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.

rain gear
I use this stuff.

In conditions like this

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… :slight_smile:

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 --- 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… 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:

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.