Here in the Pacific Northwest—land of rivers, rain and an astonishing number of Subarus—there are a few essentials that every long-time resident or frequent visitor keeps handy. Whether you’ve been commuting from Seattle to the mountain whitewater every weekend for decades or you just came out for your first rafting trip, you’ll find these staples handy.
1. Rain Pants
Anyone who spends a lot of time in Seattle and surrounding areas should pick up a good pair of rain pants. Waterproof (though not, outside the Pacific Northwest outdoor community, particularly fashionable) and easy to pull over your street clothes, these can keep you dry anywhere from your morning bike commute to a mountain trail. They are also, apparently, somewhat unique to this area; in many drier regions most hikers and whitewater rafters haven’t even heard of them, and certainly don’t keep a pair nearby at all times.
When it’s gray and rainy three hundred days out of the year you sometimes need a caffeine boost to keep yourself going. In Seattle, the ancestral home of Starbucks, caffeine is pretty easy to find. Once you’re out in the mountains, though, it gets harder. A thermos—or, for the truly dedicated, a backcountry French press and a Ziploc of ground coffee—of coffee is perfect for easing into a morning river run or warming you up after a day of running snowmelt rapids.
Truly a staple of the Pacific Northwest, fleece is perfect for camping, backpacking, rafting, or just walking to work. Warm when wet and more windproof than most down jackets, fleece is the workhorse of any outdoor wardrobe in the rainy environs of Seattle and the surrounding wilderness. Many Pacific Northwest natives own a selection of fleeces—a lightweight outdoor fleece, midweight outdoor fleece, heavy outdoor fleece, “fashion” fleece (usually with less dirt and burn holes), and maybe a vintage fleece for visiting downtown coffeeshops (I own two, and they’re incredibly comfortable; I don’t care how hipster they make me look). Perfect for throwing on after a whitewater run or while waiting by the river on a chilly morning.
4. Blue Tarp
If you’ve ever camped in the Pacific Northwest you’ve probably watched the blue tarps go up, like a bloom of odd flowers all across the campground. After the first time you try to cook dinner on a picnic table in the pouring rain you’ll want one too. Just bring some good rope and find a campsite with well-spaced trees and you can build your very own outdoor dining room, complete with roof, and cook without fear of a sudden gust of raindrops extinguishing your stove. Make sure to wear your rain pants on the wet benches though.