If you still believe Gore-Tex can’t keep you dry, stop reading because this all about Simms Gore-Tex Pro Shell waterproof garments, the best rainwear I’ve worn in 50 years of hunting. It beat southeast Alaska!
I’ve journeyed to the Alaska wilderness 19 times. Each time I investigated and tested the latest technology for keeping the rain off my hide. My success rate has run from good to dismal, the worst being a brand new “good as Gore-Tex” garment with all the rain shedding qualities of a screen door. Others have kept me dry for a few hours, sometimes a few days, some for a week. Some made me as wet from sweat as rain. Some rain pants soaked up so much water they sagged down around my knees.
This time I tried Simms Gore-Tex. I have found the promised land.
Simms, an American company, makes top quality fishing gear (primarily waders, boots and jackets) in Bozeman, Montana. Simms started in 1980 and pioneered Simms Gore-Tex waders with W.L. Gore & Associates (another all-American) in 1993. Today it is widely recognized as THE manufacturer of rugged Gore-Tex waders and jackets for hard-core outdoorsmen.
When I learned I’d be salmon fishing and bear/moose/duck hunting with buddy Tom Claycomb in southeast Alaska, I began yet another rain gear search. As part of it, I asked our host and owner of alaskaexpeditions.com, Charles Allen, what he and his guides wore. “Simms Gore-Tex,” he replied. “We live in it. Put it on in the morning, take it off at the end of each day. Stay dry and comfortable. It’s the only stuff to wear up here.”
I’ve been around the outdoors long enough to know that not all guides use the finest gear. Some can’t afford it, some aren’t curious enough to research or test it thoroughly, and many take perverse pride in maintaining old traditions — like leather, wool and rubber. But Allen is an interesting mix of tradition and cutting edge technology. As a Master Guide in Alaska, he’s obviously spent plenty of time in the wilds under grueling conditions. As innovator of high-tech Diamond Blade knives and their Friction Forged steel, he obviously appreciates cutting edge technology (pardon the pun). And, honestly, I wasn’t a bit surprised when he said Simms Gore-Tex. He’s not the first to recommend it.
Long story short, I procured a Simms Pro Slick-Jacket in Loden, a G3 Guide Stockingfoot wader, G3 Guide Boot and fleece-lined Coldweather Pant. Per Simms recommendation I got the waders a half-size too big and the boots 1.5 sizes too big. They proved the most comfortable waders I’ve ever worn. As Allen predicted, I wore them all day every day for nearly two weeks. Ditto the jacket.
It misted. It drizzled. It rained. It poured. One day the winds reached an estimated 80 mph. I could have stored saltine crackers in the inside pocket of that jacket and snapped them at the end of each day.
So here’s my honest report: the waders never leaked or sweated. My socks were damp at the end of each day, living as they were surrounded by neoprene booties and soaking up foot perspiration. Nothing new there. Same thing happens in ordinary leather boots. My legs remained perfectly dry and comfortably warm even after hours standing thigh-deep in salmon rivers. Neither the fleece Coldweather Pant, waders nor boots pinched or bound in any discernible way, not even when riding ATVs and sitting on boat bench seats for extended rides. I never felt as though I were constricted by an armpit wader or as if I were dragging heavy galoshes around. We leaped in and out of the boat many times a day to drag it over gravel bars, and neither the waders nor those size 12 boots hampered me the way neoprene waders usually do. Boots and waders were even easy to remove each evening. If you’ve ever tried untying wet laces on cheap wading boots or kicking off rubbery waders, you’ll appreciate this.
I find it challenging to describe the 3/4-length Slick Jacket. “Slick” references how it sheds water and how its clean exterior offers minimum impediments that might snag lines. Zippers run flawlessly and lock out water. Vertical access chest pockets are large and easily accessed with interior organizing pockets that prevent gear from accumulating in a heap at the bottom. The 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric is rather stiff and quite noisy, yet somewhat stretchy, generously cut and not restrictive. Freedom of movement for casting, aiming a shotgun, pushing a boat and operating cameras proved excellent. I felt no binding in the arms or shoulders. The generous hood protruded forward sufficiently to protect my face from driving rain, yet pulled back to clear my peripheral vision when I tightened the 3-point cinch draw-cord. Hand warming side pockets are out of the way, high, under the armpits and voluminous. Inside are zippers that can be opened for access to interior jacket pockets or an even warmer environment.
The only place this jacket let in moisture was the cuffs, and that may have been my fault. To Simms credit, they’ve engineered these cuffs about as well as anyone could to hold out water. The outer sleeves extend halfway down my hands. Deep inside them are stretchy, neoprene-like inner wrist cuffs with adjustable hook-and-loop fasteners for creating a tight seal. Batten down these hatches and you should be fine, but as a photographer I am repeatedly pulling off my gloves to manipulate small camera controls. That requires loosening the cuffs to remove the gloves, usually in a hurry with no time to refasten. Standing at the ready with hands on a camera perched atop a tripod elevates the sleeve nearly straight up. This collects rain like a barrel.
My only other complaint about Simms products is price. MSRP of the Slick Jacket is $499.95, the G3 Guide Stockingfoot Wader $499.95 and the G3 Guide Boot $229.95. Yikes! But…
What price comfort? And potentially survival? Anglers and hunters venturing into true wilderness like Alaska take their lives into their hands. Finding yourself dozens of miles from the nearest road in a driving rain can be a life-and-death situation. When I was a young man I wouldn’t have paid half this much for rain gear. My first rubber waders set me back about $10 at K-Mart. My first “rain jacket” was a urethane coated nylon poncho. By necessity I endured the slings and arrows of nasty weather because I had to spend my meager discretionary income on essentials like rifles and shotguns. But once you have such essentials, your tolerance for suffering takes a major hit. Who wants to spend days wet and cold just to carry a pricier gun? Especially when you can get perfectly functional, accurate firearms for less than $400. In AK I carried my Mossberg Patriot Laminate Marinecote afield for eight days and never fired a shot. I used my Simms gear every minute of every day for eight days of rain and remained warm and comfortable the entire time.
I’ll spend a few bucks for that level of comfort and safety. Now I get to see how many seasons this Simms Gore-Tex rain gear continues performing. Based on its rugged build, feel and performance so far, I think its in for the long haul.
# # #