Rain Jacket Durability 101 – How to Select the Best Durable Rain Jacket

Rain jacket “durability” is a complex topic not well understood by most people. This post debunks some durability myths and clearly lays out what to look for in a durable rain jacket. Finally, we list some of the very best durable rain jackets on the market that are also light!

If you can’t wait, jump to see our Best Durable Rain Jackets here. Or the new complete list of Best Ultralight Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking.

This is part 1 of a series on Rain Jackets:

  1. Rain Jacket Durability 101 – How to Select the Best Durable Rain Jacket
  2. NEW!   Best Ultralight Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking
    This includes a section Rain Jacket Breathability 101 or why waterproof-breathable rain jackets get an unfair bad rap!

What is Rain Jacket Durability?

In brief, rain jacket durability is a complex topic that includes the jacket remaining waterproof while continuing to breathe (vent body moisture), the shell fabric not ripping, seams not failing, and zippers, elastic adjusters, velcro etc. continuing to work without massive cleaning and maintenance.

NOTE: There are many good reasons why you might not buy the most durable rain jacket! Case in point, is the 8 oz, 2.5 layer jacket above, my first choice for so many trips that it finally wore out. See more here…


The 12 oz REI Co-op Rhyolite with its 3-layer eVENT fabric is durable AND Light. At half the price of competitor’s jackets, it’s a great value!

The Three Elements of Rain Jacket Durability

A. Outer shell fabric durability

The ability of the rainwear’s exterior fabric to:

  1. Resist tearing, punctures and abrasion damage
  2. Maintain its water shedding & breathability—usually with a durable, water repellent finish DWR
    Note: outer shell fabric “wet out,” the breakdown of this water shedding property, does not completely stop all breathability as is popularly believed. See more below.

B. Inner waterproof/breathable (WPB) membrane durability

The ability of the shell’s inner WPB lining to maintain waterproofness AND breathability:

  1. The WPB membrane should remain physically intact under the wear and tear of garment use (not so easy in regular use with a backpack!).
  2. In particular the WPB membrane should not delaminate from the outer shell, develop cracks, etc. In this case, 3-layer construction jackets are likely more durable. That’s because their inner fabric liner protects the more delicate WPB membrane vs. the unprotected membrane of 2.5 layer jackets.
  3. The WPB membrane should not foul with body oils, dirt, detergent residues or other materials which will cause the WPB membrane to leak.

C. Hardware failures

  1. Zippers that jam, no longer mate at the bottom, or start auto-separating in the field
  2. Elastic adjusters on hoods, cuffs and hems of jackets. Velcro that looses its stick, adjusters/buckles that break or slip, etc.

So What Fails Most Often?

Best Durable Rain Jacket

[Two high quality 2.5 layer jackets from big name outdoor gear companies] In my experience, membrane delamination like this in the neck and upper shoulders is the most common way that rainwear permanently fails. While this happens faster to the unprotected WPB membrane of 2.5-layer jackets like these — if you wear a 3-layer jacket long enough it too will eventually delaminate and leak. And backpackers beware: wearing a pack dramatically speeds up this delimitation process for both 2.5 and 3-layer jackets!

1) Waterproof Breathable Membrane Delamination

As the pictures above show, WPB membrane failure is likely the first and most common, non-fixable way rain jackets fail (leak). And note that while the examples are dramatic, many small cracks, punctures, and delaminations are not obvious but will still cause your jacket to leak. This is true for 2.5 and 3-layer jackets, although 3-layer rain jackets usually last longer. This is one reason why the outdoor industry still makes a big deal about 2.5 vs 3-layer construction.

Note: Many outdoor companies like Patagonia, REI and Outdoor Research, offer good product warranties that cover zipper failures, membrane delamination, etc. This will protect your jacket as a long term investment. But if your jacket fails in the field you may have to suffer through wet until you get home and can ship it back for repair or replacement.


Best Durable Rain Jacket

Fabric ‘wet out’ reduces but doesn’t completely stop breathability. [click photo to enlarge]

On the left is a traditional fabric surface treated with a DWR that has already started to fail (wet out). Large wetted out areas will reduce the breathability of a rain jacket. In comparison, on the right is a newer, non-chemical water shedding fabric technology, Columbia’s naturally hydrophobic Columbia OutDry Ex Eco Tech fabric  continues to bead and shed water.

