April 21, 2010

Rain, Rain (Just Won’t ) Go Away

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I’m not a big fan of the rain.  Summer thunderstorms: oh, heck yes. But, cold, sideways, why-the-hell-am-I-still-walking-to-class-through-this rain: not my cup of tea. I’ve never boasted of being hardcore, so showing up to class looking as though I took a shortcut through Beebee Lake is not how I envision starting my day.

Unfortunately, rain is inevitable. After all, in Ithaca, April showers bring, well, many more weeks of showers.  Just last June it precipitated EVERY DAY for the entire month. However, there is a key to staying warm and dry through the next few weeks of wetness, and no, it doesn’t involve cute yellow (or Burberry) rain boots and tiny, fold-up umbrellas. What is this amazing survival tool of which I speak? It’s a raincoat. Sounds too simple, right? It mightbe, if it weren’t a hardcore outdoorsy shell. But, just saying “shell” instead of “coat” makes it seem so much more extreme. And, around here, you need to fight extreme weather with extreme gear.

Unlike trench coats or North Face rain jackets, rain shells are actually waterproof, owing to rigorous seam sealing. They are usually 100 percent GORE-TEX to boot. Additionally, most shells vent with the aid of “pit-zips” which let you stay cool while you trek uphill from Collegetown to your 10:10 a.m. lecture. Best of all, rain shells are lightweight and compact. (Almost all of them can fit easily into your backpack’s water bottle holder.) And, for the fashion conscious, they also come in a dizzying array of vibrant spring colors.

Interested? Here are four top-quality outdoor brands that I personally stand behind. Obviously, I’m not sponsored by any of these companies; I’ve merely shredded enough jackets to distinguish the good from the bad.  Check out some of these brands’ new products for the spring (I’ve listed them here in order of price, from lowest to highest):

Start with either the women’s Bumblebee or the men’s Olymp jackets. Made by Mammut — an awesome Swiss company  specializing in mountain sports gear — these jackets are (relatively) affordably priced at $149 and $179 respectively.

Mountain Hardwear manufactures the men’s Epic and women’s Typhoon shells. These shells are close to $200 dollars a piece, but they weigh less than 12 ounces each! You could bury one in the bottom of your bag and just forget about it, until the skies open up and you really need it!

Patagonia and Arc’teryx are the best of the best when it comes to producing the most effective and durable outdoor gear on the market. These shells would get you through an alpine climbing/trekking season in, well, Patagonia without a problem, and thus they should easily handle the harshest Ithacan spring. Patagonia makes the surprisingly affordable men’s and women’s Rainshadow Jacket for $179, but Arc’teryx threatens to break the bank with their men’s and women’s Alpha LT shells, which run for a cool $500.

Unless you’re studying abroad in the Himalayas, some of these shells might be a bit overkill for your everyday commute. Yet, clothing that will actually keep you dry in a downpour is worth its weight in gold (at least that seems to be the M.O. at Arc’teryx). Besides, once you’ve been able to weather a storm outside without feeling cold and damp, a whole new world will open up to you! No longer will you be forced to stay inside when the skies open up, but with a new rain shell in hand, you can go salamander hunting at the golf course, mushroom hunting on the Plantations or trail running at Six Mile Creek.

So, this spring, consider investing in a rain shell.  But please, keep the rainboots, they’re kind of cute. RLD

Original Author: Guy Ross