I rarely rave about the greatness of any one product, but having tried all sorts of rain gear over the years, there is finally an outstanding product on the market from KUIU (koo-you). KUIU specializes in lightweight gear for mountain hunting, where the products have to be extremely durable. The KUIU Chugach jacket and pants are absolutely outstanding. They are lightweight, packable, breathable, waterproof, flexible, and durable. It’s really an unbelievable combination of attributes, but KUIU has delivered flawlessly on this product.
KUIU has an excellent primer on rain gear technologies posted on the KUIU Blog, starting with this entry. Having tested the Chugach product in rain and snow, from temps near zero up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and in wind up to ~40 mph, I can tell you first-hand that this product delivers as advertised. The knees and seat don’t soak through while resting, the gear is cool enough to hike in without getting soaked in sweat, and the fabric stretches while keeping the water out (the secret is the Primeflex spiral yarn from Toray). I’m also impressed with how tough it is. I have yet to put a hole in it from snagging brush or thorns.
Another great feature: leg zippers that go all the way up to the thigh, and zipper pulls that allow the zipper to open from the top or the bottom. This is my first pair of rain pants with zippers that go up thigh-high and I will NEVER own another pair of rain gear without this feature. It allows you to put on and take off the rain pants without removing your boots. My previous, non-Kuiu, rain pants didn’t have this feature and I spent countless hunts uncomfortable because taking my boots on and off was a hassle. Invariably, I would wait too long to put on my rain pants and too long to take them off. Not any more. And the fact that the leg zipper opens from the top means that I can still use the leg pockets on my hunting pants. Outstanding!
KUIU provides their products in camo and non-camo patterns, so if you’re not a hunter, you don’t have to look like one.
No rain gear discussion would be complete without a discussion of price. Lest anyone wonder if I’m one of those paid reviewers who gets free gear, I can assure you, I’m not; I buy my own gear. At first glance, some people get sticker shock when they look at the KUIU price. I had to think long and hard before purchasing my Chugach rain gear because it is a lot of money. For that kind of money, it has to be great; it can’t end up as a product that just sits in that box of not-so-great products that we all have in our garage. To add to my hesitation, KUIU products are only available via direct mail-order, which meant that I couldn’t try them on in advance. KUIU understands this and I am happy to say that KUIU has excellent customer service and a no-hassle return policy. They also provide accurate sizing charts, so it’s easy to order the right fit the first time.
As far as the price goes, I’ll say this: most “big box” outdoor and hunting stores carry rain gear in the $100 – $200 range and the quality ranges from atrocious to tolerable. Most of the hunters I know, own multiple sets of rain gear (PVC for fishing, gore-tex or MT050 for general purpose hunting, packable for mountain hunting). By the time you purchase two or three sets of mediocre rain gear, you could have purchased one set of KUIU Chugach rain gear and ended up with better quality and a lower overall cost. Since buying my Chugach rain gear, I haven’t used my other rain gear at all and I don’t expect I’ll ever use it again. The Chugach rain gear is probably my single best gear purchase in terms of price/performance, and making a difference in my daily outdoor experience (when I’m dry, I’m more likely to enjoy a day in the rain and stay out there longer). I can’t say enough good things about it. If you need rain gear and can spend the money, buy it. You won’t regret it. Oh, and don’t ask to borrow mine…I don’t have any plans to take it off!