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Outdoor Adventure Guide

Riding Through Mud
Drew Hardin
| Contributor
Posted October 1, 2005
Contributors: Tori Tellem

Fall '05

RainGear For When Conditions Get Wet And SloppyYou know that old '70s song "It Never Rains in Southern California"? Don't believe it. We had the second wettest winter on record in 2004-'05, causing everything from house-mashing mudslides to football-field-size sinkholes. So now we know a thing or two about being soaked and miserable, thanks to those nonstop downpours. The gear we've collected here should keep you dry and your truck weatherproof no matter how wet it gets.

Dry BedNeed to keep gear (or yourself) dry in the bed? There are three basic choices for cargo-area cover: a tonneau, a truck cap, or a camper shell. The bed-wall-high tonneau is fine for gear but makes for a claustrophobic sleeping area; camper shells are great for sleeping but overkill if you stow gear more often than camp. Truck caps, such as this fiberglass MX model from A.R.E., are a good compromise between the two. The roof-high construction gives you space for tall gear or breathing room while you snooze, but it's not so tall as to spoil your truck's aerodynamic profile or garage ceiling clearance. Walk-in doors make access easier than ever, and A.R.E. offers paint-code matching so the cap will blend with the sheetmetal.

A.R.E, 800.649.4273,

Like Water Off A DuckIf you're "lucky" enough to spend a lot of wheeling time in the rain, you'll want to look into making some modifications to your truck to better cope with the water, not to mention all the mud you'll encounter. For example, spray-in bedliner material is not only good for bed protection, it can also be used on your 4x4's floorboards to make hosing out the mud a whole lot easier. Worried about your seats being perpetually wet? Try covering them with a waterproof material, like the neoprene covers offered by Wet Okole Hawaii. Wet Okole has seat patterns that will fit just about any truck or SUV, and installation is simple, as the covers simply slide over the existing upholstery and fasten with Velcro and straps. There are some 38 colors in Wet Okole's inventory, so there's sure to be something that'll fit your rig's color scheme.

Line-X, 800.831.3232,

Rhino Linings, 888.744.6604,

Wet Okole Hawaii, 949.548.1543,

I Can See Clearly NowDon't rely on just your windshield wipers for clear visibility in poor conditions. There are several silicone-based windshield treatments on the market that will help repel rain and keep sleet and snow from sticking to the glass. Probably the best known is Rain-X, which is now available in Swipe & Wipe towelettes in addition to the familiar liquid spray. Rain-X, however, has to be applied in dry conditions. If it's already raining and you want to treat your windshield, use Instant Rain Shield or Ultra Rain Shield from No Touch. Both products are designed to work on wet glass; Instant Rain Shield lasts 4 to 10 days, while Ultra Rain Shield can last up to six months.

Rain-X, 800.416.1600, www.rainx.comInstant Rain Shield,

Rain Boots: Gore-Tex vs. RubberBoth are waterproof, so which is best for you? According to Rocky Outdoor Gear's Joe Hanning, the breathability of Gore-Tex will make boots lined with it more comfortable to wear over the long haul, as your feet won't get clammy and, as a result, cold. Typically a boot made with Gore-Tex will also fit better than a rubber boot and will be much more comfortable to hike in.

But if you find yourself in swampy areas with lots of mud and standing water, rubber is the better choice, says Hanning. Rubber boots are available in sizes that are taller than standard boots, so you can have water protection further up your leg. Rubber boots are also much easier to clean after use; there's no leather or laces for mud to cake in.

Rubber also costs less, said Hanning. Typical rubber boots sell for between $49 and $99, while Gore-Tex-lined boots can sell for $140 and up.Rocky Outdoor Gear,740.753.1951,

What is Gore-Tex?You've seen the tags on everything from boots to jackets, but have you ever wondered what Gore-Tex is and how it can be waterproof and breathable at the same time? Gore-Tex is a membrane with pores so small water molecules can't get through, but air can. So on the inside of the garment your skin can breathe without getting clammy, but rain can't soak in.

According to Joe Hanning of Rocky Outdoor Gear, just about every apparel maker has its own waterproof system that is similar to Gore-Tex, but they're usually less expensive since typically they aren't as breathable. He lumps his own company's Rocky Waterproof material into that same not-quite-as-good camp. "That's what you're paying the extra money for when you're buying Gore-Tex," he said.

Rain Boots, Part 2:How High?Whether you need to wade through knee-deep gumbo to hook up a winch cable or just keep your feet dry during a spring rain, there's a mind-boggling variety of rubber boots on the market suited to any outdoors task. For example, here are just a few samples from LaCrosse.

LaCrosse Footwear, 800.323.2668,

Trailside EntertainmentToo wet to 'wheel? Check out these portable entertainment systems. From Jeep is the Rubicon Rugged Radio, a big, burley, weather- and shock-resistant AM/FM tuner that looks a lot like a small generator. It's built with rubberized knobs that are easy to use with gloves and sits on protective rollbars with rubberized feet. The Rugged Radio runs on six D-cell batteries or the supplied power cord.

