I looking for some tough raingear for summer trekking through the Canadian wilderness, where I'll be portaging gear and experiencing sudden changes in weather. My priorities are something that's durable, light, and that will keep me dry and windproof. I normally go for top-of-the-line brand nes, but not in this case. It's just got to last and get the job done. John Beckley, West Virginia
Helly Hansen Impertech
Up in Alaska, for instance, Helly Hansen's Impertech Jacket ($70; www.hellyhansen.com) is a popular choice. It's not breathable, but it's tough, fairly light, 100-percent waterproof (and windproof, of course), and stretches for comfort. It vents through a back "cape" opening. Matching pants are $55, so for $125 you have a good rainsuit for the conditions you'll be facing.
The alternative is something in the waterproof-breathable arena. Arc'teryx's Theta AR Jacket, for instance, is made with Gore-Tex XCR and has reinforced patches for increased durability. I think it would be tough enough, and its generous, long cut would keep you dry. But it's also $450 (www.arcteryx.com). More affordable is REI's Taku Jacket ($199; www.rei.com), a non-Gore-Tex piece that I like very much. I worry a little about its durability in a high-impact environment, however. But it's light, sheds rain well, and is wind-proof, so there's that. Mountain Hardwear's Exposure II Parka uses that company's own proprietary waterproof-breathable material, has reinforcements for rugged conditions, and sells for $200 (www.mountainhardwear.com). Maybe a better choice in the higher-priced stuff.
Myself, I'd give the Helly Hansen stuff a close look. You may sweat a little if you have to portage in the rain, but if you're stuck in a canoe in a downpour, I can guarantee that it won't leak.
For more expert reviews of the toughest jackets and raingear, check out Outside Online's Jackets Buying Guide.