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Super Squirrels Trekking Tutorial

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Hi there.  My name is Dave and I've been asked to give a tutorial on TREKKING.  Basically trekking is multi-day hiking trips through rural, rugged terrain.  Now I've been hiking for about 20yrs.  I have travelled all over the Northeast hiking.  I recently completed the Long Trail in Vermont.  This is a 270 mile long trail that extends from Massachusetts to Canada.  It passes over about 30 of the highest peaks in Vermont including the top 10.  It was rated by BackPacker magazine as the 5th hardest hike in the US.  I've climbed the highest peaks in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.  And I've even spent time in the Sonora Desert in Arizona.  So I do have some experience which I've been asked to share.

 

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Now just to clarify something first.  Most of my advice (for a while) will be based on the scenario of a typical summer trip somewhere in the Northeast, in general.  I will get to winter trekking later in the tutorial.

 

Lesson 1  Preparation

 

The first thing you want to do when preparing to go on a trip is to think about the physical condition of every member of the party that is going. Let's say there are 3 of you going.  Now you don't need to show each other medical records but a general note of something that might pose a problem such as heart conditions or seizures should be shared.  Lesser things such as  hemorrhoids, hang nails, or gas should generally be kept to ones self unless it is a emergency.  Consider the physical conditioning of the group too.  Are they active or are they couch potatoes?  Can these people handle climbing ladders, or hopping across brooks on rocks? How are they with heights? Trekking is 60% of the time strenuous activity.  The better shape you are in , the better your trip will be.  Suffering leg cramps at camp makes for a hard nights rest.  Do they freak out easy?  How well do they handle stressful situations?  I don't mean life and death kind of things.  I mean like missing the last shuttle at a trailhead and having to add another 6 miles to your hike and it's getting dark.  Will they leap out of their sleeping bags in the middle of the night because "something" just crawled across their feet in the shelter.  Little quirks you find "cute" in your friends on the average can wear on you like the teeth of a great white shark after 4-5 days in the woods in close quarters.  What are their skills?  Can they read a map and compass?  Can they start a fire or have first aid skills?  We will assume that these people as fit,competent and sane as any of us. 

 

The next thing you want to do is pick a location. This is where knowing how fit each other helps.  Do you want to climb mountains or hike old logging roads into a distant lake somewhere.  You should only pick a place that is attainable  by the weakest member of the group.  Otherwise that person is going to be miserable for the whole trip if he's got to play keep up all the time.  And generally that will make everyone miserable after a while as well.  In picking your location consider finances too.  Gas for cars, supplies if you reach a store, or tip a guy for giving you a ride to the next trail head and saving you about 5 miles of road walking.  My friends and I like to each contribute a certain amount of money into a community fund.  Expenses such as gas and camping fees can all come out of there.  When the trip is over just split up whatever is left.  Next I want you consider the vehicles that you will be taking to you location.  Make sure your vehicles are in reasonable running condition.  Now speaking from experience I would suggest taking the roughest looking piece of machinery that you can manage.  Trail heads can sometimes be targeted by thieves.  These thieves drive by the trail head every couple of days and make note of which vehicles don't move.  Then they come back at night and smash your window in.  Do not leave anything in your vehicle you can't afford to replace.  If you keep change in your ashtray, remove it and leave it open.  Remove everything from your glove compartment and leave it open also.  Take your registration, car insurance, or other important papers and put them in a envelope.  Place the envelope in the springs up under your seat out of view.  If a passing thief sees a piece of junk vehicle with nothing apparent to steal will be more likely to leave it alone and go find richer booty.

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Plan to use 2 vehicles on your trip.  Now a lot of people park 1 vehicle at the beginning and one at the end.  Logical.  Well  my friends and I have come up with a better way. 2carprocedureep1.jpg When your out trekking you will eventually have to come to a road somewhere in the middle of your journey.  This is actually the best place to put a vehicle.  I'll call this point "B".  Now let say you are travelling north on the trail.  You go from the middle "B" north to point "C" where the second car is parked. We keep a second bag with fresh clothes, food and supplies in the "C" vehicle to replenish with.  This is where we take 1 night and go to a state campground for a night to take showers, eat real food, relax and maybe have a few beers.  Next morning drive south to point "A".  Hike from "A" to "B" where the middle car is.  I also keep a stash of clean clothes in here so when I come out I can change and head to McDonalds without stinking up the place. Doing it this way keeps you from lugging 7-10 days of supplies down to 3-5 days.  When your sitting around the campfire at night talking with other campers, you will get a lot of strange looks when you explain that your coming back to the place you started out at a week earlier without doubling back on yourself.  HAHAHA

