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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 05-17-2007
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Foul Weather Gear - Consumer or Marine?

I've been looking into foul weather gear and have checked out both the marine vendors like Henri-Lloyd & Gill as well has higher-end consumer products like Columbia. What are the benefits of paying the higher marine prices for an average daysailor over gear like Columbia's IBEX rainsuit? With a layer of fleece underneath you'd stay dry and warm on a cool rainy day right?

Columbia IBEX Rainsuit

Interested in your thoughts.

Todd
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  #2  
Old 05-17-2007
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At $34.00 I would also be interested in hearing thoughs, on this.
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  #3  
Old 05-17-2007
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I'll give it a shot:

"Super waterproof rainsuit for non-aerobic activities....
Fabric: Hard Shell 100% waterproof PVC with 100% nylon backing and 100% polyester mesh vents."

Looks like a lightweight running suit. Might be OK for WALKING in the rain.

On the deck of a sailboat in a storm, you are likely to be doing dome heavy aerobics staying on deck, cranking on winches, and going up & down the companionway. This rainsuit would probably last me about 30 min. in a storm...YMMV

Looking at my raingear the pants are made from 100% Nylon (real heavy thread) with a polyurethane coating on the shell, lined with Nylon taffeta (which looks like the above suit material), and Polyester mesh.

What is it worth to you to be dry in a storm at sea?

Ed
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Old 05-17-2007
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The other point is that most consumer rain gear doesn't have specific features that are really needed on marine sailing foul weather gear.

These features include things like:

Inner and outer cuffs for the sleeves, where the inner one is made of neoprene, PVC or latex, and can be tightened down to prevent water from running down your arm when you reach above your shoulders to adjust a line or grab something. The outer cuff prevents water from getting in to your sailing gloves as easily.

Retro-reflective tape patches, which is crucial in an MOB situation at night or in bad weather. Also missing on consumber rain gear are atachment points for strobes and whistles.

Large, hand warmer-type fleece lined pockets are also not typical on most consumer rain gear.

Proper ventilation is usually missing.

A good hood and high, fleece-lined collar are invaluable in heavy spray or driving rain. The collar on most terrestrial foul weather gear is pathetic and can't protect your face from driving rain.

The pants have to have a high bib and back, to prevent rain and spray from driving up under the bottom of the jacket and soaking your clothes.

The pants also have to be designed to accept boots and cinch down around the tops of the boots, to help keep your feet dry.

The list could go on quite a bit more.... It also depends on where you're sailing... Here in New England, where the waters are pretty cold for most of the early part of the season, and don't warm up all that much even in high summer... good foul weather gear is the difference between enjoying a wet day out on the boat, and being hypothermic and miserable.

If you're sailing off-shore or on longer coastal passages... good foul weather gear is even more important than if you're daysailing, as you need to stay warm and dry to stay healthy. You won't always have the resources to recover if you get seriously chilled.... People who are seriously chilled, hypothermic and miserable tend to make mistakes that can cost them their lives as well.
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In addition to the design features to which Sailingdog refers, the fabrics used on good sailing gear are usually heavier than on backpacking waterproofs. This is because sailing gear has to deal with the weight of green water and not just rain and generally needs to be more abraision resistant wheras overall weight is much less of a concern (afterall, unlike a backpacker/mountaineer, most of the time a sailor is sitting down or at least standing still)*.

* A bowman on a Volvo boat may disgree with this, but that's why Gill and Musto etc make light weight smock style oilies.
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I'm one who would consider themselves an up and coming "average day sailor". As such, my trips are planned to avoid uncomfortable weather to the extent possible. However, stuff happens, so some sort of foul weather gear is needed, even for those of us that will generally only be a short motor away from the dock.

Having spent many hours in non-breathable rain gear while hurtling down the interstate on two wheels at extra legal speed, I would say that the suit in question would be ok for most conditions a day sailor might encounter. The average day sailor will not be wearing their gear for days on end or taking green water over the boat. As for the aerobic level of sailing, I'd say that even crewing while racing, you don't work that hard for extended periods of time. Its normally short periods of strenous work interspersed with longer inactive periods, so I'd argue waterproof is more important than breathable for short duration wear. There is just no reason to pay for high end foulies designed for the North Sea, to keep you dry in a shower or T-storm while you make a run for the marina or anchorage that's a few minutes (or even a couple of hours) away as would be the case for the "average day sailor."

