With an average annual rainfall of around 35 inches, Bellingham can be quite precipitous in the late fall and winter months. With all that drizzle, it is imperative that Western students and staff find the right combination of rain protection to keep the wet at bay.
Fellow AS Review writer Matt Blair and I were sent on assignment to test a range of popular clothing items one might find in their closet. Unfortunately, the weather was rather pleasant during our test day, thus we were forced to rethink our experiment.
After some quick thinking, we settled on a simple solution: with an old-fashioned watering can we could recreate (more or less) the conditions of a typical rainy day in Bellingham.
Because one of us had to “operate” the watering can (i.e. dump water on the other person's head), both of us weren't able to participate in the soaking. Luckily for me, Matt enthusiastically (or maniacally) agreed to be the test subject.
What follows are Matt's ratings of the best and worst choices in the realm of raingear. Read it. He did this for you, Western.
The raincoat we used to test torrential downpour conditions was made of 100 percent polyester. Though the coat was a tad snug because I had bought it during my senior year in high school, it proved to be the most effective protection against the “rain”.
The water literally bounced off the coat. With the hood up, my head was completely dry despite having water poured directly on top of it. The rest of my body remained completely dry as well. I would highly advise using this type of coat in a storm. As I would find with the later tests, keeping dry is the key to keeping warm. The polyester coat managed to keep my clothes completely untouched.
A “hoodie” is an overgarment that zips up and has a hood but is not made of the same waterproof material that a raincoat is. We used a hoodie that was 80 percent cotton and 20 percent polyester. A hoodie is made to deflect some rain but it is by no means optimal in a downpour.
As soon as the water flow began, I realized the hoodie wasn't going to hold up. It held water within the cotton fabric and in no time the shirt I was wearing underneath was soaked. The hood kept my head dry, but that mattered very little when the rest of my body was drenched. The most surprising result was how quickly the water was able to seep through the fabric and onto my skin.
I would not recommend wearing a hoodie in the rain unless you have a full change of clothes handy.
For our third test, we decided to see how a pullover sweatshirt purchased in the AS bookstore would fare during a typical Bellingham rain storm. These pullovers are 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester.
If you would call me soaked after testing the hoodie, then I'm not sure what word I would use to describe the outcome of the pullover. I was dripping wet. The water was able to soak through the hood and reach my hair within seconds. It seeped into the top so that little droplets began falling from my bangs and into my eyes.
The pullover was inadequate protection from the unceasing downpour, but in its defense, pullovers are not really made for those conditions. The only circumstance in which I would wear this in heavy rain would be if I found myself stuck somewhere with no other option.
I was not looking forward to the fleece. For the first time in our experiment I was testing an article of clothing that would not provide cover for my head. Though I was already shivering from the prior tests, my head wasn't fully soaked yet. Without a doubt, pouring water on the 100 percent hoodless polyester fleece would leave me feeling like I had just taken a cold shower.
It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, however. The fleece kept my body fairly dry, save for the water that flowed down my neck and into my shoulders. My mid-torso, back and arms were not affected by the rainfall, a testament to the success of the fleece's intended design. Without an attachable hood, though, fleece unfortunately stands no chance in heavy rain and should probably be substituted for a larger coat.
Without a doubt, the best covering for a rainstorm is a raincoat. Though this conclusion seems obvious, it was justified after the failure of every other coat we tested. Though a raincoat may be cumbersome and unfashionable at times, it still keeps its wearer the driest. If you're stuck in the rain or you find yourself on the bottom end of a watering can, a large coat is worth the trouble.