I love the outdoors, and I am a huge fan of hiking. We do realize though, these activities can be quite intense when it comes to planning for them, especially the clothes you should wear.
If you are into the outdoors and carrying out adventurous activities outside your home, you will need something to protect you during the changes in weather when you are out and about or during gloomy, wet days.
However, making a choice is not that easy, especially considering the sheer amount of things that are available – but a rain coat is a perfect place to begin if you cannot decide on anything else.
When you get to a store and see all the endless varieties of polyester and nylon, it is easy to get confused.
For you to make an informed choice, it is important to familiarize yourself with product tags and the basic meanings you will get from them, which is what we are going to do. This first entails knowing the varieties of weather protection you are likely to see.
Important tags to know
Water resistant vs. waterproof
These two terms might sound similar, but they actually mean different things. For something to be considered waterproof, it must have enough resistance to water to stay dry even in driving rain (or moving water).
The standards of testing differ between manufacturers, but any brand that says their product is waterproof can back up their claims easily.
Both of these are breathable though, so you do not need to worry too much about sweat. Waterproof fabrics will prevent the rain from getting to your skin, and also move sweat from your skin to the outside.
They are usually good if you are heading out on aerobic activities or hikes since you do not want to get drenched in sweat as you do them.
On the other hand, water resistant items can handle light rain for short periods, but they will not hold up beyond a certain point.
Wind resistant vs. windproof
These carry similar meanings to the ‘water-resistant’ and ‘waterproof’ tags. Wind-resistant jackets or items will be classified as windproof when they pass a threshold of more than 60 mph – a good example being REI-branded jackets.
Note that all waterproof jackets will also be windproof. Some water resistant jackets will also fall in this category, although you will have to check the tags to clarify. Wind resistant jackets are lighter, and therefore easier to stuff in a pocket.
They are best if you are going for a short trip that does not have storm forecasts going on (they won’t offer much protection when winds go beyond 60 mph).
It is important to consider the purposes of the rain coat when you are selecting one. For instance, if you are looking for the most basic raincoat that can sort you out when you are dropping off your kids to school, you will not use that same coat when going out for a hiking session.
There are three varieties of layering – 2-layer, 3-layer, and 2.5-layer. All these will incorporate a membrane or coating and a laminate, although the 3-layer type has additional fabric that creates it into a ‘sandwich’.
This is the most basic form of a raincoat, and you will easily find it in travel and urban rainwear as well. They lack armpit ventilation, so you cannot use them for high-energy activities, although they are the most affordable type.
2.5 layer type
This is an upgrade of the 2-layer type, as it has armpit zips to help in ventilation, making it a good choice for high-energy activities. This is a good choice if you enjoy outdoor activities, but are working with a budget.
3 layer jacket
This is an upgrade beyond the usually expected rainwear that you are thinking of. It combines the benefits of an insulated shell or fleece jacket with a rain jacket, and this gives you the choice to wear either on its own. It also happens to be the most expensive, as their build is more durable and heavier to make them withstand the roughest environmental conditions.
Some other features to look at
You know what is worse than going to your outdoor activities unprepared? Having a raincoat, but you are constantly trying to re-adjust it in some form, all while trying to focus on the adventure you are participating in.
To avoid this, make sure to buy something that has a helmet-compatible hood, which you can toggle to keep it in place. This is particularly if you are searching for a raincoat for the purposes of skiing, cycling or climbing. This will also help you to focus on the activity, instead of trying to re-adjust the hood.
The placement of the pockets
If the raincoat has pockets, it is a good idea to check their placement and number – especially if you are going hiking with it. Note that the coat can cost more if it has more zipper pockets, so make sure to shop as carefully as you can. For instance, if you are looking for something simple, you won’t need more than three front pockets.
Seams and zippers
Very many technical raincoats, if not all, will have laminated zippers and taped seaming, which makes the jacket waterproof and helps you stay dry. Almost all raincoats, in general, will have taped seams, but not all will have laminated zippers – instead, they will use storm flaps if they lack the feature.
Note that a laminated zipper will make the jacket more difficult to zip down and up, so thrashing it will worsen things and even break the zip itself. Be patient with them as much as you can. They will also have a covering (zipper garage) at their tops when you do the zip up, and this protects the zipper from environmental exposure.
Buying a raincoat requires you to consider many factors, but these are just some of the most essential ones. These tips will also assist you to make a great decision, but always think safety levels and durability – you do not want to be stuck with insufficient gear.