Most anglers don’t simply spend the spring – fall season chasing trout. A lot of us – myself included – are year-round chasers of fish tail. This means we’re fishing in the oppressive heat of August and the bitter cold of January. And as any angler who fishes all year long knows, the right gear for the right season can turn a bad day into a great one.
Enter the Pak-A-Roo Parka from Outback Trading Company. It’s designed to be a lightweight, waterproof rain jacket with plenty of storage pockets, in addition to folding into its own backpack (an actually functional feature, not just a gimmick). With how delayed winter’s arrival is this year (I fished at 10,000 feet this past Sunday and none of the lakes boasted a speck of ice) I’ve found more use than usual for a lightweight rain parka than is apropos for November in the Rockies. This is normally the time of year when I bust out the down or oilskin coats and hunker down for a long winter.
Odd weather aside, I was intrigued by this product for a few reasons. First, I’m a big fan of the Frogg Toggs rain coats. I spend quite a bit of time in Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon – three states that receive far more rain than my home in Utah – and my Frogg Toggs coat hasn’t let me down yet.
That said, the Pak-A-Roo Parka is just better.
First off, it scrunches down into a roughly fist-sized pack complete with straps. You can sling it over your shoulder or throw it in your day pack when it’s not raining.
Second, it has far more storage space than the Frogg Toggs coats, in addition to double-sealed zipper pockets. A few days ago, while wearing the Pak-A-Roo Parka I slipped and became intimately acquainted with a certain deep pool in the Lower Provo River. My box of streamers, in an outside zippered pocket, was the only dry fly box after that plunge.
Third, the Pak-A-Roo Parka doubles as a windbreaker. I’ve fished in very windy days in Oregon and Utah lately, and in both states the Pak-A-Roo Parka notably kept the wind chill at bay.
The Pak-A-Roo Parka is a lot longer than most waterproof parkas I’ve worn. It fits more like a poncho, coming down to mid-thigh. That’s not a bad thing – I actually enjoyed having an extra wind-stopping layer on top of my waders and Primaloft coats – but it may take some getting used to for anglers used to everything fitting right at the waist.
Now, both the Frogg Toggs and the Pak-A-Roo Parka are marketed as being “breathable.” However, there’s been many instances where I’ve been wearing my Frogg Toggs and been far too warm underneath a garment that’s supposed to be breathable. But at $30 you don’t complain.
The Pak-A-Roo Parka is more breathable than Frogg Toggs, but only slightly. I wore the Pak-A-Roo three mornings in a row while in Oregon about two weeks ago. The mornings were brisk enough to merit an extra outer layer, but as soon as the sun popped up and the temps rose into the mid-40s I had to shed that layer.
Some people may see this as a problem, but I like having a waterproof layer that also does a passable job of retaining some warmth. Once, while fishing the Bear River in Idaho, my buddy Mike and I were caught in one of the most impressive Western rainstorms I’ve ever seen. We both had Frogg Toggs on but after a few hours the coats were so damp the chill started to seep through to my other layers. I stayed dry but got pretty chilly.
The Pak-A-Roo Parka is an upgrade in that department. The material is a very slick polyester, so the water slides right off, a stark contrast to the Frogg Togg coats.
There were a few things that I didn’t love about the Pak-A-Roo Parka. First is the same problem that’s plagued every waterproof coat I’ve ever owned.
The cuffs around the wrist are Velcro instead of elastic. This means that when you’re fishing in a downpour and raise your arms to cast, fight a fish, or get a fly from a tree, the water on your sleeves will drip down on the inside of the coat, soaking your other layers. This happens on my Frogg Toggs, and with the Pak-A-Roo as well. I’m not sure how to design a cuff that’s comfortable and keeps the maximum amount of water out, but I’d love to see someone try.
Second, the inside pockets aren’t the biggest. They’ll fit a phone and wallet, but if you need room for extra fly boxes you’re better off with Outback’s Pathfinder Jacket or a bigger vest/sling pack.
Those two knocks aside, the Pak-A-Roo Parka is a very solid piece of outdoor gear that every angler can benefit from owning. For $120.99, it’s priced reasonably alongside other high-quality waterproof parkas, and I’d recommend this to any angler living in a place where it rains on a frequent basis.
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Spencer is an outdoors columnist and novelist from Utah. His debut novel, Learning to Fly, was an Amazon Hot New Releases Bestseller. Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram @Spencer_Durrant or on Facebook @spencerdurrantauthor.