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Choosing the correct Rain Gear?

Dear Jim,

A Frogg Toggs rainsuit is so light and thin. Will it keep me warm like the lined Gore-Tex suits?? Also, are there any potential leak points? I was told a Frogg Toggs NEVER leaks, but I don't believe any rainsuit is 100% leak-proof.

George Delena

Dear George:

This is a great question and one most anglers don't really address properly. That causes them to think high price means a better rainsuit, which is just not so. I will try to NOT make it an advertisement for Frogg Toggs.

Let me address the second question first. You are a smart guy and absolutely correct - NO rainsuit is perfect. Most are very good when they are new. Otherwise, they would never sell. The biggest leakage problem with most rainsuits is around the seams and that usually comes about after a year, or so, of heavy use. The seams of nearly all rainsuits are sewn using nylon thread. That makes holes in the material and water can pass through those holes, as well as between the two pieces of material being sewn together. The manufactures all use common sealing method for this. They apply a strip of tape that is heated and basically 'ironed' onto the seam. It works well in the early stages. But, as time passes and usage wear occurs, the tape becomes unsealed in places (usually movement locations, such as the crotch, elbow, shoulder and knee) and a leak starts. Most suits have a taffeta or smooth nylon inner lining that makes them easy to slip on and off, as well as for wicking moisture away from the sin. Because of that lining, you cannot see, nor get to, the sealing tape. So, you cannot easily fix a leak, nor even know where it is located exactly.

The Frogg Toggs uses a heated roller system to actually join and melt the seams of their suits together. With the material being polypropylene, it will actually melt at high temperatures. No stitch holes and no open seams equals no possibility of leaks.

BUT - like you said and we agreed, NO rainsuit is perfect. The Frogg Toggs has potential leak points along the zipper, because they have to be sewn in the conventional manner. The stitch holes can leak and the spaces between the zipper teeth (on all rainsuits) can pass water. But, nearly all suits have a storm flap that covers the zipper area. So, unless the winds blow the rain sideways and under the storm flap, zipper area leakage is minimal.

The other potential Frogg Toggs leak point is the front chest pocket on the original pullover jacket. That pocket is stitched on. However, I have never had it be a leakage problem UNLESS the user forgot to insure the pocket flap was down over the pocket. One of my fishing associates once let the pocket flap roll under and get inside the lip of the pocket. When it rained later that day, the open pocket took in some water. After awhile, it soaked through the lower stitches. Closing the pocket properly solved that.

One other 'real pain in the rainsuit' is water up the sleeves. Holding a fishing rod, or about any other activity while wearing a rainsuit, means we will be continually lifting our hands and lower arms. Rain then runs under the cuff and down the arms to the elbows. We have all experienced that irritant, especially on a cold day. There are two easy solutions, Vern. ('Now, why didn't I think of that' items, don'tcha know?!!) The first is a big wide rubber band around the cuff of the sleeve. Not tight enough to be painful, but snug. And, be sure it is a wide band and lies flat. The other is a pair of heavy wristbands, such as tennis players use to keep the sweat from running down their arms to their hands. These little jewels will also keep that rain from running the opposite way (be sure to put the bands under the sleeve).

Now, your second question about the weight of the Frogg Togs and the warmth factor.

Remember that the suit is made of three layers of polypropylene. That material is actually a very pliable form of plastic. Not only does it block liquids 100%, it blocks airflow. No air in and no air out, except around neck/arm/leg/waist/chest openings. If you tighten down all the openings, you trap the air inside. Body heat warms that air, while the suit keeps the cold winds out. An air space is he best insulator there is. The company makes a great sideline product call a Windshirt. It has a knit neck, cuffs and waistband. Those seal the apparel and hold the warm air inside. In Florida, in our 'winter', I wear the Windshirt with only a T-shirt down to about 50 degrees. It works great when the boat is moving or the cool winds are blowing. Plus, when the Florida winter afternoon gets to 70 degrees, I can take it off. It really shines at those early football games in the fall when the first cool, crisp nights show up.

Since we addressed keeping warm, we really should address keeping cool in a rainsuit, too. Listen, folks, there is NO rainsuit that really 'breathes' sufficiently to keep you dry under it. Those lined with something will absorb body moisture with that lining and make you think you are staying dry. But, after awhile as that moisture build-up continues, you start to feel damp and clammy. In the winter, that means you also get COLD!

The way to stay comfortable in a rainsuit starts when you first consider purchasing it. First off, rainsuits are NOT fashion items. I have to explain that to countless folks all the time. They are not supposed to make us look movie star-ish; they are made to keep our collective fannies dry! They are sized large and cut big to be roomy and non-restrictive inside. A tight rainsuit is a hot rainsuit (not to mention ripping out a crotch seam when we sit down!). In a perfect World, the rainsuit would not actually touch any part of your body. That would be insulating an area and holding the heat in. Open and roomy rainsuits allow air circulation and minimal touching of the skin/clothing surfaces. A well-made rainsuit jacket with a ventilating back flap is great for circulation, but they are hard to find and costly. Under-the-arms vents on a jacket help some, too.

Probably the simplest, yet most overlooked, method for staying as cool as possible in a rainsuit lies with the design of the pants. Those with a waist drawstring hold all that heat in and retard some blood circulation. BUT, bib pants are open at the top and non-restrictive. They allow natural convection to let the warm air out at the top and take in cool air at the opening at the cuffs.

One other thing in favor of bibs is that they don't ride down when you sit down. You know that the jacket will ride up, while the pants ride down, when you sit. That means a wet back and fanny. Bib pants keep that from happening.

There you go, George. I hope this was some help and not too much commercialization.

Jim Porter

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