When you’re planning what rain protection to bring with you, it’s important to plan around three factors: how hard you expect it to rain, how long you expect it to rain, and what temperature it is. Seam-sealed, waterproof rain kit will get you through any storm, but it doesn’t usually breathe especially well. Wear it when it’s too warm or when you’re working up too much of a sweat, and you may end up as wet as if you hadn’t been wearing a jacket at all. Instead, read the weather report in advance and use this simple guide to make your picks.
You don’t need much to fend off light drizzles. Opt for breathability over protection.
Body: Softshell with DWR
Good for a 10 to 15 minute sprinkle
In light, intermittent rain and mild temps, you’ll sweat less (and stay drier) by forgoing leg wear.
Tip: Fabric wetting through? Retreat it with a wash-in DWR treatment like Nikwax Softshell Proof.
As precip becomes more constant, it’s time to scale up your protection.
Body: Softshell with Taped Seams
New, hybrid fabrics feel like softshells but with nearly the same protection as a hardshell.
Even if it’s not actively raining, lightweight gaiters will keep your pants and boots dry from rain dripping off trailside vegetation.
Even the newest, most technical softshells wet out eventually. When it’s spitting, opt for something more impermeable.
Flimsy, steamy, and susceptible to wind, but inexpensive and can also cover your pack
Legs: Rain Skirt
Better than pants in warm conditions, rain skirts are airy but can get tangled up on obstacles or when you’re high-stepping.
We’re talking heavy, can-barely-see-the-trail rain here. Make sure you’re covered up or you’ll be wringing out your socks later.
Body: Hardshell Jacket
Keep the hood and hem cinched, the wrists tight (ensure no layers are peeking out) and, in the worst rain, don’t raise your arms.
Legs: Hardshell Pants
If it’s absolutely pouring and chilly, don the rain pants. You’ll sweat if you work hard, so you’ll have to slow your roll.