SUMMER BONUS: Packable Rain Jackets

  • By: Ted Leeson


 The welcome introduction of waterproof/breathable fabrics into wading jackets has been one of the quieter but more significant evolutions in fly-fishing gear. If you’re old enough and haven’t irretrievably repressed the memories, recall wearing the dreadful rubberized and PVC-coated afflictions of yesteryear and marinating all day in your own personal humidity. In fact, there were few jackets specifically designed for fly fishing, and functionally they were little more than garbage bags with sleeves and a hood.  Everything about wading jackets, everything, has gotten better since then.



Patagonia Guidewater Jacket, $400

Packability: 1 star

Pockets: Exterior: 2 zippered flybox, on piggyback with zip pocket; lined handwarmers; zippered rear cargo pouch. Interior: open-topped mesh and zip security pockets

Length/Weight: 28”, 22.5 oz

Noteworthy Features: Narrow cuff bands seal tightly without causing bulky clothing underneath to ride up arms. Stretchy shell makes for easy movement in casting and rowing. Smart, stand-up collar design gives excellent wind protection without using the hood. Lots of pockets, well configured.

Caveats: Open handwarmer pockets can get wet in wind-driven rain and catch on oar handles when rowing. Stout construction trades away some packability; not a top choice for anglers seeking a compact, low-bulk package.

In a Nutshell: Superior quality throughout. Cut to fit loaded vests and chest packs, and the longer length covers fanny packs, with plenty of room for bulky cold-weather clothing underneath. No question this is one spendy hombre, but sturdy weather protection rivals that of heavyweight jackets. With the extra length and non-tekkie shell, it can easily double as street wear.


Cloudveil Riffle, $300

Packability: 3 stars

Pockets: 2 zippered fly box pockets; zip handwarmers; zip rear cargo pocket

Length/Weight: 28”, 20.9 ounces

Noteworthy Features: Attachment patches for pin-on accessories are covered by a flap to keep zingers dry and tools from tangling. Armpit zippers promote ventilation. Soft, stretchy shell is comfortable and quiet and gives good mobility. Overshot cuff-tops protect knuckles from wind and rain.

Caveats: Virtually nothing in the way of cuff seals to keep water from running down arms. Smallish armholes and narrow sleeves give a restrictive fit with heavy clothing underneath.

In a Nutshell: Anglers with a bit of personal girth may find the trim cut incompatible with a loaded vest or chest pack, especially if worn over bulky layers. The extra length nicely covers fanny packs, though again ample-bootied anglers may get a tight fit. Overall length and attractive exterior make this somewhat expensive jacket suitable for street use.


Ted Leeson is the author of Inventing Montana and other wonderful books on fly-fishing. He's FR&R's gear-tester.