fabric in the jacket. Gore Tex and everything else comes in a variety of weights of the face fabrics while having the same waterproof membrane, so go low. They're usually published in denier, which is grams per 9 kilometers of thread. The Aspire is 50d, which is pretty middle of the road. Jackets intended for more active use can go down to 20d or 12d; jackets made to be more bombproof are upwards of 80d or 100d.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 9:52 AM on December 16, 2018

What about a rain cape?
posted by evoque at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2018

I second the recommendation for pit-zips on a hard shell. If designed properly (expensive), you can leave them open even in the biggest downpour and they give you superb ventilation. They should have an overlapping flap like the front fly on your pants with velcro tabs. They should run parallel to your arm and half way to your elbows. I could do without the zippers at all since I never zip them up.
posted by JackFlash at 10:53 AM on December 16, 2018

A wool base layer is key to managing moisture next to your skin. Wool breathes better than fleece or most synthetics AND has the benefit of still retaining warmth when damp or wet (this is super important.)

The base layer will wick the sweat away from your body so combining the it with a wool t-shirt/polo/sweater or even a wicking synthetic will help regulate moisture next to your skin.

AVOID cotton. It will just soak up moisture and feel miserable by sapping any heat away. Building a better foundation just helps the jacket do its thing and you may find even not super technical jackets work well for light rain.
posted by asterisk at 11:30 AM on December 16, 2018

When you figure out which shell you want, give Backcountry a whirl to see if they have last season's colors at a discount in your size. Marmot PreCip (more sizes an colors available than at REI)
posted by asphericalcow at 11:37 AM on December 16, 2018

I own one of these that I bought from Nordstrom and it is a thin, waterproof layer that allows me to choose how warm I want my clothing to be since it provides no warmth or heat insulation at all. It's $75 or less, has a hood and good pockets - seems to tick all your boxes - minus the inner pocket. I'm pretty sure you can find it for even cheaper on Amazon and other sites. I'd recommend it, although I can't say I'm positive about whether it's "breathable" or not since "breathable" and "waterproof" seem to be exact opposites.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:39 AM on December 16, 2018

I own this. It’s really fantastic despite the cheap price.
posted by idb at 1:49 PM on December 16, 2018

++ the Marmot PreCip jacket and also checking for discontinued colors. Costco even sells it online for cheaper too.
posted by belau at 7:37 PM on December 16, 2018

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