Yesterday started out with a Morton’s Fork – pants or rain gear. Wearing normal cotton pants means that I’m feeling fairly optimistic about having to remove the rain gear (and need I mention Murphy’s Law here – it applies to rain gear and the amount of sun that we can expect). If the rain settles in and I have to wear the rain gear over the cotton pants for a while in a few hours I’ll be wearing something that feels a lot like a damp washrag. If I lose all hope of clear skies and plan to wear the rain pants all day, then I have to wear moisture-wicking long underwear which do the job well, but are not really work appropriate without the shell and so necessitate my leaving on the rain pants all day (or until I can manage to change), rain or not.
Either way, the inside of the pants will be gross and slimy and clammy at the end of the day, but with the long underwear, I won’t feel it (for the record, I wear Lowe Alpine expedition weight tights. They’re comfy, warm and they’re black so if my rain pants rip it won’t be that obvious). Yesterday, I chose to wear the rain pants (and keep the regular pants in my bag just in case of random bursts of sunlight and temperature spikes), and I’m glad I did – even during the brief periods of no rain, the ground (and the equipment and all upwards facing surfaces upon which one could potentially sit) was soaked.
I know it seems like a silly thing to worry about, but in the past, I’ve worn the rain pants, had the sun come out, been unable to go change and had to swelter until lunch. Or, I’ve worn the regular pants and been soaked to the skin in 15 minutes and been wet and miserable for the rest of the day.
I hate being uncomfortable at work, and also absolutely can’t stand to have wet feet. There is nothing so miserable as having water soak through your shoes and having to walk around, feeling your feet squish around in soaking wet socks for 12 hours. After the first time this happened to me, I went out and bought the best pair of rainboots that I could afford.
Due to turnaround issues for the next day, I didn’t have to go up in the condor (even though I’d originally been booked to do so), so I ran around on the ground in the rain all night, which was fine since I was prepared for everything except the hoards of extras who were really bad about not getting out of our way and blocking the entrance to our staging area. I was reduced one time to yelling at them, but I’m not really supposed to do that. If I abide by set protocol, I have to go find one of the ADs and ask them to ask the extras to please move out of the sweaty people’s way while we’re carrying heavy things over wet cement (and up and down wet metal stairways) and trying to not go ass over teakettle in the process.
Luckily, the really heavy rain didn’t happen until today, when we were safely inside on a stage. Hooray!
To answer Jonathan’s question in the comments about which rain gear to buy: It depends on your budget and your priorities. As you can tell, I like to be as comfortable as possible while I’m being rained on, so I went the expensive Gore-Tex and tech fabric route. Some of my co-workers are more tolerant of stewing in their own funk under a layer of flourescent colored vinyl, so they just go to West Marine and buy the heavy duty fisherman’s rain suit and they’re fine with that – and that’s certainly not a bad option. The West Marine suits will last you for years and years and are much easier to mend than the snappy outdoor store gear.
I do not recommend going to the surplus store and buying the cheap stuff. It’ll fall apart when you need it most, and you’ll have to replace it so often that it’ll be more expensive in the long run than shelling out for something quality, no matter what you decide to buy.
With the Gore-Tex stuff, it’s more a matter of which features to avoid than it is of branding. You want to avoid a zip on or snap on hood (they leak like crazy), and the more exterior pockets and fancy vented panels the jacket has, the more likely it is to snag on things like stands and rip. Make sure your jacket has armpit zip vents, though. I usually keep mine just a couple of inches open and it really cuts down on the sweating. I’d also recommend one that has a two headed (so to speak) zipper so you can zip it up and then unzip a bit of the bottom to flare it out so it’ll fit over your tool belt.
When you buy rain pants, make sure you buy ones that have zippers on the sides at least halfway up the leg so you don’t have to remove your shoes to remove or put on the pants. I would also recommend getting high topped rain boots and not just using waterproof low-cut running shoes. If you have to wade through a puddle you don’t want nasty muddy water slopping into the tops of your shoes. On Deadwood, I wore gaiters over my boots and under the rain pants because the water was so deep when it rained, but it was also about 80% horse shit so I really didn’t want that stuff in my socks.
Knee-high gaiters actually aren’t a bad buy – if it stops raining and you want to take off the full pants for breathability, but the ground’s wet and you don’t want to get the bottoms of your jeans soaked, you can just put on the gaiters and wade through all manner of damp vegetation with impunity. Ignore the initial taunting from your co-workers. Three hours later they’ll be asking you where you bought those things.
Should you buy tech gear, spend the extra money and purchase gear made by a company that offers a lifetime guarantee on the clothing. I once sent an ancient pair of rain pants that had rotted interior seams back to Mountain Hardware and they replaced them with no questions asked. Just try that with some crap that you bought from a discount store. Have a drink before you go shopping if you need something to help you steel yourself to drop several Benjamins on rain gear.
Tech stuff or vinyl, you’ll be much more comfy if you wear some sort of moisture wicking clothing underneath.
There’s no perfect rain gear. It’s all got drawbacks. You just have to find out what works for you. Most of the outdoor stores (REI, A16 if you’re in LA) will take returns on used gear if you buy something and don’t like it. I had to try three jackets before I found one that worked for me.