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Field Test: Hunting Raingear

The Raingear Tests

Raingear Shower TestShower Test

It would be nice to compare all the rainwear in actual rain, but that’s not practical because you can’t get consistent testing conditions or precise results that way. Instead, we put on the outfits and jumped in the shower, turning like a roast on a rotisserie for five minutes. We wore light-colored clothes underneath to help us detect any leakage, and were very careful not to let water get through openings or onto our inside layers as we removed them.

You can see by the photos here that this provided good evidence of any leakage.

We acknowledge that a shower’s water pressure provides a pretty severe test. On the other hand, raingear is subjected to water pressure in real conditions, such as that driven by wind, or when you are riding in an open boat or ATV.

Acquired Saturation/Seated Test

One of the toughest duties of raingear is to keep your big behind dry when you’re sitting on that wet boat or ATV seat, or perhaps on a waterlogged treestand cushion. For this we developed the Acquired Saturation/Seated Test, or AS/S Test.

For the AS/S Test we simply soaked a towel, placed it on a toilet cover, and sat on it for five minutes. It was revealing and few of our test units passed. We will spare you photos of this one. —Mike Strandlund

Rivers West Back Country Jacket and Pants

Back Country Jacket $149, Back Country Pants $139

Contact: (800) 683-0887

Website: Rivers West

Rivers West Rain GearThe Back Country jacket and pants are two of Rivers West’s newest offerings designed for bowhunters. They were so new that, at press time, they were not yet on the company’s Web site.

The uninsulated outfit is designed for use in the rain, featuring Rivers West’s proprietary H2P (Hydro 2 Powerlock) system, which is a waterproof, windproof membrane that is also stretchable, and felt-like lining and low-nap fleece outer layer that add comfort and flexibility. The material resists tearing and is quiet. In Mossy Oak’s Treestand camo, we liked it very much.

Features include an antimicrobial membrane, radial collar, snap-off hood, handwarming pockets, underarm zippered vents, and a weld chest pocket designed to keep rain out. The pants have the same antimicrobial membrane, suspender buttons, zippered handwarmer pockets, zippered back and cargo pockets, and the “Diamond Flex” crotch.

At first glance we find a lot of quality built into the design, consistent with other Rivers West garments. The fit and finish are very nice, quiet, and comfortable, not bulky or heavy. Convenient pockets and zippers are in all the right places, inside and out. The welded chest pocket is a welcomed waterproof feature. The wrap-around collar helps retain valuable warmth. The hood can be snapped on and off.

When tested, we found that the fabric was 100-percent waterproof. The hood design, because it overlaps the high collar, kept the water out—very important to anyone out in the field. Breathability is one the most difficult functions to test, but, subjectively, this outfit did seem to be breathable. In our shower test, the only leakage we found was at the front zipper. The zipper has a flap, but it is on the inside. The water penetrates the zipper, then gets in around the inside flap and, eventually, to your inner clothing layers.

The Back Country pant did not pass the AS/S test. The Diamond Flex crotch has quite a few seams through which, we believe, the leakage occurred.

Overall we found the pants and jacket to be high-quality, functional outfit that is weatherproof for all practical purposes. It is pretty quiet—there is some rustling, but it should not be a problem. This outfit is one that I intend to wear quite a bit this season. —Mike Strandlund

Medalist Huntgear Max Water-Proof Breathable Jacket and Pants

Water-Proof Breathable Jacket $150, Pants $140

Contact: (800) 543-8953

Website: Medalist

Medalists Huntgear MaxFew of the rainsuits tested could be considered “packable,” but this one is—and better yet, it’s also durable enough to be used as “everyday” huntwear, a quality I can attest is not found in most models of truly packable wear. This suit is also very light in weight, another must if you hang an adjective like “packable” on it. Magnetic pocket and pant cuff closures are a nice functional touch.

Fans of scent-suppressing technology should note this suit features a Silvermax 99.9-percent pure silver technology twill lining, which is not only designed to offer increased scent-free protection, but also body heat regulating technology. In a nutshell, the silver is designed to keep you warm during cool weather and cool during warm weather. I’ve worn Medalist garments for years, and though I can’t say for sure the silver has been a real factor, I know I’ve been largely very dry, comfortable, and satisfied with the experiences. Medalist makes good stuff.

