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Keeping Dry In Wet Weather
Posted by GregStevens on Dec 21 2005
I have been fishing and hunting Alaska for 20 years now and I have a beef with all this so called new waterproof gear out there. Being an outfitter it is part of my job to thoroughly test and use different gear so when I tell clients how to dress to potential protect their lives, I am giving them reliable information. In the last 4 years I have spent nearly $14,000 on waterproof jackets (and I have the receipts to prove it) to find out what products work the best. When you are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness your life depends on your clothing and cutting through the marketing clutter is important.

Over the past several years many new waterproof jackets have hit the market claiming to be the next greatest thing. There is GORE-TEX, HydroFleece, and others but none of them really meet their claims for an extended period of time. Many last for only a while and then the waterproof qualities wear out.

One new product that seemed to have all the qualities I was looking for was H2p by Rivers West. They have come out with a new fabric that is a fleece that is durable, extremely warm, and supposedly waterproof. We were by far the most disappointed in this product perhaps because it had the most promise but let us down the hardest.

I purchased their top of the line jacket and the first time I wore it in the rain I was soaking wet. Having worn and tested many different brands of jackets I know that there are things people do that cause them to get wet and it is not the jackets fault. Things like not having your hood up, zippers not completely zipped and long sleeve shirts worn underneath sticking out the end of a sleeve wicking water inside, etc. I was very careful to give H2p all the advantages by ensuring all zippers were up and no unnecessary openings were exposed. This is just part of bundling up properly. There are seams along the shoulder and across the back and it was at those points where water found its way in. I was not even in heavy rain and I was soaking wet.

I was eventually told that occasionally seams are an issue but if I wash and dry it the problem should go away. I followed their recommendations and it made no difference so I sent the jacket back and got a replacement from my local retail store after hounding the sales manager.

It was bear season and I was going hunting the same day I got my replacement H2p gear and I made a potentially fatal mistake. I took my new H2p jacket and pants as my primary outerwear figuring that I had just got a defective jacket before. This set should keep me dry for at least for the couple weeks I would be on my hunt based on what the sales rep told me.

On the first day it rained lightly but consistently and I began to get wet after only a few hours and I knew I could be in trouble. For the next two days I was wet and cold, because I was wet, and the weather was changing for the worse. It was getting colder and I was beginning to feel the first stages of hypothermia with several more days to go before I could get out of there.

The seams in my H2p pants and the poor design of open pockets let the water flow right in. My jacket (the second one from h2p) leaked horribly and I was getting sick. My hunting partner eventually had to make an emergency satellite phone call to the charter plane to come back early and get me to take me to a hospital for exposure. I was told that I had suffered moderate hypothermia and much more exposure would have killed me. My new jacket that I though was going to be so great almost killed me because I believed what the product tag and the sales rep said about it.

In conclusion I have determined with the $14,000 spent on outerwear you can't believe what a product tag or sales person says. Here is how I dress now and how I have ranked the so-called new waterproof systems that are now available.

For best results, layering is still number one. Wear synthetic long underwear, synthetic long sleeve shirts and pants, a light fleece jacket and the rubber rain gear over the top is the way to go. There is still no long lasting substitute to this method yet.

Of the new so-called waterproof products, here is how I rank them through thoroughly testing each one: Prioritized considerations were waterproof ability, durability, warmth, and functional use.

1. Cabelas MT050 Hunting Jacket & Pants with GORE-TEX
2. Quickloader Omni-Quad Parka from Columbia Sportswear with HydroPlus
3. Browning HydroFleece Pro Parka with GORE-TEX
4. Revolution Fleece Parka by Cabelas with Dry-Plus

Granted all of these waterproof fabrics eventually wear out and usually within a couple of seasons or so. h2p was not ranked at all because I could not get two separate jackets to keep me dry for even a single day. I would recommend against purchasing the h2p product. In fairness to Rivers West, had the h2p product kept me dry it would have been at the top of the list because it out performs everything else in all other categories.

If it sounds like I am bashing h2p it is because I am. I almost killed myself because I trusted in a product that guaranteed it's waterproof abilities. I should have known that a guarantee is only valid for replacement or fixing of a product failure, it does not mean I am ensured that the product will actually work. What good was there guarantee to me when I was going into hypothermia? NONE! So what if they will replace it with another one if I am already dead.

Don't add your own stupidity to the stupidity of a company who can't deliver on their promises like I did. Test your gear in a non life threatening circumstance before trusting it in a life threatening one.

Greg Stevens

Previous: Wooldridge Deep Water Plus sport drifter Dec 23 2005
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