Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ponchos and Rain Capes and Hats, Oh My!

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I live in Florida where, despite it being called the Sunshine State, it rains a lot. Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, and when we aren't being battered by tropical storms or worse we have a tendency to get afternoon rain showers. We've even had a rainy January (with snow, of all things!), which is at odds with the current prediction for a La NiƱa-driven warm, dry winter season.

What I'm getting at here is that despite the fact I don't live in the Pacific Northwest, I know about rain and the importance of staying dry. I also know that there are times when you can't avoid going out into the rain, especially if you have dogs that need walking. The Venn Intersection of these two positions is "How best to stay dry in a variety of seasons."

Keep Your Feet Dry
There are few things more miserable than wet feet in wet shoes while you're walking. If you're in hot weather, that's a great way to get a fungal infection (I know from painful experience that they aren't fun at all), and if you're in cold weather that could result in sickness, hypothermia and even frostbite.

Both cases can be prevented by wearing waterproof boots. I am not a fan of galoshes, instead preferring to keep a pair of comfortable leather combat boots by the front door. They keep my feet warm and dry in a variety of environments, and the addition of wool socks should help in colder climates.

(I recommend against "jungle boots" unless you are spending a lot of time outside in warm, wet weather, as they aren't very good in the cold. A regular boot has a more universal application. However, if you need two pairs of boots, one for cold and one for hot, then by all means get them both.)

Keep Your Body Dry
There are many options for this, from raincoats to umbrellas. I am partial to the poncho for the following reasons:
  1. It covers more of my body than a rain jacket.
  2. It is faster and easier to put on than a rain suit. 
  3. It doesn't occupy a hand like an umbrella, nor is it as susceptible to wind.
  4. Unlike most waterproof coats it is unlined, meaning I don't have to worry about becoming overheated. Instead I layer, with the poncho as the waterproof outer shell and base insulating layers to keep warm. 
  5. A poncho can be turned into a shelter in an emergency. 
I have talked about the Swiss Rain Cape before, and it's a great low-cost option for preppers, but it isn't the best that I've used.

The very best poncho I have ever used is the Poncho Villa by Hazard 4. I bought this at the NRA 2016 convention and, while expensive, has been worth every penny I paid for it.
It is breathable. You may not understand how important this is until you're sweating underneath a piece of waterproof plastic and wondering if being cold and wet from the rain is preferable to being hot and wet from perspiration. The Poncho Villa (hereafter PV) is so comfortable that I have used it as a blanket while sleeping on a hospital couch.

It is waterproof. Even though the fabric allows my skin to breathe, it has kept me dry through two hurricane seasons.

It is adjustable. By this I mean that it has two snaps per side, allowing me to customize the amount of freedom you want for your arms. I can leave it unsnapped for maximum airflow or snap it up all the way for dryness. I prefer to fasten the lower but leave the upper snaps undone, as that allows me to more easily access my concealed pistol... and yes, I can rapidly drawn and aim from that condition.

It has velcro strips for reflectors.  There are velcro strips across the chest, the back, the back of the head, and the shoulders. If you are concerned about visibility at night (especially if you are wearing the black version), you can attach reflectors without worrying about compromising your poncho's waterproofing; if safety isn't a concern, you can attach unit or morale patches instead.
It has a pocket. There is a 12"x14" belly pocket that will hold hats, gloves, and other gear and which seals with velcro for a secure closure.
It is compressible, by which I mean it can fold into that pocket to become a pillow. The material is soft enough that it feels comfortable against my skin.

It has grommets at the corners like a mil-spec poncho, so you can turn it into a shelter with just some rope.

In the interest of fairness, I need to point out that there are two things I don't like about this poncho:
  1. It's not as long as most ponchos. I am 5'4" and it comes to just below my knees. This is not a terrible problem for me, because my combat boots come fairly high up my shin, but for people with longer legs this may be an issue. 
  2. I do not like the hood. I dislike hoods in general because they muffle my hearing, restrict my vision, and when I turn my head they don't turn with it so I end up being able to see out of only one eye. Which brings us to...
Keep Your Head Dry
Since I don't like hoods, the best way to keep my head dry is to use a waterproof hat. In warm weather, I use a wide-brimmed boonie hat that was been Scotchgarded to within an inch of its life; for cold weather, I have an insulated and waterproof hat with fold-down ear flaps (a balaclava is sometimes necessary if it's windy).

Stay dry = stay warm = stay healthy = stay alive.

Dear FCC: All items were bought with my own money. Go away. 

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