I consider this one of the most-versatile suits in the test for one primary reason—its nice generous cut that simultaneously allows for plenty of layering, without being too loose and bulky for those warm-weather, early season hunts. How does Medalist do it? It’s not the first time I’ve been impressed with the Medalist cut; the only answer I can come up with is that company designers know what they’re doing. At 6 foot and 210 to 220 pounds with a long history of regular weight training, I’m not the biggest guy out there but fairly far from the smallest, and I can run into issues with binding in the shoulders and chest at my “standard” size of XL Regular. Companies like Medalist, and ScentBlocker, offer the full-cut I need when conditions call for serious layering. —Mark Melotik

Cabela’s Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket

Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket $150

Contact: (800) 237-4444

Website: Cabela''s

Cabelas Gore Tex PacliteThe Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket (in Outfitter camo) is a selection from Cabela’s Paclite rainwear, which is well-known for its functionality and good value. This jacket features an attached (integral), drawstringed hood to snug the fit around the wearer’s face. The high collar also features a drawstring, as does the waist. A sealed chest pocket zipper, rubberized sealed handwarmer pockets, and Velcro tighteners on the cuffs also help keep the elements out.

We received only a jacket for this test. We found it to be a nice, functional, lightweight parka. Best news of all: It was 100 percent waterproof in our shower test. We have found in most cases that you need an outside flap on the outside to keep water out. But this is the exception, as the zipper has its own “weather stripping” as you zip it up, effectively sealing it from the rain or, in our case, the shower. It also has an inner flap.

We noticed that the jacket’s outer fabric is a bit on the noisy side, but not too bad. By the way, I have often heard and read people blaming a rainsuit’s noisiness on its Gore-Tex membrane, which I always find amusing. There’s no fabric more silent than Gore-Tex.

This would be a good jacket to have in your pack. When it starts to pour, it will keep you dry. —Mike Strandlund

Browning Quest Gore-Tex Jacket and Pants

Quest Gore-Tex Jacket $300, Pant $280

Contact: (800)333-3288

Website: Browning

Browning Quest Rain GearBrowning’s partnership with W.L. Gore and waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex has been a long and prosperous one, especially for bowhunters. The sturdy three-layer soft shell Quest suit is no exception; donning it you almost feel “bombproof,” but the feeling also comes from the sleek, form-fitting design, especially in the arms, that almost ensures no string interference at the shot.

This suit was more than just a pretty face; it was one of a select few to pass both the AS/S and Shower tests. I found absolutely no leaks, or even the slightest hint of felt dampness. Impressive to say the least, yet not surprising when you see how well each and every seam is taped and sealed. Lots of attention to tiny details in this suit; even the cuffs effectively seal out water.

I just returned from a northern Wisconsin bowhunt for whitetails, and took this suit as my primary raingear. Using it regularly I found it was a bit “stiffer” and somewhat noisier than some non-waterproof garments, but not unusually so. Washing and drying helped a bit. I really liked the jacket’s long zip side vents, ideal for preventing sweat buildup during long hikes toting heavy treestands. I thought these zippers might compromise waterproofness, but the test proved otherwise. A great design. —Mark Melotik

Bass Pro Shops/Redhead Fleece Waterproof Jacket and Pant

Waterproof Jacket $200 and Pant $200

Contact: (800) 227-7776

Website: Bass Pro Shops

Redhead Waterproof Rain GearMy first impression of this fleece suit was a pleasant surprise—it’s nice and lightweight, not always the case when you combine fleece and a laminated water/wind barrier. The fit, like many Redhead garments I’ve tested over the years, was somewhat slim/form fitting. This makes it ideal for early to mid season work—but some people looking to provide for substantial underlayers, and temps much under about 25 degrees, might want to look at ordering a size up.

I’m not a fan of attached hoods on bowhunting jackets and so I liked the compact and lightweight “pack-away” design of this one. It offers quick and easy access when you really need it—and you don’t know it’s there when you don’t.

I was impressed with this suit’s silence—so much so I questioned its water-shedding ability. Test results laid my questions to rest. They were fairly impressive; during the Shower test the suit’s fleece exterior picked up water and got slightly heavier (and darker), but not one drop of water penetrated. During the challenging AS/S test the center crotch seam leaked a bit, leaving a 1x5-inch trail. Overall, a fairly solid performance.

