By Rhett Olson

When I was a kid, I remember being caught in more than one rainstorm while out on the trail. In those days, I would whip out the camouflage rain poncho that I had picked up from the Army-Navy surplus store and keep hiking. The rain would eventually find its way to my clothes; but it didn't matter, because I was already soaked from perspiration. Thank heaven those days are gone. Now we have rain suits that shed the rain and keep you fairly dry inside.

For this field test, we decided to look at a cross-section of rain suits: from the bomb proof to the ultra light. Each suit includes a hooded jacket and matching pant. The reviewed suits consist of the following:

Moonstone Momentum Tech parka and pant
Columbia Hunstein parka and pant
Lowe Alpine Adrenaline parka and pant
Sierra Designs Microlight jacket and pant

In our review, we considered how well the suit shed water, how well it packed down and how well its ventilation system worked. Along with these qualities, we felt it was important that the pants be easy to be put on in a hurry--you often have to throw them on in a sudden downpour-so we included in our evaluation how easy the pants were to put on and take off. Following are our findings for each rain suit.

Moonstone Momentum Tech Parka and Pant

Parka Weight:  21 oz.
Pant Weight:    15 oz.
Parka Price:      $355
Pant Price:        $240

The Moonstone suit was the heavyweight of the group weighing in at 36 oz total. However, you get a lot of suit for the weight. Like all of the rain gear we tested, the Goretex Momentum Tech did a great job of keeping the water out. We sent the suit to the top of Mount Hood with Jeff, one of our field testers, during his trip with the Northwest School of Survival. He said that the coat and pants kept him very dry in spite of all the time he spent sliding on the snow practicing self arrest techniques.

Perspiration wasn't a problem either. For ventilation, the coat uses the front zipper and pit zips. It also features zippers that extend all the way down the leg that can be used to keep air flowing under the suit. We found that the zippers worked well for this purpose. We also liked the side zippers on the pants because they allow you to get into the pockets of pants you may be wearing under the suit. Finally, they also made the pants very easy to put on. Of the jackets reviewed, the moonstone was the least packable. It is a little more bulky and doesn't come with any stuff sacks.

We found that the Momentum Tech parka and pants make a great rain suit for fall, winter and spring but are a little heavy for warm weather use. It works well for mountaineering in the lower 48 states. We felt that it is very well constructed with its taped seems, generous ventilation system, and reinforced knees and butt. Jeff also noticed that the hood design allowed for a good fit over a mountaineering helmet. The only negative aspect of this suit is the placement of the pocket on the right thigh which tends to get in the way of the sit-harness when used for mountaineering. Pocket aside, this is an excellent heavyweight piece of rain wear.

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Columbia Hunstein Parka and Pant

Parka Weight:  22.4 oz.
Pant Weight:    12.8 oz.
Parka Price:      $140
Pant Price:        $80

The Hunstein suit was well liked by all of our testers. We found that it did its job and it did it in style. We took this suit to the East rim of Zion's National Park and into the mountain tops of the Wasatch mountain range where it stood up well against rain and hail. We really liked the way the parka and pant stuffed into their own pockets when not in use. This made them very easy to pack. However, we did find that the pant pocket was a little small, making it a little more difficult to stuff than the parka.

Their light weight of 35 oz. total also makes them a good pack item for the weight conscious. The coat uses lateral zippers on the chests for ventilation and for entrances into the 2 mesh pockets. Steve said that he really liked the mesh lining inside that parka because it allowed for more ventilation. While in Zion's we were caught in several brief but heavy downpours which really tested our ability to get the suits on quick. We found that we could get the pants on over our hiking boots, but it took a little work. The pants do have a zipper at the bottom of the leg, but a longer zipper there might aid in getting the pants on more quickly. I found that once the pants were on, I could use the velcro strap the bottom of the zipper to secure the pant leg around my boot so I didn't get wet feet.

The Hunstein parka and pants were loved by all of our testers. They do a great job keeping the water out while maintaining good ventilation. We felt that they packed really well and were fairly easy to get on and off.

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Lowe Alpine Adrenaline Jacket and Pant

Parka Weight:  13.3 oz.
Pant Weight:    7.5 oz.
Parka Price:      $99
Pant Price:        $69

The Adrenaline jacket and pant could be considered the kings of lightweight rain wear, weighing in at a combined weight of just over 20 ounces. It does a great job shedding water and is extremely easy to pack. Besides its light weight, packing is made easy by using its inner mesh pocket as a stuff sack. The suit makes little use of any significant ventilation system. However, as I was out in the rain trying it out, the suit's material, a Triplepoint 1000, seemed to be very breathable.

The jacket and pant both seem to have a very slim athletic fit which eliminates any excess weight and aids in movement. Despite the slim cut, we found that it was still quick and easy to get the pants on while wearing hiking boots. Along with being a great piece for the hiker, the Adrenaline suit is also a great buy for those that will be using it for other active sports such as biking and running. The seams on the jacket are not only taped for water proofing, but are detailed with reflective material to give the jacket a higher visibility.

We found that the Adrenaline suit is a superior jacket because of its light weight and breathability. This makes it easy to carry, very compact and great for active sports. We found that it gave very little in the way of insulation, making it much more of a warmer weather suit.

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Sierra Designs Microlight Jacket and Pant

Parka Weight:  9 oz.
Pant Weight:    6.6 oz.
Parka Price:      $38
Pant Price:        $30

The Microlight jacket and pant are the lightest rain gear we could find. Along with their weight, their price is one of the greatest selling points at $37.50 and $30.00 respectively. However, don't let the price fool you, the suit can hold its own. I took it on a week long trip on the Idaho Montana Border Trail at the end of August. It rained for 4 out of the 6 days that I was there and I used the Microlights to keep me dry. Luckily, most of the hiking that I did during the rainy days was minor because the suit has no real ventilation system and is not breathable. However, it does do a great job as windbreaker.

The jacket and pants both come with their own stuff sack which allows them to be very compact and great for packing. Both Darren and I found them great for day hiking when rain seemed possible. Unfortunately, we did find that the pants will not go on over hiking boots. Therefore you must take off the boots to put them on. This is a drawback if you are in a rush to get the gear on.

The Microlight suit is a great suit for its cost. We found that you compromise breathability and ventilation with the weight that you save. Both items are very compact and great for keeping you dry in non-aerobic activities.

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Rhett Olson is a contributing editor at GearReview.com.

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