DRI DUCKS BILAMINATE RAIN SUIT
BY HONORA RENWICK
April 04, 2008
Christchurch, New Zealand
5' 8" (1.73 m)
132 lb (60.00 kg)
I spend most of my weekends and annual leave hiking and occasionally mountaineering. New Zealand gear tends to be quite heavy as it is very robust so I am trying to lighten my gear. I hike in the South Island of New Zealand and prefer trips where I get to explore off-trail. It doesn't get as cold here as it does in the US but we get a lot of rain at times. Although New Zealand is a small country it is long and narrow so we have a lot of variety in terrain but no desert.
Manufacturer: Frogg Toggs
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.froggtoggs.com
MSRP: US $14.95
Listed Weight: 6 oz each for rain jacket and rain pants (170 g), so 12 oz total (340 g)
Measured Weight: 282 g (11 oz) after use and modifications (see below)
Other details: Jacket and rain pants are constructed of extremely lightweight buff-colored plasticised paperlike non-woven textile with bonded, not stitched seams. Non-bulky, packing quite small. The jacket has roomy, raglan sleeves and an inbuilt hood with a simple drawstring (bootlace) for cinching down around my face and a full-length front zipper with a non sealing storm flap. The cuffs are elasticized as is the waistband of the rain pants. The legs are also roomy and shaped parallel to enable being slipped off easily over footwear. There are no pockets in either article. The suit comes in a stuff sack made of the same fabric.
I first encountered this technology in an evening class I ran on hiking. One of my students who'd been a thru-hiker on the AT told me she had a polypropylene jacket. I had to see it to believe it. My strongest impression was how vulnerable it looked to being torn. I saw the Dri Ducks rain suit on sale last April. They were a sixth of the price of other waterproof breathable garments and I was keen to experiment with something that could lighten my load on some hikes so I snapped one up. I later did an internet search and found out on a US forum they are available in my hometown, even cheaper at a fishing store!
I bought the large size as I wanted to be able to wear it over my down jacket without compressing the filling. I also wanted extra long sleeves to substitute as overmitts to keep my polypropylene gloves dry underneath.
Manufacturer specifications for Large Size
Chest: 46" - 48" (117 cm - 122 cm)
Waist: 38" - 42" (97 cm - 107 cm)
Sleeve: 37 1/2" (95 cm)
Inseam: 33" (84 cm)
Height: 5'6" - 6'3" (1.68 m - 1.91 m)
Weight: 150 - 190 lb (68 kg - 86 kg)
FEEL AND FIT OF THE RAIN SUIT:
The first impression was how light and comfortable it was to wear. It was as though I wasn't wearing anything. I just felt warmer. It didn't feel bulky, rather it felt roomy. The elasticized cuffs were comfortable around my larger than average woman's wrists. The rain pants also feature a comfortable elasticized waistband which extends well above my waist and certainly doesn't creep down as I use a hip belt on my pack. The legs are voluminous and large enough to slip off easily over my trekking sandals. They don't catch during any of my activities. I wear them over light trousers made of Prolite (cotton-feel nylon fabric). The matching stuff sack is vulnerable to tearing when stuffed too vigorously. As well as this, stress shows where the drawstrings are pulled taut so I stuff the rain suit in a plastic bag instead.
I first tried out the suit, biking to work in moderate rain. There was no catching on base layer clothing. I was in the rain for 10 minutes only so I don't consider this a fair test even though it kept me absolutely dry. I then wore it on several trips as a wind breaker on rainless days. Eventually I got the chance to test it in heavy rain for 2 hours. I noticed I became a bit damp under the shoulder straps of my pack, possibly due to compression. Elsewhere I was dry but the tied drawstrings of the hood tracked water into the neck of my base layer so I untied them and let them drip onto the surface of the jacket.
At this stage, there was no wear and tear. Following this, I did a trip in intermittent showers and one heavy downpour (during lunch!) and stayed dry on the first day. The next day I traversed a mountain ridge and pulled the elasticized cuffs down over my finger tips to keep my gloves dry in the light, occasional rain. Because I was placing my fist against rough rocks to balance and support myself, this caused a few pin-head sized lesions in the fabric. I only noticed when inspecting the jacket later. The lesions were just in the opaque outer layer of polypropylene, not in the inner layer so the waterproofedness etc. was still intact. I also later on noticed a larger lesion in the back.