That said, the main downside of consumer or moutaineering type gear for me is the lack of specfic marine safety features as Sailingdog pointed out. Even though I had top quality moutaineering gear and equally high end gear for riding motorcycles , I opted to aquire half-decent, breathable marine foulies for my wife and I, primarly to have the safety features like high visibility colors, reflective tape and handy storage for light and sound signal devices should we find ourselves swimming.

YMMV
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Bullet points on staying dry

SD, as usual, has some excellent points:
  • Inner and outer cuffs for the sleeves
  • Retro-reflective tape patches
  • hand warmer-type fleece lined pockets
  • Ventilation
  • High fleece-lined collar
  • Hood
  • High bib and back on Pants
  • Pants that will accept (go over, and cinch down on) boots

VMacDonald and I mentioned the heavy nylon cloth in our earlier replies.
Other attributes include:
  • Heavy nylon zippers for strength
  • Cloth that covers the zipper, held with velcro - so that water does not penetrate through the zipper
  • High visibility hood material (Florescent yellow) with a bill to keep rain out of my face
  • Cinch at waist, arms, and around hood to keep water out
  • Attachment points for whistle, and emergency locator beacon (flasher)

I also ride a motorcycle, and have seperate rain gear for that. Raingear was a necessity when I rode back from Key West to Boston during the torrential rain that we encountered in NC/VA, and snow in DC and NJ March 16 & 17. Motorcycle raingear, however, would not be a substitute for Sailing raingear. It has none of the above features, is much lighter, more "rubbery," and baggier (meant to be worn over leathers) than Sailing raingear.

While I also try to avoid bad weather (especially with the admiral aboard), I have been in Boston outer harbor, on my way home when all hell broke loose from above. It *still* takes over an hour to get back to the mooring, and I still have to take down, and stow the sails. Having to do this while warm and dry, vs wet and cold, is well worth the $200 that I spent on raingear. It would have been worth $2000 if the admiral were on board with me that evening .

I also agree with 'Dog's comment on safety. You are much more likely to endanger yourself, and your vessel, if you are making compromises because you are uncomfortable.

Again; what is it worth for you to be warm and dry on a boat?
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Old 05-17-2007
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I've sailed in both breathable and non-breathable foulies and can tell you there is nothing worse than keeping the rain off, but then removing your gear when you get back to the dock to find you are still soaked from your own sweat. If your going to get soaked, you might as well not bother with the foulies in the first place. All of SD- (and others) comments are spot on. the one thing I will add to them is the knee and elbow reinforcement in sailing FW gear. Most non-sailing specific gear will wear thru or rip rather quickly when used to crawl around on the decks for a while.

Don't get me wrong you can use other types of FW gear, but you may not be as comfortable and it won't last as long. Worst Marine can be a good source for FW gear when they close-out a specific brand or model which they tend to do.
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Old 05-17-2007
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Did anybody mention built in harness?
You can get some foulies with a built in safety harness.
I doubt that's available from Columbia.
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Old 05-17-2007
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A built in harness is a mixed blessing. My old HL jacket has that--but once I got an inflatable PFD with (a better) harness, that became baggage which mainly sits in the closet.

Good recreational foul weather gear (Marmot, REI, etc.) is going to compete with the best marine gear. Cheap $35 plastic rain suits, will always be cheap $35 plastic rain suits. They serve a purpose even if it is a limited one.

I'd have to agree on the construction details being a big part of the expense, as is durability. Heck, even GoreTex comes in at least 3 grades with varying warranties, if it isn't fully seam sealed with the "Extreme Wet Weather" tag on it, you can still get wet in it. And if you are in situations where you will be sitting or kneeling in water--it's going to come through any breathable fabric at that point.

But I got started with cheap raingear and it served a purpose, it was better than nothing. Then one day after some storms, my friend and I were sitting in a deli letting our laundry dry, ignoring the really funny huge puddle forming around us, and I decided "cold + wet = miserable" and went after some real foul wx gear. But, until and unless you are making that expensive committment to sailing....the cheap stuff will often have to do.
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