Portland, OR

How to stay dry during the long, wet winters in Portland

Rose Bak

A helpful guide for new Portland residents.

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So you moved to Portland. Congratulations. What brought you here? Was it the beautiful green landscape? The proximity to both the beach and mountain skiing? An exciting tech job?

Chances are good, it wasn’t the rain.

People who move to Portland are often surprised at just how much it rains. Sure, most of Oregon has a reputation for a rainy climate, but you can’t really appreciate what that means until you go through a Portland winter.

Snow is pretty rare in the city of Portland – being in a valley helps protect it from the worst of winter weather. But rain, now that’s a different story. The thing about Portland is that it rains pretty much every day from October through June. Not just for a little while either, it will often rain most, if not all, of every day.

Think about it: nine months out of the year seeing raindrops and gloomy clouds. Driving in the rain. Walking your dog in the rain. Trying to keep your socks dry. Getting migraines as the barometric pressure wildly fluctuates. Desperately hoping that you will one day see the sun again.

Sure the three or four months of warm sunny weather make up for a lot of our winter misery, but if you are going to live here new Portlander, you need to come up with a plan to keep yourself from being wet and miserable from now through Rose Festival.

Here are some things that can help.

Throw out your umbrella.

Seriously, I know it rains every day. Every single day. But no one in Portland uses an umbrella unless they’re a tourist. We get too much rain to make umbrellas particularly effective, and no one likes getting jabbed in the eye with someone’s umbrella when they’re walking down the street on a windy day. Plus it’s just not feasible to drag an umbrella around for nine months.

Buy a good waterproof jacket – with a hood.

You can’t live in the Willamette Valley without a high-quality waterproof jacket. Don’t mess around with water-resistant jackets – our rain scoffs at those inadequate coverings.

Find yourself a nice waterproof jacket from Columbia Sportswear, the official raincoat company of Oregon. Jackets from REI, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, and North Face are also good choices.

Make sure the coat is not only waterproof but has a nice hood, preferably with ties so you can keep it on your head on blustery days.

You may want to have two different jackets: a light raincoat for when it’s 55 and raining and a thicker one for when it’s 35 and raining. Or purchase your raincoat in a larger size so you can comfortably layer a fleece jacket or sweatshirt underneath your coat on the colder days.

Buy waterproof footwear,

Now that you’re an Oregonian, you might want to invest in some rain boots. Sure, they may seem extravagant, but when it’s been raining for thirty days straight and you’re sloshing through puddles or sinking into ankle-deep mud with every step, you’ll be glad you have them.

Head on over to Nordstrom’s Rack or REI or your favorite footwear store and find something that works for you. You can do basic colors or get something with a whimsical design.

Word of warning for those who were women’s shoes: watch out for the rain boots with a heel. Some women’s rainboots inexplicably have a chunky heel which can make walking in them more uncomfortable as well as reducing your traction when walking through mud.

If you’re sticking with “normal” shoes, be sure to have moisture-wicking socks during the rainy season. Thick cotton socks will just suck up all the water from every puddle you find. Get something that will help keep your feet dry, like running socks or wool. Your feet will thank you.

Bonus tips for you.

A few other things to consider for handling the rain:

  • Waterproof gloves – even though it’s not below freezing very often, your hands and fingers will get cold when it’s 40 degrees and raining.
  • A rain hat – these can be a nice addition on a super rainy day, especially if you ignored the advice to get a jacket with a hood.
  • Waterproof phone case – if you keep your phone in your pocket it will likely get damp. Get a waterproof phone case to protect your investment in a smartphone or go old school and keep some clean ziplock sandwich bags in your pocket and seal the phone inside them during the rainy season.

Good luck staying dry. Here’s hoping for a sunny spring.

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR
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