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Best Rain Gear for extended trips

After a difficult and very wet trip last week I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to buy some new rain gear. My current gear has gotten old and it does not perform adequately anymore when I have to paddle for hours in steady wind and rain. I tend to paddle in the north (Maine and Canada) and the weather is often cold and wet. I need rain gear that will do its job and keep me dry reliably. My old jacket is one of the versions of gore tex - maybe xl or something like that? I can't recall. My pants are just coated nylon. Both have gotten old after years of use.

I am interested in your advice on this before I make the purchase. I'm interested in hearing from folks that have actual tripping experience with rain gear in poor conditions and in cool/cold temperatures like we find in the north.


  • I use a long raincoat from MEC
    and the cheapest coated pants from Campmor.

    You did not mention if you ever washed nor refreshed the DWR on the raincoat. Semipermeable membranes that are dirty just cease working.

    When mine starts to fail.. first I iron it to try to bring the DWR back to life.. Admittedly my raincoats do not last forever. Because I buy a two layer Goretex rather than a three layer there is abrasion of the membrane and it does not last forever. Three layer is more expensive.

    I have not tried Frogg Toggs as the people I have worked with on canoe portage maintenance trips in Ontario who had them had them fall apart.

    The rest of the time I wear a drysuit.. :)
  • A few observations
    -- Last Updated: Jun-01-13 4:11 PM EST --

    For the only long trip I took in a rainy area, I did not use my Gore-tex drysuit because I had heard that in prolonged use in salt water, the membrane pores would clog unless rinsed with fresh water fairly often. I do know that unwashed salt-soaked items never fully dry, whether or not Gore-tex. They become crusty. Found this out during the first few days of the trip, after I had left my sprayskirt unrinsed for too long. However, if you're in daily soaking rain, you could just hang gear out in the rain to rinse it. Our rain ended for a long, unusual heat spell after the first part of the trip.

    For rain gear, I brought a poncho for land use. For on the water, I wore fuzzy rubber. Both were adequate, but I should mention that I washed out the fuzzy rubber in streams whenever done for the day (if possible). Yes, that meant donning cold, wet gear the next morning sometimes. But better than cold, salty wet clothes.

    The coated-nylon rain jackets that two of our party wore during the wet time became unbelievably stinky after being stowed wet in their hatches. Being near them brought to mind the smell of puke, like the smell of wet tents that are stuffed for a while without air-drying first. My coated-nylon poncho did not suffer from this because I hung it up whenever possible, plus its sleeveless shape allows faster drying. Maybe the newer silicone-coated lightweight ponchos are less prone to the infamous "tent stink." I don't know.

    The 3-layer Gore-tex that used to be called XCR has a new name. I'd stay away from the lighter Gore-tex varieties for this kind of trip.

  • OP did not mention salt water
    So far I have only done short duration trips( less than a week) on the Maine Islands with a GoreTex drysuit. Yes it does get rinsed on arrival home in fresh water.

    I believe the OP is referring to , in the absence of a disclaimer, to paddling Maine and the Maritimes in a freshwater environment.
  • To clarify a bit -
    -- Last Updated: Jun-01-13 11:36 PM EST --

    I am looking to purchase good reliable rain gear for trips in Maine - (Allagash, St. John, Machias and lessor known fresh waters in that area), as well as arctic Canada (arctic Quebec, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon) and perhaps Alaska. In Maine generally in May and October and in Canadian arctic in summer - usually July.

    I have renewed the finish on my Gore Tex jacket several times but it just is not cutting it anymore. I notice some of the seam tape has separated from the fabric. Its old and its time to get something new. I have used MEC coated nylon pants as well but I have never been 100% satisfied with them - and now they are falling apart. I do not need or want to use a dry suit for these trips. Although, it would be nice to find some loose fitting rain pants made from the same high end goretex that Kokatat uses in their best dry suits. That would be nice to have.

    I'm not interested in a poncho - too windy for that. A long rain coat is certainly and idea worth considering. One concern though is that whatever I end up with needs to be functional in windy conditions that are prevalent especially in the arctic, (few trees).

