Whether you’re hiking a local trail or trekking through the Andes, nothing can ruin your day more quickly than a sudden and unexpected rainstorm. Worse yet, being wet and cold on a trail, hours from shelter can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why it is so important to have a good set of rain gear in your pack at all times. The Kimtah jacket and pants from REI make a near-perfect combo for travelers facing the possibility of inclement weather where ever they go. Both offer great performance in a highly packable and lightweight package, although their price tags may be a deterrent to some.
In the world of outdoor gear, clothing that is both waterproof and breathable is somewhat akin to the Holy Grail. For years companies have tried to create fabrics that can keep the foul weather out while allowing moisture from within to easily escape as well. By their very nature waterproof fabrics tend to be on the warm side, which can cause the wearer to sweat underneath. Early attempts at waterproof fabrics managed to keep the rain out, but the person wearing them would get so hot and sweaty that it almost didn’t matter.
With that in mind, REI has employed a relatively new fabric known as eVent, which was designed to overcome the previous problems with non-breathable fabrics such as older versions of Gore-Tex. After putting the Kimtah jacket and pants through their paces in the warm Texas spring, I can say that the company has honestly made great strides in creating clothing that is comfortable to wear in a variety of weather conditions. I wore both of these pieces of gear in temperatures that ranged from around 50 degrees Fahrenheit all the way up to the upper 80’s, and while there was a noticeable difference in warmth inside, particularly when hiking a more physically demanding trail, I didn’t become nearly as hot and sweaty as I did with other rain gear in the past. That can make all the difference in your level of comfort and enjoyment while traveling.As impressed as I was initially with this rain gear, I really had the opportunity to put it to the test last week when a series of thunderstorms rolled across the Austin area on successive days. One evening it was raining so hard that some parts of town were getting as much as six inches an hour and marble sized hail was reported throughout the area. While most of my friends and neighbors smartly stayed huddled inside their homes, I donned my Kimtah jacket and pants and wandered out into the darkness to see how they would really perform. Amidst 50+ mile winds and horizontal rain, I was happy to find that I was comfortably warm and dry inside my gear. If this rain suit can manage to fend off those conditions, I had little doubt that it would perform well just about anywhere.
REI put a lot of thought into the design of the Kimtah jacket and pants. Both are generously cut, which helps to accommodate layers underneath without bulking up. They feature large, zipped pockets for keeping small items dry and close at hand, and the jacket even has an interior pocket with an earphone port, making it a great place to store a cell phone or iPod. Both are rated as windproof for up to 60 mph and both allow for unrestricted movement while on the go. The fact that these pants and jacket are also thin, lightweight and highly packable is just icing on the cake for backpackers and travelers.
All of these features and functions put the Kimtah jacket and pants squarely in the high performance outdoor gear category and as such they are priced accordingly. The jacket costs $239 while the pants will set you back an additional $189. Backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts are likely to find that to be a reasonable price to pay for gear that can take a beating and keep on performing at a very high level, but many travelers will find the price tag a bit high for their tastes.
Personally, I feel that REI’s offerings are worth every penny, as you not only get top of the line performance, but a durable product that will last for years. Yes, there are less expensive options on the market, but you’re likely to have to replace them sooner and they probably won’t offer the same level of performance. Those cheaper options may be suitable for day hiking or organized tours that aren’t particularly demanding, but for the traveler or outdoor enthusiasts who requires something more reliable, the Kimtah jacket and pants are a fantastic option that won’t let you down.