One woman’s mission to bring back the cagoule
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado
The first time I led a backpacking trip in Colorado, a gear room manager talked me into trying out all manner of new equipment: pants with reinforced knees, a seriously lightweight tarp, and a convertible sleeping bag stuff-sack/backpack. But the item he pushed the hardest was a cagoule ” a cross between a poncho and a Gore-Tex trench coat ” that he promised would replace my usual raincoat and rain pants.
Lying in bed the night before the trip, having already packed this new rainwear, I instantly regretted the decision. Surely, the long smock would be ridiculous to hike in and my shins would become sopping wet. And let’s be honest, the thing looked ridiculous.
Then it rained for 14 days straight.
I quickly grew to love the speediness of the cagoule. When I wanted to crawl out from under the tarp in the morning, I only had to yank my waterproofing over my head. As for answering the call of nature during the night, the cagoule surely cut 10 minutes off an unpleasant task.
It even came in handy with discipline. Early in the trip, a student streaked the camp during a thunderstorm. The four instructors ” all of whom were wearing the gear-room issued black cagoules ” quickly drew him aside for a reprimand. We were only about three sentences into our talking-to when he burst into tears and promised never to do it again.
“No wonder,” one of my co-instructors said later, looking around at the four of us, clad in head-to-toe hooded black waterproof cloaks. “We look like Harry Potter’s Dementors.”
As for my concerns about my shins getting wet ” they did. But as long as I was wearing shorts or synthetic hiking pants, they also dried really quickly, and it was a small price to pay for the convenience.
And I never found the cagoule hard to hike in, except for the time I tried to convert it into a strapless evening gown with some duct tape and a Speedy Stitcher.
I eventually purchased an Eagle Creek cagoule, which I promptly wore out. Eagle Creek has stopped making them, as far as I can tell, so two years ago I replaced it with one from Campmor.
The Campmor cagoule doesn’t seem quite as durable, but it’s also lighter and the waterproofing doesn’t seem to wear off as fast. It comes in green, green and, well, green.
I’ve heard a rumor that a few other companies make cagoules, but for the most part they are seriously hard to find ” I suspect because my initial reaction to the cagoule is not an unusual one.
If only marketing departments could figure out how to simulate a 14-day monsoon via their Internet catalogues. I tell you, the things would fly off the virtual shelves.
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My sister was four years older so she dictated, and I mean that literally, many of my activities. That included preparing for Mother’s Day, except for my own attempt at personal gratitude.