Let it Rain
We tested six jackets to find out which will best fight off those April showers
(MONEY Magazine) – Some raincoats employ high-tech fabrics to keep water off your body. Others use specially coated shells lined with breathable membranes. Outdoorsy outfitter Patagonia calls its patented material H2No. Barbour, a British clothier favored by people who own hunting hounds, uses Egyptian cotton treated with oil and wax. These and other manufacturers all make confident claims about keeping you dry. And yet some raincoats are clearly better than others. With spring rains on the horizon, MONEY decided to find out which coats deliver on their promise of marrying technology with function and, of course, fashion.
The jackets on page 210 are the most popular models from six popular manufacturers. Each has impressive-sounding features: sealed seams, breathable nylon, microlight fabric, hoods that zip off or roll up, zippers protected by flaps with snaps or Velcro or both. Even "pit zips," which let your underarms breathe. But not all of those accessories, it turns out, keep you dry. No, the main problem with raincoats isn't the material but the details: those seams, cuffs, hoods, snaps and zippers. Anywhere fabric is interrupted, the jacket is vulnerable.
I found this out the way any consumer with common sense and ample time would, which was by standing in the shower. Drying time, styling and comfort were all important factors. Last, with more than $500 separating the most expensive and least expensive coats, I considered price. In the end, a Gore-Tex raincoat from L.L. Bean, whose flagship Maine store still stays open 24 hours a day for tourists and trappers on their way up north, emerged as the best. The hood cinched tight, the visor protected my face, and the Velcro cuffs kept my wrists dry. I also like how it looked--no small criterion for any piece of clothing. You might want something blousier or more fitted, or that says "I own hunting hounds." Now that I've applied the shower nozzle, the only equipment you'll need to make your selection is a mirror.
SIX COATS BATTLE THE SHOWER--AND ONE ANOTHER
TEST DETAILS I wore each jacket for five minutes in the shower on two separate days. The underlayer was a long-sleeved gray T-shirt, to help spot where water was getting in. To test the seams, any raincoat's most vulnerable point, I submerged one elbow in a sinkful of water for 10 minutes. The jackets pictured are women's models that are also available for men.