 

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Buy yourself a hiking guide for the area you've chose to trek.  These guides contain tons of valuable info that will make your trip safer and easier.You can buy or order these at book stores such as Waldens or Brooks.  Make sure to order the most up to date edition. Most guides I have purchased contain a topographical map of the area where you are headed.  The map will also show you each of the established trails plainly identifying each.  Probably most importantly you will find phone numbers for Forest Rangers and local Emergency Services.  Take the time to enter these into a cell phone you plan to take with you at this time.  Being able to call a local Ranger will cut down on valuable rescue time instead of calling 911 and waiting for them to locate where you are calling from, then getting the proper rescue service.  Cut out the middleman.  The guide will also give you a listing of radio stations.  Listen to these stations for weather reports and news. Now you might be already planning to bring the guide with you on your adventure.  This is a great idea but you don't need to bring the whole things.  Photocopy (and trim) all the pages of the trails you've chose.  Also copy the page with Emergency numbers and radio stations.  You will wind up with maybe 6-10 pages.  We use the pages to start the evening fires with.  It lets us see the progress we make as we hike as we burn them.  Study the trails that you will be traveling well. The trail descriptions will tell you ahead of time were to expect to find water, shelters, possible dangerous areas, and relocated (moved) trails.  It will also give you measured distances between points on the trail with average travel times.  I find the times it gives to travel sections to often be a bit faster than I travel.  So make sure to allot yourself extra traveling time.  When I am figuring how long it will take me to trek I use the  1mph/1hour rule.  Now I know by experience that I travel about 1.5mph on average.  By following the mile per hour rule I can expect to run into camp a bit earlier than planned.  Or I can use the extra time for longer breaks  for views and photo ops. So if you plan a 8 mile day think it will take you around 8 hours to get there.  Try to plan you time so you get to your camping area with at least 1 hour of sunlight to spare. Putting your tent up in the dark is a pain.  Plus you want time to relax instead of heading right off to bed because you have a 15 mile day tomorrow.  Make notes of the shelters along your rout.  The shelter descriptions will tell you how many people it will hold, what kind of condition it is in, if there are tent sites around it, nearby water sources (most shelters do have water closeby) and outhouses.  The guide will also tell you which trailheads have problems with thieves.

 

Now you've got your guide, a map, knowledge of your group and a idea where to hike.  Now it's time to get your gear ready.  But we will save that for lesson 2...

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Dave, this is wonderful!!!  Kudos, my friend!!!  :arigato:  :clap: :clap: :clap: :cheers:

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Guest taken by the wind...

~ Excellent Dave!  :thumbsup: I'm looking forward to the next one!  :cheers:

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Lesson 2:  Gear.  Remeber when purchasing gear to think LIGHT!   

 

Go out and purchase 2-3 cans of silicone water repellent.  Anything you spray to waterproof make sure that item airs out for at least 1-2 days before you leave on your trip.  I've known people who complain that silicone fumes will give them headaches after being trapped in a vehicles for several hours with the items sprayed.  It doesn't bother me but please try to be considerate to others.  You are going to spend a lot of time in the woods together after all.

 

ATTENTION!!!  Taking care of your feet is a high priority.  Boots and socks should be carefully selected for maximum comfort. Now let's talk clothes.

 

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Boots- This is probably one of your most important purchases.  Make sure they are light, waterproof, breathable and reach over your ankles for support.  These boots don't even have to be expensive.  I purchase $20 hikers from WalMart to go on my trips.  I wear them for however long they last.   One trip or over a summer.  Then just replace them cheap.  Also make sure they are broke in before trekking otherwise you are asking for blisters.  Spray your boots with silicone.  I know what your thinking "but they are already waterproof, why spray them?"  Well the silicone will only add to the boots ability to shed water.  It will also keep stuff like dirt or blood from sticking to the boots and will be easier to clean.  Also get your boots half a size larger than you normally wear.  This is due to the wool and polypropylene socks you will be wearing.  Wear the socks to the store when you are trying your boots on to ensure proper fitting.  WHen your purchasing your boots look at the lugs on the bottom. They should be deep and wide to allow water and sand to enter so you will have better traction in rough terrain.  Feel the soles.  Generally boots will come with either a hard sole or a soft sole.  Hard soles are good for sandy or soft areas.  Soft soles will give you better traction on rocks.  I prefer soft soles whenever possible.  Get yourself some good insoles to.  I get get some cheap ones for a buck and just trim them down.  You just take them out and throw them away when you get home. 

