Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Comparison: Frogg Toggs, Dri Ducks, and O2 Rainwear/Rainshied

At one time or another, all of us have likely thought, “What’s the best lightweight and breathable rainwear?” Most lightweight backpackers nearly always throw out three options “Frogg Toggs”, "Dri Ducks” or “O2 Rainwear/Rainshield”. It’s pretty much a canned answer in the same spirit as when I ask my wife if I can buy more backpacking gear. (The answer is always – “no.”)

Outside of lightweight backpacking, neither Frogg Toggs, Dri Ducks, nor O2 Rainwear/Rainshield get much air time because quite simply they aren’t a sexy product. They don’t look high tech, they aren’t made from a big name manufacturer, they don’t have frills like pockets, they aren’t made from GoreTex or eVENT, they don’t claim any kind of DWR treatment, they won't survive a fall down a mountain, and they don’t cost hundreds of dollars. The reality is, mainstream gear can often offer these things if that's what you're looking for. Course, they come with it a healthy price tag, may leave you a little sweaty, and will no doubt leave your bank account a little more empty.
Oddly enough, rain gear is one piece of gear that you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on to get a really great piece of equipment. The key thing to understand about rain gear is that staying dry isn’t necessarily a reflection of wanting to avoid getting wet - it is to avoid getting cold. As I’ve said before, you can be plenty alive when wet and plenty dead when cold. This is why some people choose to leave their rain gear at home during the summer as being wet simply isn’t that big of a deal in warm conditions. These same people would never leave their rain gear at home in temperatures which threaten their lives as "temperature" and not "dryness" is most important.

Frogg Toggs, Dri Ducks, and O2 Rainwear/Rainshield are made from laminate microporous polypropylene to form a waterproof-breathable non-woven fabric. To the touch, O2 Rainwear/Rainshield feels a little rubbery while Frogg Toggs and Dri Ducks feel like fuzzy rubber. Oddly enough, despite feeling rubbery, it is likely the most breathable rain fabric you'll ever own. If you simply need to stay dry both from the elements and from your own sweat, there simply isn’t anything better. If you plan on dragging your sleeves over rocks, on bushes, and otherwise putting them in contact with something abrasive, these might very well be the WORST option as they aren’t terribly durable. Fortunately, most backpackers find themselves simply walking down a trail and are singularly interested in staying dry and do not need fabrics capable of surviving a nuclear detonation.

So, what’s the big difference between Frogg Toggs, Dri Ducks, and O2 Rainwear/Rainshield? Well, for starters, Dri Ducks has a shiny surface which helps it shed water a little more easily. It is thereby more water resistant/proof. Whereas Dri Ducks and O2 Rainwear/Rainsheld are two layers, Frogg Toggs is a three layer fabric which makes Frogg Toggs more durable. Each are minimalistic jackets in the sense that they come with really nothing more than a hood, elastic cuffs, full zipper with storm shield, ultrasonically sealed seams, and that’s about it. Frogg Toggs and Dri Ducks weigh about the same, with Frogg Toggs being slightly heavier (minimal grams) likely because of their three layer fabric. O2 Rainwear/Rainshield is a little lighter and also less durable. My perceiption is that O2 Rainwear/Rainshield saves weight on material layering in the manufacturing process as well as very poor cut which is why their product runs shorter in the arms and overall length. It also isn't as wide. Frogg Toggs and Dri Ducks run a little larger in size and offer greater roomyness. Thereby they can work with layers a little more realistically without getting a larger size. Differences in colors and sizes for children and adults seems to be a little more available in Frogg Toggs and Dri Ducks whereas O2 Rainwear/Rainshield is generally just made for men and usually can only be found in bright yellow (which makes sense as it is geared towards cyclists). Depending on where you shop, you can obtain a jacket and pants for less than $20 for each option.

Depending on your needs, I’ve found that the extra durability of either Dri Ducks or Frogg Toggs is nice. I also can’t say enough about how much more I prefer the fit and finish of Dri Ducks and Frogg Toggs over O2 Rainwear/Rainshield. To me, there is simply no contest as despite being the lightest option, the cut of the O2 Rainwear/Rainshield is simply horrible in just about every aspect. I've even found it difficult to get coverage such as up my sleeves or at my waist.

I haven’t talked about using the pants with these suits very much for several reasons. Personally, I find putting on pants in the rain to be a pain. Although it reduces my testosterone, I usually wear the ULA-Equipment Rain Wrap ( which is more or less a glorified skirt as it is very easy to put on, covers the needed parts, provides great ventilation, and is multi-purpose (see my other blog entries on this topic). I’ve also found that I like having something a little more durable as my legs are more likely to come in contact with brushes and such whether from walking or sitting down. My other go-to option is a pair of GoLite Reed pains which are becoming harder to come by these days. In the winter, I hike in my "rain pants" which is a pair of Rab Bergen eVENT pants, although I'm guessing most any eVENT pant would be plenty fine. Course, the pants that come with the suits previously mentioned will do the job just fine too. I also recommend a pair of Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Mitts ( which are a really wonderful product. For your head and what I use as my all-purpose hat, I like the Outdoor Research Revel Hat ( which is wonderful because it is both waterproof and highly breathable.

You can find Frogg Toggs and Dri Ducks at the same place ( as Frogg Toggs acquired Dri Ducks and sells Dri Ducks under the Frogg Toggs packaging even though the product inside may have the name Dri Ducks on it . You can find O2 Rainwear/Rainshield at (