CurrentlyOnce upon a time a little windy drizzlemajor storm iswas moving a few leaveswrecking havoc on the bay area. Alright, I haven’t checked out the entire bay area, but in my opinion around here it’s just rainy and windy. Weather is to a large extend all about perception and the right clothes. I grew up in a place where it probably rained 200 days a year and consequently had more than a handful of different words for different types of rain. Conversely, a few rain drops in a dry area sends people scrambling for cover holding jackets, newspapers, and small children over their heads. One inch of snow in a place where it never snows sends cars careening all over the place. Here rain is rare. For the first six months it rained maybe four times. Today it has been raining all day and meetings are getting canceled because people are refusing to leave the building and get subjected to what is known as the biggest storm since two years. Some people might even be going hungry for the same reason.

Getting caught in the rain is like a bear attack, I think. Don’t run! The reason is the running will cause the rain to come in from the front or at least at 45 degrees thus exposing a much larger area of the body. If you walk it will mostly come from above, and only the shoulders and the head will get wet. If it is not windy, use an umbrella. It might be unhandy or uncool, but not even goretex or other *tex-materials can beat an umbrella in this situation. Note there is no need for one of those fashionably huge umbrellas. Actually the smaller the better, because it is always at hand. For instance I can fit my telescopic made-in-China and sold-for-$5 umbrella into my chest pocket. Even without an umbrella is it possible to walk for about an hour and only get the top part of the jacket and maybe the shins wet.

If it is rainy and windy, the problem becomes more difficult. The umbrella is now useless or at least, if deployed it will shortly blow out. Goretex shell jackets are great. I prefer the three layer type which comprise a liner, a layer of *tex, and the outer shell which is typically treated with water repellant. The two layer jackets are slightly lighter, slightly more expensive, and I suspect slightly less durable. They use a special treatment of the *tex layer so that it does not need to be protected by a liner. I got my jacket (Northface: Cloud Peak) about 10 years ago for around $400 or $500 – I forget the exact price but it was completely worth it. Having an absolutely windproof and breathable jacket feels much better than an insulated nylon jacket. If the outer shell is waterproofed, it is sufficiently water resistant to take a shower with. If it is not, water in the soaked shell will slowly diffuse “around the corner” at the sleeves and creep up on the inside. Also, the goretex will not longer be breathing although it is still practically water tight. I picked an all black one, because it works better for business casual than signal colors. Two things to consider: First, a big hood and preferably one that folds into the collar to retain the business casual feel. Most hoods on cheaper jackets are so small that buckling up means having the hood directly on your skin. A good hood should have the appearance of the helmets astronauts wear in the Mars movies. Large pockets are great. I can carry one umbrella, or two bananas, or a big pair of gloves, or a short wave radio in my inside pocket. It’s huge. It also has drawstring to adjust the waist and the bottom. When it rains, the bottom should be wide. If it is snug, water will just run onto the pants. The waist doesn’t matter in terms of rain. Generally, it is it cold, it should be loose. If it is warm, it doesn’t matter. Most shells will have the option for a zip in fleece. Get a fleece that fits the zipper. Often it does not have to be the same brand. As long as it’s the same brand of zipper, it works!

Pants are much less important than one should think. Unless we’re talking heavy rain under windy conditions, jeans are perfectly alright. Remember, when walking, rain comes mainly from above. Bicycling is an entirely different matter! Other than that el-cheapo rain pants will do. The problem here is that moisture from the inside will make your pants wet anyway. Therefore I often prefer to wear a loose set of pants on top of it. My inline hockey pants work nicely here! Jogging pants are good too. They do get wet, but since they are loose, the water does not transfer to the layer below. One important point is not to put the pants into the boots or socks. The bottom inches of the pants will get wet and transfer to whatever they connect to.

Depending on the level of flooding, real hiking boots are recommended. If you’re walking regularly, I’d get a pair anyway. Personally, the quality I demand does not cost less than $200. The cheaper ones only last a couple of thousand miles before the seams start breaking. My current pair of boots are almost as old as my jacket and I have walked many thousand miles in them. This means an annual depreciation cost of about $20 if maintenance is expensed separately. They are full grain leather. I don’t like nubuck because it does not last as long and it does not survive long against rock in case of serious hiking. It goes without saying that I would never beyond anything with nylon in it. My boots have a stitched welt aka Norwegian welt. Stitched welts are getting hard to find these days since $100 glued sole boots sell better, but companies like Hanwag and Limmer still make them. If you get a chance to get a pair, jump on it! Having used a lot of leather fat and polish, I have made mine quite water-resistant and wouldn’t think twice about walking through a 2″ deep water puddle. I finally found a cobbler that replaced my worn out soles with a Vibram Skywalk sole similar to the original sole I had. They last forever unlike the default option from your average supermarket cobbler. They just install some cheap rubber sole that needs replacement after a year.

Anyway, this should work for most situations. If you walk a lot e.g. commute by foot, it works very well in cold/wet temperate climates, so if this is in your future start substituting into something like that next time a garment or footwear breaks down. I used to find it funny that I was actually wearing an outfit costing more than $1000 (in 1997) or way more than my fashion victim friends, only I was a lot more comfortable in adverse weather. Of course that was alright, they would always take the bus.

Originally posted 2008-01-05 07:24:21.