 

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Crocs-  These little plastic molded wonders are awesome.  They are super comfy.  They are great for tossing on your feet to ford deep brooks instead of getting your boots wet.  They are a blessing to aching feet at night after a long days hike.  Well worth the money.

 

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Socks- I take 6 pairs of wool socks and 6 pairs of polypropylene or silk liners with me. The silk liners keep your feet from rubbing against your boot and causing blisters. The wool socks draws and stores moisture from your liners.  This help keeping your feet dry. I keep one set of socks in a ziploc bag with my roll of TP tp keep them dry.  These are my camp/backup socks.  I try not to use them unless I have to.  I keep 1 pair in my pack and one on my feet.  I alternate the socks every other day to help keep them fresh.  Wear one and keep the other tied to the outside of your pack to air out after you've worn them.Smartwool is also a very good sock.  It comes in many different styles depending on your activity.  They work very well but are a bit on the pricey side.

 

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Pants- I wear 1 pair of light colored cargo pants for the time I'm out.  I prefer pants with legs that zip off so I am better able to adjust to changing weather.  You will also look for pants with zippers on the legs to open up the cuffs so you can pull the legs on or off over your boots that you'll be wearing.  taking your boots on and off constantly during the day can be a time waster after a while.  Being able to pull the legs off quickly can be a blessing.  I also take a light pair of polypropelene sweat pants with me.  I wear these around camp at night or under my pants if you get a surprisingly cold night or snow.

 

Underwear-  Synthetic material all the way.  It will keep your tender bits free from moisture and chaffing.  'nuff said!  I use DuoFold briefs.  Women tend to wear sports bras when hiking.  I don't know how well they work.  I haven't tried them. 

 

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Shirts-  Synthetic shirts like "DuoFold" material  are excellent.  They are light, breathable, dry fast and and some brands are even odor resistant.  I bring a change of shirt with me and switch them every other day.  If I am in the woods for 3-4 days I will bring just 1 shirt.Cotton shirts are ok but I wouldn't suggest them.  Wear light colors too.  During the summer you are trying to shed heat.  Dark colors will absorb a lot of sunlight and will heat you up during the day.  Dark colors are more favorable in colder temps where you are actually trying to stay warm.

 

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Fleece sweatshirt and/or jacket-  Again synthetic material is the way to go.  It is warm, light, breathable and dries fast. You can find fleece in different densities depending on how warm you want to be.  I've actually saved a few bucks and got some pretty good fleece right at Old Navy. 

 

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Hats-  Everyone seems to wear every kind of hat imaginable in the woods. Baseball caps are good for keeping the sun out of your eyes and you can still put the hood up on your raingear with it on.  I use a Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero.  It's waterproof!  It has a wide brim all the way around for good shade and it keeps more rain off you.  I especially like the ability to roll it up and stuff it in my pocket if I don't feel like wearing it.  They are a bit pricey at around $50.

 

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Gaiters-  I'm not sure if gaiters are classifed as clothes but I'm putting it here anyways.  So there!!  Gaiters are worn when hiking outdoors among dense underbrush or on snow, with or without snowshoes. Gaiters strap onto your boot and around your leg to provide protection from branches and thorns and to prevent mud, snow, etc from entering the boot.  Now the gaiters close either by a zipper or velcro usually.  I highly recommend getting a pair with velcro.  They come off sooooo much easier.  And they won't freeze up with ice in the winter unlike zippers.  You can pick up a good pair of gaiters for about $20.

 

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Rain Gear-  Now I've tried a bunch of different kinds of raingear.  I will say this.... unless it is 100 pvc (plastic) rain wear then it's going to leak.  They all seem to take on water where your shoulder straps compress the jacket against you.  Look at the above picture.  the red raincoat is a anorak put out during the first Marlboro contest.  It takes on water a little but it's got a huge hood for your head and hat.  It also has huge pockets.  The Yellow and blue rain gear is put out by Rainshield.  The yellow set is their sycling series.  It is extremely light, breathable and packable.  It is not very rugged.  You do have to use some caution with where you sit or what rubs up against it.  The hood is tiny.  It barely fits my massive head.  It doesn't even have pockets.  But it is without a doubt the best raingear I've ever found.  I highly recommend it.  The blue set is put out by the same company but I've taken on water to the point I could ring it out like a mop.  I've had the same sponge effect with Frog Togs.  Not recommended.

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Dave, this is excellent info!!!  And yes, your boots are probably your most important "survival" item!

