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Whether you are equipping yourself for a stay in Paris, or a comfy ice cave in Point Barrow, Seymour, our stylish and well-equipped travel bear, is glad to offer you his experienced insights on what will banish your woes about equipment and gear malfunction."

What to Look for in a Raincoat

Good rain gear is indispensable and should be a high priority if you travel in climates with a moderate-to-high probabilility of precipitation. It is especially important when you you are hiking or exploring away from civilization and are vulnerable to the elements.

Gortex or kindred material will cost you more but is worth the investment because it will keep you dry without causing you to sweat. Many raincoats are not treated to prevent soaking at the seams. Check this out before you purchase. Likewise, make sure that the zippers are made of metal. Cheap, lightweight zippers (especially those with plastic rails) are a prescription for aggravation, particularly when your dexterity is compromised (e.g., you are wearing gloves or your paws are cold.) It always seems that this is the time when fabric catches on the zipper. (Bears have been known to 'lose it' when this happens.) Trying to unsnag a sturdy metal zipper is hard enough, but if the zipper is lightweight or plastic, chances are that any kind of torque will mangle the rails and ruin the zipper.

Remember that zippers tend to be the weakest link in most raincoats. Most bears will throw away a raincoat with a bad zipper (usually peeing on the coat before they abandon it).

When purchasing a raincoat, plan for layering as opposed to purchasing a heavy-duty parka with a rain shell. Layering gives you more options for dealing with changing temperature including global warming. Likewise, it is usually a good idea to purchase a coat that is slightly larger than your normal size. In fitting before purchase, make sure you are wearing a heavy sweater or the coat you anticipate wearing as an under-layer.

One of the most under-designed features of even expensive raincoats is the hood. It should be designed to keep you dry and warm during a driving rain or snowstorm. Adjustability is critical. When it is really cold or rainy out, I want to be able to snap and anchor the lower part of my hood at chin level. Too much room at this point can also create a draft on your neck (unless of course, you plan to use a scarf, like many stylish Parisian bears.)

When the lower part of the hood is secured, the top of the hood may tend to balloon, especially when you are out in a high wind. Tightening the drawstring (if the hood has one) may lessen this problem, but this isn't the optimal solution. A good hood should hold up in a moderate storm and protect you without need to mummy yourself up. An additional consideration for bears traveling to very cold climates is sufficient room under the hood for a wool cap. (This is a favorite of the chic bears up at the Churchill Dump.)

The bill on the hood is also important. A good bill will act as a hat, deflecting rain without catching too much wind. It should be positioned on the upper part of your forehead and extend to eye-level. How bears use their pockets is a matter of personal preference, but I like to use my inside ones to stow valuables and maps. These pockets should be snappable or zippable, or possible to fasten with velcro.

Outside pockets--and this is my own personal preference--should be large enough to insert your paws when you get really cold. Sometimes I will also use these pockets to stow my outer mittens and glove covers when I don't need them. It really aggravates me when the pockets are too small for this or positioned too high.

Some bears, particularly Griz, feel it is important to have outside pockets large enough to store a dozen doughnuts or a ten-pound salmon. Personally, I consider this "over -the-top." Room for two or three doughnuts is really enough.

Be picky about the features of your raincoat. Think of your raincoat as your second most important clothing item (next to boots and shoes). If you feel the need to be economical, make sacrifices elsewhere.

If you have any personal preferences, I would like to hear about them. Write to me at sydney@sydneysthumb.com