Waterproof outdoor gear that survives an unexpected downpour


We all love to get outside, but spend enough time outside and you’ll get stuck in the rain at some point. Unexpected rain is a bummer, but if you have the right waterproof gear, you can still have a good time.

Some of the items in the list below will help you while it’s raining (e.g. raincoats, waterproof luggage, and rain-friendly electronics), while others help you save what’s left of your trip after an unexpected storm (someone will have to get that fire going again anyway). They’re built to withstand everything from afternoon showers to absolute downpours, so wherever you’re going, you’ll have the right tool for the job.

How do I know if something is waterproof?

There is no shortage of products that claim to be waterproof, but how do you know if something is real? The short answer is that it depends on what kind of product you’re looking at, but since the most common items are fabrics and electronics, let’s discuss those.

For fabrics, the best indicator of waterworthiness is a hydrostatic head test rating, usually abbreviated as « HH ». The rating is given in millimeters, and although there is a long explanation of how the test is performedall you really need to know is that the higher the rating, the more waterproof the fabric is (2,000mm is better than 800mm, and so on).

For electronics we are looking for an ‘IP’ rating, which stands for ‘Ingress Protection’. IP ratings are determined by lab testing and expressed in two numbers, such as « IP68 ». The first number, 6, stands for dust resistance and the second, 8, for water resistance. In this example, 6 tells us that the device is completely dustproof, and 8 tells us that the device can remain completely submerged in water for an extended period of time. In general, you want your device’s waterproof rating to be rated at least a 6 (IPX6 or higher), to be fully protected from rain.


UCO Stormproof Sweetfire Fire Starter

UCO Stormproof Sweetfire Fire Starter

We’ve all heard of waterproof matches, and yes, a waterproof match is better than nothing, but UCO’s Stormproof Sweetfire Fire Starters are a world of their own. Each of these compact triangles is made from compressed (and renewable) biofuel and has a fully waterproof percussion tip. They burn just like matches (using the distinctive strip on the side of the box) and burn continuously for seven minutes. UCO’s Stormproof technology is so effective you can literally submerge a lit Sweetfire under water without it going out, which is exactly what you want to get a fire going in wet conditions.

Vasque Torre AT GTX hiking boots

Vasque Torre AT GTX hiking boots

Tall hiking boots have a reputation for being warm and clunky, and adding a waterproof membrane to the mix makes them even hotter. These Vasque Torre AT GTX boots feel light underfoot at just 1.4 pounds per boot, and their high-tech Vibram soles use the latest « Megagrip » compound for traction on any terrain. The Vasque’s Gore-Tex liner delivers class-leading ventilation and stretches all the way across the ankle for serious water protection, while the suede upper and 360-degree welded rubber trim ensure these boots last.

Sealskinz All Weather Socks

Sealskinz All Weather Socks

Sealskinz waterproof socks add a high, weatherproof layer to any shoe you slip them into. Their calf-height coverage adds extra protection to a waterproof hiking boot, but can also make socks with sandals a reasonable proposition on a cloudy day. Sealskinz makes a sock for just about any temperature, but the all-weather version here is the most versatile in the lineup.

Black Diamond Stormline rain jacket

Black Diamond Stormline rain jacket

A good raincoat is the cornerstone of an all-weather outfit and Black Diamond’s Stormline is one of the best out there. The Stormline is water and windproof like a hardshell jacket, but has a stretchable outer layer that is much more comfortable and moves with your body. The jacket’s generous cut offers plenty of room to layer underneath, while the hood, hem and cuffs are all adjustable to customize the fit.

Marmot PreCip Eco Waterproof Full Zip Pants

Marmot PreCip Eco Waterproof Full Zip Pants

You can spend a small fortune on rain gear, but unless you plan to operate in the backcountry on a longer-term basis, there’s no reason to. Rain pants are useful, but you won’t be wearing them too often in the city. That’s why we like the Marmot PreCip Full-Zip, a high-performance waterproof pant that’s pretty much always available for under $100. As a bonus, both legs feature full-length zippers from hip to hem, so you can wear them in an instant without any problems. drama about boots.

Black Diamond Storm 400 headlight

Black Diamond Storm 400 headlight

Getting caught in the rain is bad, but getting caught in the rain in the dark is even worse. The Black Diamond Storm headlight is built to survive a hurricane with an IP67 waterproof rating, but that’s just one of its many commendable features. The Storm has a peak brightness of 400 lumens, excellent battery life (it works with both alkaline and rechargeable AAA batteries), and the option of white, red, green or blue lighting and a strobe function.

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Garmin inReach Mini 2

If you’re planning to go off the beaten path, a global satellite communicator can be a life-saving piece of equipment. Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 is the best-selling outdoor communicator on the market for a reason, with 30-day battery life, simplified two-way text messaging and true global coverage using the Iridium satellite network. It also has a full IPX7 waterproof rating, which is tough enough to withstand light rain, torrential downpours or even a full 30 minutes of full submersion.