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Those Ozark trail shoes ARE the ones that I use.  If they last me one trip then I've got my $20 out of them.  I bought a pair of Coleman hikers that were almost $140 and they blew a seam out on their very first trip out.  I tried to fix the seam with super glue and seam sealer but to no avail..  They leaked and never did really break in.  I've worn $20 Walmart boots right out of the box on long trips and had no complaints.

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Im wearing a pair of Ozark trail boots right now. My only complaint is they are water proof and a slight odor (well maybe a bit more than slight :P) comes from them because they dont "breath" but fabreeze helps. Other than that their well worth the money.

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~ Okay Dave...  I went to Walmart and actually found YOUR hiking boot! LOL!   :thumbsup: I don't know about everybody else, but I was intrigued that you wore Walmart hiking boots! (Dave said that he's had expensive boots that have fallen apart during one trip.)  Walmart doesn't have hiking boots for women, but I bought a men's size 7 which is about a half size larger than what I wear. So I'm gonna give them a try.  :unsure: 

 

I have a pair of Timberlands that KILL my feet. I have no idea why. My feet just ache after about an hour or two of walking. They cost me well over a hundred dollars.

 

These Ozark Trail brand Walmart boots look just like the ones in your picture. I think it's the same boot. They are WAY lighter than my Timberlands, and WAY more flexible. The toe bends really easy. And they're actually kind of cute.  :P :whistle: I've had them on for about an hour, and they are extremely comfortable. I'm gonna go to the creek later and walk about three miles.

 

So far I'm impressed with them. BEST part is..... they cost $19.84   :cool:  I'll let ya know how they do. I'm a hard woman to please when it comes to some shoes! LOL! But I'm sick of paying over a hundred dollars for shoes that HURT! I wore them all Winter, and NEVER broke them in!  :ack:

Make sure to purchase a can of Camp Dry to silicone your boots and help waterproof them.I will also take "seam sealer" that is used on tents to seal the seam on my boots where the cloth comes into contact with the sole of the boot.

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I'm pretty sure that it is silicone.  Put a light coat over the boots, let it dry, then put another coat on.  I don't know how big the can is.  I put as much as 4-5 coats on my hikers.  You probably won't need that much for just around town and some light trail walking. 

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Guest Lead Dog

I’d like to make a comment regarding boots, although it applies to other gear as well.  You get what you pay for.  While there is nothing wrong with buying something inexpensive, it will probably need to be replaced more often.  If you compare the replacement costs over the life of a more expensive pair that last longer, you will probably break even.  And you will get the benefit of having the features of the more expensive boots.

 

I don’t have the experience or trail miles that many of you have, but I’ve only had to buy two pairs of hiking boots since college (which is about 15 years).  I wear my Asolos all the time outdoors and basically destroyed my old ones.  While they initially cost more than less expensive pairs, my first pair cost about $15 a year over their life and I expect to get the same life out of the second ones.

 

In addition, I grow attached to my gear that performs well.  I am not a “gear junky” and hate shopping.  I like knowing my old, reliable, broken-in hikers are always there waiting for the next adventure.

 

As a side note, my wife turned my old hikers into planters in her flower garden.  When I am sitting in the yard and look at them, the scars on the leather remind me of certain hikes and adventures. :)

 

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Nice guide, im really liking this. I like the idea of the cheap boots because im already spending allot of money this year on gear so i can invest in better shoes if i wish next year. Or i may just wear running shoes...

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Guest Lead Dog

Nice guide, im really liking this. I like the idea of the cheap boots because im already spending allot of money this year on gear so i can invest in better shoes if i wish next year. Or i may just wear running shoes...

 

Whatever you decide, just keep in mind your feet are what gets you in and out.  Take care of them and they take care of you.

 

My first major outdoor-related purchase was a good pair of hiking boots.

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Guest adrenjunky

Spetz- Boots are the last thing you want to put a price tag on. You can get away with cheap tents, cheap stove (fire), and just about cheap everything else, but your boots are a must!! If you are going to spend money on anything spend it on boots. It is not that the more money the better, but if you use better matterials the better off you will be. Good boots are a huge must, the things you have talked about doing it is a need. But get fitted, a boot that fits me good may not fit you. Also look at the rep of the product, look at backpacker and see how they grade things. This doesn't mean you need to go buy the brand new injection molded is something that you need. I will put in a huge push to gore-tex or other waterproofing materials- KEEP YOUR FEET DRY!!!

 

I put on 100+ miles on my Asolos last year and you can hardly tell they have been used.

