Friday, October 9, 2009

Stay-Dry Techniques, Part 1

"Rainy days are here again.
The skies above are grey again.
Let us sing a song of drear again --
Rainy days are here again."
(With apologies to Jack Yellen, lyricist of "Happy Days are Here Again")

"I stopped walking on rainy days because I hate getting wet!"

Are you familiar with this sort of frustration? I am, and I've been working on ways to solve it. I don't have a doctorate in weather control, so I've focused on how to keep my clothing dry when out in the rain.

An umbrella is out of the question for two reasons. 1) I live in a windy climate. 2) I like to swing both arms when I'm walking. It keeps me balanced, and enables a more efficient muscle workout.

The first rain-resistent outfit I put together consists of the following.

Peaked Cap. If you wear spectacles, I recommend you find a cap with a good curve to the peak. The one I'm wearing cost about $12 from The Warehouse, 80% acrylic, 20% wool. It takes 20 minutes in a torrential downpour before any dampness penetrates through this.

Rain Coat. A shower-proof parka won't do -- you'll be soaked in 2 minutes. Polyurethane rain coats are available in a variety of cheerful colours, but they're stiff and I find them creaky and uncomfortable to wear. They also don't breathe, which in my opinion encourages dripping on the inside whilst being dowsed on the outside.

I wear an oilskin lined with brushed cotton (Eidex Kiwi Stockman) which I purchased to wear on my newspaper delivery job when I was 16. The oilskin fabric is getting a bit ragged now, but the coat is still just as comfortable and functional. One feature I really like is the length of the sleeves. I've got unusually long arms, but even so this coat allows me to keep my hands dry without wearing gloves. Provided I'm not on a bicycle or chucking newspapers around, of course.

A scarf is helpful for stopping 'giraffes' (as my father calls sneaky breezes) and keeps your chin dry if you're facing into a slanting rain.
You've probably been thinking, "What is that thing around her middle?" It's half a drycleaning bag. My mother, a teacher who rides 7 minutes to school in all weathers on a motor scooter, invented this method of keeping her skirt dry. She uses a full length bag (the sort that drycleaners place over your clean garment) which comes down to her ankles. I found this too restrictive for walking.

My solution was to reduce the length of the bag to half, then tuck the top edge of it into the waist of my skirt. The length reaches to just below my knees. This gives me enough freedom for a brisk stride, and counters the drip line created by the hem of my oilskin coat. Yes, the hem of my skirt does get soaked, but it's much easier to bear a wet hem than it is to bear soaked thighs. That I find particularly uncomfortable, especially in a gusty wind.

Rain Skirt

In my experience, perfectly dry feet is only possible with gumboots (rubbers). My feet need more support than gumboots provide, so my preference is leather ankle boots. They're sturdy and keep most water out provided I don't go wading. They do get leakier as they age, which means I'll probably have to change my socks when I get home.

But what if my socks are the only ones that match the outfit I'm wearing that day? Solution: I change into a pair for getting wet, and change back to the dry ones on my return.

The damp leather boots are opened up and put to dry in an airy space. (Do NOT place footwear to dry on the fireside hearth or close to a source of heat. If you need to speed up the drying time, stuff them with scrunched newspaper. See for more tips on drying wet boots.)

I realize this outfit is not ideal for those burdened by fashionable opinion, nor does it keep one entirely dry. I sent my stay-dry technique to the workshop... next week, find out what came out!

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