As a wildlife biologist and life-long horsewoman, I’ve spent the majority of my life out in the elements. In the barn, on the trail, and conducting field research 400 miles away from a roof in the most horrendous weather you can imagine.
Testing for Waterproof
I’ve had plenty of gear say it was waterproof only to leave me soaked and in a bad situation. Even in summer temperatures, getting soaked can lead to hypothermia, so dryness is a very big factor in staying safe outdoors.
So, our first priority in designing our waterproof riding skirt (the Tongass Rain Riding Skirt) was to make sure it actually was waterproof!
You know, the best way to test the waterproofness of a product? Go chase the rain and try and get soaked.
So, that’s just what my Appaloosa, Faly, and I did- we chased the rain for months. Every time a storm was blowing in, I jumped on him and headed out on the trail to get as absolutely wet as I could.
Faly didn’t really enjoy our water-testing phase. You know that lop-sided ear position a wet horse gets to show you they’re way not impressed with getting rained on? Yeah, I stared through those ears for many months.
The back half of him was staying dry due to the quarter-sheet aspect of the Tongass Rain Skirt, but his head had no such coverage.
Then there were the sink tests... you know, suspending the fabric over a sink, filling it with water to see which fabric was still holding a puddle of water by morning. That's a really scientific test I did. So many "waterproof" textiles had no puddle of water left in the morning. But, ours did!
My husband had to brush his teeth outside for a few days during the sink phase... I couldn't have him messing up our testing.
Waterproofness that doesn't wash off
I think it's a bit crazy to buy something you have to constantly re-waterproof. Some of these fabrics come with instructions like, "re-apply topical spray after 50 washes."
Well, I don't keep a spreadsheet with how many times I've washed my rain coat, and I sure as heck don't want to be headed out on a 40 mile backcountry trip after wash #50 without realizing it. So, we decided we weren't going to pick a waterproof fabric that had to be re-treated.
We chose a three layer water-proof fabric, wherein the middle layer is actually the waterproof, breathable membrane. You can't wash it off, because it isn't a topical spray. Waterproofness stays waterproof.
(This graphic created by ShowersPass
Sewing for Water-Tight
So, up to this point, we know the fabric is waterproof, that it will stay waterproof, but how do you keep it waterproof when you have to punch holes in it to sew it?
Well, after much testing, we realized the best way to keep it water-tight was to put as few holes in it as possible (I know, we're brilliant). So, we took out nearly every seam to make it just about seamless.
Our Tongass Rain Riding Skirt only has two seams- where the waistband and the storm flap attach. Ever notice those beautiful pleats in the back of our riding skirt? They give us all the width we need to make the quarter-sheet, but don't require seams running down the skirt. They're sewn in under the waistband. Tah-dah!
Most pockets in clothing are sewn into a side seam. Since our Tongass Rain Riding skirts don't have a side-seam we actually had to come up with our own sewing method of inserting a pocket in the skirt. To reinforce the waterproofness of the pocket, we also have some cool internal features to reinforce the small sew line around the zippered pockets.
The Proof is in the Puddle in Your Lap:
When women ride in the rain in our skirts they'll mention the puddles forming on the outside of the fabric (remember those sink tests?), but staying perfectly dry underneath. They tell us all the time they almost look forward to bad weather now!
Then there's all the folks who sent me their videos and photos of riding out in pouring rain... with a big old smile on their face, cause they were dry!
A passing shower didn't ruin this girl's hack!
Then there was Larissa's 2 week pack trip into the Brooks Range where it poured every sing day, all day, and they had to pass the Tongass Rain Riding Skirt around to stay dry:
And, read Liz Stout's review of riding in crazy rain in her Tongass:
I just love when you all send us your horrible weather pictures with big smiles on your faces. Makes chasing all those rain storms worth it!