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Rec for rain jacket & pants?

I'm planning trips to some northern places where it just might rain a lot (Ireland, Scotland, the Faroe islands) and am looking for recommendations for a good, reliable, 100% waterproof rain jacket and pants.

For context: Even in high summer, and when going to tropical places, I have always traveled with a "good enough" rain jacket. In this case, I define "good enough" as a waterproof (though not terribly breathable), hooded, very thin, lightweight REI rain jacket that packs down to a softball-sized lump. It's coated nylon, not Goretex, and is great for fair-weather travel, it's light and compact, it does the job in a pinch, but only up to a point. It has kept me dry enough in some pretty nasty weather for short stretches, but it has it's limits: it goes down just below the buttox, so in a driving, hard rain, pants and legs get wet after a bit. It doesn't really breathe, so it's not suitable for hiking or other long/demanding activities. I will continue to bring this along on most summertime or tropical trips, but for places I know I may encounter serious rain and where I'm going to need to be out in for hours, I'm looking for something more capable.

I live in a place notorious for its rain (Seattle) so I get it that there's a tradeoff to be made. You can get a cheap, "good enough" rain poncho or jacket that works up to a point -- I have that. But if you are going to be slogging across a wind-swept ridge hiking for an hour out in a hard rain, you need something that's more serious (and more expensive, more bulky and heavier). I'm looking for that: something that will keep me dry and reasonably comfortable hiking in real rain for a couple of hours.

Of course, since this is for travel, I'm looking for that sweet spot where the stuff isn't excessively heavy or bulky (as small/light as possible), but is still quite capable out in pretty serious weather for extended periods.

Got anything meeting those criteria that you like and would recommend? Thanks!

Posted by
5837 posts

My bombproof hooded jacket is a "hard shell" Patagonia" 2.5 layer Gore-tex that's pushing 20 years old. I used the Patagonia on several week plus ski tours across Norway and Finland, across England (2-weeks) and the West Highland (1 week). The worst rain/wind I've experienced was walking across England where the hood deisgn was critical in terms of being able to see in all day wind driven rain conditions. Don't skimp on a good rain/wind jacket.

I've used several moderte priced rain pants and found that in heavy wind/rain conditions my socks still get soaked even with ankle height gaitors. I like the full-zip feature for putting on my rain pants without having to remove boots. Bring (walk with) extra socks for a change out during lunch. Damp socks are better than soaked socks.

As noted, Patagonia stuff is at the top of my list, with more moderate priced brand being Columbia, REI, Marmot and LLBean.

And of course, bring a waterproof map case and gloves are nice.

2.5-Layer: The Lightest

This is where the term “layer” can be confusing. Like 2-layer and
3-layer constructions, this design uses a lightweight yet durable
outer fabric as its first layer. The second “layer” is actually a
polyurethane laminate or coating applied inside that first layer.
Finally, a protective sheen or print (a “half layer”) is laid down
over that second layer.

While 2.5-layer designs don’t typically match the breathability or
durability of other approaches, a jacket made this way is usually
lighter and more affordable. Some wearers think 2.5-layer jackets feel
clammy, though “dry-touch” prints are changing that perception.

Durable water repellent (DWR) Most outerwear, including all
waterproof/breathable rainwear, has an added durable water repellent
(DWR) finish. When a jacket’s outer fabric is “water repellent,”
precipitation literally beads up and rolls off. Note that this isn’t
the same as a fabric being “water-resistant,” which is an overall
assessment of its ability to prevent water penetration.

Hood design Most hoods have brims and adjustments on the sides and in
back in order to fine-tune the size of the opening. Jackets without
those adjustments are intended for more casual uses. Some jackets also
have hoods that zip off or roll and stow in the collar.

Vents Because even the most breathable rainwear can get overwhelmed
during strenuous activity, almost all backcountry rainwear has pit
zips (underarm vents). Some jackets go a step further, having mesh
liners in torso pockets that can double as additional vents.

