Staying dry in unrelenting wet weather is easier said than done. It surely isn’t as easy as it sounds in the outdoor clothing catalogs. A camper, hunter, or angler who finds himself wet clear through to the skin is no longer having any fun.

One of my shortcomings as an outdoorsman has been making poor choices when it comes to selecting rain gear. Most of the gear I have purchased and relied upon over the years has run the gamut on reliability from fair to just plain pathetic. The best has worked well up to a point. But sooner or later, given enough time and enough downpour, I find myself always wet and shivering.

Diane, my wife, who has studied my personal quirks for 49 years, insists my problem with precipitation has a pocketbook connection: “You buy cheap!” she says.

Perhaps she is right. I do tend to go for the bargains when it comes to clothing purchases. But even the high-end Gortex camo jacket, that I bought in a weak moment when I was feeling flush 10 years ago, is not keeping me dry for very long.

I used to think that Gore-Tex was the “silver bullet” when it comes to rain gear, but now I’m not so sure. Millinocket survival writer Charlie Reitze has written a thoughtful article for the August issue of the Northwoods Sporting Journal about “waterproof hiking boots.” Manufacturer’s claims to the contrary, Charlie says that there is no such thing. Water resistant, maybe, but not waterproof.

Years ago, before Mr. Gore figured out how to place his Teflon membrane between two pieces of synthetic fabric, I improvised my own simple waterproofing lashup. Deer hunting in the driving rain was one of my things. I found that a black, plastic trash bag worn under my heavy woolen shirt worked well at keeping moisture out and body heat in. It never caught on, but the price was right.

What’s the answer? I asked around. This question was put to a number of Maine guides and outdoorsman I know, who spend a lot of time outdoors rain or shine: “What is your choice of rain gear? How do you stay dry when the rain just won’t quit?”

Here are some answers:

Matt LaRoche, Superintendent of Allagash Waterway: “I have some Gore-Tex rain gear that I like very much. You still get damp in a heavy downpour.”

Don Kleiner, Maine Guide: “”I wear the best raingear I can afford and always rubber knee boots to keep the bottoms of my pants and feet dry. At the moment I am wearing the nylon raingear made by Grundens after wearing their vinyl sets for almost 30 years (the same stuff the lobster fishermen wear). I have owned a few pretty fancy sets over the years but the commercial stuff holds up best and at the end of the day keeps me dry. Being cold is usually a part of the discomfort on a cold, wet day like today, and I usually wear a synthetic underwear top (currently wearing Underarmour) with a light fleece or wool jacket.

Matt Libby, Maine Guide Libby Camps: “I use the pro-guide wading jacket by Orvis. All of our guides use them and love them.”

Carroll Ware, Maine Guide and outfitter: “In this day and age, there is no need for anyone to have to be wet. I wear L.L. Bean raingear. During the fishing season, I use their fly fishing jacket and rain pants, both, needless to say, Gore-Tex. Never let anyone tell you that Gore-Tex will keep you dry under any circumstances. I have had several instances, most recently in Chile this past February, when Lila and I visited our outfitter there with a group of our clients. It rained for six consecutive days, ranging from showers to absolute downpours. On two different days, it rained hard enough and long enough so that even the Gore-Tex soaked through. With that said, I am a big fan of Gore-Tex. Helly-Hansen makes a great raingear that will keep you dry for sure, but you may die of heat stroke from sweating inside the garment, as an example of an alternative to GoreTex.

“Under 80 to 90 percent of the conditions that one would customarily face, Gore-Tex is the answer. In hunting circumstances, I wear Bean’s camo hunting raingear and purchase the top of the line that they sell. Wet is one thing; cold and wet is quite another. If I were going to give someone who was interested in buying raingear one piece of advice, it would be this: Of good, better and best, buy best. The extra money will never cross your mind when you are sitting in a boat or a deer blind and are warm, dry and comfortable. An extra 50 bucks won’t look like much when you are dry!”

As for the waterproof boots, Reitze says that the answer is not to even try to fool yourself with water- resistant boots that are purported to be waterproof. The answer, he contends, is to simply buy a high quality boot that you can walk dry, which you can’t do with a water-resistant boot once it is soaked through. “A non-waterproof boot you can walk dry. That’s a great advantage over a constantly-soaked, so-called waterproof boot that you can’t walk dry,” Charlie quipped.

V. Paul Reynolds author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”


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