So what’s the deal with WP/B + DWR rain gear… is it all OK now?

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Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) So what’s the deal with WP/B + DWR rain gear… is it all OK now?

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    Michel S
    BPL Member


    Hi HkNewman,

    Thanks for the info. Over the course of this discussion, I’ve had the growing feeling that hiking in the USA is in many respects hard to compare to what happens here in Europe. It’s easy to think “rain is rain”and “a trail is a trail”, but I feel there are many big and small differences that change what gear works and how people use it. Maybe I would be better off asking my questions at the Walkhighlands forum from Scotland.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    hiking in the USA

    When I was hiking mostly in the 4 corners (AZ, NM, UT, and Colorado) region, our club would always avoid the summer rainy season (“monsoon”) not only because of the rain but mostly the accompanying lightning.  Raingear was a “must” in our gear lists but typically stayed in the pack.  Same thing moving further west, the rain from the monsoons tend to dry by the  range in SoCal (mostly) but summers are very dry.  Storms can be massive but also very rare.  Again the raingear stays in the pack.

    Now looking at the OutDry Nanolite’s reviews, the performance was great but the downside was price ($399 USD a few years back).  For a rainshell that most will keep in the pack, that’s too high considering how many other outdoor gizmos one can buy with say a Helium rain shell for $99.  The OutDry performs better in use but it’s likely just staying rolled up.  The vast majority of hikers are going to gear up for American summertime conditions so there’s that (even foreigners as the hiking guide for Lonely Planet directs visitors towards the best hikes in relatively benign seasons).

    A few of my hikes have been pretty rainy like one May backpacking on the Olympic National Park beach section (west of Seattle) when it would rain about half the time, so I can see OutDry being superior but that’s not the norm.  In summer primetime (backpacking wise), the inner PNW is usually pretty dry aka “fire and smoke season”.  I really need an ultra shell in my pack for when the ranger tells everyone it’s time to run away from the wildfire.  Only half joking btw..

    I feel my U.K. running shells (Rab Phantom pullover and full zip Montane 777 .. both Pertex) give enough protection while being UL enough to be carried effortlessly for 99.99% of the time.

    Thinking about Scotland or heck, even dayhiking the 4 corners in monsoon season, probably wish I had picked up a Columbia Outdry. Probably have to dig my old eVent shells out ..

    Mole J
    BPL Member


    Locale: UK

    As someone who’s Ike’s in the UK and often in Scotland, I always use a heavier WPB jacket as doe pretty much everyone I backpacked with. I mostly used eVent jackets in the 500g range. Montane and Rab.  Friends use Goretex pro or Goretex Paclite.  I’m currently using a Rab Firewall this year ( Pertex Shield+ 3 layer).

    I see some folk with lighter WPB jackets for intermittent rain , but they don’t stand up to persistent rain except when relatively new.

    A few friends have had the Columbia outdry jackets , but they don’t seem that durable – only last a few years before tape peeling etc. Plus the hoods are rubbish!

    In winter Paramo is a popular choice for a minority.

    In cool wet weather most folk use a fleece (micro/grid/Alpha etc) midlayer of some flavour, to stay warm and mitigate dampness.  Most expect to get somewhat moist in heavy rain, and choose the rest of their clothing to help manage this. It’s about being warm even if damp, and clothes drying/wicking easily once the rain stops.

    Never met a UK hiker using a non breathable Silnylon/poly jacket.   In cooler weather, many people tend to wear their WPB jackets as windshells even if not raining,  though I and some others prefer a separate lighter, more breathable windshirt.

    Michel S there is also Trek-lite forum if you are interested in UKcentric discussions – more into UL backpacking than Walkhighlands . There are European and North American members too.


    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Michel S,

    Sad to hear about the Patagonia product that failed (according to one of their many reviews.)  I do trust your judgment, and if I needed a jacket, would look at the Outdry product that works for you.  But since the M-10 is going strong after many years, there is no need (I’m on a budget).  However, the one review on Patagonia may need some bolstering.

    Something that comes up on BPL often is the issue of quality control, or ‘QC.’  Especially, with performance of fabrics.  This was really brought home to me on one of Stephen Seeber’s threads where a fabric purchased from RBTR badly failed HH tests, but the ‘same’ product from another poster did well on Stephen’s tests.  I was put out because wanted to get busy with a tent project, and could not trust the product.  But wonder if most companies test every roll.  Doubtful.  Stephen even offered to provide such tests, but no takers.

    Also doubt that experienced hikers are unable to tell if a soaking comes from perspiration from the inside, or leakage from without.  Experienced hikers like Daryl, know when it’s perspiration.  And I can easily tell when a jacket is leaking.  Which leads me to believe that lack of QC is the culprit in many cases.  Note that failure to coat fabric evenly can create wet spots, especially around pack straps rubbing in a downpour.

    So suspect that the QC is a must, and the only answer is for companies to do a better job.  In the meantime what are we to do?  At this point, when buying a rain jacket, I would develop some on-sight ways to measure water resistance before buying.  And as I’ve related here, have done so with fabrics just by making a pouch, filling it with a bit of water, and pressing on the closed pouch to see if water penetrates.  But this has been done with fabrics I’ve bought and paid for.  A similar approach in a pack shop might result in the ‘heave-ho,’ or worse.  At any rate, I’d start with jacket that is highly rated by independent sources, and hope for a good one.  And if not, buy from a source that accepts returns.  In my back yard, there are plenty of raging rainstorms to test with before heading up one of the nearby mountains.

