Let It Rain

Let It Rain

Breathable fabrics and angling features combine in the latest generation of rain jackets

  • By: Ted Leeson
Cabela's Gore-Tex Guidewear Wading Jacket By the Book: Gore-Tex shell with Coolmax lining and storm-flapped conventional zipper; stretch interior cuff with hook-and-loop closing overcuff; two exterior flybox pockets with vertical waterproof zippers piggybacked over two storm-flapped flybox pockets with conventional zippers; waterproof zip pocket on left sleeve; two interior zip pockets; waterproof zip pocket on each side of the back; drawcord hem. S-3XL, $199.95. Thumbs Up: Nine pockets give cavernous, useful storage.Waist-level, vertical-entry pockets at each side of the back are surprisingly practical and, to me, worth the elimination of a big cargo pocket. Solid hood design doesn't restrict vision. Surprisingly little stiffness with all the front zippers. Turtle-like weather protection. Thumbs Down: Stretch inner cuffs are too short and tend to push clothing underneath up your arm, leaving a cold spot at the wrist. Water seal is only moderate. Lining makes the jacket rather warm and slightly diminishes breathability; interior pockets are rather lightly built. Handwarmer pockets would be nice for a jacket best suited to cool or cold temperatures. All in All: Good rain protection, designed specifically for high-volume storage, and best for anglers who'll use it. Pack up the jacket and you can leave the vest at home. Stay with a vest and you may find this jacket overdesigned. Quite nicely priced for its materials and features.

Chota Deluxe Wading Jacket
By the Book: Toray Entrant Dermizax fabric, mesh lined; neoprene cuffs; two zip- and snap-closing exterior flybox pockets piggyback on two chest pockets with waterproof zippers; handwarmer pockets; pit zips; cargo pouch; CVX hood system; zip-on skirt extension for knee-length conversion. XS-2XL. $289.95. Thumbs Up: Clever features here. A baseball hat (included) snaps into hood brim so that the whole hood moves when you turn your head, always giving a clear line of sight--a simple idea that works. Stacked vertical zippers, inside and out, allow access to big flybox pockets from outside or inside jacket; leave both zippers open and you have a reach-through to shirt pockets. Nice, tightly sealing, infinitely adjustable cuffs for optimal fit. Good adjustability in hood. Thumbs Down: Lining throughout, especially hood and sleeves, slows breathability. Handwarmer openings are a bit small. The exposed vertical zipper on the cargo pouch is not especially weatherproof. All in All: Lining and overall weight make this best for anglers seeking a warmer jacket for cooler weather. A good choice for anglers who like lots of big pockets, who curse vision-restricting hoods, or who want the flexibility of the skirt extension for a multi-purpose foul-weather jacket.

Cloudveil 8X Jacket
By the Book: Gore-Tex XCR shell; waterproof front zipper; two hook-and-loop-closure exterior flybox pockets piggyback over smaller, side-entry pockets with waterproof zips; waterproof-zippered handwarmer pockets and pit zips; waterproof zip cargo pouch; hem drawcord. S-2XL, $395. Thumbs Up: State of the art fabric gives excellent breathability in a shell designed for extreme weather protection. Flybox pockets are secure but easy to access, and overall storage capacity is high, including the very large cargo pocket. Good hood design doesn't obstruct peripheral vision, and semi-stiff visor prevents sag. Articulated elbows and sufficient sleeve length help prevent cuffs from riding up. Thumbs Down: Cuffs--non-adjustable neoprene inner cuff fits loosely and doesn't cinch down to watertight seal and is bulky; shell is a little stiff; sleeves cut a bit narrow for cold-weather layering and may be a little restrictive for some anglers; cordlocks on hood and hem slip won't hold adjustments securely. All in All: Top-grade shell, clean design, and waterproof zippers throughout this one exemplifies some of the latest ideas in a technical jacket, but still offers the option of traditional bellows flybox pockets. Excellent weather protection with angler-friendly features, though to my taste some of the performance details still need tweaking. Jacket cut seems a bit slimmer than most, so you might benefit by bumping up a size.

