Extreme Layering: Rainy-Weather Clothing

Don't let a crappy forecast keep you home for the weekend. Just pack this deluge-tested system.

Extreme Cold | Extreme Heat | Extreme Rain | Extreme Versatility

Shirt | Insulation | Pants | Baselayer | Hat

SHELL

REI Shuksan

"This jacket sheds water like it has a force field around it," said one tester after three extremely soggy spring days in Colorado's Roosevelt National Forest. But what really sets the Shuksan apart is the outstanding breathability of its eVent membrane. Testers hiked all day in the rain with the shell zipped up tight–one even went for a three-mile uphill run to push the breathability envelope–and never experienced inner dampness. There are no pit zips because you simply don't need them, which saves weight and made this jacket the lightest three-layer waterproof/breathable shell we tested (among nine finalists). When the rain pounded, we also appreciated these features: longer-than-average sleeves with adjustable Velcro cuffs; a sculpted hood with three quick-pull adjustments and a stiff visor; large mesh hand pockets and an exterior sleeve pocket. Both men and women testers raved about the "spot-on" fit: Sleeves and shoulders are long and roomy enough for a full range of arm movement without exposing wrists or raising the hem; the volume is slim (not tight) to minimize bulk; and the below-the-hips length keeps butts dry. Women's version is called the Kulshan. $289; men's S-XXL, women's XS-XL; 1 lb. 2 oz. (men's M); rei.com. Reader service #112

Extreme Cold | Extreme Heat | Extreme Rain | Extreme Versatility

Shirt | Insulation | Pants | Baselayer | Hat

INSULATION

Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor

Silky 15-denier taffeta shell fabric and warm-yet-low-bulk Primaloft One insulation make the Compressor ideal for layering under a rain shell. It has the packability of a light down jacket (stuffing to just over softball size), but unlike down it dries in the field and "won't crap out if it gets soaked," said one tester who accidentally dunked the Compressor while fly-fishing in Colorado. He stayed warm in the damp coat despite temperatures in the 40s. Fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, a cinchable hood, a hem drawcord, and adjustable cuffs add to this jacket's coziness. $190; men's S-XXL, women's XS-XL; 1 lb. 2 oz.; mountainhardwear.com. Reader service #113.

Extreme Cold | Extreme Heat | Extreme Rain | Extreme Versatility

Shirt | Insulation | Pants | Baselayer | Hat

PANTS

EMS Thunderhead

Lightweight, packed with features, and priced to sell, these pants easily handled our soggiest days on the trail. EMS's proprietary two-layer waterproof/breathable fabric kept testers dry during multiday downpours. Full-length two-way zippers provide plenty of extra ventilation (breathability is adequate, not outstanding) and make the pants easy to yank on and off over muddy boots. Elastic cuffs with a snap closure sealed out puddle splashes, eliminating the need for gaiters in mild to moderate rain. (Add gaiters in heavy storms.) Testers liked the loose, high-mobility fit for scrambling over boulders, as well as the adjustable elastic belt and the easy-access thigh pocket. The 40-denier ripstop nylon held up to slickrock and thorny Russian thistle. And when the sun's out, the Thunderheads–despite all the features–scrunch down to grapefruit size. $79 ($70 women's); men's S-XL, women's XS-XL; 11 oz.; ems.com. Reader service #114

Extreme Cold | Extreme Heat | Extreme Rain | Extreme Versatility

Shirt | Insulation | Pants | Baselayer | Hat

BASELAYER

The North Face Impulse 1/4 Zip

This poly top easily handled our wettest hikes. "Sweat and rain dried fast," reported one tester after an eight-day Grand Canyon trek. "And it never felt hot or sticky under a shell. It breathed well in warmer temps, fought off nighttime chills, and at the end of the trip I didn't smell like an old sock." The impressive moisture management and stink fighting come, in part, from carbonized bamboo that's blended with polyester. Body mapping boosts breathability and insulation; there are vented panels where you sweat most–on the torso and arms–and a warmer, denser knit around the torso. Female testers loved their hoodie-style version. $60; men's S-XXL, women's XS-XL; 9 oz. (m's M); thenorthface.com. Reader service #115

Extreme Cold | Extreme Heat | Extreme Rain | Extreme Versatility

Shirt | Insulation | Pants | Baselayer | Hat

HAT

Mountain Hardwear Stimulus
In extended rain, hoods can be restrictive and isolating (since your hearing is muffled). This full-coverage sombrero is like wearing an umbrella. Made from a proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric and with a wicking Coolmax band, the Stimulus is breathable enough to double as a sun hat yet waterproof enough to use as a drinking bowl for your dog. $35; unisex M-XL; 2 oz. (M); mountainhardwear.com. Reader service #116