A good way to shed weight (and improve ventilation) for summertime backpacking is to go to a poncho/tarp plus rain chaps rainwear system. The combination doubles as both rainwear (including pack cover) and shelter. Oware rain chaps are available in Gore-Tex or silnylon versions. The Gore-Tex version reviewed here is well designed, strongly constructed, and really durable.
- Waterproof and breathable
- Adjustable length
- Can be pulled on over boots
- Cuff can function as a gaiter
- Very durable
What’s Not So Good
- Butt and crotch are exposed when worn with a rain jacket
- Cuff cordlocks on the inside rub against each other
- Heavy compared to alternative waterproof/breathable fabrics
- One size fits only taller hikers
|2005 Oware Gore-Tex Rain Chaps|
|One size, 5.9 oz (167 g) as measured; manufacturer’s specification 6 oz (170 g)|
|2.5-layer Gore-Tex PTFE laminate|
|Tie cord attachment, elastic drawcord with cordlock in cuffs, tabs at cuff to make them function as gaiters using an instep cord (not included)|
The Oware Gore-Tex Rain Chaps are made of 2.5-layer PTFE laminate and weigh 5.9 ounces (the silnylon version weighs 3 ounces). The obvious advantages are they are waterproof and breathable, and they are very durable for bushwhacking conditions. The chaps are nicely designed and strongly constructed. The vertical seam inside the chaps is flat-felled, and all stress points are solidly reinforced.
The top attachment is a shoelace that ties to a belt loop. The shoelace can be tied long to lengthen the chaps. If your hiking pants do not have belt loops a large safety pin will work.
The 11-inch wide cuffs provide ample room to don and doff the chaps over boots, even my 11.5 EEEE clunkers. The cuff hem has an elastic drawcord and small cordlock to snug them at the ankle. A really nice feature is two webbing loops on the cuffs for adding an instep cord (not included) to make the chaps function as gaiters.
Unfortunately, different sizes are not available, so these chaps fit only taller people. The inseam on the chaps is 30 inches. For me (6’ tall, 32-inch inseam), the chaps tied tight to a belt loop fully covered the tops of my boots.
Worn with a rain jacket, the Oware Gore-Tex Rain Chaps leave part of the crotch exposed (top left). Jackets with a dropped tail adequately cover the back of the chaps (top right). With the top of the chaps tied tight to a belt loop (bottom left), the cuffs covered the tops of my boots (bottom right). I have a 32-inch inseam, so the chaps would adjust to fit taller hikers but are too long for shorter hikers.
I wore the Oware Gore-Tex Chaps in different rainwear systems, and found them to work best with a poncho/tarp. A rain jacket with extended tail covered the back of the chaps well when I was standing up, but I got a wet butt when sitting down or bending over. The front of most rain jackets is not long enough to cover the tops of the chaps, which leaves the crotch area exposed to rain.
Tramping down a wet trail in the rain or plowing through wet vegetation, the Oware Gore-Tex Chaps provided excellent rain protection for my legs. They were a bit clammy when worn over shorts, but provided quite a bit of warmth. The roomy leg openings created somewhat of a chimney effect, which was supplemented by some air pumping to provide decent ventilation inside the chaps. The breathability added from the Gore-Tex fabric was noticeable, but not dramatic. Overall, the Gore-Tex chaps functioned significantly better than conventional Gore-Tex rain pants because of the open crotch and air pumping effect. In variable weather, I found that I could leave the Gore-Tex rain chaps on longer than non-breathable silnylon chaps during in-between sunny periods. But the bottom line was - when the rain, overcast, and wind ended, the chaps got too warm to hike in and had to come off.
The Gore-Tex rain chaps weigh twice as much as silnylon rain chaps, and weigh about 1.5 ounces more than the GoLite Reed rain pants. There are several pros and cons to this. On the one hand they are more breathable and more durable for bushwhacking, but on the other hand they are heavier. Removing the elastic cords in the cuffs reduces the overall weight slightly. Most hikers who go to a poncho/tarp and rain chaps rainwear system want both lightweight and performance, so a good option would be to offer Gore-Tex Packlite, or eVENT rain chaps (hint-hint!).
The Oware Gore-Tex Rain Chaps are very durable and well suited for bushwhacking or fieldwork that requires a more durable fabric.
Recommendations for Improvement
The Oware Gore-Tex Rain Chaps are well designed and strongly constructed. One nitpick would be to move the cordlocks on the cuffs to the outside so they don’t rub against each other. I suggest offering the chaps in a lighter Gore-Tex Packlite or eVENT fabric to save some weight and increase breathability.