How to Choose the Right Outerwear
The saying goes, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” This idea stands on the water when the forecast shows 39 degrees and a 90% chance of rain, and you show up in shorts and a light fleece sweatshirt. Almost as worse as forgetting your favorite rod in the garage, having the wrong clothing for the day can spell disaster when the elements roll in. But do you ever wonder, “How do I choose the right outerwear?”
What Makes Clothing Warm?
It's easy to assume that the heavier a jacket is, the warmer it is, right? That is primarily true, but today's technologies allow some jackets to be incredibly warm without taking up much room at all. That’s when you have to wonder where the warmth comes from. In fleece, the assumption is typically correct and the heavier something is, the warmer it is. When you get to softshells and others, this changes because of a few factors like wind and water resistance.
Windbreakers and softshells are effective at keeping you warm because they protect you from the wind that penetrates other layers like fleece. When that happens to fleece, the cold wind blows in, pushing the warm air out making you colder. In a softshell, the wind is blocked and the air inside of the jacket continues to stay warm from the body heat inside. This shell is also easily treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating that keeps you dry and warm and is an excellent option for anglers.
Another characteristic that keeps jackets warm is the “FILL.” This is often looked at in down jackets both natural down and synthetic down. Natural down is an excellent example of a material helping a jacket be lighter and compressible but also warmer than other outerwear. This is because of how much Fill Power natural down jackets have. Natural down is not very waterproof, so it is not the best option for most anglers. Synthetic down is versatile for cooler temps, warmer temps and wetter conditions, making it a better choice for anglers. The synthetic down is graded with the amount of fill in the article dictated by grams per square meter. The higher this number, the warmer a jacket will be. Take a look at the Pufferfish Jacket as an example of a synthetic item.
Fishing? Or Wishing You Were Fishing?
The first thing to think about is whether fishing is on the schedule for the day. You can wear a wide plethora of fishing fleece, but many of those items can easily double as fleece to wear to work, church, or around the house. If fishing is on the docket for the day, we suggest choosing an item treated with the DWR coating. This will help keep you dry from boat wakes, wind spray as well as very light rain. There are fleeces with DWR as well as Softshells. We will touch on that later.
When fishing is only in your dreams for the day, there are a plethora of sweaters and sweatshirts that might fit the bill for office work or housework. The AFTCO Sundown is a great quarter-zip fleece that will keep you warm and comfortable but are also very stylish so when housework ends and dinner plans begin, you can keep it going with the same fleece. These fleece options will work for fishing as well but have the possibility of soaking through if they get wet.
Examples of these water resistant fishing sweatshirts are the AFTCO Shadow Sweatshirt. Perfect for keeping you warm but coated with DWR in case you get a splash or light rain. The shadow is a solid choice when you want a sweater similar to our best selling Reaper but you rather not have the facemask. The Shadow provides the same warmth and comfort with added water resistance and freedom in the neck area.
Water resistant fishing jackets are a popular option while fishing because of their ease of removal if it gets warmer and their ability to resist more water. Many of these options will have a small waterproof rating like 6K water resistance. To learn about the “K” rating and how AFTCO creates waterproof clothing, check out the AFTCO Waterproof Rundown. When choosing one of these jackets, it’s essential to choose jackets that will match your forecast. As mentioned earlier, don’t wear a light fleece when it's 30 degrees out. That’s the time to choose an insulated jacket such as the Boiler Insulated Jacket or Pufferfish Jacket. When the insulated jackets aren’t necessary, other options such as the Reaper Windproof Zip Up Jacket, Reaper Tactical Camo Zip up, and the Ripcord Softshell jacket offer great quality warmth and water resistance.
Fleece Vs. Softshell
Fleece and Softshell jackets were featured above but what is the tangible difference? Fleece instills a feeling of cozying up into a soft blanket at night and watching a movie but in the form of a piece of outerwear. Fleece provides warmth and an unrivaled amount of comfort for you and is perfect when the temps are cold BUT lacks optimal protection from the elements, especially wind. What it is lacking is where softshell jackets excel. Softshell jackets, such as a windproof jacket, can provide protection but may be considered a little more rugged than the fleece in the comfort and warmth department. The softshell will excel at blocking wind and most are treated with DWR or a water resistant rating. The main difference is that fleece is more comfortable and warm and softshell is more protective. It is important to note that even though fleece may not be as protective from wind, the comfort and warmth make them a fantastic article to layer with. In the end, it is important to know how to layer fleece and softshells to make an effective layering system. A softshell is great to protect you while running a boat but the fleece base or mid-layer is what keeps you warm underneath. To learn more about how to layer clothing when fishing, check out our Essential Layering Blog.
When to Choose a Rain Jacket
Another critical question you must ask yourself when choosing your outerwear for the day is the precipitation forecast. Any chance of rain should mean you should have some sort of rain jacket at the ready when it gets wet. There are a plethora of rain jackets from many different companies and how can you tell what will work best for you? Some are light and very water resistant, and then some are heavy but leak easily. That can be for two reasons. Some are made of cheaper materials that end up leaking without heavy water pressure. Some quality raingear is just not rated for the amount of rain you are experiencing. This is where guides like AFTCO’s Waterproof Rundown are a huge help, but here are a few AFTCO suggestions you can use to match your type of terrain.
Light Rain: Solitude and Transformer
Solitude and Transformer are lightweight shell suits that are packable and perfect for keeping with you at all times, just in case some rain comes in. They are ideal when light rain is in the forecast but they can withstand heavy rain for a short period as well before the 10K water resistance soaks through.
Medium to Heavy Rain: Barricade Rain Suit
When you need a little more water resistance, the Barricade Rain Suit is the perfect suit. One of the most versatile suits for the price, you will have an outstanding three-layer shell and 20K water resistance. Layering under the Barricade is easy when it's still cold, but the suit also excels at being breathable when summer showers come in.
Heavy Rain: Barricade Elite
Built to withstand the rough channel crossings in Southern California, the Barricade elite touts a three-layer construction like Barricade but with 30K water resistance. When all-day rain is in the forecast, the Barricade Elite laughs at the challenge. Also, being a shell, the Barricade Elite is the most versatile suit allowing layering in the winter and solo in the summer.
Rain Plus Cold: Hydronaut
When rain is in the forecast or the temperatures plummet, the best-selling Hydronaut is ready for the challenge. Bass Pros swear by the Hydronaut for the winter tournaments when teens and twenties are in the forecast all day. With 20K water resistance, the Hydronaut is no slacker to rain, but it truly excels for the extreme cold.
Snow: Insulated Hydronaut
If ice fishing is in your future, the Insulated Hydronaut version should be as well. The original Hydronaut already touts extreme warmth when the coldest temperatures confront you, but staying out in the snow is another story. If snow is falling or ice fishing time has come, the Insulated Hydronaut has you covered.
Let’s say you live in an area where sometimes the rain comes in a hurry and a large set of raingear like Hydronaut or Barricade doesn’t make sense to have all the time. This is where the Transformer rain suit truly shines. This whole suit, pants, and jacket, each pack down into the right pocket making the suit incredibly transportable and perfect for carrying around anywhere you go. Perfect to keep in the car at all times, but also excels at taking no space in your boat while fishing or your backpack while hiking.
It becomes hard to know what you need with many companies and items to choose from. The main questions you need to ask are: Are you going fishing? What are the temperatures outside? Is it going to rain? And how heavy of a jacket do you need? Quickly answering those questions can help you choose what outerwear you need to purchase for the area you live in and help you decide day-to-day what jacket you need to wear.