    EDIT - I wonder if medium weight breathable foul weather gear might be the thing to do - see this:

  • Storm cag?
    It's like a cross between a sprayskirt and a poncho but with real sleeves added. Long in the body, it can serve as emergency storm shelter also while sitting with knees folded up to chest.

    They've been made in both Gore-tex and non-Gore-tex versions. Mine is not Gore-tex--it's more windproof than Gore-tex but not as breathable.
  • I use two different methods:
    1. If it is a cold and rainy, I use a two piece dry suit.

    2. If it is mild and rainy the dry suit is too hot so I use a North face splash, (rain) with light weight bike rain pants.

    On our various Alaska trips, the two piece dry suits made for very comfortable days of continuous paddling in cold rain

    Jack L
  • Two piece dry suit -
    -- Last Updated: Jun-02-13 7:33 AM EST --

    So if you are wearing a dry suit of one kind or another when you are paddling in rain - do you don the dry suit every day if there is any threat of rain or do you stop and don the suit mid paddle? Also, what do you wear in camp when it is raining and you are ducking in and out from under the tarp etc.? Also, are there "dry" suits out there that are high quality and reliable for service paddling in cold rain all day (if not for immersion which is not my concern) and that have a neck seal that is adjustable - maybe neoprene? Something that would be truly comfortable for use when immersion is not the concern?

    Maybe something like this --- http://www.kayakacademy.com/Store/KOKGPS.html. Not cheap. Will it stand up to hard arctic trips?

    I don't know - I'm not sure that I would like the fact that I can't change layers during the day without a huge process getting a dry suit off and back on.

  • storm cag
    -- Last Updated: Jun-02-13 7:05 AM EST --

    great for the sea kayak - but I am talking about canoe trips at the moment. I have and use a Tuilik which is similar when I am paddling a sea kayak in bad weather and when a dry suit is not necessary because immersion is not a major concern.

  • a website = has been pretty good..
    http://www.outdoorgearlab.com has more than a few reviews...fwiw. Am about in the same boat....

  • The two piece dry suits we have....
    are easy on and off.
    I can change out of the top while in my kayak or canoe. I need to get to solid ground to change out of the pants.
    Many days in the arctic on our Noatak river trip I would change in or out of mine.
    The biggest thing I have against the dry top is the constant swish, swish, swish noise of the arms while paddling.
    With that said, I don't like them, but then again; dry is dry!
  • rain gear
    Helly Hansen. Goretex is over-rated. See Alaska Outdoors Forum for a good discussion.
  • Another vote for the Froggs
    They work, their cheap and if their torn, their cheap.
  • Rain Gear
    Sounds like you are going to remote places in spring and fall. I would not mess around with any cheap stuff. I use a 2 piece rain suit designed for hikers from North Face. It is not Gortex, just coated nylon with lots of ventilation. This has served me well over the years. Good movement and ventilation are key - especially for a canoeist (and especially if you will portage).
  • And if the Froggs rip....
    ...good duct tape (not the cheap duck stuff) makes a quick repair that lasts a while.
  • Lifetime warranty
    If you have failing seam tape gore products are warrantied for life. I use gore 3 layer products. (Pants jacket dry suit and dry top) I trust them and they work as well or better than the competition. Gore is more expensive but they back up their products for life. Last year I noticed the seam tape on my rain coat was failing so I tried to contact the company (moonstone) which was purchased by Columbia (not a gore user) and was refered to gore. They had me pick out any gore jacket I wanted from any company and shipped to my house. I will only buy gore because of this. Worth every penny.
  • I don't expect to stay dry while paddlin
    g (not enough room in the title bar)

    I sweat while paddling, setting up camp, and wood gathering. So I know I will not stay dry no matter.

    For that reason I've been bringing two sets of rain gear.

    The first is an inexpensive breathable splash jacket I got from NRS with an inexpensive pair of breathable rain pants I got from Campmor. Those go over my paddling clothes as needed. So long as I'm working I stay fairly comfortable. Sometimes my paddling clothes get dryer even. Quite often those are damp inside when I take them off.

    The second is a urethane coated rain suit, Jacket and bib overalls. Those go over my dry clothes when the hard stuff is done. Those keep me fairly warm and plenty dry so long as I remember to change if I'm back to cranking.

