It would be the simplest thing to state: A rain jacket is something to wear when it rains. Well yes, but what about when you need a rain jacket for different circumstances like hiking, trekking, running and even more?
You need to have all the data to know what to choose. Well, we did it again. Here are all the things to know to choose the best.
For the extremes
These jackets were made for true performance in hard conditions. Fabric is usually tougher and harder, waterproof level is far better but also breathe better. Even hoods are better. Price can be higher here but such technical efficiency comes with years of research.
Perhaps it is too much for daily use, unless you constantly live in conditions where such are necessary.
Light as a feather
These jackets are not for everyone. They very light which plays a great role when carrying lots of gear. Fabric is usually (notably) thinner, which means it may rip easily when walking through plantation. Since it is thin it may become like an additional skin when it rains.
Add to that lack of pockets and a variety of adjustments. But, as said it is light and a food choice to have it in case of emergency.
Something for every day
Usually come with many pockets/features to wear either in hiking or at work. They perform really well under rain and strong wind. However due the nature of the materials they do not breath very well, so expect to get lots of sweat.
The Trail Running ones
These are possibly a very good solution that can overcome the above categories, since they are used by runners who run through different terrains and weathers. They are very light and almost all seem to be completely wateproof, with different membranes plus breath ability performance.
Such jackets need to be no obstacle to the runner. They must not cause unnecessary frictions on the move. So they may be light but they are also quite delicate and a bit pricey. However they do worth their money when it comes just to trail running.
Levels of wateproof and resistance in water
These are the 2 main categories you will see when it comes to rain jackets. The labels either say wateproof or water resistant. Both categories are usually windproof. The difference is of course at materials, additional layers and how these are stitched together.
In some jackets you may even notice a number that represents a rating. This varies from 0 to 20,000mm. However this test and number doesn’t come from real world testing since it relates with tube wateproof tolerance. Strange. That is why you won’t see it in many rain jackets.
We advise to take a look at the how each jacket openings, zippers and seams, seem to seal too.
We cannot stress enough the importance of breathability. During long, or even short hikes where the weather is rainy but not so cold, you will sweat a loss with a less breathable jacket.
More sweat means more need for water and increase in discomfort and tiredness.
Wateproofness and Fabrics Layers
You may have seen the labels marking: 2L, 2.5L or 3L. L is for Layers. In short:
2L’s are for casual use and they just have 1 additional inside mesh which is not very comfortable when hiking for long. Better for every day usage.
2,5L’s. They come with a very thin interior fabric. They are breathable and they are compressed a lot so are easy to carry around. The interior mesh though has a plastic/slippery sense.
3L’s. This come closer to a regular jacket since there are 3 different materials one upon another. They are durable, more expensive and of course very good.
When it comes to total weight per case, keep this general rule. Cheap ones are heavier than expensive ones.
As it concerns compression levels, the one with high tech light materials usually compress very much than the ones without. However, having a 3L means some decrease in compression due to obvious -3L- reasons.
Rain jackets vary in pocket numbers and such and almost all have hoods. Some have big hoods, allowing to wear a beenie or such in a cold day with rain. Hoods are better to be adjustable, either at their lower front with extra cinches and velcros or/and at the top back with the same way.
We find that those with chest pockets are really handy. Choose ones where hand pockets are not low. If they are and you wear a backpack, pockets will be inaccessible by backpack belts.
One crucial element -as in climbing jackets- is ventilation. There are rain jackets that have arm pit and side zips you can open up and expel body moisture, without getting cold.
Cinch system at the hem: You do want that especially in windy days as air tends to sneak through.
Finally, do prefer hard shell jackets as they are far more wateproof than soft shell ones.
To sum this up, there is one question people ask regarding the difference between laminates and coatings they see on jacket labels. Think of coating as a spray over a material. It is like “paint”. Laminate is another material pasted on another material.
Your jacket will stand for long if you take care of it. With time jackets tend to lose their water repellent resistance. When this happens you may want to apply a water repellent coating on it. Seek for a good quality spray to apply on it. The signs that is losing its resistance is when you don’t see beads of rain on it but it soaks.
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