L.L. Bean Rapid River Wading Jacket
By the Book: Gore-Tex Soft Shell fabric; waterproof front zipper; two bellows exterior flybox pockets over zip-close handwarmer pockets, piggybacked with flat, stretch-panel pockets; two zip-close interior mesh pockets; cargo pocket; two sleeved retractors; pit zips; detachable hood; removable 9-inch waterproof waist gasket; drawcord hem. S-2XL, $299. Thumbs Up: Stretch soft shell and articulated elbows give mobility and comfort. Great hood, and double inner/outer cuffs seal extremely well. Excellent all-around weather protection. Pocket configuration is useful and ample without being excessive. Zip-closing waist gasket--like a kayaker's spray skirt--helps seal out water when wading deep. Thumbs Down: Jacket front is a little stiff, and zip-closing pocket openings are a tad small, especially for gloved hands. Stiffness from the pit zips can make armholes feel confining, especially over cold-weather clothing. Overall, it's somewhat heavy, partly because the jacket is 6 inches longer than average. All in All: To my mind, something of a specialty jacket. The extra hem length and waist gasket may be best appreciated by aggressive river and surf waders. It does help keep your vest worn underneath dry in momentary deep wading or in beach rollers, but water will seep in with prolonged immersion. I didn't find it all that useful for ordinary fishing. Though rather warm for summer use, it gives terrific three-season weather protection, with enough length and good looks, in a techie sort of way, to double as street wear. Extreme anglers who habitually duct-tape a wading jacket hem to their waders should give this one a look.