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Guest Lead Dog

AJ is spot on regarding getting properly fitted.  Unless you know what you are doing, go to a reputable place that has knowledgeable people and a good reputation.  REI or a similar shop is a great place to start.  There are a lot of places that sell different brands and models, but the sales people are less than knowledgeable or experienced regarding your needs.  It is not wrong to ask the salesperson making the recommendation why they think a particular model is best.  What are they basing it on?  What do they do with their boots?  What do they wear in the woods?  Do they hike or hunt or do whatever you plan on doing with yours?  A 16-year old kid that only plays baseball and golf is not likely to be able to recommend the best pair of boots for an extended backpacking trip in the Alaskan bush.

 

In fact, someone that knows what they are talking about will ususally recommend a couple different models that are all similar to see how they fit you.  Everyone is different and will feel comfortable in different boots.  As mentioned above, I love Asolos.  Does that mean you should absolutely get a pair because I've had luck with them?  Absolutely not.  You might want to consider them, but among others of similar quality.

 

I can't agree with AJ more about how important your boots are to enjoying the outdoors.

 

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LD and AJ are spot on about feet.  And I whole heartedly agree with them.   That's why I said "ATTENTION!!!  Taking care of your feet is a high priority.  Boots and socks should be carefully selected for maximum comfort."  I've owned a couple of $120-$140 Coleman hikers.  They were extremely waterproof and lasted me for a  few years. :thumbsup:  And if you can afford to go get a pair then by all means get them.  I don't always have the money to purchase a set.  So I found $20 hikers were a great alternative.  I just hate replacing the expensive boots after having a spark burn a hole through it because you set them to close to a fire to dry. :woot: :rofl: 

 

:squirrel: :idea:  Here's a Super Squirrel tip for you.  Watch only your own clothes when drying them around a fire.  DO NOT take responsability for others stuff.  If something happens to their precious items then you will be reminded forever.  It doesn't even matter if you replace the item.  When it comes time to dry clothes you will be reminded of the time their shirt got a hole in it or their hat got a hole in it, or their socks caught fire and fell in.  DON'T DO IT!!!

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I've been asked to elaborate on clothes a bit more.  I told you all what I bring for clothes but not why.  So here we go....

 

First let me cover a bit about materials.  It's the old wool vs. synthetics debate.  Wool clothing is awesome.  It is a fantastic insulator and will retain it's insulating factors even when wet.   It's difficult to find a synthetic material that works as well as wool does without being expensive. The material is highly durable.   I find wool retains moisture a bit more than synthetics do.  Also if wool catches fire it won't stick and melt to your flesh the way synthetics will. :scared:  Synthetics strong point is it's breathability.  Synthetics dry extremely fast.  I find that they don't keep quit me as warm as wool does. 

 

Layers-  Most outdoors people using a layering system to keep you dry, comfortable, and warm.  Those that don't you usually see on the evening news.  You want to find a combination of breathability and warmth.  Layers allows you to adjust to the every changing conditions of trekking.  I've seen days where I was taking stuff off and on constatnly it seems like.  First it's raining, then it's clears up and gets hot, then you summit and it's near freezing and it starts raining again. It can drive you crazy at times.  :sad:

 

  Base layers-  For a good base layer you will want a material that is going to pull moisture away from your body to help keep you dry.   I personally like synthetics.  On hot summer days they are a blessing to keep you cool by letting sweat evaporate faster.

 

  Mid Layer-  Now here you want something that is going to retain heat on those cold nights in a valley or on a windy summit.   Wool is excellent here.  A mid weight fleece is excellent too.

 

  Outer layer- this is basically raingear to keep you dry. You got to protect yourself from those elements.  This also should have a high degree of breathability to allow your mid layer to dry.  Finding a good combination of waterproof and breathability is I found to be tricky.   

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Excellent, Dave!  I found the same problem hiking in the mountains, taking stuff off, putting stuff on...It's good to know HOW to best layer clothing.  Thank you for taking the time to help us "newbies" out there! 

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My dads favorite saying is "take plenty of clothes> You can always take some off but you cant put any on if you dont have them"

 

Good job Dave. :thumbup:

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  Outer layer- this is basically raingear to keep you dry. You got to protect yourself from those elements.  This also should have a high degree of breathability to allow your mid layer to dry.  Finding a good combination of waterproof and breathability is I found to be tricky.

 

Ive spent most of my working days outside Dave and raining days require rain gear. I found out that the rugged rain outfits we wore in construction while being great waterprofing did not breath very well if at all. As soon as the rain quits if you didnt stop to remove the rain gear you ended up wet from the sweat.

 

What kind of rain gear has a high "breathability"?

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