Gear Guy

The Shuksan Jacket     Photo: courtesy, REI

Q:

What inexpensive rain jacket should I get for long slogs in Southeast Alaska?

I’m working in Southeast Alaska (Juneau) again for the summer as a deckhand on a whale-watching tour boat. The rain jackets they gave us last year weren’t all that great, and I want to bring something that offers a little more protection. I work 8 to 16 hours at a time, sometimes it's raining the whole time. I like being able to move, but weight isn’t that big an issue. As a younger student I am also budget-conscious. What do you recommend?
—Joseph
Austin, TX

A:Two ways you can go, Joseph. One is the more traditional waterproof-breathable route. That would be something such as the REI Shuksan ($299), a really nice rain jacket that uses eVent fabric, which I think is one of the really good waterproof-breathable materials out there. It’s an excellent all-around rain jacket and would serve you well.

Or, there’sMountain Hardwear’s new Amalgam ($325), a classic Gore-Tex jacket with a cut that’s suitable for just about any outdoor activity. Then there’s The North Face’s Mountain Light ($299), another proven Gore-Tex piece that’s very versatile and weatherproof without breaking the bank.

All that said, I’d lean toward a simpler, cheaper, proven solution: Polyurethane coating. You can get a Helly Hansen Impertech II Jacket for $75 and you will never be wet, not with impenetrable PU. No, it’s not all that breathable, but when it’s cold and wet, how much will that matter? It also looks pretty good and is a bit stretchy.

I’d actually eschew the outdoors/hiking stores, and get to a good marine-supply shop. You’ll find really serious wet-weather gear that isn’t as fancy but is probably better-suited to Alaska than some things you’ll find at an outdoors retailer.

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