Not Martha

trying out two rain jackets

I recently tried out two rain jackets. I realize it’s June but, tragically, here in Seattle I still need rainwear. I was looking for jackets in colors that weren’t girly, something that kept rain off my glasses, and something that fit over my average sized hips and whatever sweater I might be wearing at the moment.

Land’s End AquaCheck Jacket

I really liked this jacket except for one crucial detail which I’ll get to. It is lightweight and packable into one of it’s own pockets, the hood stores away in the collar, the bottom is cut wide enough to allow for wearing a bulky sweater underneath, the Napoleon pocket would allow for a iPod, I even liked the pocket on the sleeve. Only, the visor on the hood of the first one I got was hopelessly bent, and it’s not something I could fix by ironing it. A little excellent customer service later and I had a second jacket, with a visor that was less severely bent but no more likely to shield my face from rain. I tried getting the visor to stay flatish by putting weight on it over night, but no luck. I returned the jacket, but Land’s End, if you ever figure out that hood thing, give me a call.

L.L. Bean Weather Challenger Jacket

I’m a little shy about prices like the one on this jacket, but in this instance I think it’s worth it. It came highly recommended by a friend, and everybody who has one likes it. The jacket has a zip in fleece liner, which is fine to wear on it’s own, and the jacket allows me to wear a sweater under both layers if I wanted. It’s not packable, but it’s nice and sturdy, the hood stores away in the collar and the visor of the hood has a rigid plastic frame which prevents any of the tragedy above. (This jacket also comes in a lovely combination of two green colors which the site is not currently showing but I suspect will reappear at some point as I watched the black/gray color disappear and return earlier this year.)

I was undecided on this jacket for a while but found myself wearing it in a few situations where it proved itself. First was a trip to the Olympic Peninsula where I was glad to have it for a hike in the woods, a walk in the rain forest and visits to very windy beaches. The second was a point where I walked a few miles in the rain and discovered all the ways the hood could be adjusted so you could really cinch yourself in, but still see out from under the hood. Also, all the little metal bits on the inside of the collar are nicely covered with fleece so they don’t rub against your chin or neck when you’re really hunkered down.

So, I kept this one and I’m feeling oddly secure to know that, if I wanted, I’d be all set to go hiking in some freezing rain.

I also looked at L.L Bean’s less expensive Storm Chaser jacket. One of the main reasons I didn’t choose it is that it doesn’t have a collar that stands up separate of the hood. I really like being able to stay snug while in a situation where I’ll be putting the hood up and down a lot. This is one of those features I didn’t know about until I started shopping for jackets, so I thought it might be worth mentioning here.

Two wishlist features:

– A two way zipper that will upzip from the bottom up, which will make it easier to wear while driving. You know, for those moments where it’s pouring but I just need to return some books to the library, just a quick in-and-out of the car moment. While I’d like to claim I’ll only be wearing my hi-tech jacket for hiking in treacherous weather, the truth is I’ll be wearing around town a lot more often.

– A hood made deep enough to accommodate a ponytail. Outerwear manufacturers of the world, I’ll be your first loyal customer for this one.

· comments [19] · 06-18-2008 · categories:shopping ·

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 range // Jun 18, 2008 at 7:55 am

    After lusting after an Arc’Teryx Alpha LT for a while, I decided to get one in January. I got a bit of a deal, but not that much.

    It’s incredibly light, made out of Gore-Tex Proshell and incredibly comfortable to wear. The material breathes and lets dampness escape, while insulating well. I’ve worn it in Quebec with -30C weather, coupled with a Thermalpro fleece and a few midlayers, and in Taiwan with +36C, with nothing but a baselayer underneath. The Gore-Tex can be reinvigorated after a few months of use by washing it in a washing machine, and drying it in a drying machine while a special spray is used.

    What’s great about Arc’Teryx is that they are made in Canada and they are “bomb proof”. These shells last for years and they are lifetime guaranteed.

    They are quite pricey though, which makes it a hard decision. However, if you think about all of the rain jackets that you won’t buy because you have one that is really good, then you can save money.

    I’ve had it for about 7 months and I usually wear it everyday.

  • 2 Jen Yu // Jun 18, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Hmmm… if the price tag hits you where it hurts, then these may not be places you’d readily shop – however, I know that North Face Mountain Lights have the two-way zipper action because I wore those for many years until I switched to…

    Patagonia, aka Patagucci. I prefer to support this company for a number of reasons (their company mission for one), and I find their gear to be top notch. I have their stretch element jacket (now the stretch latitude) which has a hood deep enough for ponytails (because I used to have a ponytail and because the hood fits over my ski helmet and climbing helmet).

    What you’re looking for exists, but it comes with about a $300 and upwards price tag. If you check out mountaineering clothing, you’ll probably find many other options too – but they are pricey. Good luck!

  • 3 Marissa // Jun 18, 2008 at 7:59 am

    I have this one from REI in last season’s green color and I love it. It has pit-zips, which I appreciate.

  • 4 megan // Jun 18, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Thanks for the suggestions for higher end jackets. I might look into them since I’m still not completely convinced I’m in love with the one from LL Bean.

