Thanks for all the great feedback on my post last week about how I psych myself up for riding in the rain.
As I mentioned in that post, I really enjoyed Ride Westside’s Winter Gear Clinic earlier this month. If you missed it, they posted their members’ gear recommendations. It was so encouraging to hear gear suggestions and solutions in-person, and to meet like-minded folks who ride in the rain. I relied on their enthusiasm to get me outside on our first rainy ride last week, and I’m using their gear list to shop for a few items to bolster our stash of winter riding gear.
Now, after two years of rainy riding, I finally have some winter gear favorites of my own to share.
A word about our gear: Much of our gear isn’t bike-specific. A big reason for that is that we’re adopting a rainy lifestyle outside; so we want gear that can ride the bike, play at the park, pop inside at the library, and head back outside for an afternoon picnic in the drizzle. With an upright e-bike, slow pace, and nearby destinations, I am not riding like a fitness cyclist or long-distance commuter, so bike specific gear is less necessary for me and most of my children (who are riding along without pedaling).
OK, here’s my list. First I’ll share what I’ve got, and then will share what I’ve got my eyes on.
Used/donated rain jackets, boots, rain pants
In other words, whatever we can find. It’s worth investing in quality rain gear, but if you can’t afford what you need, Portland thrift stores probably have something to cover you (hint: look for rain gear in the summer and stock up), or a BuyNothing group may be able to supply you for free. When it comes to children, who change sizes every year and lose/misplace gear regularly, I usually rely on used gear found for cheap or free. I have found much of my kid rain gear that way. You can too.
Be sure to get waterproof (not merely “resistant”) from head to toe–hoods, shirt, pants, lined boots, gloves, plus a warm performance underlayer complete with hats and warm socks. Don’t skip anything or kids will be cold and very unhappy. In other words: worry less about having the perfect/best brands, and just make sure you have everything covered.
Full-Body Rain Suits
A onesie for the rain! These are an absolute favorite, a “must-have” especially for toddlers, who somehow manage to belly flop into the first puddle they see. The brands Hapiu, Tuffo, and Oaki have all served us well. (We managed to have different brands in each size, passed from kid to kid. After five years in the PNW, we haven’t had to replace any of them yet.)
One caution: These rain suits make playground slides go really fast. Rain-suit-wearing kids will fly a few feet off the end of the slide–which might be great or terrible, depending on the kiddo. I recommend you be ready to catch a flying kid at the bottom.
A friend gave me her JJ Cole BundleMe stroller bunting, which is basically a winter sleeping bag that connects to the stroller to keep baby snug and warm. This worked with our bike seat straps kept my baby cozy. He always looked so snuggly! It gave me the confidence that my little one’s toes would stay warm. There are many brands that offer stroller bunting. I just used what I was gifted.
Warm, sturdy, waterproof, and with handholds to help put them on. Added benefit of rain boots: No shoelaces! It’s wonderful when the youngest ones can put their boots on without help. Definite win. BogsFootwear.com
Wool/Waterproof Picnic Blanket: My favorite piece of rain gear!I didn’t have a rain cover to keep my kids warm and dry, so I purchased a waterproof picnic blanket from Amazon (from a company which has since disappeared… this is the closest similar item I can find). My picnic blanket is wool on one side with a waterproof layer on the back. The wool is so warm, and it’s very sturdy and the waterproof side lives up to its purpose. We have used this durable blanket year-round for picnics and we never have to get wet from sitting on wet grass or wet park benches. Furthermore, I wrap this around my kids, wool side down, to keep them warm inside and dry outside.
This is a really good idea, especially if you will be waiting around in the cold with kids. It’s one thing to bike in the cold, but it’s especially hard to sit and wait in the cold, which happens a lot, like when picking up a sibling from an activity, or for kids riding along without pedaling. (This is a hard adjustment, compared with waiting in a heated car, so try to plan for it.) Be prepared to wrap up waiting/riding kiddos in a warm blanket. We find we need this even with our fancy rain canopy. Wool is sturdy and warm, and I am now a wool convert. This is pricier, but I think our sturdy wool/waterproof blanket will last us a decade, and it doesn’t seem to get muddy and gross the way a regular blanket would. Previous family biking columnist Madi Carlson also recommended this upside-down waterproof picnic blanket.