    That has worked well for me in the Adirondaks, VT, NH and Maine.

    I've had too much trouble with DWR finishes to want to pay for expensive breathables. I hope the ones I have last a few years.
  • What I've concluded
    I had to replace a jacket recently. It was an LL Bean Trail Model coated nylon jacket, said to be 100% waterproof, that was just terrible in the rain. It soaked through in about 10 minutes.

    I compared a lot of different brands or coated nylon jackets. In the stores the coatings looked just about identical in the $40 to $80 range. From talking to product specialists at EMS, REI, Bean's, and Cabela's, I concluded that NONE of those coated jackets are going to protect you when you need it most: in cold, wet weather. Below 50 degrees I feel like this is a real safety issue (hypothermia) and it concerns me for kayaking and hiking.

    So I concluded that you have to go with Gore-Tex for early spring and late fall. Cabela's has a material called Dry Plus that they claim is 100% waterproof. They say it's "their version of Gore-Tex." It's less expensive than Gore-Tex. This video is pretty convincing: http://www.cabelas.com/catalog/video_popup.jsp?productId=1321301&embedCode=Vva3F3MjoWYFKl2sgWOhB7RUzJxp8DFZ

    See for example this jacket on sale for $60:


  • Helvey Hanson
    I bought some helvey hanson rain gear years ago in anticipation of a hunting trip to Alaska. It's still hanging unused in my closet. It's what the big boys wear in the rain.
  • my experience
    After many systems,I have settled on a long LL Bean gortex rain parka top with a wide brimmed hat. If it's not too cold,I just write off my lower legs and feet and wear shorts and keen sandles. When it's colder,I wear coated rain chaps on my legs with fleece underneath and neoprene high boots. The air gaps at the neck and waist vent moisture quite well. Been was the only place i could find a goretex rain parka at the time,but i see REI or Campmore have one now. The Beam parka was pricy,but doesn't leak at all.
  • Raingear for Paddling on Extended Trips
    Over my fifty years of canoeing, rafting, backpacking, and mountaineering I have used a large quantity of raingear from coated nylon ponchos to expensive Gore tex dry suits. My experience is you get what you are willing to pay for.
    Unless you are a very slow paddler any coated nylon parka and pants will leave you soaking wet with in a few hours on the water. Ponchos tend to get blown away from your body in the canoe as it is almost always pretty windy on most lakes and rivers during wet weather.
    Wearing an expensive Kokatat or NRS Drysuit in waters which are not particularly cold is over kill and very expensive Suits averaging between $550 and $1,100. There are several brands of Gore tex or other breathable fabric rain parkas, and paddle jackets that will keep you relatively dry and comfortable in most rainy weather. Some manufacturers to consider are, REI, North Face, Marmot, NRS, LL Bean, Cabelas, Sierra Designs, Pantagonia, and Mountain Hardware.
    For my upper body in rainy weather I wear either a MTI Adventurwear Kayak Jacket with gusseted cuffs and neck closure or my prized Expedition Solstice Mountain Parka made of three ply Gore tex and Cordura nylon with lapped stitching on all seams. Solstice was a small California company specializing in high end mountaineering clothing. It was bought out by one of the large companies.
    For my lower body I either wear my Immersion Research Paddling Pants with neoprene waist and ankle closures or if I have my spray skirt on the canoe I wear shorts or quick dry pants since my lower body is protected by the waist closure.
    Anywhere in northern waters where water temperatures are immediately life threatening a dry suit is required.
    As for using Froggtoggs for extended trips in wet weather, leave them at home. My wife and I use them on cruise ships to Alaska for walking around towns and escorted excursions, but "never" for serious backcountry paddling or backpacking. Duck take is no substitute for good performance in serious conditions
    If my Froggtoggs fail on a cruise it doesnt do much to spoil my day. If they fail sixty to two hundred miles from civilization it taint no fun at all.
    Happy paddling!
  • Options
    rain gear
    You are asking about rain gear, not, it seems, dry tops or dry suits. I live and paddle in the Tongass Rainforest. If you want to stay dry in cool, wet weather while in camp buy Helly Hansen Impertech. It doesn't breath and it will withstand days and days of constant rain. We use Kokatat dry suits and paddle tops while in the boats, but Helly Hansen rules the land.
  • Options
    Lid for the mellon
    IMO, the best raingear is a wide brimmed hat. The rest of you is going to get wet, so just accept it and move on.

