The Beginner’s Primer on Rain Gear

New Zealand can be quite wet. Torrential rain in the tops, dripping undergrowth and bushes in the forest, or just grey rainy days in the cities, Winter, and spring, and autumn and a bit of summer means wet. At some point, you are likely to want to stay dry. Here are some tips to help get the most out of hunting wet weather kit.


Our unique requirements

I feel I should start this article by highlighting how hunting in NZ is a little different to many parts of the world. Many people don’t realise this until they either come into New Zealand or, head out to other parts of the world. I should also point out that all my experience is based around Central North Island Bush hunting, and shooting on ranges, in the range. Oh. And holding shooting competitions during Tropical Cyclones.

In NZ, while there is certainly plenty of tops and mountain hunting to be had, a large amount of Kiwi hunting is done in the bush and scrub – under the tree canopies. This creates a situation that means a lot of our local garments have evolved in their own way. Namely, wool and fleece.

Originally, heavy wool shirts and coats were the name of the day. These were heavy, particularly after getting wet. So NZ developed a bit of a taste for fleece. Fleece is cheap, but, like wool, it also has another couple of benefits – primarily, it’s quiet – pushing through undergrowth can mean noise – particularly if you have a technical garment on without some kind of facing on it – Goretex and eVent fabrics are notorious for making you sound like you are walking around in a chip packet – and that isn’t generally conducive to stalking animals.

Fleece (and wool) however, removes that issue – it’s near-silent most the time. Sure, it’s traditionally hasn’t meant a high level of waterproofness, but fleece (not so much wool) is quick to dry out, so it was a case of getting wet and battling on.

However, over time, this will wear away at your – and, if you have ever done a couple of hours tramping with wet boots, wet feet, the long term results aren’t always that pleasant.

Thankfully, this has changed a bit in the last couple of years – but our hunting coats, while introducing waterproof membranes, have continued to have a ‘fleece’ outer layer – in the form of a brushed tricot. Modern technology combining the best of both worlds.

Dry means comfortable, and comfortable means efficiency, and ultimately, better performance.

Long coats, short shorts.

New Zealand developed its own style in regards to waterproofing – or, I sometimes wonder, adapted more to the point, due to the amount of wet and rain, and lack of good waterproofing options.

It is hard to pinpoint where the idea of tights, shorts and a coat developed – but it became somewhat of the norm to tramp and hunt in thermals, shorts and a coat. As a result, peoples started to favour the longer, anorak style of the waterproof jacket – as the legs were essentially assumed to be going to end up wet.

However, once you end up wearing tights, shorts and potentially gaiters as well – it gets to the point where a pair of trousers just becomes and simpler option. However, the trend for the longer jacket has persisted, and I think, for the better.

Understanding Waterproofing, and breathability.

Most technical garments these days come with a couple of ratings assigned to them – waterproof rating – in the form of hydrostatic pressure and breathability. This are generally a figure like – 15,000mm / 10,000gm m2 / 24hr.

Without going too far into the science of it, more is better. These are lab tests though – and it’s important when comparing products, to ensure they have been tested to the same standards.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if you get a little wet.

The reality is if it’s the middle of summer, a bit of rain can be a welcome way to cool off. If you have dry kit packed away, just in case the weather turns and you suddenly need to get warm, then maybe you don’t even need to take the heavy jacket out – this is the ideal situation for a lightweight, thin jacket that might be enough to keep you dry if it really starts to bucket down, but won’t just turn your body into a hotbox of sweat and clamminess. This is one of the main reasons I prefer jackets without any insulation in them. I can always add that myself as part of my layering system.

Don’t sweat it.

We talk more about this in our layering article – but the key to a lot of successful technical garment use is correct layering in order to manage the temperature from the inside out. In a nutshell – you want to be pushing the heat outwards from yourself, into your base layer, through your mid and insulation layers, through the outer layer and into the atmosphere. The outer layers job is to keep any of the wet getting back in, but it also needs to allow the internal moisture, in the form of sweat, to get out.

While you want to ensure that your core temperature is slightly warmer than the outside air (to keep the ‘pressure’ positive) even the most breathable of fabrics can only do so much – and that’s why the notion of having to continuously monitor and manage your layers is critical to the overall system working as well as it could.

Once you are already a sweaty mess, it’s too late – you are now wet, and guess what. That’s not the rainjacket letting water in.

Take the insulation layer off before heading up that mountain. Start off a little cool in the morning. You will quickly warm up as you get moving, and it will stop you overloading the system with excessive heat. Once that happens, all you can do is dump heat – which can cause issues with the sweat evaporating on your skin, doing its job and cooling you down.

Keep it clean

For some reason, people seem to think that a high-end technical jacket is going to require less maintenance and looking after than a cheap rubber raincoat, this idea couldn’t be more wrong.

A waterproof, breathable membrane is essentially a hi-tech piece of fabric with thousands of really, really small holes in it (big enough to let vapour through, but small enough stop liquid). If those holes get blocked up with dirt from the environment, oils from you or blood (hopefully not from you) – then it can transport that water vapour away from you (see the trend here) and stop you getting wet from the inside.

Some garment manufacturers will even recommend you wash your technical kit every time you head out – and most are tested to outlast any amount of washing you are likely every to do.

So next time you get back from a hunt, instead of just dumping your still wet jacket in the boot until next time, get it out, get it clean, and get the most out of it!

Durability Issues

It’s also worth noting, that much of the modern technical garments don’t like heavy bush bashing – certainly not those without some kind of protective layer on them.

We see a bit of a hybrid layering system – where a brushed tricot or form of fleece is layered on the outside of the waterproof layer. This serves two purposes – to quieten down the rustle that a waterproof material tends to have, and, to provide some additional durability to the product.

However, on the flip side, this fleece/tricot can wet out – that is, absorb enough water that the material is no longer breathable. It’s important to note here – this normally doesn’t mean it’s no longer waterproof – but it can mean, you guessed it – water vapour can’t escape and you end up wet from the inside.

Once your gear is wetted out, saturated to the point of holding water, it’s not going to breathe anymore. This doesn’t mean it’s not longer waterproof, but it does mean that you face the real issue of ending up swimming in your own sweat. Instead of the water vapour coming off your body being able to get to the outside world and away from you – it basically condenses on the inside of your jacket. You know that feeling sometimes after a hard tramp in the rain where you feel soaked, sorry bud – that’s not rain.

It’s not magic – it’s science.

And as such, it has its limitations. The more you can help it, meaning, the more you can stay out of the rain, the better. Staying in one area glassing for a long time? Consider putting up a tarp shelter. Maybe sitting right on the edge of that ridgeline, in the wind in rain (and silhouetting yourself) isn’t the best idea. Slide down a bit into the gut or valley and use the terrain to shelter you a bit.