The need for quality outerwear is something that most of us will consider at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, this often comes only after we’ve been caught in a sudden downpour, resulting in wet shoes, frizzy hair and a no-doubt sour mood. Proper rain gear is an investment worth making, however, and the sooner the better. Like any other purchase there’s a lot to consider, as nowadays raincoats come in many different styles, lengths and weights to serve a variety of purposes. So whether you’re an outdoor adventurist or simply looking to stay dry and chic as you splash your way through the puddles, there’s something out there to fit your needs.
With so many options to choose from it can be difficult to even know where to begin. The best way to do so is by first acquainting yourself with some of the key terms that you’ll be coming across as you shuffle through product tags or browse online. This will help you to make a more informed purchase. For example, a plastic poncho may be your most valuable asset when camping in the mountains, while an elegant trench may be more suitable for your commute to the office. That’s why we’ve put together a short “Raincoat 101” buying guide. Because if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that life doesn't stop (or slow down) for a little bit of rain!
Despite their reputation as cheap, ponchos can be the best choice of raingear for many on-the-go activities where packing light is necessary. They’re also great in hot, semitropical climates where something sleeveless, airy and breathable is key. Characteristics of quality ponchos include covered pockets, taped seams, adjustable hoods and thumb loops. So keep an eye out for these features. They’re generally made to reach as far as the knees for maximum dryness, but still compact enough for easy packability.
Classic Rubber Raincoat (Mackintosh)
A classic rubber raincoat is what typically comes to mind when considering raingear (often pictured as bright yellow). A rubber raincoat is an ideal garment for general walking or standing in a downpour. Rubber raincoats are typically less expensive than cloth varieties, as they let water drip down and away from clothing, while cloth varieties are treated with a waterproofing material to keep rain from soaking into the coat. It’s important to note that rubber raincoats tend to lock in heat, and a more breathable jacket, like a poncho or anorak, is a better choice for physical activities like hiking or biking.
An anorak is a waterproof, hooded, pullover jacket, often with distinguishable features that include a front opening (sometimes just a half-zip) and drawstrings at the waist and cuffs. More sporty and practical than other raingear, anoraks have become a go-to coat for those looking to stay active, warm and fashionable (yes, it is possible) in less than desirable weather.
A parka is winter-weight coat with a waterproof finish, typically insulated with a very warm synthetic fiber and lined hood. They’re quite similar in style to anoraks (and often confused as one) but are heavier raincoats well-suited for climates with colder weather that may see a mix of rain, snow and other harsh elements. Although they are not great for physical, outdoor activities, a parka is often trendy enough to easily transition from errands to work.
Undoubtedly, the dressiest option for raingear is a trench coat, which can be worn with casual or dress wear. A trench coat is traditionally made of gabardine fabric or a cotton/polyester blend, which is sturdy and dense but still allows for an elegant look. Although they certainly vary, trench coats tend to have a wide collar, stylish buttons and a self-tie belt. Often they do not have hoods, so it may be necessary to tote an umbrella or hat as well.
Things to Consider
As discussed, raincoats are often made for specific activities or environments, so the technical features included will reflect its recommended usage.
A quality raincoat will have a hard outer shell or layer and an inner lining, with the outer layer consisting of a type of waterproof fabric. For colder weather, it’s best to get a raincoat with a fleece lining. For warmer weather, buyers should look for one with a mesh lining or removable lining for versatility.
Raincoats can come in a variety of lengths. Longer raincoat styles block wind better, as they cover the legs, and tend to look more polished. Shorter raincoat styles are preferred by and recommended to more active individuals, as they allow for more freedom and movement.
Hoods can be super beneficial in inclement weather. This is especially true if you're not open to lugging around an umbrella. Look for adjustable ones that are deep, with draw cords around the opening, and maybe even a design that allows you to hide the hood within the collar.
When shopping for a raincoat, another key feature to look out for is the placement of pockets. This will ensure that your belonging and/or hands stay warm and dry. Waterproof pockets are often achieved by placing them within the jacket or by giving outside pockets waterproof zippers or flaps.
Wrist closures & Drawcords
Wrist closures and drawcords at the waist will further block out the elements and/or increase ventilation. Such features will mostly be found on lightweight rain jackets, anoraks and parkas.
While raincoats may be great at keeping the water out, some hold all of the heat in. If this is of concern, mostly during moderate to high-intensity activities, look for one with zippered armpits for ventilation. This won’t commonly be found on rubber raincoats or heavier ones such as a parka or trench.
Obviously, you want your raincoat to look good, but making sure you get the right size will ensure that you feel comfortable, too. Aim for a fit that allows for layering underneath and a full range of motion.
Like any staple wardrobe item, neutral colors are timeless, compliment most outfits and can be worn all year-round. If necessary, add your flare through bold rain boots and/or bright-colored umbrellas (womens rain boots)
- For outdoor activities, when breathability is important, opt for a poncho or light anorak.
- For professional settings, opt for a trench-style raincoat.
- For minimal downpour, opt for a traditional rubber raincoat to rely on.
- For harsh weather conditions, opt for a parka. This type of raincoat will keep you incredibly warm and dry.
- For outdoor work, a time when warmth and staying dry are of utmost importance, opt for a shorter, flexible raincoat.
So for days when an umbrella simply isn’t enough, make sure to have a raincoat on hand to protect you from the elements. A high-quality one will carry you through the grey and stormy skies of every season.