Why $20 Frogg Toggs Are the Ideal Rain Gear for a Thru-Hike
Outside of your tent, backpack, and sleep system, rain gear can be one of the most expensive items to purchase for a thru-hike. Prices range from $100 to over $400 for a jacket alone, with most ultralight options finding a sweet spot in the $150 to $200 range. Jackets are available in a bewildering variety of fabrics, from Gore-Tex to Pertex to eVent, and I have yet to find an option that will not delaminate, wet out, or otherwise fail over the course of a thru-hike.
So, can a $20 rain jacket really measure up to pricier options?
Frogg Toggs are cheap, lightweight rain gear that are available in a variety of styles and prices, including rain suits and ponchos. The Ultra-Lite Rain Suit is a thru-hiker favorite and can be found online and in many Walmarts and grocery stores. At a featherweight 12.8 ounces for both pants and jacket, weight is comparable with many ultralight options available at a tenth of the price.
Frogg Toggs are insanely cheap. Listed at $30 on the manufacturer’s website for both jacket and pants, you can frequently find them on Amazon for less than $20. At that price, you can replace them more than once over the course of a thru-hike and still have loads of cash left over to spend on a cheeseburger in town.
Frogg Toggs are easy to order online and are also commonly found in grocery stores and Walmart. This makes them easy to replace if you rip them. If you are lucky, you may even find one in a hiker box.
Well, as much as any rain jacket is breathable. The inside is made of a “blend of exclusive nonwoven fabrics designed to promote breathability.” What this means in reality is that the jacket breathes as poorly as most other jackets on the market, but the soft fabric interior doesn’t leave you feeling clammy.
At a stated 12.8 oonces for both a jacket and rain pants, Frogg Toggs are much lighter than most rain gear on the market. My men’s small Ultra-Light jacket comes in at a respectable 5.8 ounces on my kitchen scale. For reference, the Outdoor Research Helium II, a thru-hiker favorite for years, weighs 6.4 ounces.
Keeps you dry
Perhaps the most important feature of any rain jacket, Frogg Toggs manage to be extremely waterproof despite not featuring any of the high-tech fabrics used by more expensive gear companies. I have used Frogg Toggs over two separate thru-hikes (including a mostly winter AT thru-hike) and have found that they only leak when you rip them. They do not wet out or delaminate the way that fancy fabrics inevitably do.
Most rain jackets can stand up to some light bushwhacking without ripping. Frogg Toggs do not. Sharp branches, thorns, and barbed wire fences will all tear your delicate rain jacket. If you are planning a trip involving any substantial off-trail travel, you should consider a different jacket. Luckily, for accidents on well-maintained trails, duct tape makes repairs easy. Abrasion from packs will also create micro-tears that will eventually leak. If you are thru-hiking a trail with minimal precipitation such as the PCT, this won’t be a problem. If you are on the AT, however, where wearing a rain jacket is a weekly, if not daily, occurrence, you will have to replace your jacket at least once over the course of a thru.
Frogg Toggs are lacking in almost all features common on more expensive rain jackets. There are no pockets or pit zips, or any of the other design elements that make most jackets comfortable. This slimmed down design does, however, help to keep the overall weight of the jacket low.
There is no way to make Frogg Toggs look good. They are baggy, untapered, and make you look like you are wearing a potato sack. If owning a rain jacket that you can wear around town without being embarrassed if you bump into someone you know is important to you, then Frogg Toggs are not the right choice for you.
Other Cheap Options
Frogg Toggs are just one of several ways to save money on your rain gear.
Umbrellas are becoming more and more popular among the thru-hiking community. They are the ultimate breathable rain gear, and have many functions, from sun shade to blocking the entrance to a tarp shelter from rain and wind. But with a $50 price tag for most ultralight options, it can be hard to justify a purchase until you are sure that they will work for you. Luckily, dollar store umbrellas range from $5-$10 in price and, while not as light or well designed as a designated hiking umbrella, will let you test out if an umbrella is right for you. The cheaper price tag also makes it easy to pick up an umbrella for a wet or exposed section, and then leave it in a hiker box once it is no longer necessary.
Most thru-hikers are familiar with compactor bags as a pack liner. The beefier, more durable cousin of a trash bag, compactor bags can keep your pack contents dry for an entire thru-hike if you are careful not to poke a hole in them. But did you also know that they make a great rain skirt? Simply cut along the closed edge of the bag so it forms a tube. Step into it and tuck it into your backpack hip belt. If you are hiking with an umbrella, often rain will fall on your legs or run down the outside of your pack, soaking your lower body. A cheap and easy rain skirt is a quick fix to this problem. You can also use a regular trash bag if you do not have an extra compactor bag, although it will rip much quicker.
In summary, cheaper rain gear options such as Frogg Toggs are a valid alternative to pricey options. They lack many of the features and all of the durability of rain gear ten times the price. But at such a low price for both rain pants and jacket, it’s not a big deal if you have to replace them once or twice over the course of a thru-hike.
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