Alpaca Winter Hat and Gloves
I love the coziness of real wool, and I like thinking about the alpacas that my kids got to feed and pet, who provided the wool for my favorite hat. This hat makes me happy. And the bonus is I got them from a local farm! StonebergAlpacas.com
Merino and Alpaca Wool layers
After falling in love with my wool blanket and hat, I’m trying out more wool layers this year. So far I am enjoying various layers from WoolX and Paka. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Crosspoint Knit Waterproof gloves from Showers Pass
I don’t usually ride very far/long, so I can often wear my fingerless gloves, but when the temperature really drops, I regret it if I forget my Showers Pass gloves. These are warm and flexible and they even handled a morning of sled-riding and snowball fighting last winter. ShowersPass.com
Nikwax Tech Wash Keep rainwear waterproof or refresh the waterproofing on used gear with this technical wash. Otherwise, avoid washing rain gear with detergent (try a water-only wash, or only wash when needed) and never use fabric softener. I try to make our waterproof layers last a long time with limited and careful washing. REI.com
Merrell Men’s Jungle Moc Nubuck Waterproof This is the only pair of shoes my husband wears. He stomps in puddles and wears them to work. He beats them up and one pair last him two years. Totally waterproof, sturdy, comfortable, and with no shoelaces to tie. Best all-around, walking, working, do anything waterproof shoe. Worth every penny. I resupply him every second Christmas.Merrell.com
My Rainy/Winter Gear Wishlist
Alpaca Joggers from Paka I’m very interested in wool for its warm and breathable qualities, its combination of sturdiness and coziness. I don’t usually want to bother putting on rain pants, and I dislike the swishy noise and plastic feel. I want something else that keeps me warm while wet.
Portland’s annual Tweed Ride got me thinking more about functional wool clothing. I’m also interested in wool as a nature-friendly product. And I’m especially interested in the Paka brand for their commitment to pay a fair wage to the women artisans who make the clothing. This is what I am looking for in clothing that matches my needs and values. I already bought— and love — the Paka Hoodie. Now I will have to save up for these!
Double Darn Wool 4-Panel Cap Thanks to Michael and the Ride Westside Winter Gear clinic for this suggestion. I’m in love with this cap, handmade in Portland, with helmets and cyclists in mind. I wonder if the shop could add the earflaps to the charcoal colored cap? I bet they could. That would be dreamy! Double Darn
Lights, Lights, and More Lights As it gets darker and rainier, we need more lighting. We never have enough lights. They break, they fall off, kids switch to new bikes over the summer and we forget to add lights to them. We always need more lights to see and be seen. First, I need a better headlight to be able to see debris and roadway hazards. Any recommendations?
For our front-box cargo bike to be better lit for drivers to see us, I really wanted Cargo Glow lighting, but they don’t make a product for my Bunch bike (Bunch is currently working on a new lighting option for their box bikes). So in the meantime, I swiped my husband’s work light and the kids just hold it up on the night ride home. The plastic rain cover filters it such that the entire bike box is lit up like a glowing lantern. I bet an electric camping lantern could work too. I think it’s a pretty effective DIY solution.
I’m also interested in pedal lights and wheel spoke lights for my son’s bike. The more we ride, the more we ride in rain and darkness, the more we want more lights.
Shower’s Pass Updated Little Crossover Jacket Reflective and bright kid jacket with waterproofing and breathability. Since my 10-year-old son rides fast to keep up with his Momma’s e-bike, I think he merits some cycle-specific clothing that can help keep him warm, comfortable, and highly visible. Showers Pass
Low Profile, Casual, Waterproof Shoes I thought I would try wearing my regular sneakers with wool socks yesterday. That was a soggy failure! I hated how wet and squishy my feet were. But I don’t feel very comfortable in my heavy waterproof hiking boots all day, and I don’t always want to wear my giant galoshes.
I’d like to find a low-profile, casual, everyday waterproof shoe to wear to the park, playground, library, and local bike rides. Something that feels comfy at a coffee shop, but can do the job in the rain. No more squishy feet. Any recommendations? (I’m looking at waterproof Merrell sneakers and I am also told that Nike Shield is a line of waterproof sneakers great for the rain. I think I’d be more interested in a low-profile waterproof slip-on shoe, more of a “rainy lifestyle brand” casual shoe…anyone have a favorite?)
What’s your favorite piece of winter gear? Let us know. It’s great to learn from each other! Thank you so much!