Posted by
8627 posts

David, you live in Seattle - go to the REI store and check out everything they have. I have a five year old REI brand "elements" rain jacket with a lining that is just that much heavier than a packable one as you describe. Its worked for me as an outer layer when it was cold, and by itself in the rain. I wear it onto the plane, and use it as a backup pillow as well. I am guessing they have something similar today. I'm sure they have big name brands as well, but this one had more features for less money. Dont know about the pants.

Posted by
855 posts

It seems to me you always have to compromise, bulk vs. how dry you need to be. I almost always travel with the same stuff — shell type gortex jacket and rain pants. I also like a sturdy umbrella. I know, umbrellas don’t work well when it’s windy. But an umbrella plus rain jacket and pants keep you dryer. Thats just my personal preference. Truly water proof doesn’t breathe and is bulkier than I want when I travel. I have hiked with an umbrella (like in Nepal, or even Scotland or Ireland).

So what kind of rain will you have? I spent 3 weeks all over Ireland and hardly saw a drop. That was a number of years ago. More recently, we had one day of solid rain. We changed our plans to driving around (hiking had been the plan). Another day, we did a pretty long, but not difficult hike, up a valley. About 4 miles in, the clouds came down, we had a clap of thunder and hail! We put our usual rain gear on, turned around and soon the sun was out. So, our usual stuff was good enough. We had another day, when we had showers.

If you are doing a multi-day hike, or you are stubborn and don’t change your plans, no matter the weather, you need serious rain gear. But if you can take a change of clothes, I think your usual stuff may be ok. It was for us. (I have not been to the Faroe Islands, and I might have been lucky with weather).

Edited to add: I do have a llbean raincoat that is 100% waterproof (or close) that does not breathe but keeps me very dry. It would be good if I were out for long periods of time, but not good for hiking, it’s a little bulky too. It might be good for being out in blustery, rotten weather. And you would need pretty chilly weather.

Posted by
5837 posts

"Waterproof" hiking boots are also a given. By waterproof I look for a ankle high boot with a built in "waterproof membrane (eg Gore-Tex) and maintain with a water repellent finish (e.g. Nikwax treatment). As noted above, rain pants should cover the boot top and I use gaiters.

Posted by
16862 posts

My husband and I both swear by the Patagonia Torrentshell jacket (a 2.5 layer FWIW). They kept us dry and comfortable through three days of rainy trekking in New Zealand, and then last summer on two afternoons of torrential downpour in the French Alps. The jacket is very lightweight and folds into its hood for storage

List price is $129 but you can sometimes find last year’s colors on sale for under $99 (but I could not find anything when I was looking just now).

Posted by
1081 posts

I like the Patagonia & Marmot waterproof rain shell ‘s. Both are excellent and are worth investing in because they will last for years of heavy use.

Two pieces of equipment every traveler needs is a good rain shell & a good fleece jacket.

Posted by
3961 posts

My husband recently bought the "all weather" lightweight REI "Rainier" jacket. It rivals the popular Marmot Precip. He plans to test it out this fall in Central Europe and Amsterdam as well as Seattle rain.
This may check your needs?

Posted by
1194 posts

I was extremely pleased with the performance of my Montbell Versalite rain pants. (3.2 oz) They have jackets too (6.4 oz). Not cheap but very compact and light.
I hiked across the Andes in them. It rained every day** and we camped at night. The trek included a 15,000 foot pass.

At one point I wiiped out on the mud and went sliding down a hill. The pants kept me dry anyway.

The pants have no zippers but they are cut loosely so you can slip them over your boots. The bottom is elastic cord so you can cinch them around the ankles.

If you want to double protect you could cover with a Sea to Summit ultra sil nano poncho (5.2 oz) (the small one).

The whole thing will still weigh less and take up less space than most rain gear. (Total 14.8 oz for all three pieces).

Note: I’ve used all these products in various storms.

** actually, it rained every day for 3 weeks straight.