Rain Gear for Hiking

Researching and sketching up ideas for rain protection and better rain gear for the hikers of tomorrow with inspiration from traditional sustainable clothing designs throughout history

Project and research about wearable designs for extreme weather

Rainjacket poncho type, made of leaves

Natural Leaf raincoat, Research drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt


Early beginning:

Drawing of man for thousands of years ago, wearing natural rain clothes,
Humans have most likely used clothing for at least 25.000 – 50.000 years, maybe much longer

Humans have been wearing clothes for a long time, Venus figures around 25.000 years old are dressed and other evidence suggest that we have been covering our bodies with hides, felt and leaves for much longer, maybe 170.000 years or even longer.

Traditional rain gear examples

Humans have dressed in 100% natural and sustainable clothing for thousands of years, but local traditions and clothing cultures has differed widely, depending on available materials and climate etc.  Here are a few examples of clothing that provided our ancestor hikers protection against rain:

The Kepenek

drawing of Turkish Kepenek Shepherd garment wool felt
Kepenek – traditional Turkish Shepherd garment. Sketch by Frits Ahlefeldt

The Kepenek is made from wool (felt) and is one of the traditional weather protection used for countless generations. The Kepenek is a simple but very flexible dress / poncho used by shepherds. It can be worn in many ways, even for sleeping, and has strong natural water repellent and self-cleaning qualities

Japanese Straw rain protection

Drawing of traditional Japanese Rain cover, creative-commons license
Traditional straw rain protection from Asia

A simple way to keep the rain out is making a blanket of straw, it can be woven in different ways and are known from cultures from all over the world. Here is an Japanese example of a traditional “raincoat” . It will both work when standing, sitting and kneeling (ex. as when collecting food )

Traditional woven hemp rain cover

Traditional hemp clothing illustration
Traditional hemp rain coat from Asia. Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt

More advanced traditional rain gear use hemp, wool or other materials that can be woven into dresses with either simple or advanced patterns and designs

From traditional to future designs

Drawing of concepts for rain gear
inspirational sketches from traditional designs

Looking at the traditional rain gear designs I think they might prove inspirational for new designs, both in the way they protect against the rain. But at least as much in the way most of them are easy to repair, can be made of sustainable materials and will recycle and become part of nature when worn out.

Rain clothes for hikers of tomorrow

Next I have looked at some modern rain clothes and ways to protect against the weather that might become the next thing for hikers.

drawing of umbrella, poncho and poncho-tent
Examples of rain gear from umbrellas to ponchos

When researching rain gear, many different kinds of aerodynamic umbrellas, ponchos with windows etc. came up. The tent – poncho combination is one of the designs that many has experimented making new rain-weather protection garment upon, here is an example:

Poncho – tent combination for hiking 


Research drawing of a poncho that can be used as a tent
Yellow rain-poncho tent combination

The yellow tent to wear is mentioned in a lot of places, but nobody seem to know exactly where this idea originally come from… some indicate it might be from Japan.

Red dot award inflatable rain jacket 


Lin Tsui Wei rain-jacket and sleeping bag, research
Lin-Tsui-wei’s red-dot award winning inflatable combined rain jacket – sleeping bag

The inflatable rain-jacket sleeping bag is another hybrid combination for weather protection, that can be used both as a jacket, a mattress or a sleeping bag (with mattress) Designed by Lin Tsui-Wei

JakPak combined jacket and sleeping bag… and tent

Drawing of the Jak-pak rain-jacket
Jak-pak element protection design (rain etc. )

The Jakpak jacket is said to have started out as an emergency jacket, that could be turned into an life-saving emergency shelter if weather conditions suddenly changed to the very worse. But the idea / design was so popular that it was produced for ultra-light hikers and others too. (at least around 2011)

The Nubrella Umbrella

Sketch of the Nubrella umbrella design
Nubrella rain protection umbrella design

The Nubrella is a hand-free alternative to an classic umbrella. I like the way hikers could possible / maybe attach it to their full size expedition hiking backpack (as I have sketched it – but I haven’t seen it used like this )  The designer and inventor of the Nubrella: Alan Kaufman, has made a Youtube video where he demonstrates the design in strong wind… ( https://youtu.be/YefOQG7zQ-4 )

The Nubrella idea combined with a jacket sketch

Idea sketch of a hybrid backpack - raincover concept
Could a full body rain gear be hold in place by the backpack?

This would properly not work, but I like the idea of it, of a full body rain cover for rainy and extreme weather for hikers… so I had to try to sketch it up, just to wonder about it… 🙂

Other future raincoat designs:

Drawing of an origami looking hiking rain dress
Idea for an origami inspired rain-coat

But there are many other possible ways to go for designing rain gear for hikers, one of the inspiring projects I have come across so far, is a design that look a bit… maybe like Japanese Origami, the design is by Veasyble – and when I saw it I wondered if using materials in this direction might be something people could use one day as protection against elements


Different main kinds of rain protection – and hybrids

drawing up the umbrella, poncho, hybrid and classic raincoat protection gear
Main types of rain protection sketch

Most hikers wear a classic rain coat and trousers and a backpack rain cover, that’s what all the huge brands produce with different membranes of all kinds of nano, layers, technologies… but the overall look hasn’t changed much in resent years… slightly different zippers, coatings, laminated seams etc.  But maybe we could jump and go crazy… and look at very different solutions.  The experts predict the weather will be much different and more extreme in the future – maybe it is the right time to design rain gear that can match this possible future.

Gallery with all Research drawings: 

Text and research drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt


All Research drawings are made by Frits Ahlefeldt

The designs and prototypes mentioned are owned by the companies mentioned / linked to, whenever I could find them

Please let me know if there is something to be corrected etc.


Frits Ahlefeldt


Underneath are links to some of the research places I have used in this project – so far.

Research links so far:

Early human clothing article: TodayIfoundOut.com

Huarache Blog: article about traditional straw rain gear (Mexico and other places )

Dezeen Magasine (article with new rain inspired designs)


Nubrella.com Utube video: https://youtu.be/YefOQG7zQ-4

Senz Elongated storm umbrella: Senz.com


Google search wearable tent (a lot of strange, funny and interesting designs )

skapya.com (poncho that folds into pocket backpack )

Sixmoondesigns.com (poncho that can become a tent )

Jakpak jacket, sleeping bag and tent design: Detailed review of jakpak on Backpackinglight.com

Youtube Video Jakpak rain jacket that folds into a tent:

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