I need Rain Gear
March 25, 2011 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick a nice waterproof, breathable shell for (long) day hikes and possible backpacking.

My Marmot (Precip model, I think?) jacket has finally died on me, and it's time to replace it with a nice, versatile shell. I'm looking for something that is waterproof, not just 'weather-resistant'. It will be mainly used as a rain jacket for 3 season day hiking. Backpacking isn't something I do now, but I'm interested and may do it in the future. I'll probably use it as an around-town rain-jacket as well. My priorities (in rough order of importance) are:

1. Breathability. I want something that is very waterproof and very breathable. I tend to get fairly sweaty during aerobic exercise, so it's important to me that the jacket be very breathable.
2. Durable. I'm willing to spend a fair bit on the jacket, but it has to last for 3-4 seasons+.
3. Something that accepts layers well for late fall/early spring use, or even light winter use.

My budget will be in the neighborhood of $300. Of course, less is fine as well. I might be able to stretch it a bit for something really awesome, but not by too much. As starting points, what do people think of the REI Shuksan or the Rab Momentum?

Thanks in advance!
posted by HighTechUnderpants to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out Westcomb and their line-up if you haven't already. They're a Canadian company founded by the guy that started Arcteryx (Which also might suit your fancy). The big difference between these two are Westcomb uses eVent fabric, Arcteryx uses Gore-tex.

Are you looking for an eVent jacket, specifically? Here's a breathability test that shows that, at least for most non-expedition purposes, other fabrics may be adeqeuete.

The two jackets you mentioned, based on their brand's reputation alone, sound like they'll last 3-4 seasons easily. REI's is significantly heavier (in jacket-terms, which is still pretty light).
posted by spec at 3:04 PM on March 25, 2011

Best answer: Definitely look into a hardshell as the DWR of softshells wear wear off sooner. In terms of breathability, eVent is the new wonderfabric, but I doubt it can breathe enough under high aerobic activity. Look for something with pit-zips and ideally a two-way front zipper as well.

Under high-exertion, you're usually creating enough heat that you could just be in baselayers. I've ridden hard in light to medium rain with a wool jersey and have been fine. The hardest scenario is when it's nearly freezing and raining.

If you haven't, check out these articles from Andy Kirkpatrick / Psychovertical, they cut through a lot of outdoor gear hype.
posted by hobbes at 3:09 PM on March 25, 2011

I have had excellent success and experiences with both Marmot and Fogg Toggs. I spend a ton of time backpacking, I try to get out at least once or twice a month. While it does have its exceptions, good gear costs a lot. That said, once you get the good gear, it lasts longer than many different iterations of the cheap gear. Always get the good stuff since it is just nicer to use and lasts much better.
posted by Nackt at 3:51 PM on March 25, 2011

Funny you should ask, as I was JUST lamenting the loss of my Helly Hansen shell the other day!!

It got lost in a move. That thing rocked all over NZ, where we go through 4 seasons in a day, pretty much every day. It wasn't very expensive, either. I think the company is known for sailing gear, which appealed to me initially because I grew up sailing (dad wasn't a fair weather sailor by any means, so I'd learned the value of quality gear early in life:). My guess upon purchase is that sailing gear would be amazing for serious hiking - and I was correct!

I'm sorry I don't remember what sort of fabric mine was made of, it kinda looked like a deluxe windbreaker. I do remember i bought it a size too large and had great success in rain and snow and I would take it with me everywhere in the summer. When it was cold (and/or wet) outside, pretty much all I needed underneath was some capilene. Seriously.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 4:26 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Did I mention my Helly Hansen was super light weight and could ball up into nothing inside a pack? That thing was genius.

If you end up going with a Helly Hansen and discover you love it, please Memail me regarding the make and model you choose. I haven't seen any in the stores where I live now, so I'm keen to know about your experience (for ordering online) if you choose this direction.

posted by jbenben at 4:30 PM on March 25, 2011

Go with a softshell. Much more breathable. Unless you are in a complete downpour, you won't need a hard shell. My recommendation, of course, would be arcteryx.
posted by TheBones at 4:31 PM on March 25, 2011

For what its worth, when i worked selling outdoor clothes, I was told that the more waterproof jackets were ALSO more breathable. I don't know how that worked. Take it with a pinch of salt if you will.

Also, they do have official waterproofing ratings, if you want it *waterproof*, and not just showerproof, you want 3,000 or above really. I cant remember what the units are. Also, check the zippers - exposed zippers will let water in.

Personally, I have a Gore-tex jacket and I LOVE it. I used to be someone who loathed raincoats, and I actually like wearing this one.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:52 PM on March 25, 2011

Oh, and look at the hood - mine has a wired peak at the front that means it always keeps the rain off my head and face, which is awesome. You don't realise how much you want one of those until you have one.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:54 PM on March 25, 2011

1. Breathability. I want something that is very waterproof and very breathable. I tend to get fairly sweaty during aerobic exercise, so it's important to me that the jacket be very breathable.
2. Durable. I'm willing to spend a fair bit on the jacket, but it has to last for 3-4 seasons+.
3. Something that accepts layers well for late fall/early spring use, or even light winter use.

I tend to have a high body temp as well, so i know how you feel, but I think you just need to find a rain coat that has the underarm zip venting.

I have a simple North Face jacket that's great for normal day to day stuff. However, that's a low-end one and I bought it because that's what i could afford at the time :(

If I could choose now I'd go for Patagonia (tend to be longer) or actually Eddie Bauer (seriously, check them out, they've gone back to their roots)

good luck
posted by zombieApoc at 5:53 PM on March 25, 2011

If breathability is all important (I have an extremely light shell that I almost never use because even that makes me too hot unless the wind is blowing) and the weather you walk in is amenable, why not think the unthinkable and get an umbrella.
I walk a lot in Asturias in the north of Spain and here it's very rarely windy, but there is a fair amount of rain. The most comfortable way to walk for a lot of folk here is with a brolly. I love it, base layer and brolly is good for me going up almost anything.
posted by itsjustanalias at 4:15 AM on March 26, 2011

Best answer: I have the Rab Latok Alpine. It's also an eVent shell, but a bit heavier than the Momentum. It uses the midweight eVent vs. the lighweight eVent used in the Momentum. I've been very happy with it so far, but have only worn it in winter conditions.

No heavy rain yet.

I used it a few weeks ago, on a day that went from sunny, cold, and clear (To be fair, it was still in my pack at that point.), to blowing snow and 50 MPH winds, to a steady rain (Though not downpour), to wet snow. It performed admirably in all of the above conditions.

Wish I could say the same for our navigation skills. That was a long day...
posted by zen_spider at 11:20 PM on March 27, 2011

Response by poster: So I ended up going with the Rab Latok Alpine. I'm back in the thread because it just came today (sweet!). Thanks to all for the input. I looked hard at the Westcomb stuff, and what swayed me between Rab and Westcomb was just that I found the Rab stuff for a bit cheaper online-both brands had great reputations.

Also, thanks for the Andy Kirkpatrick links, that was interesting reading.

Jbenben-will you want a me-mail about my Rab jacket, or are you pretty much only interested in Helly Hansen stuff?
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:37 PM on May 4, 2011

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