2) “Wet Out” (DWR failure) – Outer Shell no Longer Beading/Shedding Water

Wet out is another common “failure,” altho it can be fixed. Wet out happens when the durable, water repellent finish DWR no longer beads up and sheds water. The most common reason for this is the DWR finish (a chemical) wearing off after many garment washings, and/or the surface getting fouled with dirt and other compounds. While this doesn’t cause the rain jacket to leak, it does likely slow down the breathability of the jacket (see more below). This makes it easer to sweat out the inside of the jacket if you are working hard. Your DWR can be refreshed by washing the jacket and treating it with a DWR restoring wash compound and/or spray. E.g. some of these form Nikwax.

Note: While, some newer fabrics like Columbia OutDry Ex Eco are inherently hydrophobic and don’t need a DWR. You will still need to keep the fabric free of dirt for best water shedding.

Myth: A Wetted Out Rain Jacket Doesn’t Breathe

It’s a myth rainwear stops breathing once it wets out.  This is according to interviews I had with 1) Jeff Mergy, the Director of the Innovation Team at Columbia Sportswear (among other things tech. guy for OutDry Ex Eco Fabric and 2) Dr. Fred Wilson PhD a long term industry scientist who worked for both GORE and eVENT on WPB fabrics.

In an interview I had with Jeff Mergy, he stated that WPB membranes are still breathable when outer shell is wetted out but not as breathable. It is still not clearly understood how less breathable but Jeff believes it is significant. BUT he said that part of what consumers believe is “not-breathable” is often the clammy next skin feel of conventional WPB jackets. Columbia OutDry Ex Eco helps with this by having an actual wicking fabric that feels far more comfortable next to the skin. Even when the outer shell is wetted out. [Note: other 3-layer technologies with a fabric liner should have a similar non-clammy feel.]


3) Fouled WPB Membranes Can Leak

Body oils, dirt, and other compounds can contaminate the inner WPB membrane and cause it to leak. This is another non-permanent failure that can generally be fixed by properly washing your jacket. Nonetheless this is a problem in the field as it can’t be easily fixed until you get home. 3-layer jackets are less prone to membrane contamination since they have a fabric liner that keeps them away from your skin, dirt, oils and other sources of contamination.

From ‘B’ and ‘C’ it should be clear that keeping your rainwear clean, and refreshing the DWR are easy ways to improve the long-term breathability of an waterproofness of your rain jacket. So use products like these form Nikwax.

4) Hardware Failures

Another fairly common failure are front zippers that jam, no longer mate at the bottom, or start auto-separating in the field. In my experience zipper problems are second only to membrane delaminations for “non-fixable” failures. It is why I prefer beefier toothed zippers (vs. coil) on my rain jackets, or even a 1/2 zip rain jacket that eliminates the always risky mating of the zipper at the hem.

5) Ripping, Tearing and Puncturing the Jacket Shell Fabric

Finally, what rarely fails (at least in my 20+ years of using modern rain jackets) is the actual shell fabric of the rain jacket. I’ve used a large number very thin jackets over the years and they have rarely torn, ripped, punctured or had a seam fail. Generally, something else gets them first. (But I do avoid bushwhacking in sub 7 ounce rain jackets if at all possible.) Note that torn, ripped, punctured jackets are rarely covered under any warrantee, so the durability of a rain jacket’s outer shell fabric is a serious consideration if you think you might abuse your jacket.


The Best Durable Rain Jackets

Two of the very best durable rain jackets. (Green – Right) Outdoor Research Realm with its extremely breathable, tough, semi-stretch AscentShell 3-Layer fabric.  (Blue – Left) Montbell Storm Cruiser which manages a full feature set including big pit zips at only 10 oz. Both have chest pockets well above a pack’s hipbelt.

Not long ago, a getting a durable rain jacket meant getting heavy bulky jacket that cost and arm and a leg. Now you can get a tough and durable rain jacket that is under 12 ounces and possibly as light as 6 – 8 ounces. And some cost less than you’d think!

The following are our picks for the Best Durable but still Lightweight Rain Jackets for Backpacking.  The cutoff weight for inclusion is approximately 12 ounces. We believe that for this weight you can get sufficient durability, features, waterproofness and breathability for all activities short of severe bushwhacking and intense alpine climbing (and even then… ). And while we do not exclude running or climbing/mountaineering jackets they also need to be well suited to backpacking (and some are).

Note that many mainstream outdoor apparel brand offer “extremely durable” jackets. These jackets often use GORE-TEX pro with 50-70 denier fabric (or similar). They weigh 16-24 ounces and cost ~ $300-500. These have limited application in sports or professions other than hiking. We strongly believe they are far too heavy for hiking, backpacking or even lightweight mountaineering or climbing.

 REI Co-op Rhyolite

WEIGHT: 12 oz – $189

At at almost 1/2 the price of competitor’s jackets the Rhyolite is a great value!

