Rain / Wind Layer

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    David Harrison


    Locale: Alaska Interior

    curious as to everyones thoughts on this… Im a bit new to the scene… is there any difference between a wind pant/top and a rain pant/top ? they seem to be the same… am I missing something ? or can these 2 areas be combined into one ?

    paul johnson


    Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest


    Wind-gear is often only partially or semi water REPELLENT. Depending upon the fabric used and how its treated to resist water penetration, wind-gear may only provide 10-20 minutes typically of water resistance in light to moderate rain. Some HIGHLY water resistent wind gear, Epic finished/treated fabrics may survive several hours of moderate to heavy rain, but will eventually wet out/through. Raingear, on the other hand, is generally WATERPROOF (vs. merely resistant), but, typically, at the expense of breathability. So, in high activity endeavors, one can expect to get wet from the INSIDE, i.e. fr/one's own sweat – though this is true of windgear also, but perhaps to a lesser extent in some cases.

    Also, windgear is generally much lighter weight than raingear and the fabrics softer to the touch due to lack of a WPB (water-proof breathable) membrane.

    There is also WP (water-proof) materials like that used in most ponchos and capes that doesn't "breathe" at all.

    The above represents a summation of the characteristics of the wind & rain gear, generally/cateogorically speaking, that i'm familiar with.

    Jason Shaffer


    Locale: on the move....

    Welcome David,
    BPL’s Clothing and Sleep Systems Article would be an extremely worthwhile read. There is a good section on windshirts. Its kind of too bad that a lot of the best articles from BPL's early days have been buried with all the new content. Maybe a 'Classics' section is the answer?

    I think I'm like most of the people on these boards in that I carry both a windshirt (made out of a ultra-breathable fabric that is only water RESISTANT, like Pertex microlight) as well as a rain jacket (waterPROOF, but much less breathable). Examples of the former would be the Montane Litespeed or Patagonia Houdini, as well as many hoodless options. Some very experienced walkers don't find a need for windshirts, maybe particularly in lower elevation areas. Hope this helps!

    EDIT: oops, PJ beat me. Sorry for any duplicate info.

    BPL Member


    Generally can't be combined into one YET. As no current waterproof fabric breathes enough to work as a windshirt. This may seem like an insignificant point, but try hiking uphill for 15 minutes with a lightweight baselayer on and a windshirt over it, and then repeat but replace the windshirt with a rain shell.

    You may find that you quickly become uncomfortable with the rain layer and have to remove it, whereas you could go for much longer and vent any clamminess with windshirt while keeping it on. This means many times you don't have to stop and layer down and can keep a steady pace without fussing with clothing.

    I would add to the previous poster's insightful comments that a wind/rain layer is very useful in two other important ways:

    1. As an insulation layer, like when layered over a lightweight base layer or sandwiched under a high loft piece. Being separate from the other layers you get the flexibility of removing it. Wind and rain layers do add a nice amount of warmth.

    2. In buggy conditions as upper body and head bug abatement. This is more true for a windshirt as bugs usually come with warmer temps where a rain layer would be too clammy. See this pic here of Gossamer Gear's Mike M in Big Bear, CA.

    Like many members here, I await the utopian shell layer combines the best of both a windshirt and rain jacket. Really if there were such an item I don't think anyone would ever carry two shell items again IMHO.

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