The rain in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park would make fans of the Pacific Northwest climate grin like idiots. Receiving weather that has blown across thousands of miles of open ocean, Fiordland absorbs upwards of 400 inches of precipitation a year—that’s 10 times more than Seattle receives.
Good place to test out a rain jacket and gaiters, I figured. On a four-day trek of the notoriously rugged, wet and muddy Dusky Track, and a day hike to Gertrude Saddle in Fiordland, the Motility Jacket and Alpine Gaiters shook off rain, mud and the abuse of innumerable tree roots and blowdowns on crazy-steep trails.
The REI Elements® waterproof, breathable shell fabric kept me dry through hours of steady rain and proved moderately breathable. Although carrying a 25-pound pack steeply uphill in temperatures ranging from the 40s to the 50s Fahrenheit, I never overheated—as long as I maintained a moderate pace. Pushing hard enough to breathe heavily, though, would cause me to sweat enough to make this jacket start to feel clammy inside. The four-way-stretch polyester fabric repels winds up to 60 mph, according to REI. The length extends beyond your waist to provide some butt coverage.
Full adjustability, front and back, let me size the hood to keep it from blowing off my head and to keep the rain off my face—a design feature that matters a lot in constant rain. Ditto the deep pit zips, which I used frequently in the relatively mild temps in Fiordland, and the adjustable cuffs, which I could push back up to my elbows when I was warm. The two zippered hand pockets sit above a pack’s hipbelt for easy access, and the zippered chest pocket holds a map or small electronic device, plus has a cord port.
In Fiordland I wore gaiters and sturdy boots not with the expectation of actually keeping my feet dry—water pours into boots from too many calf-deep-and-deeper fords to realize that goal—but to prevent mud from routinely sloshing over my boot tops. I went into mud thigh-deep at times, and the Alpine Gaiters kept the muck out of my socks,making my adventure significantly more comfortable than it might have been otherwise.. The rugged 1,000-denier ballistic nylon scuff guards protect the gaiters from tears from sharp rocks or crampon points. Despite mud caking on thickly, the two-inch, hook-and-loop closure held up, as did the Hypalon® strap wrapping under the boot. Only after I started my trip with this new pair of gaiters did I notice that the metal hook on one gaiter (needed to lock it underneath a boot lace) was missing. REI’s policy would be to replace that gaiter.
In both the Motility Jacket and the Alpine Gaiters, you get products that perform just a notch below high-end competitors, at a price a few notches lower.