Magazine article Sunset

Cover-Ups for Wet-Weather Hikers and Walkers

Magazine article Sunset

Cover-Ups for Wet-Weather Hikers and Walkers

Article excerpt

Here are low- and high-tech alternatives

IF RAIN SOMETIMES catches you when you're out hiking or biking, you understand the problem: rain soaks you if your clothes aren't waterproof, while sweat soaks you if they are.

Textiles that are waterproof and breathable, along with new clothing designs, have gone a long way to deal with this problem during the past two decades. But are they the best choice for wet-weather exercise? The answer is maybe.

LOW-TECH PROTECTION

For about $30, you can buy a good urethane-coated nylon poncho. Add a $20 rain hat and you have pretty good protection at a great price. Loose and open at the sides, the poncho provides great ventilation and keeps you dry from upper legs up.

In really bad weather, you can add coated-nylon pants to your rain uniform for $30.

On your feet, wear athletic shoes with removable insoles and count on them getting wet. When you get home, remove the insoles, stuff the shoes with newspaper, and let everything dry in a warm place like a water-heater closet. (Don't throw the shoes into a clothes dryer; heat softens glue, and the shoes can come apart.)

HIGH-TECH RAINWEAR

The new waterproof, breathable fabrics (there are many) really do keep water out as they let moisture-laden body heat escape. But these fabrics are still limited by the rate at which they can dissipate heat.

Consider this: As you walk a 20-minute mile, your body burns about 70 calories (a measure of heat). Walk a 12-minute mile and you burn up to 120 calories. While waterproof, breathable fabrics may be able to keep you comfortable at the slower speed, they have serious trouble keeping ahead of your heat-sweat production at the higher speed.

That's where clothing design comes in: to handle vigorous exercise, your clothing must be extremely well vented, regardless of the fabric from which it's made. "If you don't put a priority on good venting," says one clothing designer, "you'll find yourself sweating to death in $300 worth of waterproof, breathable clothes."

Peter Langmaid, product development manager for REI in Seattle, gave us his advice on good clothing design for wet-weather exercise:

"Buy a waterproof jacket with mesh pocket bags in all pockets, zippered underarm vents, a front zipper that opens from both bottom and top, and cuffs with adjustable openings, not elasticized. …

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