Rain gear sucks

At first I was going to call this post “Gore-Tex sucks.” But that’s not quite fair. I think all rain gear sucks. Gore-Tex just sucks in a more expensive way.

Please let me explain: As one of the first serious rains hit this past fall, I put my bright yellow Gore-Tex rain coat and headed off to work. This was Nov. 4. When I arrived:

So I went out to that fly-by-night outdoor gear store that pops up here in the winter (I think it is called Next Adventure — out by Lowe’s on West 11th). I was hoping to find a deal on a new Gore-Tex raincoat. Another Gore-Tex raincoat. How many have I gone through by now? It was looking like $160 was about the best I was going to do.

Then I noticed the “cheap-o” stuff. Simple coated nylon shells — for $19.99.

$19.99? So I did the math. I like math. I thought this would be worth an experiment.

At $19.99 I could by eight of these things for the price of the Gore-Tex. So if the cheap-o shell got me through just one rainy season, it would stand to reason that I’d have to get eight years out of a Gore-Tex coat to get the same value.

I have owned many Gore-Tex garments through the years. I do not remember ever having one last eight years. I’ve been in Eugene for 13 years, and I know that I’ve had at least three. So, yeah, normally, I’d say they start leaking after three or four seasons.

To be fair, I should mention that some of the more recent garments I have owned were not real Gore-Tex. A couple employed a fabric called Omni-Tech, which is Columbia sportswear’s version of the same kind of fabric: waterproof and breathable. It starts leaking after a few years, too.

So, we’re almost to April now, and I can report that the cheap-o shell has served pretty well for five months. I noticed some minor leaking yesterday on my way home from work. So this stuff sucks, too. But for 20 bucks, you expect it to suck.

Can I say this will get me through the season? Will it make it another month, maybe two? Let’s assume it will.

If we look at the ACD (annualized cost of dryness), the cheap-o shell comes in at about 20 bucks per year. The Gore-Tex at 40 (assuming a $160 coat will last four years). Of course, $160 is on the cheap side for a Gore-Tex raincoat. But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m not paying enough for my Gore-Tex. Yes, I think that’s probably we’re I’m failing.

So help me out here. Can anybody back me up on this? Do I need to spring for the $250 Gore-Tex coat? Do I just take lousy care of my stuff? Do I need to do more maintenance on my Gore-Tex? I don’t want to. I want to come home, hang it up to dry and then put it on again tomorrow.

What’s the best way to go when it comes to rain gear and cycling in Oregon. What should I do come next fall?

13 thoughts on “Rain gear sucks

  1. Showers Pass makes real good stuff. The key is to find stuff that has vents — otherwise you’ll be wet from your own sweat.

    1. Ditto: I really like my Showers Pass (Men’s Touring Jacket). I’ve only had it about a year, so I don’t know what it’ll be like in a couple of years. But they have a good warranty, and I’ve been told that they stand behind it.

  2. I am using a vented Burley jacket and pants raingear which is no longer manufactured. As a daily commuter, wearing the same gear for about 16 years, it has only just begun to leak at the seams. I wonder what fabric they used.

  3. I have a fairly reasonable (< $90) Mountain Hardwear Gore-Tex shell that I use, which I just run through the laundry with the re-waterproofing stuff about once a year. It has lasted me 3 years so far and, despite being worn literally continuously 9 months out of the year, still looks nearly the same as the day I bought it — maybe a little more crumpled. I expect it to last many more years. I do have Showers Pass pants, though, which seem indestructible, but I've only had them a year.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been told I should wash Gore-Tex clothes periodically using that stuff. Perhaps this would help extend the life. I’ll be the first to admit am not always extremely diligent in this regard.

  4. I have a showers pass eVent jacket that I love. The venting and cut for being on the bike are both really amazing.

    The worst thing about it is that I only have one, so it’s a little awkward to wear it both for a sweaty weekend ride and a commute – but they say to wash it often, and I try.

    The best thing about it is the venting – between that and waterproof shorts, I’ve been amazed at how comfortable I’ve managed to be on those 60+ degree rainy days that make you sweat like crazy in normal rain gear.

  5. I’ve heard the Endura Jacket is awesome. I use a one of the CAT rain capes ($80) and re-spray is with cheapo waterproofer about twice a season. It’s been running great for 3 years. It’s not great in the wind, but it breaths nice and I don’t have to wear rain pants. I hate rain pants. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for everyone though.

    Gore tex, like all good raingear, needs to be washed and re-waterproofed or your oils and UV rays screw it all up. REI (and maybe Arriving by Bike – if not they should) sells a wash/waterproof kit for non-gore tex (what my wife uses http://www.rei.com/product/783563) and I think there is something different for gore tex. Usually it’s all on a display case up by the shoes on the second floor and they will help you out. Here is more help: http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/washing+goretex+outerwear.html

    Here is probably the best thing: everything you buy at REI has a lifetime warranty, so if you buy a coat there and it stops working just bring it back. They will either point you to the proper maintenance stuff, and if that doesn’t work they’ll replace it.

  6. I think a cyclist is forced to choose in the rainy season: Do you want to be wet on the outside or the inside? I find that no matter how adept at “breathing” a purported “rain jacket” is – you are going to sweat while riding – regardless of the outside temp. It’s raining… so it’s not freezing.

    I choose to breathe – and soak when it rains vs. attempts to repel and subsequently sweat inside my suit. The exception is my feet… booties over shoes – but even then – I’ve incorporated plastic bags once the booties break down and start soaking through.

    I’ve found if your feet are toasty and somewhat resembling dry… you can withstand most of what nature throws at you in the Willamette Valley.

    The need to breathe requires clothing that doesn’t hold water. Cotton won’t work. Wool is the way to go! Cheap wool sweaters from Old Navy – go for it! Dry fit is good in a pinch too. Dry fit underwear… heck yeah. Wool is phenomenal – it keeps you warm even when wet and really is the best material with the most sustainability potential in my humble opinion. Cut the sheep’s hair… make sweaters and pants while the sheep regrows their hair munching contendedly over the summer.

    For the really bad days – active pouring rain – puddled and backed up streets and drains I do have one of those cheap plastic shells. It’s lasting a season, maybe more. I did use orange duct tape for a few repairs! Toss it over a wool sweater or shirt… you might sweat inside a little but rip that baby off when you get to work and you’ll dry in about 20 mins.

    Don’t forget… fenders… ahhhh… I estimate an enjoyment quotient increase for the rain ride of about 80 percent! Not referencing any studies but it feels like I’m about 80 percent drier too!

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