I don’t like rain jackets. This isn’t because I don’t like rain, or getting wet — actually, I love the rain as long as it doesn’t persist for too long, and petrichor is on my list of favorite vocabulary words. My dislike for rain jackets doesn’t come from any single or multiple of their physical qualities either; I don’t mind that their hoods can look goofy or that they make me sweaty the instant I traverse the space between outside and indoors. I don’t like rain jackets because I believe that they’re shamelessly vindictive.
Let me explain. Before I leave my house for an extended period — be it for eight hours or 10 days — I check the weather. That forecast informs what I wear or pack, and other than temperature, the chance of precipitation is the most important stat to examine. It’s often a clear choice whether to bring or leave behind a rain jacket (my threshold hovers around a 50 percent chance or more, sometimes depending on additional information gathered from other sources, or a glance at the sky).
But when that potential for raindrops to 40 or 30 percent, confidence wavers. Do I mind getting caught in a passing drizzle? Do I risk wearing/carrying around a jacket all day for no reason? Rain jackets know this; they can sense a lack of conviction in a wearer the same way a horse can in a novice rider. But unlike the noble horse, rain jackets have no shame; they prey on this indecisive.
My own experience provides the proof. Last summer, I ventured to an out-of-the-way neighborhood in search of a coveted slice of pizza that required four or more hours of waiting in line (worth it). The chance of precipitation was 40 percent, but the skies looked friendly. I left the jacket behind, it never rained.
On a recent weekend, I traveled with friends to a reservoir in northern Vermont for a long weekend of camping. Our site was roughly three hours away from the parking lot, accessed only by kayak or canoe. The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we never felt a drop. The jacket stayed at the bottom of my bag for the duration of the trip.
Earlier this spring, I attended a bike race not far from my neighborhood. Chance of rain was low, Zeus seemed at ease in the skies above, and I only planned to be gone for a matter of hours. The starting buzzer had barely ceased its shrill whine when a bank of dark clouds began its takeover of the horizon. It was a scene from an early 2000s disaster film, it was apocalyptic, and no, I was not prepared.
In that moment of horror, I knew that my rain jacket had plotted this devious move for years. Outwardly I was drenched, but inwardly, I vowed to seek revenge. Shortly after that evening, I began a search for a more perfect rain jacket, one that would be heavy enough to stand resolute in a downpour but would also be as light as a windbreaker, and even more packable. I sought a jacket that I could take everywhere, without remorse if it went unused.
I believe that I’ve found that Goldilocks of coats in Patagonia’s Stretch Rainshadow Pullover. The Rainshadow is constructed with Patagonia’s proprietary H2No 2.5-layer waterproofing and 30-denier ripstop nylon. It’s waterproof and durable, and as its name implies, the Rainshadow has a fair amount of stretch, which makes it more comfortable and forgiving than other obstinate rain jackets.
The Stretch Rainshadow is also super lightweight — it weighs 7.4 ounces — and it goes practically unnoticed in a backpack. To further assure me of its willingness to minimize its effect on my life, the jacket also packs away readily into its own pocket for even easier storage in a bag.
Irrational paranoia aside, the Stretch Rainshadow Pullover is an excellent outer layer, in any weather. It’s light and breathable enough to use as a wind layer but plenty protective in a real storm. I’ve skied in it, hiked in it and have worn it for warmth around town. Now, I stash it in my bag habitually, before checking the forecast. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully trust rain jackets after all the duplicitous grief they’ve caused me, but I’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get me started on umbrellas though.
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