Cabela's Boundary Waters Waterproof Travel Bag

Cabela’s Boundary Waters Waterproof Travel Bag

Outdoor escapades usually involve a degree of travel, and if your travel plans include flying, a waterproof duffel bag kills two birds with one stone. Good duffels can be expensive even without a waterproof treatment, which is why we especially like the price of the Cabela’s Boundary Waters bag. It includes handy backpack straps for longer trips, is available in sizes up to 148 liters and has a 100 percent waterproof PVC coating that leaves nothing to chance when the weather gets dirty.

JBL Xtreme 3 Waterproof Speaker

JBL Xtreme 3 Waterproof Speaker

It’s portable, it’s wireless and it clears jams for 15 hours straight on a single charge. The JBL Xtreme 3’s IP67 rating means it’s waterproof and dustproof, so the Xtreme 3 is safe to take on virtually any outdoor excursion, whether it’s camping, paddling or just hanging out on the beach. The six-speaker system delivers impressively high-quality audio at any volume, so it works well for respectfully understated tunes at the campsite or cranking out firecrackers at your next backyard barbecue.

Decathlon Quechua Fresh Base 10-person shelter

Decathlon Quechua Fresh Base 10-person shelter

Outdoor canopies make a useful and shady addition to all outdoor activities, but when the weather changes from bright and sunny to dark and foreboding, their usefulness goes out the window. That’s why we love the Fresh Base 10-person canopy from Decathlon; this is a shady shelter when you want it, and a watertight shelter when you need it. The Decathlon’s combination of a tough aluminum frame and polyurethane-coated sealed polyester is built to withstand heavy rainfall and is wind tunnel tested for wind speeds up to 50mph…try that with a budget awning!

Front Runner Wolf Pack Pro

Front Runner Wolf Pack Pro

Front Runner’s Wolf Pack Pro is an insanely rugged and 100 percent waterproof storage box that protects everything you put in it. Sensitive electronics, bedding, dog food and firelighters are all good examples, but we’re sure you have a few items to add to that list of things you want to protect from the elements. Whatever you’re storing, as long as it’s in a Wolf Pack, it’s safe. They work great for car camping and fit nicely in the bed of a truck or on a roof rack for weatherproof transport. It can also be left outside around the campsite for easy access.

Osprey Ultralight Backpack Rain Cover

Osprey Ultralight Backpack Rain Cover

Most hiking backpacks are water resistant to some degree, but rarely are they 100 percent waterproof. That’s where a good pack cover comes into play, and Osprey’s Ultralight Rain Cover is our favorite pick. This cover adjusts for packages between 30 and 50 liters using a simple drawstring, but weighs next to nothing, just 2.8 grams.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Waterproof Daypack

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Waterproof Daypack

Speaking of rare waterproof backpacks, if a basic daypack is all you need for your next hiking trip, check out the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Waterproof Daypack. This wonder can hold up to 22 liters of gear, yet is as small as a soda can when not in use. The silicone-infused Cordura fabric is rugged and completely waterproof, but it’s also incredibly lightweight, so the entire pack weighs less than four ounces.

Butt Be Dry Portable Waterproof Chair

Butt Be Dry Portable Waterproof Chair

Yes, it’s a personal shield for your butt that protects you from wet seats. And yes, you may look and/or feel crazy walking around with a product called « Butt Be Dry » on your waist. When it’s time for you and your friends to find a dry place to sit after a heavy downpour, but the sheer « who’s laughing now? » the feeling of rolling out a Butt Be Dry waterproof chair and sitting where you want is worth every penny.

The North Face Wawona 6 camping tent

The North Face Wawona 6 camping tent

The North Face Wawona 6 is one of the most acclaimed camping tents on the market — and for good reason: It has a massive floor plan for six, high enough ceilings to stand inside, and absolutely bulletproof rain protection. It also includes a sizable front vestibule with a gear garage to protect your boots, bikes, camping chairs, and whatever else from the elements, and it does it all for a good hundred (or more!) dollars less than the competition.

Nemo Forte 35 Sleeping Bag Women

Nemo Forte 35 sleeping bag

Down filled sleeping bags get all the love for their warmth and compressibility, but they all have the same problem: they won’t keep you warm if you get them wet. A good synthetic bag like the Nemo Forte 35, on the other hand, will keep you warm even if you get completely soaked. There are many synthetic bags out there, but we love the Forte because Nemo built it with side sleepers in mind and added extra room at the elbows and knees.

Pelican Waterproof Floating Phone Pouch

Pelican Waterproof Floating Phone Pouch

Most smartphones these days have some degree of water resistance built in, but that doesn’t stop them from sinking if they go overboard. That’s why we love Pelican’s marine series phone case, which uses a built-in air pocket to keep your phone afloat if you drop it in the lake/river/ocean on your next outing. The Pelican’s viewing window is also touch-friendly, so you can use your device for music/navigation/messaging, etc., without having to remove it.

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