TECH: 3-layer eVent DValpine™ fabric (20,000 g/m2/hr)

FEATURES: The REI Co-op Rhyolite is a solid three layer jacket at a great price! It has two well placed chest pockets and adjustable hem, cuffs and hood. REI made some good design choices with this jacket: the pockets are high enough to use when wearing hip straps and it has mesh pocket linings creating two large and effective chest vents (which we prefer over pit-zips). Additionally, the Rhyolite’s seam-free shoulder design is good when wearing a pack and should increase durability in this critical area. If you’re planning on buying this jacket, note that the hem comes up just a little short in the back, and the fabric is a bit on the stiff side (it didn’t bother us).

BEST FOR: Hikers and backpackers looking for a great value in rain protection with good breathability and great ventilation that can endure significant wear and tear. And it has the REI warranty! Note: the jacket uses the more waterproof/but moderate breathability 3-layer eVent DValpine™ fabric (20,000 g/m2/hr) vs. the more highly breathable DVstorm fabric (30,000 g/m2/hr).

Columbia OutDry Ex Eco Tech Shell Rain Jacket – M’s & W’s

WEIGHT: 12.1 oz – $199

TECH:  OutDry Ex Eco fabric (“1-Layer” is our term, not the manufacturer’s, since the shell fabric & membrane are one in the same!)

FEATURES: An unusual entry, the OutDry Extreme Eco uses newly developed eco-friendly, “1-layer” technology to make a mid-price, full featured, lightweight rain jacket with elastic drawcord hood (and hood velcro), velcro adjustable cuff, drawcord adjustable elastic hem, and two mesh chest pockets (great for ventilation). From our use the OutDry Ex Eco fabric is waterproof, breathable, and quite tough. And the OutDry technologies inherent water repellence prevents wet out without using traditional PFC-based DWRs. The jacket has a roomy fit for layering and nice length in the back for covering your tail. Some have criticized the Eco for keeping in the heat, but we have not found that to be the case.

Note that compared to the other 3-layer jackets in this category, the fabric in these jackets feels odd, like your first rubber rain jacket in grade school. This may be off-putting to some. But we didn’t find it impaired its performance. And the all-white color while eco may not be some people’s ideal fashion statement for the trail.

BEST FOR: Someone looking for an extremely durable jacket for frequent use that has long term waterproofness and breathability and water shedding (without need to refresh a DWR). This jacket might well survive the longest when worn continually with a backpack.

Outdoor Research Realm

WEIGHT: 10.9 oz – $279

Possibly the best all-around jacket in this group and at a reasonable price.

TECH: AscentShell 3-Layer, 100% nylon 20 D mechanical stretch ripstop face with 100% Polyester 12 D backer (30,000 g/m2/24h) 

FEATURES: The Outdoor Research Realm is a close competitor with the Montbell Storm Cruiser — they’re close in price, weight, feature set. What makes the Realm unique is its high breathability (30,000 g/m2/24h!) AscentShell fabric which also has stretch and a super nice feel. The Realm has two double pockets in the chest (one mesh, one waterproof with a subpocket for an iPhone in the mesh pocket), dual drawcord hood, tough toothed zipper, huge hood,  velcro cuffs, and stiffened brimmed hood. The Realm also has great range of motion in the shoulder area making it well suited for climbing as well as backpacking .

BEST FOR: Anyone looking for tough, highly breathable, full-featured rain that works equally well for hiking, backpacking or climbing. Note that the Realm does not have pit-zips, altho its fabric breathability makes these less essential.

Montbell Storm Cruiser

WEIGHT: 10.0oz – $289

This is the #1 selling rain Jacket in Japan, a country crazy about hiking and getting outdoors.

TECH: 3-layer GORE C-KNIT Backer Technology 20-denier Ballistic rip stop nylon

FEATURES: The Montbell Storm Cruiser is a full-featured, durable jacket that competes with the Outdoor Research Realm. The Storm Cruiser has all the bells and whistles while remaining at 10 oz! Drawcord adjustable hem, velcro adjustable elastic cuffs, big pit zips, two big waterproof chest pockets (above that pesky hip belt), a good-sized coil zipper and a three way adjustable hood (it’s quite deep). For venting the Storm Cruiser has two large pit-zips vs. the Realm’s single mesh lined chest pocket. This may be more to some people’s liking.

BEST FOR: Anyone looking for tough, breathable, well designed rain jacket that has pretty much every feature, including large pit-zips! Note: This jacket is only available directly from Montbell.

Patagonia M10 Anorak

WEIGHT: 8 oz

Note: The Patagonia M10 Anorak is the only jacket here that fits in both this 3-layer Durable Category and the ExtremeLight Category below. Quite an achievement if you can deal with the 1/2 zipper and minimal feature set! And it does have a nice chest pocket!

