The first thing that comes to mind when you get your hands on the Simms Challenger Rain Jacket is: Typical Simms quality. Well-built, stylish and durable. The first thing you think when you put the Challenger Bibs on, however, is: These things are way too comfortable and soft to be waterproof! I mean, wow, they feel like your favorite sweats!
Well, nothing like a summer in Southwest Alaska to find out how the stuff holds up, so I packed my suit and headed north last June.
It didn’t take long for Mother Nature to do her part for the waterproof test…we got pounded…and I can honestly say, I’ve never owned a breathable jacket that kept me any drier than this one!
The Simms Challenger Jacket features fully taped seams and a YKK® Vislon® CF zipper with an external storm flap. The zipper is typically a weak link in storm protection…how many times have you taken off your rain coat only to have a wet stripe right up your front, from your waist to your neck? Well, that didn’t happen with this coat. The cuffs usually let water in too, but the ones on this coat are well designed and the best I’ve worn in terms of dryness.
Breathable rain gear always reaches a saturation point after a long, really wet day but internal dampness was minimal even during the couple monsoon-like days we had last year. When guiding in Alaska, I always have two sets of rain gear for the really wet days and switch out at lunch but that, amazingly was not necessary with this suit. Pretty impressive, indeed! Apparently, the 2-layer Toray® waterproof and breathable fabric is legit.
I generally hate all rain hoods but this one fit well and was comfortable without feeling like I was in the back of a cave. I also appreciated the ability to cinch down tight when the weather really got funky. My favorite feature, however was the face shield on the hood (with a nice fuzzy patch on the inside so the zipper doesn’t rub). That thing was money on long runs in the boat when the rain on your face feels like rock salt!
Okay, so enough about the coat…let’s talk about those bibs!! As I mentioned earlier, there’s no way the Challenger Bibs should be waterproof. They are just too soft and comfortable! But, they held up to the same punishing conditions as the jacket did and stayed just as dry. It was almost like a magic trick!
Of course, the bibs have a bunch of technical features like double taped seams, fancy pants zippers and 2-layer Toray® fabric. In the areas where you’ll usually see extra wear, there are built-in nylon abrasion zones…like at the back of the pant near your heel. Good idea! Though soft in feeling, the bibs resisted roe and fish blood amazingly well and they washed nicely too.
But the coolest thing is the reinforced pocket for tools…drop a set of needlenose pliers in there without worry of punching a hole in your bibs!
The Challenger Jacket and Bibs proved to be excellent professional-grade rain gear. And what’s really nice, is it has a pretty fair price point — you can get the entire suit for around $400.
As far as sizing goes, I’m 6′, 200 lbs and I ordered the XL coat and L bib. If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably reverse that. The L bib was a little tight in the crotch and though the XL jacket fit fine over my layers, I thought it ran a tad big. Not really a big deal, but in a prefect world I’d go the other way.
Check out the Challenger gear at Tackle Warehouse