A rain jacket is crucial when it comes to your health and comfort while hiking. Everyone who hikes knows that you need to layer up, but the outermost layer is the one that can be difficult to choose. If it rains while you’re on the trail you want to be prepared, because having to hike while you’re drenched is just awful.
Anyone who’s ever owned a rain jacket knows that if the material isn’t right, you’d rather just get wet than wear it at all. Some materials do a good job at keeping you dry until you start to sweat underneath them. Others are more comfortable, but won’t keep you dry for long.
That being said, it’s preferable to go with a DWR coating, as opposed to a nylon coating. The difference? One is breathable, and one is not. If it’s that waterproof, nothing is getting in and nothing is getting out, including your sweat. Another type of coating, which you’ll find on North Face jackets, is HyVent. Overall, it’s best to go with a strong laminate for an exterior, like Gore-Tex or Dry-Q. This will keep your pores breathing and your body dry. Look at the tag to see what it’s made of.
There’s also hard shell and soft shell jackets. A soft shell feels less bulky, and the material doesn’t make that squeaky sound when you’re wearing it. The problem is, soft-shell jackets can’t resist a downpour for too long, whereas hard shells are the best if you’re doing some serious (and inclement) hiking.
Once you have the material taken care of, see if the jacket accommodates the sweatier parts of your body. Obviously, this might be different for everybody, but generally it’s the underarms, around the neck, and the chest. Those areas should have a bit of a variation from the rest of the jacket. This could mean a mesh material in those areas, or for your chest, a simple zipper.
Even though buying a jacket isn’t the most important financial decision of your life, you should still consider asking some questions before your make a purchase. Is it wind-breaker, a rain-jacket, or both? Sometimes people use these terms interchangeably, when really, they’re not. Simply by looking at the jacket, you’ll be able to guess how strong it will be.
What do you need it for? Is it for a hot summer day, where it could rain? If that’s the case, then you might just need a simple poncho to throw over. On the other hand, if there’s a high chance of precipitation where you’re going and there’s already a chill in the air, then you don’t want to be a wet mop for the rest of your trip. You’re going to need something way more reliable and durable than a basic poncho.
Does it have a hood? There’s so many rain jackets out there that don’t have a hood! What’s up with that? Unless you plan on carrying an umbrella with you too, then pick a jacket that has a hood for crying out loud! If your entire head and hair is soaked but your body is dry, guess what? You’re still just as susceptible to getting sick as you would have been without the coat. Get a hood!
Do the zippers work? Can I tighten the hood with drawstrings? Is there Velcro on the sleeves, so water doesn’t get into my arms and soak the rest of my clothing? These might seem like the most obvious questions, but you’d be surprised how many people will just buy any coat, realizing much too late that it’s missing the essentials.
A lot of jackets nowadays are like mini-robot gear. They come with everything you could possibly imagine. Take the Exofficio Storm Logic Jacket, for example. It’s just one of many rain jackets out there that has convenience in mind, actually adding to the experience of backpacking.
Additionally, it’s important to take into consideration the weight of your coat, and how compact it is. Many people prefer a jacket that rolls up and fits inside a little pouch, so it doesn’t take up weight or space in your backpack. That’s definitely something to consider as well.
It’s only natural that the first thing you notice about a rain jacket, or any clothing for that matter, is how it looks. It’s pretty easy to find a jacket that not only works, but also looks cool. Many come in different styles and colors. Though the most important thing is that the jacket does its job, it doesn’t hurt to look good in it.
While rain jackets aren’t too expensive, there’s definitely a gap between inexpensive jackets and expensive ones. Like with most gear, the more you pay, the better the quality (in most cases). A simple coated jacket or poncho may be the cheapest, but doesn’t typically have all these other qualities that will keep you dry and comfortable.
When you choose a rain jacket, choose wisely!