Don't get me wrong, I love my Gortex XCR jacket. Especially since it was free. For mountaineering, with all deference to Muir and his wool sweater and barbour jacket, there's nothing better. But paying $400 for a jacket would be painful, especially if you only use it off the mountain. Because after a downpour no matter what type of Gortex I'm wearing, I still feel wet. So, I did a quick search to see what alternatives I could find to Gortex. The best answer I found was from Mr. Outdoors, Seabury Blair Jr. Yeah, I'd never heard of him either, but in the end he recommends an umbrella. Never thought of that. Kind of clunky, but once Dana Designs reads this column, I'm sure it will be the must have backpack accessory for 2006. Though if you can't wait, you might want to purchase one of packs pictured above from this site. Though I think the bunny is extra. Mr Outdoors' thoughts on the matter:
My feeling is that it doesn't matter what waterproof coating is laminated or applied to the fabric to make it waterproof and breathable. I think what makes the best raingear is the durable water-repellant finish that is applied to the surface of the garment. A good finish such as Zepel or Durapel works miracles on any good microfiber.
If you're looking for inexpensive, bombproof raingear and don't care if it is breathable, buy any of the polyurethane-coated nylon parkas and pants. Sierra Designs makes pants and parkas for under $100 for both; Campmor's Backpacker II rain pants and parkas run around $50-$60 for both.
You sound as if you've backpacked around the Northwest long enough to know that it is impossible to stay dry when it rains, no matter what you wear. One thing I've started carrying that greatly increases my comfort in the rain is one of those small packable umbrellas.
When you've reached the condensation point in your $450 Gore-Tex parka, take it off and open your $15 umbrella. You'll stay drier.
Sounds like a great idea. I'm a big fan of the humble umbrella. Outdoors manufacturer Jack Wolfskin do an umbrella with a venting system in it for use in windy conditions, but at almost $40 it's rather expensive.
good point, and here my decades of expertise will prove useful. check out my ground-breaking article here: http://www.getoutdoors.com/go/golearn/472. most of us/you don't need the benefits of a gore-tex jacket, much less a $500 one. for the at, washington state, british columbia, most of the east coast (i.e. main) and definitely the south, jeez, so that leaves the west and midwest where it really doesn't rain, gore-tex is virtually useless.
gore-tex works on a vapour differential, so if it's humid outside, as well as humid (obviously) inside the jacket, the sweat on the inside has no where to go. so the more humid places make gore-tex just a clammy garment. in nepal, do as the sherpas, before any big expedition, buy an umbrella. the winds are never strong, but the rains are constant and heavy, a gore-tex jacket would be saturated in a matter of minutes. plus, who wants to wear clammy pants while doing something outdoors?
it may seem low-tech, but umbrellas truly work for 95% of all outdoor cases. and if not, a soft-shell will cover another 3%. and talking about rain, you don't know anything about rain until you've spent a monsoon season in bangladesh. believe it.
Where have you been? Ray Jardine was recommending them in his 1996 book, The PCT Hikers Handbook. He still recommends then in his industry-changing book, Beyond Backpacking [ http://www.ray-way.com/bb/index.shtml ].
GoLite [ http://www.golite.com/ ], the major outdoor equipment manufacturer, has a lightweight umbrella in their line here: [ http://www.golitestore.com/store/NS_proddetail.asp?number=AC0102 ]
I used a GoLite umbrella and a water-repellent wind suit as my only rain gear for my 16 days spent hiking the entire John Muir Trail. Suffice it to say that in spite of some exciting storms, I'd do it again.