Staying dry for a season on the slush
October 18, 2019 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I am deploying to Palmer Station in Antarctica, where it rains during the austral summer. I also live in the Pacific Northwest. I don't have a good raincoat. Please help me!

I need a good rain jacket, both for my Antarctic deployment and my day-to-day life in the Northwest.

I already have Carhartt-type vinyl raincoats for heavy outdoor work -- what I'm looking for here is something waterproof, pleasant to wear (so not too heavy), and "breathable" (whether that's actual breathability, or well-placed pit zips), not heavy vinyl. I can spend $500 if I need to, but if I do I want to be *really* confident I'll love the coat.

I will be layering under the jacket with a 150g merino base layer, optional 260g midlayer for colder days, and a synthetic down vest as needed.

I also need good waterproof rain pants.

I am open to modern fabrics, or interested in hearing why you like old-school waxed cotton for serious raingear if that is indeed your thing.

Part of why I don't have a good rain jacket is I got fed up with Marmot Precip and other similar jackets losing their waterproofness within a season or less and leaving me clammy and grumpy. I want something that will last.

Help me navigate the wet, dripping, expensive, frustrating jungle of precision raingear, please!
posted by cnidaria to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
P.S. I did try to re-apply the waterproofing agent they sell at outdoor stores (after using the special wash you have to use first) to my inadequate raingear, and I didn't find it effective. So that's not the route I'm looking to go. I'd be fine with taking a waxed cotton Filson jacket in for re-waxing annually if it would mean I'd be comfortable and dry. Or, I'd be fine with owning something amazing and sturdy that simply doesn't degrade much season to season.
posted by cnidaria at 6:19 PM on October 18, 2019

The Taiga goretex raincoat I bought in the late 90s is still fairly waterproof. Used to be ubiquitous Vancouver winter gear -- probably still is.
posted by irrelephant at 6:45 PM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

The best rain jacket I have ever come near is this one from Arcteryx. It’s out of your price range at $785, but you can sometimes find previous year’s version on discount to about $500. Their other rain jackets (I have a Beta All Around) are also fantastic.
posted by Jaclyn at 7:10 PM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

At that price check out Fjallraven and Paramo for non PFOA/ PFC containing raincoats. I've been very happy with my Fjallraven stuff which is pretty standard rain/ ski/ snow gear. Paramo is more of a hard shell. soft shell hybrid and does require that you wash it in Nikwax and rewaterproof periodically. But they are super breathable so better in the rain as they dry very fast and they are quiet so better for nature watching and photography. Bonus- I'm not polluting the planet with "forever" perfluorocarbons.
posted by fshgrl at 7:16 PM on October 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

Columbia's OutDry-Ex line has a special membrane-based waterproofing technology that's both breathable and doesn't get "wet-out" like standard DWR-based waterproofed fabrics. (Link to review explaining a bit more about the tech). As a bonus it's also better for the environment because it avoids PFCs/PFOAs! And they even offer an "Eco" line that features undyed fabric to save water.

It feels slightly rubbery on the outside, so I feel pretty safe in strong rains with it on. I've found it to be fairly breathable and thus wearable even in muggy conditions (I live in DC where it can get kinda hot and humid).

Also, they're pretty cheap (~100-200 for jackets, I got mine for $50 on sale) in comparison to other brands.
posted by devrim at 7:23 PM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

You’re in Portland? A lot of local year-round cyclists (self included!) really like Showers Pass gear. They have a storefront in inner SE to try things on. This is fairly serious rain-performance gear and I’ve been really happy with mine (Atlus jacket and Refuge pants — the jacket is amazing and I wear it all the time).
posted by curious nu at 7:43 PM on October 18, 2019

No, I'm not in Portland. My info is out of date, will fix.
posted by cnidaria at 7:47 PM on October 18, 2019

If you're deploying with a research program make sure they aren't issuing you jackets before you spend a bunch of money! I know when my husband deployed to Amundsen-Scott they provided the big red jackets with the fuzzy hoods for everyone who went. Granted this was a decade or so ago, but I think they don't expect people going to Pole to own appropriate equipment. This may or may not be the case for Palmer.
posted by potrzebie at 11:17 PM on October 18, 2019

I went looking for pictures of people at the Antarctic stations to see if there were recognizable jacket logos - yeah, many of the big outdoors brands, lots of Helly Hansen I think, lots of wool sweaters. And so many matching red jackets that I was wondering if they were issued.
posted by clew at 12:30 AM on October 19, 2019

Oh and - my fieldwork raincoat is Filson because I get muddy and it killed every breathable membrane I tried. $$$. (Did not try $500 jackets.) I rewax it myself, no problem, the company is going fashion in a suspicious way so I’ll probably try waxing a bought or homemade plain canvas jacket when I need a replacement. But it never keeps me really dry inside, just adequately dry-ish, so I would be nervous of taking it to Antarctica.

Congrats on the big trip!
posted by clew at 12:35 AM on October 19, 2019

The red ECW (extreme cold weather) coats are issued. I just want to bring my own comfortable, effective raingear for when it’s 40 F and raining.
posted by cnidaria at 6:27 AM on October 19, 2019

I’m deploying as a plumber. I’m totally up on what’s issued, but thanks! Plus I need stuff for home and the transit as well.
posted by cnidaria at 6:28 AM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Arcteryx is the current gold standard, as far as I’ve experienced and generally agreed on among my mountaineering friends. I have an Alpha FL and it’s by far the best shell I’ve ever owned; Arcteryx’s DWR is next-level. The Alpha series is designed for alpine climbing; for you, focus on the Beta (general use) line.

Definitely go for Gore-Tex Pro. The major difference between their SV, AR, and LT (Severe, All-Round, Light) levels is the fabric weight; you definitely don’t need an SV. I’d probably go with AR, but maybe LT—there are a couple of other differences in collar and other stuff to look at too. Depending on your size, has both on sale for around $400.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 10:05 AM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh and - my fieldwork raincoat is Filson because I get muddy and it killed every breathable membrane I tried.

The Fjallraven coats are waxable too. So much better than goretex if you work outdoors. REI outlet has a bunch of last years on sale right now.
posted by fshgrl at 4:30 PM on October 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I use one of these, extremely versatile:

Trying to put in a link to amazon for bike ponchos here - it's not working.
posted by dustpuppy at 10:06 AM on October 20, 2019

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