Stay Dry with Rainforest-Tested Rain Gear, Perfect for any Wet-Weather Hike
I recently had the opportunity to join a week-long trek through the mountains of northern Colombia, about which I plan to report more fully in the days to come. One initial takeaway I can share, though, is that when hiking in a rainforest, you tend to get rained on. Quite often. And quite heavily. The name of this type of ecosystem, as it turns out, was not assigned at random.
Over the years, mind you, I’ve been rained on while slogging through the wilderness many times, from soakings endured in Spain, to a downpour or two in the Sierra Nevada, to the regular rains of the Pacific Northwest, to a plethora of East Coast drizzle. It’s a simple fact of life that if you spend enough time outside, you will spend some of that time being rained on. But, the level of precipitation — both in terms of frequency and intensity — that I encountered in the Colombian jungle was of a magnitude entirely new to me. Fortunately, I had a lot of good rain hiking gear in my kit.
FYI and in full disclosure, the Colombian trek was sponsored by Columbia Sportswear as part of their ongoing Directors of Toughness gear testing program. For yours truly, that meant not only the opportunity to join the expedition, but it also meant the chance to try out some of Columbia’s finest gear, much of it from their OutDry line that (as you can likely extrapolate) is designed to be waterproof. If it seems like I’ve drank the proverbial Kool-Aid when talking about OutDry gear… I have. Why? Because after hiking in a torrential downpour for hours on end during multiple days, I was still dry (save for a good deal of sweat) thanks to my rain gear. When something works as intended, I applaud it. And Columbia’s rain gear works.
So if you have to go hiking in the rain, this is what I recommend you wear.
Outdry Eco Extreme Rain Jacket
This lightweight, 100% waterproof jacket is one of the more environmentally-friendly rain-resistant pieces of gear out there. It is entirely made from recycled materials and is free of dyes and PFCs. (The jacket is made from approximately 21 recycled plastic bottles per garment. Which is pretty cool when you think about it.) There are cons here, such as the fact that this thing gets dirty quickly, and you may never enjoy that crisp white color again once it’s sufficiently muddied, but who really cares, as it keeps you 100% dry even in a drenching rain. I also found the jacket less than breathable, and indeed was pretty hot and sweaty on many of the uphill sections, but that’s to be expected from almost any waterproof garment, and this reality is compounded when one is in fact hiking up a steep grade in a goddamn rainforest. With proper layering, this jacket takes the chill out of the wind, and believe me, it keeps you dry in any situation. I’ll use mine for years and will replace it when it wears out. Expect to spend about $200.
Titanium Ex Gold Pants
If there’s one thing that many waterproof garments from many brands have in common, it’s their uncanny ability to restrict your range of movement in the most annoying of ways. Not so with these pants. The Ex Golds have articulated knees and enough stretch to let you clamber over boulders, jog down trails, or cycle at speed all while keeping your legs completely dry. After my boots became fully sodden on the first day of the Colombian trek (I was wearing shorts and not paying attention to the rainwater sluicing down my legs), I made sure to keep the bottoms of these pants secured over my boots every other time it rained, and my socks were never wet again. At least until their desperately needed washing once I was home. Again these pants will lead to some heat and sweat, but that beats the hell out of soaked undergarments and boots exposed to falling water. I wouldn’t mind a few more built-in pockets, but I also wouldn’t mind every single thing in life being magically perfect. $150
The Tilly Hat
Anyone who has read much of my writing focused on hiking, camping, and its contingent gear has probably heard me sing the praises of my beloved Tilly hat before. Well, this trusty ol’ cap held up as well in the Colombian rainforest as it has in the deserts of America and the forests of Europe, so here he is being touted yet again. Tilly hats are made of durable duck cotton that becomes stiffer as it gets wet, shedding rain with ease. The hat will soak through, getting your hair wet eventually, but it still keeps the rain off your face. I tucked the hood of my Eco rain jacket underneath the hat and created an ideal setup to keep my head and face dry. And as a Tilly Endurables hat can be machine washed, mud, dirt, and other messes are never to be feared. I’ve been wearing this hat for nearly 18 years now, and it’s still one of the best pieces of gear I own. $80.
Mountain Hardware Ascent Gaiters
Once your boots are soaked, your hike is going to suck, that’s that. If it’s just too hot out to wear long rain pants, you still need to keep your boots dry. That’s where a pair of gaiters comes in. For about $30, these gaiters will strap onto your legs and over your boots, preventing rain water from entering your footwear and ruining your day. They are also, of course, ideal for use in areas with rough brambles that scratch at the legs and/or for use in ice and snow, offering you added warmth and protection as you traverse a glacier or climb toward the summit.
Outdry Ex Gold Down Hooded Jacket
Once you get up to around 15,568 feet (yes, that was my high altitude mark in Colombia), things tend to be pretty cold. In fact, things are rather cold even up at a mere 14,500 feet. And at 13,500 feet. Etc. When you are at high altitude, again, it’s cold, and once the rain sets in, you had better hope you have the right gear, mister, or you are in for one miserable night. And possibly hypothermia. The Ex Gold Down Hooded Jacket is one of the few puff-style jackets I’ve ever encountered that makes an admirable external layer (most puff jackets go over a base-layer, under a shell or parka, FYI). That’s because not only does it fully reject water, but it also cuts the bite out of the wind. I lived in this jacket for multiple days, and it kept me warm and dry, and then rolled up into a comfortable pillow, too. Whether you use it to brave the climate of lofty mountain peaks or just as you walk your dog in the rain, you’ll appreciate this jacket, which is yours for about $200.
Stay dry, men!