Living on the west coast can be a water logging experience, especially as we approach the month of November. Some people prefer snow instead of rain because it is usually much brighter out when it snows. I much prefer rain instead of snow and ice. With a few exceptions, that’s mostly what we get here during the winter.
If you want to spend time outside in heavy rain, a good raincoat is essential. The triple ply Gortex coats with taped seams are the best for keeping your core dry. A wool sweater layer or two will give extra warmth, breathes – and if the rain soaks through anywhere, the wool will help prevent you from getting wet and chilled.
But the typical Taiga or MEC Gortex jacket is short, giving coverage to the waist or hip level only. Your legs, especially your thighs, will get soaked in no time flat. It means buying a pair of Gortex pants to go with the jacket. But who wants to gear up and walk around the city looking like you belong in a boat and are heading out to do some wilderness fishing?
The Icebreaker brand (although their clothing is made in China) is ideal for wet winter weather conditions, like we get in Vancouver. The pullover sweaters come in a variety of weights for layering, depending on how cold it is outside. They are labeled 150 for the lighter ones, and go up to 300 or more. In addition, they make good front zip merino wool sweaters with hoods, which is ideal for when it is really blowing and raining. Icebreaker also designed a knee length coat that is water repellant on the outside, has a detachable hood, and is lined with merino wool. It has zip pockets on the outside and one on the inside. This is a much better coat than MEC’s knee length coat, which is light and flimsy. The zipper broke on the one I had, so I switched to Icebreaker.
As far as raincoats like Mycra Pac Now, and the wide variety of other lightweight jackets and coats – they are good to pack for travel to a warm location where it might rain, or to wear from the car to the building, but not much longer. A nylon coat will soak right through in a matter of minutes if you are out in a downpour.
The very best raincoat I have ever come across for torrential downpours, is one that provides full head to toe coverage. It is the Herluf Design and was made in Denmark. The exterior is a fluid, somewhat shiny black vinyl. It is lined in a very light wool blend fabric, and is a full-length maxi coat with a big cloak style hood. Of all the raincoats I have worn that have soaked through, including Helly Hansen, Taiga and MEC – this black vinyl coat has yet to soak through, no matter how much it is raining or how long I have been outside. It is loose enough when buttoned so it does not constrict your stride. The hood buttons right up to the chin so it does not blow off in the wind. The water off the hood is deflected, which prevents it from running down your neck, like it does with some coats.
I think the trade off between the vinyl Herluf Design and Gortex – is that the vinyl will not breathe that well if you are really active. For urban walking and standing around watching a football game – the long vinyl coat wins hands down. I looked up the Herluf website and can see this company makes a variety of good quality, stylish and functional outerwear. But if you are a hiker, an outdoor enthusiast – or heading out to the west coast to slay a thirty pound salmon – stick with the Gortex!