TECH: 3-layer, 2-oz 12-denier 100% nylon ripstop with a WPB barrier and a DWR finish

FEATURES: The M10 Anorak has a huge hood, deep chest zip and Napoleon pocket. The zip on the front contributes to the durability of the jacket (much lower risk of zipper wear and separation) and the reduced feature set leaves less to break while still allowing for full functionality. The jacket does have a snug fit — we had to size up to fit the jacket comfortably. But the Anorak is a standout pick in our list for anyone looking for durability that doesn’t weigh you down. Additionally, the Anorak further improves durability by using tough “welded seams” and moving seams away from the back, neck, and shoulder area (places where the jacket wears the quickest).

BEST FOR: The M10 Anorak is an excellent choice for someone looking for a long lasting fabric and feature set jacket that is incredibly light. Intended for athletes, the Anorak’s slim fit is extremely useful for runners climbers and others not looking for much insulation beneath a rain jacket. Given that, if you want to layer with the Anorak, you should consider sizing up.

ExtremeLight Rain Jackets that are a durable in their own way

(R)  Hyperlite Mountain Gear: THE SHELL jacket has unusually durable fabric and many full-sized features for its 5.8 oz weight. (L) Zpacks Vertice jacket has crazy high 56,000+ g/m2/24hr breathability!, 3-layer fabric and yet still weighs ~6 oz with a full feature set including pit-zips.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear: THE SHELL

5.8 oz – $450

Note: Hyperlite Mountain Gear: THE SHELL jacket is included for its unusually durable shell fabric, eVENT breathability and many full-sized features for its weight.

TECH: 2-layer, strong and super-breathable (32,000 g/m2/24hr) eVent | DCF-WPB fabric (formerly Cuben) with Dyneema® and eVent® materials technology

FEATURES: This is both the lightest and most expensive jacket of the group. Staying true to the HMG motto “less weight more options,” THE SHELL is extremely roomy, super-breathable (Breathability Rating: 32,000 gm2/24hr), and fully featured. It’s amazing that a sub 6 oz jacket can have an easy to operate, beefy, toothed waterproof zipper; a large, full-featured hood, and full-sized cuff closures. The Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber) shell fabric is strong and compressible. The only thing to keep in mind is that the 2-layer eVent membrane is not protected with a fabric backing like more durable 3-layer jackets. Full review is here…

BEST FOR: Ultralighters looking for the very lightest jacket but with a tough outer shell fabric — and don’t mind spending significant $. It’s better for less frequent rain vs. week-after-week wear with a heavy backpack on, e.g. wet climates like Pacific NW.


Zpacks Vertice

WEIGHT: 6.2 oz – $300

Note: Zpacks Vertice  jacket is included because of of its 56,000+ g/m2/24hr breathability!, 3-layer fabric (membrane durability) but still weighing around 6 oz  and full-featured with pit-zips.

TECH: 3-Layer “Ventum-WPB” fabric. crazy 56,000+ g/m2/24hr breathability!, Tricot lining, a waterproof, vapor permeable membrane, & 7 denier ripstop nylon on the exterior.

FEATURES: The Zpacks Vertice is nearly twice as breathable as the next most breathable jackets in this guide—56,000 vs 32,000. Its 3-layer construction has a fabric liner to protect the WP/B membrane. It’s also the most fully featured jacket in this group, with a large dual adjustment hood with stiffened brim, pit-zips, adjustable cuffs, a large chest pocket, & long protective hem.

BEST FOR: Ultralighters looking for the lightest jacket that is super breathable, fully featured including pit-zips, and with 3-layer construction to protect the WP/B membrane. Note that this has the thinnest shell fabric of any jacket (7 denier ripstop nylon). That being said, the fabric does not seem to be unduly delicate. Adjustment hardware is also among the smallest and lightest in this group making it harder to manipulate than larger hardware.


If you will frequently wear your rain jacket with a pack on and/or use it bushwhacking etc. one of the durable rain jackets above is likely your best choice. Just to be clear, there is no perfect rain jacket. And there are implications for choosing the most durable rain jacket. That is, a rain jacket that scores highly on all of the durability features above will be expensive to very expensive and likely weigh 11 to 12 oz. This is about double the weight of the lightest rain jackets. And it is likely 2 to 4 times the cost of an excellent value rain jacket like the Marmot Precip.

Why might you get a less durable rain jacket?