    No matter how breathable the material claim is, if you walk and are active, your body steam trapped inside your raingear is going to get you just as wet as the rain... only it smells worse.
  • Helly Hansen
    -- Last Updated: Aug-29-14 4:32 PM EST --

    I can spot people that know about rain from a long ways away. I used to work on the old Quartz Hill mining project in what is now Misty Fjords, around the Keta and Blossom Rivers and Boca de Quadra. that country averages 150 inches of rain a year, including 30 inches in the month of Oct alone.

  • Looking at this thread for first time
    -- Last Updated: Oct-18-14 9:59 PM EST --

    I see this discussion has been going on for a while, so I'll chime in late. I believe that all rain gear wears out, and that much of it is great until it does. I see several recommendations for Helly Hanson. I had a rain suit from Helly Hanson several years ago, and it was fine for about three or four years, then suddenly, with no warning, it leaked everywhere, right through the fabric (not just seams) and was no good at all. In its defense, the suit was made from very lightweight material marketed for backpacking, and it probably would have been wishful thinking for it to last longer than it did. For the last 10 or 12 years I've been using a rain suit from Columbia, marketed for hunters. I have no idea what it's made of, but it's a rubberized material bonded to a light fabric. Last year I think it started to leak a little, but I was in heavy rain for such a long time (longest duration of heavy rain I've ever been out in) that it's possible that water gradually found its way in through the various openings. If it's actually leaking, I think I'll replace it with the same thing.

    I like Gore-Tex and similar fabrics, but none have ever stayed waterproof for very long, and a short lifespan for waterproofness on such fabric is expensive. On the whole, I like breathable fabrics much more for cold, windy conditions with some rain than I do for steady rain. For warmer weather, I prefer a vented, non-breathable fabric to breathable, just because breathable fabrics are heavy, bulky, and better-insulating (too warm) in comparison. When it comes to use in heavy rain, all of a sudden one day they just don't work anymore and you are screwed. And they take a really long time to dry out once they are soaked. If I needed something that must work and must be durable, and must stay waterproof for more than a year, I'd not get something breathable, even though I still think such fabrics have their place.

  • breatheability, waterproofness and
    -- Last Updated: Dec-21-14 12:15 AM EST --

    windproofness of the latest versions of GoreTex and other coatings work great for me(fwiw). Great wicking layers(of different densities...loose fitting UnderArmor & other brands) and a breatheable and somewhat slightly warmer mid-layer are the other two equally important factors...but depending on the majority of temps, I go with just the shell for the outer layer...but if the majority of air temps are pretty low..I'll use a breatheable but slightly heavier outer layer shell/jacket and vary the internal two layers, often with the colder early morning air temps(if needed)...then shed as needed.

  • might repeat others, but the breatheable
    middle layer, like in skiing, is the best...the wicking then the middle layer, followed by the breatheable shell is very comfy. Once you have the wicking and outer shell layers you can dabble with the middle layer, but those warm-moist and cold-moist 4days of showers are best conquered with the breatheables...although pricy I've found that they dry out enough to repeat wearing pretty quickly after one strips to towel/dry off.
  • I dunno
    Helly Hansen is king where it is real wet. The rubber over fabric kind. It is what all the commercial fishermen use. See Deadliest Catch...

    For paddling, I really like the NRS Endurance splash top. Need to get a pair of matching pants. And a wide brimmed Frog Toggs hat.

    My $300 goretex camo rain suit failed miserably. I'm more of mind to buy Frogg Toggs every year than buy another set gore tex that may only last a few years.
  • that sounds good as well....
    I've always stayed with two-piece Gore-Tex things...need that freedom of twisting and lightweight stuff.....but I'm not a distance/long-trip guy anymore.
  • I'm going to give
    Helly Hansen a try.
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