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Gear Guy

What gear will hold up in the rainforest?

I'm looking for recommendations on the best tropical rainforest boots and raingear (read: wet, hot, stey jungle in Costa Rica). Maurice Greenfield, Indiana

A: I don't think anything in terms of traditional rainwear is going to work all that well or be very comfortable, Maurice. We're talking, what, 90 degrees and 70 percent humidity? Anything you put on is just going to make you sweat that much more, so you'll be as wet on the inside as on the outside. Better to take lots of fast-drying light items, such as Ex Officio's Performance Travel Tee ($34; or Patagonia's Silkweight Capilene T-shirt ($32; You're going to get wet no matter what, so you want something that dries out quickly. And sure, along with that pack a lightweight rainjacket—Marmot's PreCip Jacket ($100; would do just fine—for those times when you're not moving around a lot and can bear to wear another layer.

Mesa Ventilator Mid

And take this: An umbrella like GoLite's Dome Umbrella ($20; Lightweight, really breathable rain projection!

I'd take the same approach to footwear. All of Costa Rica is not a swamp, of course, but you'll still be hard-pressed to keep your feet dry—inevitably, you'll over-top the boots with water. So waterproof boots will just make your feet sweat more. Maybe take a couple of things, if budget and packing space allows. Merrell's Mesa Ventilator Mids ($80; are lightweight, breathable boots that should hold up pretty well in a damp environment. Salomon's Tech Amphibs ($70; are water shoes designed to get dunked, then drain out water.

At the same time, check with your host/guide/tour leader. Snakes—among them, the deadly, six-foot fer-de-lance—are common in Costa Rica, and you might be better advised to wear tall boots such as military-style combat boots. Better snakebite protection.

Don't mean to alarm you! It'll be fun, regardless, but hopefully a combination of the above options will cover you in your rainforest trails.

For more lightweight, waterproof footwear options, read "Make a Splash" from the July '04 issue of Outside.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, REI