It’s Waterproof Season!

Do you wrap up in Goretex or focus on wicking fabrics? We’ll help you decide.

Portland is rainy during the winter. There is NO debate there. However, Portland is also a rapidly GROWING city with lots of new and friendly folks from, how shall we say it, warmer and dryer climates! I’m a lifelong Oregonian, but I absolutely love introducing our wonderful state and city to new folks and showing them how to embrace the chilly, wet winters here. With that influx of new and novice rainy-weather friends, we also see a common set of questions in our store during the winter.
1.)  Do we carry waterproof jackets or shoes (the answer is YES!)
2.) What do I wear when it’s raining? Do I actually need waterproof? (the answer is…well, that’s what this whole post is about, silly!).


Cut three holes in a garbage sack and you’ve got yourself a waterproof “jacket” right? Well, sorta. While plastic sacks certainly don’t let moisture IN, they DEFINITELY don’t let moisture out, so your perspiration stays inside and you quickly can have a soggy, cold torso. This is where true Goretex* (a proprietary brand) and other waterproof/breathable fabrics come into play.  GORE-TEX fabric has billions of pores of a size to allow water vapor (sweat) to escape from the warm inside while keeping larger water droplets (and wind) out on the chilly side. The Brooks Ghost GTX or the New Balance 860 GTX, for example, use incorporated GORE-TEX liners to keep feet warm and dry.
That is the million dollar question! We like to think of waterproof materials on a spectrum. On one side, you have the garbage bag. The other side, you have the lightest, most breathable tank top out there. Goretex is designed to sit somewhere more towards the garbage sack side but not quite that far. No matter HOW breathable a waterproof fabric claims to be, it just can’t be as breathable as something that has more venting and more open pores that allow moisture to escape the fabric. So, YES, it does breath, but NO, it won’t breath enough for you to not feel some condensation build up after a hard workout.
This is the part where we start asking what you are doing in the shoes or jacket. Are you coaching your high school team and jogging a little bit in between? Go waterproof all day! You want maximum protection. Do you heat up pretty well after about 10 minutes on your run or walk and put out a pretty significant effort to raise your heart rate? You may want a water RESISTANT (keeps water off pretty well, but will eventually soak through after about an hour) and layer with something breathable underneath so the water doesn’t just stick to your skin.
But here’s the way I like to put it:
1.) If you find that you really HATE getting wet, find a waterproof shoe or jacket. If you find you get too warm, it’s always good to have on hand for those REALLY rainy days or when you walk your dog.
2.) If you hate feeling sticky and overheating, then search for those really awesome tech fabric socks or LS shirts, or better yet, a merino wool garment like Smartwool that helps pull that rain away from the skin while still maintaining insulating properties. Throw on a water resistant jacket over the top that breaths pretty well and keeps you pretty dry to start. You can keep it on or wrap it around your waist when you get hot. Water resistant jackets and shoes typically are a little lighter and more flexible too.
So there you have it folks. An honest account of running or walking in the rain by an honest Oregonian! Stop by the stores or check out our website and and we’ll show you what we have to help you enjoy our wet but awesome Oregon fall/winter/spring (ok, and some of our summer too).
*The GORE-TEX® membrane has 9 billion pores per square inch, with each pore 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet. These tiny holes are too small for water and wind to pass through from the outside…. But these same pores are large enough for moisture vapor to pass through, so your body’s perspiration is able to escape and you don’t get clammy and uncomfortable, according to GORE-TEX.