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Transitioning to the Pacific Northwest

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    Transitioning to the Pacific Northwest

    I’m moving from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest (PNW). So pretty cold winters with some snow to a more mild winter that is constantly wet. My two main questions are on footwear and outerwear.

    Currently when we get snow I wear LL Bean boots into work and then change into dress shoes. Once the storm has past and the sidewalks have been cleared I can bypass the boats. However, in the PNW I have to count on rain everyday. I would rather not wear boots in and change to shoes everyday. Especially since I tend to walk between buildings at work. What recommendations do you have?

    Second, I have a wool overcoat for the cold and tan trench coat for the mild and wet days. The tench would work in the PNW, but there’s no hood (and I don’t want to be the one odd duck using an umbrella). Any recommendations on a versatile coat?

    I enjoy wearing sport coats and blazers, but it is not required for work. I work in pretty typical business casual environments which can lean more casual.

    Sounds like you need a Mac!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


      Definitely buy a good rain jacket, and I don't mean a dressy type, but an outdoors type. You'll get much more use out of it and it'll be infinitely better in the rain. I don't care much for goretex, but have had great experience with eVent and similar technologies in jackets.

      If you already work in a pretty casual leaning environment, it'll be even more casual here in the PNW. I work in biotech now in SLU area of Seattle, and it's as casual as you can get (t shirts, sports jerseys, hats, jeans, even shorts at all times of the year, and even higher level people wearing beer/brewery shirts).

      And don't worry about umbrella usage. Born and raised in Seattle and I use one all the time if it's raining harder. Rain jackets are good and all until your crotch and thighs are soaked from walking around for any good amount of time. Umbrellas will keep you happy. Now if it's windy, then probably best to just deal with it, or opt to wear those techy chinos/golf pants that look like normal pants and treat them with some DWR if they aren't already water resistant.


        Thanks Nandyn. I work in the college environment which continues to get more casual as a lot of places do. What brand of rain coat have you used? I'm just familiar with the big names like Columbia. Also, what do you use for regular footwear?


          Originally posted by 6string View Post
          Thanks Nandyn. I work in the college environment which continues to get more casual as a lot of places do. What brand of rain coat have you used? I'm just familiar with the big names like Columbia. Also, what do you use for regular footwear?
          Cool! I used to work at UW in a research lab in the Bio department. Can't get more casual.

          I like outdoor research (their Helium 2 is nice), marmot, mountain hardwear (go for their more premium lines. The basic entry ones don't breath very well.. Same goes for all the major brands like north face, Patagonia, arcteryx, etc). makes some good options under their Stoic and Backcountry brands, and REI is also a good value, but you don't get the same manufacturer support/warranty as you would with the other major brands.

          I try to stick to options that have published breathability/waterproof ratings (i.e. 20K/20K = 20,000 mm of 1" diameter water column on the fabric before any leakage..., and 20,000 grams of water vapor can move through one square meter of fabric, from inside to out, in a 24-hour period). I try to stick with at least 15K each, but I've had pretty good experience with even 10K with pit zips. Regardless, no breathability rating is worth anything if the DWR treatment is subpar, since if the outer face fabric gets waterlogged, no water vapor is getting through. I've got a softshell from Outdoor Research that is 6+ years old that I've used and abused but it sheds rain like no other and I can basically use it as a rain jacket even though there's no membrane.

          It's a shame though that a lot of brands don't make that information readily available because lots of them have been getting cheap with their membranes and don't want consumers to be able to make informed decisions/comparisons. "Guaranteed breathable" means absolutely nothing without ratings because if even one molecule of water vapor can make it through, it's still technically "breathable."

          Sorry for the long rant! I do a lot of backpacking and do lots of research into the equipment and outdoor clothes I buy to get the most bang for my buck and minimize weight as much as possible (even make my own backpacks, sleeping bags/quilts, etc). If you want a nauseating amount of information on gear/clothes/fabrics, check out backpacking light and their forum... Some of the members there take microscope images of the fabric to compare fabric density/breathability, etc, and provide extremely thorough reviews/product testing.

          Also, an important tip: never use regular detergents like Tide, especially if it has softeners or dyes/fragrances. It'll clog up the waterproof membranes and ruin the DWR treatments. Use Atsko Sportwash or similar sports washes made for technical clothing. It really does make a difference.

          For shoes I usually wear boots like my Chippewas or AE Saukville, etc if it's raining, or chukkas if it's warm and rainy. Derbies/blutchers or suede oxfords or sneakers if it's dry.
          Last edited by Nandyn; January 4, 2020, 04:22 PM.