The next day in a heavy downpour, I realized the short barrel-less drawstring had come out from the hood so I have added barrels. This also means the tails can drip on the fabric, well away from the neck opening. The sternum strap and waist belt of the pack ensure the rain flap stays intact over the zipper. On a trip after this, I sat on some scrub in the rain pants and thought that wasn't a good idea so shifted to sit on some scratchy sandstone (see photo) and found very small holes in the outer layer only. I have to sit on some padded surface now to avoid damaging the seat of the pants.
|This resulted in abrasions to the seat!|
I did an internet search on advice on what was best to use to repair it but found no advice apart from using duct tape. This sounded heavy so I decided to use superglue and leucopore tape. Superglue wasn't a good idea as the glue is very hard when set. Since then, I have used just leucopore tape for superficial tears not involving the breathable membrane. This is practically invisible as it takes on the same shade as the suit when it gets grubby. As well as being heavy, I don't want to use duct tape as it is more noticeable. However a recent bike ride has confirmed that the leucopore repairs to the seat of the trousers are inadequate so I have placed duct tape patches on the damaged areas where my bones are weight-bearing when I sit.
I tested the stuff sack in a luke-warm wash cycle to see if the fabric could handle being machine washed, then tossed the jacket in the washing machine as all seemed good, with no ill-effects. I'm not interested in having a high maintenance garment. This has been my experience with 2 jackets constructed of Gore-tex (which requires spraying with expensive water repellent quite frequently and even ironing as the dryer fails to restore this beading quality).
After this, I took the jacket on a trip where we were walking on a narrow deer trail, brushing through beech forest (small leaves with entire margins) and noticed there were no tears. However, I have had to check and reinforce the sealed seams as there is very superficial wear along them because they are firmer than the surrounding fabric, being 2 ultrasonically bonded layers. I check the jacket after each trip for tiny lesions and repair them with the leucopore. There are usually about 5 but I am off trail for a lot of the time.
I would compare Dri Ducks waterproofedness favorably with Gore-tex and any similar fabric that I have used e.g. Milair. Moreover, the Dri Ducks suit is far more comfortable, being the lightest and most breathable fabric I have experienced.
After 4 months, I observed that in steady rain, the cuffs get quite damp and wick moisture further up the sleeve for about 3 inches. I wonder if this is due to the extensive repairs with leukopore which may be inadequate when the lesion is full thickness. This means I have to draw up the cuffs of my underneath layer so they are not in contact with the saturated cuffs. Otherwise they then get damp as well. Another advantage noted is that so far it has only absorbed water in the first 3 inches of the cuffs due to wicking as described. This means I can shake most water off to enable rapid drying. Hence the garments can stay light for packing away.
After 6 month's use, the jacket's paper-like lining seems to be absorbing moisture. I suspect this is through the numerous small lesions. The water then seeps down to the cuffs. I can squeeze water out of the cuffs to speed drying but I notice they get sodden and require squeezing out several times after use in heavy rain. I now consider the jacket's waterproofedness to be gone so have retired the suit for use biking 5 minutes to and from work.
With this experience, I consider it worthwhile to replace the rainsuit.
At this stage, I'm happy to use the jacket on trips where there is no bushwhacking through prickly flora. As an outdoor instructor I believe it undermines my credibility to to be seen wearing gear which would be sub-standard in certain conditions. I specifically am thinking of the need to be repaired immediately due to rips. I think it's good to have a very large size to minimize stress on the fabric when squatting or putting on a pack. I have read reviews online warning that the suits run much larger in the sizing than expected but I think this is a good thing.
The rain trousers I will only wear on trips where I am hiking exclusively on a trail as New Zealand has its share of prickly low scrub e.g. speargrass and thorn bushes, or on trips when I can guarantee there will be no rain so they only will be worn around camp. The rain suit is a welcome addition to options in keeping my pack weight down and I am enthusiastically showing it around the clubs and organisations I am involved with.
THINGS I LIKE
effective waterproof layer
simple cuffs i.e. not fiddly to seal
hood large enough but doesn't obscure vision like some hoods can
lack of features and bonded seams means no leaking except at neckline
light color reflects heat
long sleeves and big size suits its planned use
stays light in rain and for packing away as doesn't absorb water
low maintenance i.e. doesn't require expensive water repellent treatment intermittently
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
vulnerable to tearing so unsuitable for some trips e.g. scrub whacking
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
no pockets, causing some inconvenience
drawstring needed barrels added
needs checking and simple repairs
Read more reviews of Frogg Toggs gear
Read more gear reviews by Honora Renwick