Rain gear is often some of the most neglected apparel in any paddler’s wardrobe. Most of us do our best to paddle in the sun. But, given that the average forecaster is only ever 80% accurate, the odds are high you’ll get caught in wetter weather sooner or later. Our friends at Brella recently sent us their flagship product, The Brella 101 poncho hybrid, to put through its paces.
The Brella had been on our radar for awhile, especially after seeing the USA Bass Kayak Fishing Team rocking them on the water. After several months of misty mornings and summer showers The Brella hybrid poncho/coat (poncoat? coatcho?) has earned a permanent spot on our yak. Read on to learn why this innovative wet-wear is a kayak fishing game changer.
Poncho vs. RainCoat
For eons the Poncho vs. Raincoat debate has raged as paddlers inch ever closer towards the goal of ultimate dryness. Ok that might be a bit of a stretch. Truth is this debate isn’t going to break any friendships. Both ponchos and rain coats offer different advantages when it comes to rain protection. Ponchos offer a coolness factor that rain coats simply can’t compete with. If you’re thinking to yourself “huh?” let me put an image in your head. Clint Eastwood; the Man with no Name. Arguably the most badass gunslinger in Western lore strutted his stuff in a wool poncho. Eh Tuco?
To be fair rain jackets can be look pretty cool also. Trench coats in the Matrix? Awesome. But counterpoint; Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. Now that it’s settled science Ponchos are cooler, Let’s look at the other benefits (as if they even matter, psh’).
Versatility and Dryness
Rain coats are single function items. They keep your torso dry, and that’s mostly it. Ponchos, on the other hand, offer a slew of perks beyond fending off bad weather. The extra length keeps your lower half dry in seated positions. Have a backpack? Throw that poncho on over. Forgot to pack a tarp? Throw that poncho on over. All that extra fabric keeps everything dry, but at the cost of getting snagged on stuff more easily. Remember how Bruce Willie’s weakness in Unbreakable was water? Ponchos do a better job at keeping you dry. That’s why Bruce Willie wore one; and it worked really well until he fell in the pool.
Air, Speed, and Freedom
Putting on a poncho is pretty quick and easy. Just a quick slip over the head and Bob’s your uncle. It might not seem like a huge consideration in most circumstances, but on a fishing kayak it’s pretty clutch. You want something you can get on quick when the storm’s rolling in.
Another hugely important factor is temperature and airflow. Poncho’s offer weather protection without extra warmth. Even a light rain jacket will heat up pretty quickly. That might be perfect in cooler fall weather, but it’s not ideal during steamy summer showers.
Finally, and perhaps the most important factor for fishermen, is the freedom of movement. Poncho’s undeniably offer more flexibility and unrestricted motion than a raincoat, but by a small margin. It’s not like you’re Harry Houdini in a strait jacket if you go the rain coat route. But for anybody fly-fishing or paddling and casting, the marginal improvement offered by poncho’s can be a big deal.
A Hybrid Solution
If the poncho is superior than why mess with perfection? Well while the poncho does have a lot of benefits there are a few drawbacks that have traditionally relegated ponchos to the back of the closet. Foremost poncho’s lack of sleeves often leads to soggy arms; a problem raincoat’s address with velcro/bungee straps at the wrist. Secondly all that extra material tends to get caught up on stuff it shouldn’t; branches, poles, and track mounted gear. Finally most ponchos aren’t made of the best material; thin see-through plastic isn’t exactly durable. The Brella tackles these shortfalls and more with modern design and materials. The result is a versatile piece of apparel that’s great both on and off the yak.
The Brella is made of a rugged waterproof polyester with a 20,000 MVT rating. There’s a lot of science behind waterproof (MVT) ratings that we won’t get into here. Completely waterproof materials (think rubber) will keep dry even during complete submersion, but that comes with the cost of zero breathability. On the flip side thin plastic is light and permeable; which is why those $5 ponchos sold at the ball park fall apart in a Summer Storm. A 20,000 rating is a solid compromise between keeping you dry and your body cool. YKK zippers, metal grommets, and hard plastic snaps compliment the waterproof fabric and provide “trimming” options unique to the Brella’s design.
The Brella incorporates a lot of smart tricks but its standout feature is its shorter length. Rather than draping down to your feet with yards of fabric the Brella falls to just below the waist. In addition the sleeves cover just your biceps rather than extending to the wrist. Less fabric means it’s harder to get caught up on the errant protrusion. During our testing on the boat we found the Brella kept our torso and butts (i.e. the important parts) dry. And we were able to paddle with ease even during heavy downpour. It’s also incredibly easy to get the Brella over your bod in record time – no swimming through plastic to find the head hole.
One of our favorite features is the interior chest pocket. The envelope-size zippered pocket is perfect for storing your cell phone and other valuables you can’t afford to get wet. Another awesome design is the hood. Most ponchos have an oversized hood that’s great for rain protection, but terrible for seeing in front of you. The Brella has the same large hood, but adds strategically placed Velcro for a quick brim. Roughly 5″ of hood fabric folds back and stays in place. It sounds like a small problem to solve but it makes a world of difference. Finally the lower perimeter is covered in 12 pairs of snaps that permit a tighter/looser fit.
Overview on The Brella Brella Poncho Hybrid
We’re thoroughly impressed by the Brella Brella. As a hybrid solution its kept the strengths of its parents while overcoming their inherent weaknesses. There are a variety of eye-catching designs available for the Brella at a price point of $79, which is pretty great deal given the specs and performance. Next time you’re on the hunt for some new rain-gear Brella should be on your shortlist – and make sure you tell them Yak Logic sent you.