  • 5 Rebekah // Jun 18, 2008 at 8:10 am

    I just wanted to say “Amen!” to your wish for hoods that accomodate ponytails. It seems like all the designers are males that don’t consider the practicalities of female life.

  • 6 Kari // Jun 18, 2008 at 8:10 am

    I’ll be the second loyal customer to a company that cuts a roomy enough hood for a ponytail! Plus, I have a tall forehead, so it needs to have extra coverage!!!

  • 7 Chelsea // Jun 18, 2008 at 8:13 am

    I was on the hunt for rain jackets this spring but was hesitant due to the price tabs. If I knew how much rain we were going to get in eastern Iowa this year I would have jumped on a rain jacket, but alas, I did not. Thanks for the reviews. I may be purchasing one soon though I like to think our massively rainy days may be over for awhile.

  • 8 Lana // Jun 18, 2008 at 9:52 am

    I am a total convert to Marmot for my rain jackets. I splurged about 5 years ago and bought one for travel – I ended up wearing it most of the time – bike commuting in pouring rain (excellent cuffs! no leaks!), travel and heck, style. When it finally started to wear out years later, I just went and bought the exact same thing. I LOVE my Marmot coat.

  • 9 Louise // Jun 18, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I actually own the LL Bean coat you review, but I never really thought of it as a rain coat. I used to work part-time at REI so I’m a bit of a gear head. Thus, I have two additional raincoats. I actually use the LL Bean coat as my winter coat in New England. I love it. On the first one I got the zipper got funky, so no problem, just returned it and got a brand new coat a year later. My favorite is LL Bean and REI’s customer service. Basically return what you want, if you are not happy truly for any reason. They don’t even guilt trip you about it.

  • 10 cindy // Jun 18, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    I have a Lands End Hooded Down Parka. It too has a problem with the hood…it doesn’t have straps to keep it secured! I agree, if they ever figure out that hood problem…

    As for rain gear I have a Burton snowboarding jacket (on sale) that doubles as a rain jacket. The only problem is I’m short with short arms and most jackets are made for average length arms. I would loved getting a Nau jacket but I’m sure the sleeves would be too long.

  • 11 Z // Jun 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Did you look into Helly Hansen? Mine is from there (5 yrs ago) but I got it in kids size. The hoodie is deep enough for me to have a pony tail and it has bungy cords along it so you can tighten it in the wind. The one I got is packable into the side pocket. They often have 30-50% off sales which is when I brought mine.

  • 12 Maureen // Jun 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    That bottom up zipper IS so important. I have one jacket that I’m always yanking up from under me for fear of ripping the zip as I’m sitting on it in the car. Grrrr.

  • 13 caroline // Jun 18, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Marmot Precip! Totally a winner. Keeps you dry and stylin’–lots of colors to choose from. The ‘angel wings’ are fantastic, and you can usually find them on sale at some gear shop or another. :)

  • 14 Boulder // Jun 18, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I cannot recommended highly enough the Canadian equivalent of REI – MEC @ I got a rain jacket there several years ago and it can be folded up in to a wad and still look great. It fits my pony tail with ease, and I’d buy another in a heartbeat, if only this one would give up in some way. I also love the velcro at the sleeves as well as up the zipper to keep it from flapping about or when I don’t have need to zip up.
    Check them out!

  • 15 Mox Rogers // Jun 19, 2008 at 3:16 am

    I feel your pain on the hood/ponytail dilemma. I don’t own/wear a rain coat, but I am a member of the church of hooded sweatshirts. I know my ponytail won’t fit into the hood but I try anyway, only to be angered and frustrated every time it doesn’t cover the top of my head and slides its way backwards.

  • 16 emily // Jun 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I know! I really wish it would be nice out. It is almost nice out today, but then it turned gray. My rainjacket is a cheap Helly Hanson jacket from REI – if I had known I would be wearing it this much then I would have paid for something a little nicer, but it gets the job done. (Longtime reader, first-time caller here.)

  • 17 Alexa // Jun 21, 2008 at 12:30 am

    A bit late now obviously, but next time you’re looking for raingear (or other outdoors clothing), have a look at Mountain Equipment Co-op ( They’re a Canadian company, and in my (and my family’s, and my friends’) experience, their stuff is normally good quality and a good bit cheaper than Patagonia, Columbia, etc. They’re good about letting you order things and returning them, replacing things, etc.

  • 18 Bri // Jun 23, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    From one PNW girl to another, try the Precip from Marmot. They work really well here in Oregon weather, I would assume that they’d work for you in Seattle! I love mine. If you check the REI outlet website, they sometimes have them on sale (especially as the rainy season is theoretically drawing to an end).

  • 19 Kate // Jul 7, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I see now that this is old-ish (though it randomly appeared in my feed reader, maybe you updated it) but I am another Oregon girl (who also lived in Seattle) recommending the Marmot Precip. I haven’t tested the ponytail-friendliness of the hood, but it’s quite adjustable, and mine doesn’t have a two-way zipper (though it’s at least 5 years old so maybe they do now?) but I recommend it highly nonetheless.

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