This isn’t your typical gear review. It’s more my commentary on rain gear and the failings of waterproof breathable rain gear.
I’ve bought and worn dozens of rain jackets over the years. Literally, dozens of them. Right now on the rack beside me as I type this I can count 11 rain jackets. Eleven.
It’s a bit ridiculous. I have everything from my old Aussie Dryzabone to my most recent Outdoor Research Goretex jacket I bought last year. Whatever your jacket, chances are good I’ve owned at least one of those.
And none of them, I mean none of them, work like I want them to. In fact, it’s fair to say none of them work like they did when I first bought them.
It’s been my experience that the magic of waterproof breathable technology is in the DWR (durable water repellent) coating. I don’t know what kind of black magic voodoo those manufacturers employ, but that stuff is astonishingly good.
Until it isn’t.
Once it begins to fail, it’s done. I’ve tried everything. Washing the jacket, drying the jacket, spray-on DWR replenishments and washing DWR treatments. And all of them work just well enough to keep me going, keep me believing enough to do it again later.
But the treatment never lasts long. At first the water beads up on the jacket like new and I’m a happy fella. But soon (before the end of the first trip) I find the jacket not working well again.
And what “works” really depends on my needs. If I’m doing one multi-day backpacking trip a year, it’s simply not worth buying a new jacket. But most seasons I’ll spend 60 days or so in the mountains (not counting winter wear, which means snow gear, not rain), and being cold and wet and cold for 60 days doesn’t excite me. At all.
So I buy a new parka.
The best performance I’ve had from ANY (breathable) rain gear was my original REI Shuksan eVent jacket. I got nearly 2 seasons with it. My current OR jacket is a poor performer and likely won’t see the mountains with me again.
I’m not telling you folks to go without a rain jacket. Just don’t expect magic. And if it’s old and worn, clean it, and treat it with a good DWR treatment like Nikwax. I’ll often spray the most heavily worn and abraded areas of the jacket, such as the shoulder where the backpack straps rub, and then iron that area on low heat for a few minutes. just be sure your particular jacket is OK to be ironed, some are not. But a light touch with low heat should be fine, most times. Then treat the entire jacket as normal (either a washing treatment or spray on and hang dry).
Then hope for the best.