Never underestimate the importance of good raingear. One soggy morning last spring, I left the dock for a day of striper fishing, foolishly assuming that a "waterproof" shell and a pair of aging plastic rainpants would see me through. Then the serious weather hit, and within about an hour of constant downpour and 30-knot winds, I was soaked to the skin. Later, at the marina, as I wrung out the shirt and pants I'd worn underneath, I vowed never to skimp on raingear again. Here are the results of a test of six rainsuits that won't let you down in the face of horizontal rain and howling winds. Rating Key
4 stars= Excellent 3 stars= Very Good 2 stars= Good 1 stars= Fair Bass Pro Shops Gore-Tex 100mph parka & bib Overall Rating:
4 stars You might not love the prominent logos, but it's easy to appreciate the 100mph parka and bib from Bass Pro Shops as the toughest raingear on the market. Due to its inherent bulk, this wouldn't be a go-to outfit in warm weather, but that's about the only fault I could find with it. Everything about this line screams quality, from the rugged 150-denier nylon shell to the Gore-Tex membrane and nylon satin lining; from the removable hood's fleece-lined face guard to the neoprene inner sleeve cuffs and drop-down hip cover on the parka. The shoulders, elbows and knees are cut to increase range of motion. ($230, parka/$200, bib; basspro.com) Report Card Weather Resistance: A+ Design/Features: A+
Fit/Range of Motion: A Price/Value: A
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Columbia Glacier 2 Glade jacket & Thunderstorm pant Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars Based solely on the look and feel of the Glacier 2 Glade jacket’s shell, I wasn’t expecting it to hold up to prolonged exposure to pressurized water. But the waterproof/breathable Omni-Tech Lazer Rip material makes this one hardcore jacket. I particularly liked the removable hood, which zips onto the jacket below the collar line. This means the hood, when cinched down, moves with your head to the left or right, without obstructing your view. I also liked the armpit vents. The Thunderstorm pant has open pocket slits on the hips that allow rain to get to your inner layers, and shouldn’t be worn in serious downpours. ($175/$50; columbia.com) Report Card Weather Resistance: A Design/Features: A Fit/Range of Motion: B+ Price/Value: A
Cabela’s Gore-Tex Tech Guide parka & bib Overall Rating: 3 stars This new offering from Cabela’s is similar in design to Bass Pro Shop’s 100mph line, but is less bulky, making it a more attractive option in warm-weather, heavy-rain situations. The exterior is made of a super-tough yet super-lightweight Gore-Tex material. Articulated knees and elbows improve range of movement. The jacket is loaded with pockets, including four across the chest. However, the hand-warmer pockets do not seal or drain, and water pools inside. The interior and exterior storm flaps around the main zipper are narrow and can get in the way when you zip up the parka. ($220/$200; cabelas.com) Report Card Weather Resistance: A+ Design/Features: C Fit/Range of Motion: B+ Price/Value: B
Outdoor Research Furio jacket & Mentor bib Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars The Mentor bib is just short of bombproof, yet it’s extremely lightweight and conducive to all manner of physical movement, thanks to a gusseted crotch and articulated knees. Each leg features a removable gaiter, and waterproof zippers run almost the entire length of the legs. An integrated belt and double-sliding fly provide a snug yet comfortable fit. The Furio jacket is made of durable 70D Gore-Tex Paclite material; however, following testing I noticed some moisture on the inside of the jacket’s back. Whether this was from seepage or moisture build-up, I couldn’t determine, but either way, that’s not a good thing. ($299/$365; outdoorresearch.com) Report Card Weather Resistance: B Design/Features: A Fit/Range of Motion: A+ Price/Value: C+
Grunden’s Weather Boss jacket & bib Overall Rating: 21⁄2 stars From the company that makes the slick orange PVC suits worn by crab fishermen on Deadliest Catch comes a new line of severe-weather gear. Grunden’s Weather Boss apparel is made of heavy-duty 500-denier nylon and is rugged enough to stand up to considerable wear and tear. This suit would be at home on a steelhead river in a driving snowstorm. The bib was especially impressive, with internal gaiters on each leg, which fit snugly over boots and provided an extra layer of protection. Unfortunately, the jacket allowed some moisture seepage in the area of the upper chest during testing, which made me question the integrity of the waterproof/breathable barrier. ($130/$127; grundens.com) Report Card Weather Resistance: C+ Design/Features: C Fit/Range of Motion: B Price/Value: B
Gill Inshore-Lite jacket & pant Overall Rating: 4 stars Gill is a U.K.-based company and a formidable brand in the world of competitive sailing, which means its designers know a thing or two about making foul-weather gear that stands up to the elements. The Inshore-Lite line is made of an impossibly lightweight laminate fabric called Gill 2 Dot, which sheds water like the freshly waxed hood of a Ferrari. The garments don’t feature a lot of bells and whistles (I wish the pants were held up by more than a drawstring and an elastic waistband), but for the money, you can’t ask for better protection from Ma Nature. ($145/$79; gillna.com) Report Card Weather-Resistance: A+ Design/Features: B Fit/Range of Motion: A Price/Value: A+ How We Test Since I can’t control the weather, and a controlled environment is crucial in a test of this nature, I wore each set of gear for 20 minutes in the shower, where I tested for “weather” resistance and range of motion…much to the amusement of my girlfriend and our cat.
Hardcore raingear for the nastiest days on the water.