    I’d also look at the jackets mentioned by Mole J, which are sold at some pack shops in the USA.  Although 15 grams (17-18) ounces is more than double my M-10 that is still going strong (without washing).

    Please do not become defensive just because someone thinks we are “silly”, or “unprofessional”.  We are hikers, and not all highly educated professionals well paid by the market.  And they need to work on their QC.  Besides, BPL can get pretty boring if it is limited to tech talk.

    I’d also mention some of the 15 ounce jackets from Patagonia; but this is backpacking LIGHT, and we are looking to reduce weight as much as possible (without gear failure).  But if it has to be 500 grams, so be it.  Hypothermia can be deadly when caught by a storm at high altitude in the outback.

    Michel S
    BPL Member


    @ HkNewman: Thanks so much, it’s really good to get such an overview of typical American hiking and it indeed sounds different in many respects. Your comment reminds me of some of the videos of American storms (the stormchaser stuff). We get nothing like that in Europe. Not that you would hike in that, but weather patterns seem different on a fundamental level in the USA. If you are really interested in Outdry, you could look on Ebay. I got my Nanolites there for less than $100 each.

    @ Mole J: Thanks for the Trek-lite suggestion, and an overview of what you typically see in Scotland. Very valuable! Many of the strategies you mention, I use myself as well. I think you make a good point that heavier WP/B might work longer. Maybe even long enough for multiday hikes in prolonged rain. I always try to keep my rain jacket below 250g (~8oz), and WP/Bs in that range are probably indeed at most for moderate intermittent rain. But I must admit I overlooked the heavier WP/Bs.

    Columbia hoods are indeed inconceivably bad, but hear this: When I bought my Nanolites, I sent Columbia a long mail that once again they did a terrible job on the hood. But during my last hike, when I had to put on the hood in the real world, it turned out to be the best hood I’ve ever worn. No idea what happened, but I’ve already apologized to Columbia ;)

    The durability is definitely a thing. My Nanolites last me probably 30 days of hiking in them, so maybe 1-1,5 season. But they are intended to be trail-run jackets, not to be used with a backpack. I actually feel very bad about it, from an ecological standpoint. If a lighter zoned Outdry jacket, intended for hiking, does not materialize, I might just accept the weight penalty of a heavier Outdry jacket. I had one of those before (when Outdry just came out), and it had problems with delamination. It was gracefully replaced by Columbia though, and maybe quality is better now. Maybe that’s also the thing with WP/B: You can make the outer material really strong, so the jacket will last much longer.

    @ Sam: Good point about the QC. I understand your frustration about which source to trust, especially on the internet. Heck, I wouldn’t even trust me if I were you. As far as you know, I’m just a random person on the internet. I’ve stated that I’ve hiked in prolonged rain for multiple days and stayed dry. But what kind of rain (hard rain or drizzle)? What outside temperature? What do I mean with “prolonged” (3 1-hour showers in a day or hard rain all day)? Wat is “dry” for me? Etc.

    I might define things differently than you. I guess that’s why part of this thread has for instance been about establishing what people mean when they say they get wet on the inside in a jacket. Which was a valuable thing to learn for me.

    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    If anything showed the weather is getting warmer and wetter, it was on display this year.  I had to cancel a driving trip from NH to CO and back in August, not just because of rainstorms, but due to heavy flooding along the route.  This was the first year in memory when the weather was so extreme in August.

    So if anything, I think even the best WPB jackets mentioned above are going to have to become heavier to cope with the torrents.  I’ll miss my 8 oz Patagonia M-10.  Even day hikes in the mountains may become a challenge.

    Note: Some of the RAB jackets suggested by Mole J may be made from Pertex Shield, made by a UK company now owned by a Japan company.  It might be helpful to see how they stack up against other WPB jackets.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    What has worked pretty well for me is to use an emergency poncho with sleeves that I found on Amazon. The plastic is thicker and more durable than the typical emergency poncho. Good for trips where rain is infrequent. I used one on the AZT. I actually got rained on quite a bit. I would stand under some trees and wait it out most of the time. I wore it in one heavy storm for about 3 miles with my pack worn over it and it suffered no wear. I can use it again.

    On the CDT I used a vinyl poncho of the kind that you can find for sale for tourists. It weighed only 4 ounces and is somewhat small, but I am short so it covered me and my pack and kept my butt dry. It worked perfectly (once I super-glued the side snaps closed) and lasted through several storms until finally I poked too many holes in it one day when I was struggling to set up my tarp between some trees. I replaced it with a Frogg Toggs that was way too short. Didn’t keep me dry very well at all and tore in half on a cow fence I had to go through on the first time I wore it. I’ll never get one of those again.

    Recently I bought an Exped Pack Poncho UL. It has open sleeves like a poncho but they are long like regular sleeves and the sides of the poncho are closed like a long jacket. I look forward to trying this out as a good hybrid between a poncho and a jacket with rain skirt. Being loose-fitting it should allow enough air flow. I would use this on a trip where I’m going to get rained on a lot.

    David D
    BPL Member


    Diane,  I tried something similar to the Exped, the aliexpress cheapo from Bluefield.  It was too hot and stuffy for me, but the exped looks more breathable and its definitely much lighter.

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