As is common knowledge, October-ish through sometime around June is the “rainy” season here in Cascadia. What isn’t common knowledge is that it’s not a monolithic period; it doesn’t start raining on October 1st and then continues non-stop until June 30th. (Though sometimes it can feel like it.) No, there’s a bit o’ heavy rain, some lighter rain, drizzle, fog, and nice clear days interspersed in there. It’s a big mix of stuff, but it’s a time frame where if you plan on doing anything outside, plan for rain.
The entrance to “rainy” season is fluid (ha!) and not consistent. Some years, we get a really nice October and the rains start in earnest in November. This was the case last year. But this year it’s been more the “classic” introduction to rainy season: a few weeks of crappy wet weather as the moisture train bears down on the Pacific Northwest, bringing though a new storm system from the south every few days.
While there have been some dry days interspersed in there, they never line up with my “weekend” of Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning I haven’t had a chance to camp since the beginning of October, when I wisely decided to go out to Ainsworth State Park when the weather was still good. I’m not saying it won’t be dry again on my “weekend”, though now moving towards November it’s going to mean cooler weather and less sunlight. Oh woe is me.
Anyways, this is the time of year that you hear the most crowing about the rain, until people get used to it. (That is, until May when everyone is thoroughly sick of it.) And I’m not really complaining, no. But it’s always with great reluctance that I break out Ye Olde Rain Gear. I’ve lived in Portland for thirteen years, and have biked in every winter. While I’ve definitely tolerated raingear, I’ve never truly embraced it. I’m not one of those people who wear a Burley (old-skool) or Showers Pass (new-skool) rain jacket as their one and only piece of outerwear from October through June. (You know who these people are. You may be even be one of these people!) Never really liked them, and I did own a Showers Pass jacket for a few years. The big thing I don’t like about all the wunderkind “super” rain jackets is you pay quite a bit of money for them, and then in a couple years the water repellancy goes south. Yeah, there are a few sprays you can use to eke more life out of it, but once that inner layer delaminates (and it will), you’ve got yourself an overglorified windbreaker.
So, being a retro-grouch and all, I’ve moved towards old-skool bicycle raingear, the stuff before synthetics. And one option is waxed cotton. Carradice is famous for its waxed cotton bicycle bags, but they also make traditional raingear, namely a raincape. I’ve used mine for three years, and like it. I also have a rainjacket from them too. When waxed, it’s as water repellent as all that modern crap. And the big benefit is: when the wax wears off, you can rewax it! No having to buy a new rainjacket!
Of course, the thing is: that waxed coating does wear off. The wax on both the cape and jacket were in need of a new coat by the time the rains ended in spring. I could have done it then (I even bought a can of reproofing wax!) but laziness meant that I put it off…until about now, when the rain is too bad for me to ignore the permeability of my rain garments.
Over the course of the weekend I reproofed the cape and jacket. I used Filson oil-based wax. While Carradice does make reproofing wax, neither of the two places in town that stock Carradice stuff had it in stock now (or like, ever.)* I didn’t want to purchase on-line because the shipping for the small (3-ish ounce) canister would be almost as much as the canister itself! Filson has a store downtown, so that’s where I went. (Again, as one can is just about enough for one garment.) The re-waxing itself is fairly easy, but man, it is time consuming: it took me over an hour to rewax each garment. And it’s best to use some heat to finish the deed. Upon the recommendation of the guy at the Filson store I ended up picking up a cheap heat gun to do the job. It took about 15 minutes of heat gunning to finish each garment.
So how did it work? Seems to be doing just fine, at least the cape, which is the only one I’ve used so far in the rain, though I may add another layer to the front of the cape, as a little water got in. (It may have just gotten in through the neck, though.)
But I’ll still look forward to the coming days when I don’t have to look like this when I ride my bike.
*You’d figure in a rainy city like Portland, carrying reproofing wax would be a given. But no…
Fascinating! Your climate is so different, and you have special gear to meet challenges so foreign to us. Your multi-year experience with the cape is a testimony to its effectiveness. I’ll get back to my praying for rain now…
I just did the Nikwax rotation myself, although on winter gear. We don’t get all that much rain, but there will be snow before long.
Its hard to say why some stores carry what they do. Was in Kansas City,MO last week. Went to a true bike shop to buy Halt or a like dog mace. They do not carry anything like that. Went to another bike shop at 1:50 PM and they were closed until 2:30. Gave up and came home (Springfield,MO) the next day and bought it off Amazon.com.