L.L. Bean Emerger Wading Jacket
By the Book: nylon shell, mesh-lined; storm-flapped front zipper; two external flybox pockets; handwarmer pockets; two zippered interior pockets; drawcord hem. S-2XL, $79. Thumbs Up: Tough shell fabric is still comfortably flexible; a basic, but useful overall design. Good weather protection from non-floppy hood. Generously sized interior pockets. The few features here are well selected. Thumbs Down: Hook-and-loop closing cuffs seal against wind but will admit water. Nylon lining in sleeves and hood reduce breathability. Cut a trifle long for deep wading. All in All: Moderately breathable and a little warm, this isn't a jacket I'd reach for in hot weather, or for waist-deep water. But anglers seeking highly workmanlike and serviceable weather-protection with useful features--at one fifth the price of top-end stuff--should give this a look. There's a lot of utility here for the money; my favorite in the value class. Orvis Tailwaters XT By the Book: Three-layer nylon shell with waterproof front zipper; stretchy Dry-Cuffs with hook-and-loop strap closure; two bellows-type exterior flybox pockets, piggybacked with flat, waterproof-zip pockets; handwarmers; two pigtail retractors and built-in keychain flashlight; pit zips; two interior waterproof-zip pockets; cargo pouch; roll-up hood; drawcord hem. S-3XL, $298. Thumbs Up: This shell is soft and flexible for a heavy-duty jacket, and bellows pockets keep jacket front from being overly stiff. Cut and pocket configuration allow good mobility over a vest or cold-weather clothing. Cuffs seal nicely against water, and hood design is practical. The absence of a lining makes this jacket highly breathable. Thumbs Down: Interior pockets are a little small. Articulated sleeves (or a little more sleeve length) would help prevent cuffs from riding up wrists. Hook-and-loop strap that secures the roll-up hood is a little short for easy use. All in All: I like this one for its design, a nice balance of bellows pockets with the strategic use of waterproof zippers; it's practical without being overdesigned and is lighter in weight than some other jackets. Very good weather protection with selected technical features. A good choice for anglers looking for a functional high-end shell with moderate storage capacity, and one of the few jackets available in 3XL. A good value in a premium jacket. Patagonia Stretch SST By the Book: Stretch nylon shell fabric with H2NO Storm HB barrier; storm-flapped, waterproof zippers on jacket front and two exterior flybox pockets; handwarmer pockets; cargo pouch; two zippered interior pockets; hood rolls up into fleece-lined collar; hem snap and drawcord shorten jacket length for deeper wading. S-2XL, $325. Thumbs Up: Stretch shell fabric and articulated elbow give wonderfully comfortable mobility and help prevent sleeves from creeping up when you bend your arm or cast; lighter and more breathable than the old SST. Excellent hook-and-loop closing stretchy cuffs seal out water. Big pockets, inside and out, hold largest fly boxes. Handwarmers are well to the sides to avoid snagging oar handles or brush. Smart hood adjustments for close, comfortable fit without brim sag. No shoulder seams to abrade when carrying a fishing pack or wearing a vest over the jacket. Roomy cut for fit over vest or cold-weather clothing. Thumbs Down: Fleece-lined collar, while comfortable against the skin, tends to crowd the back of your neck; when hood is rolled and concealed, the collar is uncomfortably bulky. Over-cuff sleeve opening could be narrower to prevent snagging and catching. All in All: Though I hate to see classic gear disappear, this SST surpasses its predecessor in overall comfort and breathability. This one is the whole package--thoughtful shell design and pocket configuration, with sleeves and cuffs that stay put while casting. Redington Stratus Wading Jacket By the Book: Tactel Redstorm Shell with mesh lining and reinforcing elbow patches; double-front, snap storm flap over front zipper; two exterior flybox pockets, one piggybacked with mesh pocket; zippered handwarmers; sunglass-sized interior pocket; zippered cargo pocket; elasticized waist. S-2XL, $130. Thumbs Up: Nicely supple shell fabric eliminates stiff, "body-armor" feel and gives comfortable mobility. Some design elements (seamless shoulder tops, multi-point hood adjustment) and features (handwarmers and cargo pockets) are not typically found in a jacket in this price class. Doesn't lose sight of the basic purpose--breathable rain protection. Thumbs Down: Flybox pockets are a bit small (won't hold large SA boxes); exterior mesh pocket on rain jacket seems curious, as does interior sunglasses pocket; cuffs seal against wind but not water; single-stitched construction seems a little light; straight sleeves can ride up during vigorous casting. All in All: A practical choice for anglers seeking comfortable, average-duty weather protection and some useful higher-end features without the big price tag. Simms RiverTek Jacket By the Book: Three-layer Gore-Tex XCR shell; waterproof front zipper; two sets of flat, piggybacked chest pockets with water-resistant zippers; two pin-on retractors; handwarmers and sleeve pocket with water-resistant zippers; Gore-Tex PacLite hood zips into collar; drawcord hem. S-XXL $379.95. Thumbs Up: Same excellent materials, construction and mobility as the G3. The low-profile design still offers ample storage capacity in weather-protected pockets; zip closures are concentrated near the center of the chest, which gives the shell more flexibility than the G3. This jacket has one of the better concealed-hood designs--not too much bulk at the neck. Nicely light for a technical jacket. Thumbs Down: Cuff closures have some gaps unless sealed very tightly; wide cuffs can cause clothing underneath to ride up your wrist. Placement of retractors can interfere slightly with pocket access. Pocket on left sleeve is a surprisingly practical idea, but it could be larger. All in All: Consider this one a slightly stripped down (no cargo pocket), stream-lined, version of the G3. Flat chest pockets give a cleaner, smoother exterior than bellows pockets with less stiffness in the shell. If you value flybox storage, go for the G3. If you like a simpler, lower-profile, more flexible shell that still offers superior weather protection, take a look at this one instead. The price difference is negligible. William Joseph Backwater Wading Jacket By the Book: Dentik shell with breathable coating, full mesh lining; waterproof front zipper; two storm-flapped, hook-and-loop closing exterior flybox pockets; hood rolls up into collar; zip-closing handwarmer pockets and interior pocket; pit zips; LED light zipper pull. M-XL, $169.99. Thumbs Up: Shell fabric has some "give" for mobility, and neoprene cuffs seal tightly. Flybox pockets are generously sized (if puzzlingly fleece lined), and zippers on handwarmer pockets keep them snag free and secure any contents. Great hood--a clever pocket in the brim slips over your cap bill; the hood gains a nice rigidity and moves when you turn your head for clear sight. Thumbs Down: Sleeves are cut narrow and make a tight fit over cold-weather clothing; may bind at the elbow on long-armed anglers. Closures on the hem drawcord slip, and adjustments don't hold. Interior pocket opening is somewhat small. Shoulder-top seams are potential abrasion points for pack or chest-pack wearers. Fabric in hood-bill sleeve can sag into field of vision (depends on the hat). All in All: A creditable jacket for WJ's first attempt. Full lining and fleece-faced pockets make this a better choice for cooler temperatures, even with pit-zips. Best to try on one over your cold-weather clothing to determine if you have got enough room in the sleeves. Some details (like the cordlocks) need tweaking, but good weather protection and some high-end features for less than high-end cost. Simms G3 Guide Jacket By the Book: Three-layer Gore-Tex XCR shell; waterproof front zipper; two hook-and-loop closing exterior flybox pockets piggybacked with four flat pockets with water-resistant zippers; handwarmer pockets; two built-in retractors; zip-closing interior pocket; cargo pocket with water-resistant zipper; drawcord hem. S-2XL, $399.95. Thumbs Up: Top-notch shell material is both weatherproof and superbly breathable. The fabric combination is intelligently chosen--softer material in the seamless shoulders, hood and arm tops promote mobility; rip-stop body fabric is more durable. With huge exterior pockets, generous inside ones, flat pockets for smaller items, and integral retractors, you could load this up on a rainy day and leave the vest at home. Clever fabric tunnels on hood and hem move line-grabbing elastic cords ends out of the way. Excellent hood. Thumbs Down: The cost of large piggyback front pockets is some stiffness in the jacket body, which can make accessing a vest underneath a bit bothersome, especially when you're bundled up for the cold. Cuff straps must be cinched down fairly tight to resist water entry and can feel restrictive. Zipper pulls could be larger. All in All: This one pulls out all the stops in technical features and design. And the quality of materials and manufacture are first-rate throughout. A terrific jacket, but probably best suited to anglers who will actually use the exterior storage features.