Waterproof rain slickers can be very useful if you encounter inclement weather on a camping trip. You may have had a yellow waterproof slicker when you were a child. Not much of a fashion statement, but with hat or hood, and the way the water just rolled off, you could walk for an hour in a downpour and when you got home you were dry as a bone, especially if you had the kind that had both zipper and snaps to close it tight and vents to let out perspiration. The old rain slickers you probably remember were heavy, not terribly comfortable and for quite some time carried that pungent, new rubber smell. Due to improvements in fabric and coating technology, these slickers have now improved greatly, and are valuable assets for camping trips.
Improvements Since the Heyday of the Yellow Slicker
You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that modern slickers have been greatly improved since their original form. After a decrease in popularity of waterproof rain wear during the 1980s and 1990s, the return of polyurethane-coated fabrics to raincoat fashions in the late 1990s meant that the slicker was on its way back.
Made from polyurethane, many of the new jackets have the same slick and shiny look you saw in the old waterproof rain slicker of the 1960s but they offer several advantages. Newer slickers are made from softer fabrics backing thinner layers of polyurethane, resulting in a lighter, more comfortable coat. For the more fashion-minded, some designers also shortened their slickers from their traditional full-length to a more comfortable and stylish jacket.
The Slicker vs. Treated Fabric
In a world in which fashion often trumps practicality, it is no surprise that rain wear made from layers of treated fabric became prominent. Called "bridge coats" or "hybrid coats" by the industry, they were made up of newly developed microfibers, sueded cotton and even velvet. These fabrics were then chemically treated to make them water-repellent. Many kinds of boots were introduced along these same lines.
However, the big issue with fabric coats is that they can never truly be waterproof. They will keep you dry in most circumstances, but if you are out in a driving rain, you will soon find that the outer fabric of the coat is soaked. Once that happens, you are going to start getting a little moist yourself very soon.
For campers, truly waterproof slickers are a better choice than the more fashionable fabric alternatives. Being caught in the rain under normal circumstances is bad enough, but when you are in the wild, with limited resources at hand, keeping your clothes dry and serviceable is of great importance.
You can wear your slicker in the worst rain, and though it will not protect your pack in the same way as a huge poncho, it will keep you dry. Most packs are highly water resistant, if not waterproof, and so this is really not a problem as long as everything is packed right and closed tightly.
With a poncho, if the wind whips up, you lose what protection the poncho does offer. There is no such trouble with a rain slicker, because it stays close to your body and is not affected by the wind. This attribute, plus the fact that water rolls off it it rather than soaking into the fabric makes the waterproof rain slicker the best choice for your back country adventures.
What to Look For In a Waterproof Rain Slicker
When selecting a rain slicker, keep in mind that you are looking for a garment that is waterproof, durable and comfortable. You must check the tags on the garment. If it says "Water resistant," then keep looking. Waterproof is the word you are looking for.
It's also important to check the coat's durability. How are the seams made? Does it look like they it stand up to the elements? Can the garment take a little punishment or will it tear easily? How does it close? A slicker that zips and snaps will give you the best protection from the elements.
Is the coat comfortable? Can you move freely in it? Find a size that will accommodate the clothes you are likely to wear underneath the slicker. Keep in mind that you are likely to wear several layers of clothing if you are camping during cold weather. You may want to go up a size when choosing your slicker. Is it vented? Many slickers will have vents to keep you from getting too hot while wearing the coat.
The following are some online resources for good quality slickers and other useful merchandise.