Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Jacket shopping

Although not on the scale of that caused by my ingrown toenail and the lingering effects of my old groin strain, the discomfort caused by my Gore-Tex rain jacket during last year's Tokaido walk was of some concern. The jacket, which I bought at Kathmandu, performed well during 2007's Nakasendo walk when we encountered a couple of day's of heavy rain caused by a passing typhoon, but that was in late-October, when temperatures were relatively cool and humidity low. In contrast, it was warm and humid when I walked the Tokaido, and although I encountered very little heavy rain (it did pour for a whole day once but luckily it was one of two scheduled rest days), I did get sick of the drizzle, mainly because my jacket didn't seem to breathe as well as it usually did and I ended up feeling quite sweaty while wearing it. I've since learnt that this is a common complaint about Gore-Tex. Apparently the humidity outside needs to be considerably less than that on the inside in order for the fabric to breathe properly, as a result of which it performs poorly in warm, humid conditions.

The thought of experiencing the same discomfort when I walk the Koshu Kaido in September (the end of summer in Japan, and also the typhoon season) prompted me to start looking for a new rain jacket a couple of weeks ago. But there was another reason. I want to save weight, and my Gore-Tex jacket is probably the heaviest item of clothing I had with me on the Nakasendo and Tokaido walks. I remember leaving to walk the Nakasendo and being quite proud of the fact that I'd kept the weight of my pack down to below 10kg (8.5kg to be precise). I probably carried about the same weight when I walked the Tokaido, but my groin problem as well as a couple of encounters with other walkers along the way, most notably Aki, got me thinking about how I could cut down on weight.

I started doing some online research. I came across a fabric called eVent, which supposedly transports moisture away from the body up to 250% faster than Gore-Tex. Unfortunately it's also hellishly expensive. Eventually I decided to go for a Marmot PreCip jacket. The fabric may not be as breathable as eVent or even Gore-Tex, but it's super light and the jacket has a couple of huge "PitZips" under the armpits which you can unzip to cool yourself down. But the best thing is I found one on special for about $100 less than the normal price. Unfortunately, it being the start of winter here, I have no way of testing it in warm, humid conditions before the Koshu Kaido walk. I have worn it a couple of times in the rain, though, and it definitely kept me dry.

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