With its serious silence and protection, I wouldn’t hesitate to tap this as an “all-around, everyday” suit able to take you through the early season, on up to and through the peak of the rut, without worry of forgetting “just-in-case” rain gear.—Mark Melotik

Sitka Gear Stormfront Jacket and Pant

Stormfront Jacket $499, Pant $429

Contact: (707) 253-1122

Website: Sitka Gear

Sitka Gear Stormfront Rain GearOver the years, Sitka Gear has earned a reputation for offering some of the best-performing, highest-quality hunting clothes that ever existed. Having had quite a bit of experience with Sitka Gear, we were eager to try the Stormfront Jacket and Pants. (Ours came in Optifade, an effective digital camo pattern.) Both jacket and pants showed much quality in design, construction, and features. The three-layer waterproof Performance shell includes an outer abrasion-resistant layer, Gore-Tex, and an inner lining. Among the features are zippered front and pockets, two watertight breast pockets, two watertight hand pockets and inside pockets, integral built-in hood and high collar, articulated joints, ventilated arms, and drawstring/Velcro tighteners. The hood has a pronounced visor.

The Stormfront pant features an elastic waistband with “sticky” rubber friction pads to help keep them up; an internal belt system and removeable suspenders; gusseted crotch and articulated knees and seat; full-length leg zippers.

Not surprisingly, we found these lightweight, uninsulated garments performed well in the shower test. The outfit was totally waterproof, no leakage anywhere. The Downpour pants were one of the few pants that passed the AS/S test with no leakage whatsoever. As mentioned elsewhere, breathability is difficult to test objectively, but this outfit did stay comfortable despite the 100 percent waterproofing.

We have found through the years that there are trade-offs between waterproofness, breathability, and noise, and we must say that there’s quite a bit of noise involved with this outfit. Bowhunters wearing these garments may need to be more careful in their movement, but I consider that to be a reasonable tradeoff for a 100-percent guarantee that I’ll stay dry.

I can “guarantee” you that the next time I do a two-week Alaska float trip for moose, this outfit will be in my bag. —Mike Strandlund

Rocky QS Fleece Jacket and Pant

Jacket $130 & Pant $130

Contact: (740)753-1951

Website: Rocky Boots

Rocky QS Fleece Rain GearHere’s another suit that was so soft and silent, it had me wondering if indeed it was actually rain gear. Once donned, the lightweight, sleek fit and finish became even more impressive, and I had visions of never being caught without rain gear on a whitetail hunt ever again.

Rocky, which has consistently made a strong showing in our annual Readers’ Choice survey for its fine boots, has really made strides in its hunting apparel line in recent years. A good example is its D-TEC waterproof and scent eliminating system, a three-layer system that includes an inner wicking layer, middle layer designed to promote maximum air circulation, and an outer waterproof/breathable membrane. Finally, a silver compound is embedded into the D-TEC to prevent growth of bacteria and fungus to enhance scent control.

Alas, this suit did not pass either of our water-torture tests. Wetness was felt almost immediately during the AS/S test; inspection found the moisture seeped quite readily through the center crotch seam. During the Shower test, leakage at the seams also seemed to be the main factor, with minor seepage at the shoulders and top of back, and a major leak at the mid/bottom area of front zipper. Based on this performance, and the suit’s extreme-silent attributes, I would consider this a fine “everyday” bowhunting outfit that you could depend on for much more protection than a “non-waterproof” suit, but it falls somewhat short when the goal is complete waterproof protection. —Mark Melotik

Robinson Outdoors/ScentBlocker S3 Outfitter Jacket and Pant

Jacket $210 & Pant $200 w/S3

Contact: (800)397-1927

Website: Robinson Outdoors

Scent Blocker Rain GearThis proven design is ScentBlocker’s only 100-percent waterproof suit, and you could make an argument that it’s also the most versatile, and economical in our test. That’s because the jacket comes with an included, zip-out, reversible Sherpa Fleece vest complete with Windblocker technology. It allows for truly “all-season” wear—right into the depths of the coldest late-season conditions.

Personally, I find the included vest too bulky for all but the coldest conditions, but having this super-warm and silent design included gives you many, many options—even for use without the jacket. That’s good value. Better still for whitetail hunters is this suit combines both a ScentBlocker SPF 50 activated carbon layer, and S3 microbial technology to aid in odor control.

Over the years we’ve been impressed with ScentBlocker garments offering true “bowhunter friendly” features. We really like the large and easily (two ways) accessible side cargo pockets, the included adjustable/removable arm guard, and the back safety harness slit. There’s even a sleeve-mounted “can” call pocket. Good stuff all.

During the AS/S test you could see the outer fleece had absorbed some water but no leaks were noted. Shower test performance was disappointing; small amounts of leakage were noted at the front zipper seam, but substantial leakage was found over the right shoulder and down the back. Our test suit was in Realtree AP camo; it’s also available in Mossy Oak Treestand and Realtree Hardwoods Grey. —Mark Melotik

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