Rain Supreme

Weather happens when you make other plans, especially during the summer months. Be prepared with these helpful suggestions.

Even if temperatures soar, staying dry is important in avoiding exposure leading to lowered resistance to illnesses from colds to hypothermia. Most adults have an umbrella in their car and some carry around disposable ponchos, tarps or trash bags for a last-minute emergency that comes up while running errands.

According to Matt Tate, co-founder and lead instructor, American Survival Company, those accessories may not be enough to protect your family from something far more sinister than a ruined hairstyle or damp outfit, especially when traveling, camping or watching a sporting event over several hours — when everybody is exposed to more elements than usual. Overheating under heavy material can also lead to anything from discomfort and rashes to full-blown illnesses.

“In a pinch, I’ve used plastics trash bags and even tarps, but there are obviously better choices for consumers out there who plan ahead,” says Tate, noting the first real “rain gear” he owned was a GI model issued to him by the U.S. Army, which he observed has its pros and cons beyond military use.

“Depending on the size of the poncho, it may even be large enough to wear your backpack underneath which could definitely be beneficial in keeping your gear dry if you don’t have a pack cover like most average folks. It can also be used as a shelter if you’re caught out in the woods overnight. I’ve literally spent weeks sleeping underneath a military style poncho and was happy to have an instant waterproof shelter to sleep under.”

There are some drawbacks to some military-style ponchos, even when made out of sturdy material (and not the disposable product). It won’t keep legs dry, and one’s mobility is limited when the sides of some models are snapped shut. Tate likes the Snugpack Patrol poncho (ranging in price $35–45), enclosed on the sides. Some styles are oversized specifically for the purpose of fitting over one’s gear bag or backpack and voluminous enough to be an effective tarp during a sudden downpour.

Life Stride, Dark Grey. Photo: Life Stride

Life Stride, Dark Grey. Photo: Life Stride

If camping or beach escapes are part of the family travel plan, more coverage is essential when there is more exposure to the elements — much like sunscreen on sunny days. While heavy Goretex rain gear is good for cooler weather, Tate points out when temperatures rise or activities become more intense, the wearer will sweat, leaving him or her nearly as wet as he would be if caught in a downpour. Tate found Frogg Toggs, sold in sets and available in many sizes ($30–40), worked well in urban settings, sports stadiums and in places without a lot of plant life. In woodsy settings, however, they could snag and rip on brush and branches, quickly rendering them unusable.

“The point with any of this gear thought is really to understand its limitations so that you don’t try to rely on a given type of rain gear for more than its capable of,” says Tate. “When it comes to the cheaper Frogg Toggs, keep them away from blazing trails and busting brush and you’ll probably be just fine. Rain gear made by Helly Hanson is fashioned in a rip-stop PVC material will stretch and flex with your body movements. However, like anything made from PVC, it can get stuffy underneath. On the other hand, the more breathable the material, the more likely for moisture to find its way in.”

Tate points out those who can afford costlier packable rain gear from Patagonia, Columbia, North Face and Arc’Teryx will be likely be happy with the purchase given the quality, fashion factors and repair policies. However, for more rough and tumble outdoor adventures, there are are pros to having the less expensive options on hand for last minute adventures or situations where kids may outgrow rain gear fairly quickly.

Meanwhile, a few new products surfaced that add a touch of style and innovation to the necessity to stay dry:

LifeStride, Leopard. Photo: Life Stride

LifeStride, Leopard. Photo: Life Stride

  • Under the Weather ($69.99–199.99) improved the comfort level of the outdoor spectator sport experience, outdoor school field trips and picnics in ways traditional tarps and ponchos can’t. Walking Pod and Personal Pop-Up Pods provide an easy, portable alternative to pop tents, and are available in several colors and sizes.
  • While tall “Wellies”-style and duck boots have been around for a while, short riding boot styles such as LifeStride’s Puddle rain bootie ($49.99) in a variety of colors provides a cute option for women and girls that works more harmoniously with warmer weather fashion. While similar styles abound at various price points, this boot features LifeStride’s SoftSystem comfort technology, providing support as well as protection from the wetter elements.