I live in New England, where they say "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." Even fair weather riders, like me, sometimes get caught in a freak storm that pops up out of nowhere. (Hail hurts at 50 mph, even through thick leather.) I always keep a light rain jacket and rain pants in my luggage. They're relatively cheap, not the good stuff like Gore-Tex, but for as rarely as I use them they're fine. What about rain gear for die-hard riders, though, people like Long Haul Paul who ride thousands of miles through any and all conditions? Are the extra bucks for the name brand gear worth it? Or can more affordable knock-offs provide the same protection?
FortNine puts several brands of waterproof material to the test in this video. They range from the top-of-the-line name brand Gore-Tex to cheap Frogg Toggs and everything in between. Gore-Tex is up against some stiff competition from expensive name brands like AlpineStars, Dainese, and RevIt, as well as more budget-friendly brands like Olympia, Scott, and Rainguard.
FortNine runs each of these materials through two tests. The first one is obviously how waterproof the material is. He uses a clever pressurized chamber and bicycle tire pump to inflate and measure how much pressure it takes to force water through the membrane. The higher the pressure, the more waterproof the material. The second test is just as important: breathability. If you don't care about aesthetics you could just wear a garbage bag and stay perfectly dry, but you will get quite uncomfortable as the impermeable bag traps your body heat and water vapor from sweat. The second test shows how well each material allows vapor to pass through it. This is the tricky bit, allowing vapor to escape while preventing water from getting through.
The end result is that Gore-Tex is absolutely worth it for keeping you dry, being the best performer in that test. It's not the most breathable material, though, with the budget-minded Scott taking that honor. The best all-rounder is Dainese. It doesn't match the maximum performance of Gore-Tex or Scott, but it comes close in both areas, while the other two are strong in one area but much weaker in the other.
If you're really cheap, Frogg Toggs work extremely well at keeping the water out for not a lot of money. Just don't expect much breathability. When it comes to rain gear, it seems you do get what you pay for, even if it's not specifically Gore-Tex.