            Another note: layers are your friend. A zip up sweater, cardigan (I prefer shawl cardigans), shirt jacket, etc will work well with a lightly or moderately insulated coat instead of skipping the midlayer and going with something extra poofy. Often it's crummy and cold in the mornings but can get quite nice out later, but having that mid layer will keep you comfortable in the greatest range of temps.

            I also pass on the waterproof AND insulated jackets, as I prefer to keep my waterproof and insulating layers separate... But that's more of a hold over from my backpacking mentality. For urban use, it's fine. But if using in the outdoors in winter, your water vapor will get trapped in the insulation and freeze at night or when not kept warm by your body since it can't escape a membrane as quickly as just a tightly woven face fabric. Better to have that vapor get trapped between the outer fabric of your insulating jacket and the inner layer of your rain jacket, especially if your insulation is down.
            Last edited by Nandyn; January 4, 2020, 04:41 PM.


              Thanks Nandyn. This is really helpful. I’m going to do some reading about the waterproofing you mentioned.

              I have also been thinking about getting a good shell or mid-warmth jacket and using sweaters as layer.


                Hi There! Welcome to Seattle - you sure picked a crazy year to join us. Glad I could belatedly find this thread.

                I work in tech (sales), so very casual work environment - Untucked OCBDs, plenty of flannel and plaid button downs, and jeans are the go-to "culturally". I initially tried dressing nicer, but people make comments, and it can look like you're overeager for a promotion. (For context, I'm not talking about a spiffy suit -- I was noticeably differentiated wearing unconstructed sport coats in less formal fabrics, with jeans). That might be less dressy than you want to rock, and if so, no worries -- but will provide advice about the style I've found good in this climate.

                To your question RE clothing in winter months:
                • I run cold, so an essential part of heat regulation in an office environment, for me, is a warm/thermal base layer under everything. If you also run cold, find a brand you like, and stock up (Costco has some that I'm into from their 38 degrees brand). It's chilly for like 70-80% of the year here, and these things help.
                • Aside from a regular shirt and pants, invest in some merino wool socks. The warmth and coziness is fantastic, and doesn't make me overheat when inside. They offer them in varying thicknesses, so I have a bunch that are "medium-thick", which are the daily rotation, and then some thicker winter boot ones for when I need to stay warm.
                • If you're taking the bus etc, a quality beany is also worth investing in. Depends on how forgiving your hair would be with something like that.
                • Now, for layers. One essential is the fleece full zip sweater. It can be worn with just about anything, and adds some solid warmth. That over some flannel with jeans and boots, and you'll look like you've been living in Seattle your whole life. Look at established outdoor brands like Eddie Bauer, the North Face, etc.
                • Another essential piece of my Seattle foul-weather wardrobe is a packable down coat. When paired with the fleece, you get a pretty solid result for most seattle weather. For the office-based scenario, I've found this perfect. I can wear all of the above on the way to the office, then shed my packable down once I'm there. If I'm still chilly in just the fleece, I can take that off and just wear the coat.
                • Aside from the fleece, I might swap that layer with a merino V-neck, a shawl neck cardigan, or a regular shawl neck sweater, but the basic principles still apply.
                • But what about winter, or when I have to break out the big guns? I also own this Down-insulated, waterproof coat from Eddie Bauer. It can go over everything mentioned, for snow or other very cold scenarios. I've literally worn the thermal base layer, my fleece, my packable down, AND my down "overlayer" all at once, and it doesn't even look that bulky or rediculous. (I know it sounds like I'd look like a giant marshmallow, but a slim fit on everything helps dramatically.
                • Now BOOTS! Look for heritage work boots, or go a little more dressy. Chippewas are a standard, as are Red wings or 1000 mile boots. I've been loving my Thursday Captains. All of those boots are plenty waterproof and durable enough to get you through the standard Seattle drizzle, or even a more-serious rain. They're also "all day" boots, so you don't need to change at the office. If rain isn't on the menu, I'm partial to a Chucka. Just placed an order for my first pair of Bean Boots, but they haven't been a necessity for the 28 years I've lived here. Truth is, I just wanted a pair I could throw anytime I might walk in the mud (which, in fairness, is pretty frequent). I just don't like cleaning off my nicer boots so often, but maybe I'm just a little OCD about leaving them muddy.
                • Finally, I'll second the idea that you should feel ZERO shame about using an umbrella. If you get a full sized, non collapsable one, it can look classy as hell.