$20 driduck poncho vs. $200 rainjacket

10:08 p.m. on March 13, 2010 (EST)
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I was at the local outfitter today with a $100 budget for a good rainjacket to use during my AT thru hike. As I was about ready to check out, I looked down and saw a nice, lightweight Driduck poncho for $20. I put the rainjacket back on the shelf and walked out of the store wondering how far up the trail I'd make it before I revisited my decision.

Any input on $20 ponchos (which to me seem super-breathable and lightweight) vs. rainjackets?

Thanks in advance!

4:44 p.m. on March 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm going to pick up some Driducks in the next week or so. The only thing bad that I have heard is that they tear easly.

4:53 p.m. on March 14, 2010 (EDT)
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Great question... it has been on my mind as well. I've been using the same nylon poncho for years. It cost me $15 new? Retreated a couple of times. I'd love to hear how the Driduck stacks up. Frogg Toggs stuff doesn't feel super prone to tearing, but it doesn't look really durable either. And, I don't know if one can retreat it (if it needs it) at some point (like my nylon). At any rate, a good low-cost solution.

1:50 p.m. on March 15, 2010 (EDT)
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The poncho vs rain suit debate has been going on for decades and will probably continue for many decades more with no conclusion. A lot of the choice comes down to the particular situation and personal preferences.

A couple of thoughts -

ponchos - pro: tend to be less expensive (though durable ones of a ripstop nylon with a durable coating are not cheap); plenty of ventilation (avoiding the condensation from your sweat, though hiking in a storm in the tropics in 90% humidity will leave you sweaty no matter how much ventilation); can be designed to fit over your pack (obviating the need for a separate pack cover and the running water down between your back and the pack).

con: the majority of ponchos out there are made of cheap, flimsy materials; ponchos tend to get caught easily on branches and other "catchy" things alongside the trail; if you come to an area you have to scramble, ponchos strongly limit your motion; in windy conditions, ponchos blow up, letting lots of water in (properly placed snaps or velcro help, but are not perfect); you do get wetter with a poncho (especially legs, which means the water can run into your boots - gaiters help some here, but are not perfect).

Waterproof rainsuits - pro: complete coverage (especially for a full rainsuit), which can keep everything dry; no problems with the suit blowing open; keeps your maneuverability in case of need to scramble; don't catch on branches very readily; tend to be much more durable (though there are cheap, flimsy rainsuits out there)

con: generally expensive; poor ventilation (even pitzips don't necessarily help sometimes); the fully waterproof rainsuits are hot and sweaty, even in snowy conditions, unless you are just standing around

In my personal experience, I have found that I wear waterproof/breathable jackets and pants most of the time for backpacking, trail running, mountaineering, or even just around camp. But if I know it will be hot, or in deserts where a rainstorm will be short-lived and things dry quickly, I prefer a poncho. I used wp/b jacket and pants on Kilimanjaro, but really wished I had taken a poncho for the days in the rain forest (rained every day we were in that elevation range).

As usual, there is no simple, right for everyone answer.

12:35 a.m. on March 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Just a quick comment re: Dri Ducks - they lack any meaningful durability, at least this has been my experience. They also do not pack down particularly small.

11:28 a.m. on March 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Another poncho con: lack of a sleeve leaves the wrist exposed and if you use trekking poles, you will have a lot of open areas under the arm as you reach forward. Wearing a belt helps. If you are using the poncho as a shelter, you will probably want some guylines which you will have to remove when hiking.

2:12 a.m. on April 2, 2010 (EDT)
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I spent my youth in Boy Scouts wrangling with ponchos. I developed a strong dislike for them, but still stuck with them -- until discovering rain suits, especially DriDucks, about 5 years ago. I love being able to use my hands again, not having water run up my sleeves, and not having to worry about getting soaked if the rain comes at me sideways (which it inevitably seems to do)!

I am on my second set of DriDucks so I feel somewhat qualified to give some feedback on them.

First, there are perhaps a dozen or so different styles of DriDucks, each with advantages and disadvantages. I don't have a lot of money to throw around, so I cannot speak for the $150 models -- but I have to assume they are superior to the inexpensive ones. There are certainly even more expensive (and I'm sure superior) rainsuits out there, but I'll address only the $30-$60 DriDucks, as those are what I have experience with.

My first set of DriDucks is still very serviceable. It is very durable (contrary to most reports you read about DriDucks). However, it is stiff and noisy, making it a bit uncomfortable, and it is heavier than I wanted for going backpacking with my son, who is currently in Boy Scouts. So, I purchased a set of $30 "Trail Lite" DriDucks. I love them for their amazing light weight, incredible breathability, and wonderful comfort (you almost don't even notice they're on). Unfortunately, they do suffer from the rumored lack of durability. I recently wore them to a sports event and sitting on a broken fiberglass seat caused two sizeable tears in the pants. Still, I'm not giving up on them. I'm going to use some waterproof duck tape and repair them, and we'll see how it goes. Worst case, I'll spend another $30, 'cause I refuse to go back to wearing the dreaded poncho!

If you only have experience with ponchos, I believe it is well worth the $15-$30 or so to try out a set of DriDucks. As they say, you never know what you're missing until you try it.

1:56 a.m. on April 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Update to my last post. I repaired the tears with Scotch Transparent Duct Tape (which is waterproof, unlike many duct tapes). It was so easy that I decided to reinforce the entire upper thigh area in the back so that I will not tear them again when I sit on a sharp object. I feel fairly confident the repairs will hold and the problem is solved.

6:48 a.m. on April 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I use both a poncho and rain suit. Sorta'. I use a poncho for the breathabilty thing, and a pair of cheap rain pants underneath. Best of both worlds. I think MEC in Canada sells a pair of rain sleeves that cover ~3/4 of your arms from your wrist, to ~1/2 way up your biceps. I've seen them in the store, but can't find 'em online. Weird. So, there's many options available to ya.

Peace!

9:14 a.m. on April 20, 2010 (EDT)
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i would opt for a lightweight gore tex rain suit. cabela's sells gore tex paclite rain gear, jacket and pants are 100 each. so, a simple gore tex jacket was within your budget. not as affordable as driducks or frog toggs. more durable, more packable, not as noisy, more comfortable. probably weigh a hair more than driducks, but then again, you don't need to bring a roll of tape along to fix them....

1:04 a.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I probably put more load on things than the normal person. But i have had several sets of frog toggs for my work rain suit, and im very unimpressed with them. for hiking or just kicking around in the rain, maybe but as far as doing real work, they stand no chance and ripp like paper. BTW im a geo-thermal Engineer who works in the mud, dirt, dust, sand, and rain regularly. amoung being covered with grease, oil and every other fluid you could imagen when dealing with heavy machinery.

In my role Frogg toggs just dont last. concider the Carhartt C67 Workflex. Thats what ive upgraded to, and its worked perfectly and is alot more durable than paper thin frogg toggs. and is only about 50 bucks.

I know you said you had a 100 dollar budget but they also have the cascade jacket, which IMO is an amazing jacket. there are prob. other jackets from other makers for the same price(130ish), but i can vouch for both of these jackets being amazingwhen doing abusive duties in rain.

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