Taking the Rubicon radio to the next level, the folks at Jeep have just introduced the Rubicon Rugged TV/Lantern/Radio with-you guessed it-a built-in television (a 5-inch black-and-white unit) and a retractable lantern. The radio dial also gets a weather band to keep up with local storm warnings. Its ruggedized construction features are similar to the original Rubicon radio's. Jeep,

Jeep isn't the only company to get in on the trailside entertainment movement. Coleman offers the King Cobra Lantern TV Radio, which packs a 5-inch TV, an AM/FM/Weather (seven-band) radio, a fluorescent tube, and a flashlight all into one compact package. The King Cobra can be powered by C-cells or 12-volt power, and the kit includes a car-plug adapter.

Coleman, 800.835.3278,

Waterproof ItYou may already be familiar with products on the market that can add or refresh the waterproof layer on your boots, jackets, and other outer wear. But a quick look over the Nikwax line will show you that modern waterproofing technology doesn't stop at clothing. Nikwax also offers cleaning and re-waterproofing products for tents, backpacks, duffle bags, rope, and even maps and charts. You'll find more traditional types of 'proofing products in the lineup too, for leather, cotton, wool, down, and even water-repellent fabrics like Gore-Tex.

Nikwax, 800.563.3057,

Frog-Like SkinWhen it gets wet enough, you'll want waterproof protection for more than just your feet. And let's face it: Those 99-cent see-through ponchos you get at the drug store just don't cut it, for more than a few minutes anyway. For true wet-weather repellancy look to a rain suit like those made by Frogg Toggs. Made up of three layers of polypropylene material with a center layer of microporous film, Frogg Toggs suits are 100-percent waterproof but also breathe, to keep you comfortably cool even when fully zipped up. Frogg Toggs come in several styles, including models for hunters with Advantage Wetlands, MAX-4 HD, and Timber camo patterns.

Frogg Toggs, 800.349.1835,

SnowWhen Keeping Warm And Dry Means Staying AliveGetting wet in a rainstorm makes you uncomfortable until you can dry out. Getting wet in the snow can have far grimmer ramifications, ranging from chills and frostbite to hypothermia, an abnormal lowering of the body temperature that can lead to death. Now, we don't want to be total buzzkill for you winter wheelers, but being well protected against the harsh elements means living to wheel another day, right?

Jacket Or Parka?There is a difference: A jacket is generally shorter, covering the upper body down to the waist or a little further; the inner lining and outer shell are generally of one piece (though there are jackets with removable liners). A parka is longer, covering the upper body down to mid-thigh; typically parkas are two-piece garments with a liner that separates from the outer shell.

Personal preference and your winter activities usually determine whether you buy a parka or a jacket. If you can afford an outer layer just for wheeling, though, think jacket. Since it's shorter, you won't have to sit on it when you're driving, giving you better maneuverability inside the cab.

Down Or Fleece?When it comes to outer garment insulation, there's no question: Down is best when the goal is warmth. Down is also extremely light, and even the bulkiest down vests, parkas, and sleeping bags can be stuffed in very tight spaces, which is why it's so popular with backpackers.

Get down wet, though, and it loses its loft (the air spaces around the feathers), which is what gives it its excellent insulation capabilities. If you're going to be in a wet and cold environment, be sure to put a waterproof layer over the down garment. Or choose one of the synthetic (polyester) downlike materials.

Synthetic fleece is being used more and more as an insulator, as it too is lightweight but doesn't lose its insulation properties when wet. It also breathes well, meaning perspiration that's wicked away from the body via a poly undershirt can get through a fleece outer layer.

That breatheability, however, can be a negative in windy environments. Wind can cut right through fleece unless it's coupled with some sort of wind barrier, whether that's an additional layer of fabric (such as Columbia Sportswear's Windstopper, a Gore-Tex laminate) or a second, outer garment. According to Columbia's Dan Tiegs, the hang tag on a fleece garment can tell you a lot about its qualities, from the weight of the fleece to the protection it offers from the wind.

What's A Pac Boot?"Pac" is the name given to a type of winter boot made from a combination of leather (or some other sort of fabric) and rubber-leather where it binds around the top of your foot and ankle (and the lower part of your leg, if the boot's tall enough), and rubber around your toes and down to where the boot meets the snow. Pac boots are incredibly versatile: available with Arctic-explorer levels of insulation or none at all; available in a wide variety of colors and styles (including camo patterns); available with scent-locking features for hunters; and so on. Here are just a few.

Boot InsulationHow much insulation do you need in your snow boots? Your feet generate heat when you're active; they don't when you're not. So, according to the folks at LaCrosse Footwear, match your activity level with these weights of Thinsulate insulation:

200 grams: Cold conditions and high levels of activity, like working or hiking400 grams: Moderate activity levels600-800 grams: Very cold conditions and low activity levels900-1,300 grams: When you're stationary (driving, sitting in a tree stand)

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