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Rain Gear for Alaska
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Donald Browning
(docdb) - M

Locale: SE USA
Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/15/2006 11:12:44 MDT Print View

Hello all,
I am a regular (yearly) to the backcountry in Alaska. I have used various forms of rain gear, including gortex, and last year I bought Integral Designs eVent jacket and pants, and loved them. They were worn over a set of smartwool long underwear, as my main climbing clothing. I had to be careful not to tear the fabric, but it was very rainproof and breathable. My question is this.....every year the guide I go with invariably recommends that I bring Helly Henson Impertech raingear, which is a rubberized fabric, and several of these guides have seen gortex garments fail in Alaska's harsh environment. Is this true of all gortex, or was true in the past. I really like my current gear, and don't want to carry the weight of the Helly Hanson stuff.

cat morris
(catt) - F

Locale: Alaska
Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/16/2006 19:54:09 MDT Print View

I'm an Alaskan & use Pak Lite Gortex lightweight raincoat & rainpants with no problems. This summer I have been out numerous backpacking trips in serious rain. It is now rainy season, & I just got home from a climb in the Talkeetna Mountains up to a high hanging glacial valley. It rained for 3 days straight. My Simms gortex never failed. I got it for $20 the set at a gear swap! One of my friends was in rubberized H. H. fisherman's jacket & sweated like crazy while climbing. My humble opinion is that those are great for fishermen, but not great for highly active hiking & climbing. Alaska has many climates; my experience is southcentral, Denali, & Talkeetna Mts. areas.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/16/2006 22:31:41 MDT Print View

Don, the Gore-Tex or eVENT (WB) did not fail in the past nor does it now when hiking in Alaska. In contrast, the companion durable water repellent (DWR)treatment on the outside of the fabric can be quickly worn off the WB garment by abrasion. Once the DWR is gone, the garments wet out on the outside. Next the wind evaporates the water on the outside surface creating convection cooling of the garment. Next condensation forms on the inside of the garment because the dew point is lowered from the cooling.

I just returned today from 1 ½ months of kayaking and hiking in SE Alaska. Last year I spent the same time period in SC Alaska. I experienced this abrasion phenomenon this year and last.

During both trips most locals I met were wearing HH rubberized type rain gear and Xtratuff type rubberized knee high boots for good reason.

The first 16 days of my trip it rained every day and the temperature ranged between the 40’s and about 60. I wore a Gore-Tex dry suit to kayak with and eVENT jacket / pants to camp and hike with. The Gore-Tex dry suit maintained its DWR for the entire trip since it wasn’t exposed to lot of abrasion. My eVENT rain jacket/pants worked perfectly for the first three weeks. One day of the fourth week I followed a heavily overgrown trail through muskeg, brush, and downed timber for about 4 hours. The resultant abrasion of my eVENT jacket bottom/pants resulted in the DWR coating on my rain pants and the bottom of my rain parka being completely worn off during this four hour period. After that hike my pants and jacket bottom would wet out every time it rained. I managed the problem by wearing extra synthetic insulation to combat the DWR failure. Even if I had brought extra DWR I wouldn’t have been able to effectively reapply it in the field.

You need to wash your waterproof/Breathable (WB) garments in non-detergent soap, add DWR, and heat set the DWR before you head to Alaska. If you are going to experience significant abrasion, the DWR won’t last. As an option to heavy rubberized garments you also have the option of augmenting your WB rain outfit with a light urethane coated nylon outfit. The two rain outfits together will probably weigh less and take up less volume than the heavy rubberized stuff but it won’t be as durable.

Donald Browning
(docdb) - M

Locale: SE USA
rainwear on 08/17/2006 06:13:05 MDT Print View

thanks so much for the insight, and thoughtful comments,

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/17/2006 08:18:32 MDT Print View

Any fabric can fail. EVENT is better than goretex.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/17/2006 10:07:08 MDT Print View

Donald -

I was in the western Arctic in June with two other companions. I was there for 10 days/180 miles, they were there for 20+ days/600 miles of walking. We experienced the gamut of conditions from cold/wet to high winds to thick bushwhacking (willows and birch).

I wore a GoLite Virga jacket (6 oz). My partners both had Patagonia Specter Jackets (6.5 oz). For rain pants, we all took Montane Featherlite pants (3 oz). The jackets suffered only small tears that were easily repairable with duct tape. An ID eVENT jacket, which I also have, would have easily stood up to the abuse of willow and birch bushwhacking.

The challenge in using light gear is in being attentive to what you are doing to it, and it does require that you pay attention to your movements while you are bushwhacking, not forcing your way through brambles once your jacket is caught on a snag.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/17/2006 11:41:18 MDT Print View

I look forward to the Golite Virga coming soon. Been there, done that on the forcing my way through cactus when my clothes were snagged. Cactus is mighty unforgiving in that scenario.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Re: Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/17/2006 12:12:24 MDT Print View

Ryan I was wondering if there will be a possibility of us seeing a complete gear list with relevant discussion RE: strengths and weaknesses? I look forward to any followup you may decide to post!


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/17/2006 14:14:08 MDT Print View


Please consider a gear review of DWR effectiveness for a future BPL issue. Specifically how fast does stuffing, dirt, brush abrasion, and constant rain degrade each brand of DWR on nylon fabrics with WPB membranes?

I suspect that most people won't experience significant DWR degradation for trips of up to a couple of weeks in mixed weather conditions. Between these trips the garments can be washed and heat-set to rejuvinate the DWR.

For longer trips in harsh conditions (constant rain, dirt, and abrasion) I suspect DWR failure is commonplace.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Rain Gear for Alaska on 08/21/2006 13:24:27 MDT Print View

" For rain pants, we all took Montane Featherlite pants (3 oz)."

Ryan, at the first link you were going to use Mont-Bell Ultralight wind pants for rain pants and at the second link you said montane featherlite pants. What was your reasoning for the montane over the montbells?