Alternatively, while many very light rain jackets have thinner less durable shell fabric and/or thinner less durable WPB membranes (usually 2.5 layer) — they do have many desirable characteristics that heavier, durable rain jackets lack — they are crazy light, compact, less expensive and they will still keep you dry! For example, during summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with their infrequent afternoon thunderstorms, your rain jacket is likely to stay in your pack unused for the entire trip, or possibly just a few hours in a couple T-storms. As such, it may be more than durable enough for its “intended use” and last many seasons. In this case you can save the weight and cost of a durable 3-layer jacket, and get by with something like a:

Note: Lightweight and budget jackets will be covered in a future post.


This post contains affilate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a slight portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.  I am never under an obligation to write page post a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.


22 replies
  1. Paul
    Paul says:

    A good old Poncho works best for me. If it is raining enough to use a pack cover, it is raining enough for me to cover up. Also I find that they vent really well with all the openings in the side yet ad a layer of warmth. Its also a great way to add a little extra warmth at night buy putting over a sleeping bag. They are cheap and pack away easy.

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Good points Paul. Altho Ponchos do have their downsides as well. You are not going to do any bushwhacking or technical stuff in one. They are amazingly flappy and ill suited to high winds. But on trail in a protected ares they do get the job done and have good ventilation. Best, -alan

  2. Jens
    Jens says:

    Thanks a lot for your hints and explanations! They gave me a lot of ideas what to consider when choosing a rain jacket for a specific purpose.


  3. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I’m probably over thinking and researching but I’m in the market for a rain jacket for summer, spring, fall, etc. and I’ve been considering the columbia outdry featherweight since its the only rain jacket that I’ve found to supposedly not wet out, are their others that I’m not aware of that won’t out? I’m also curious if the columbia outdry featherweight would go well over my rab neutrino endurance or would I need more of a hardshell for that, and if so do you have any suggestions for a shell to go over the rab? I would appreciate any advice, thank you.

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Good Q Ryan. But before you get too fixated on one property, wet-out, I suggest you read the “Myth: A Wetted Out Rain Jacket Doesn’t Breathe,” section and then consider all the desirable properties and less-desirable ones as a whole when selecting a rain jacket. Not that the Outdry is necessarily the wrong jacket for you, it may well the right one, but just suggesting a broader assessment of all properties before making a decision. And likely the best place to do this would be the Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Hiking & Backpacking. As to layering over your RAB jacket, pretty much any rain jacket should work. In this case, the critical factor will be the rain jacket fitting over a bulky down jacket. In this case I usually size up on the rain jacket. Thus my summer rain jackets are usually size medium to layer over a fleece. And my winter rain jackets are usually a size large to layer over a down jacket. Hope this helps a bit. Warmest, -alan & alison

  4. Brent
    Brent says:

    Hi Alan,
    Thanks for the great write up! I’m looking to purchase the OR Realm jacket, but can’t find anything on sizing other than it’s a “trim fit.” I’m 6’ and 175lbs with a 40” chest, fairly broad shoulders and an athletic build. I’m hoping that you may have a suggestion on sizing, M or L?
    It’s difficult to tell from the photo in your article how slim the jacket fits. Could you also provide the proportions of the young man wearing the Realm jacket? Lastly, have you noticed/experienced any problems thus far with the Realm?
    Thanks in advance….

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Brent,
      The person wearing the jacket (size L) is ~6 feet tall, has a 40″ chest (slim build) and normally wears a size large (for arm and hem length). I recently wore this same jacket for two weeks of very wet weather in Patagonia and loved it. Days and days of rain. Wore it all day some days — up and down hill with no issues of discomfort or getting unreasonably sweaty. Very comfortable and durable jacket.

      I am 5’8″ and 160 lb. I did not find the size large to bulky or flappy. And I appreciated the extra arm length (I could easily pull my hands all way in) and the additional coverage over the butt. Hope this helps, -alan

  5. Micah Miller
    Micah Miller says:

    Hi Alan,

    Apologies if this has already been answered. Do you have any experience with SilNylon or SilPoly rain jackets? They seem to exclusively be a cottage offering but make a lot of sense (at least on paper) for a backpacking rain jacket. Waterproof, light, reasonably durable, no maintenance. Non-breathable but in my opinion the typical WB/B shell is neither waterproof nor breathable, at least not for long.

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Mica,
      And apologies for the late reply and short reply. I’ve been out trekking in Patagonia for the last two weeks (and am still in Pagaonoia wth crappy Internet). I will reply with more later. But for now, WP/B gets and undeserved bad rap. Much of what WP/B is blamed for an windshirt will cause the same problems, e.g. moisture build up. That is, even a highly breathable windshirt will create a boundary layer that will trap heat and humidity. (Try running on a warm day in a windshirt if you don’t believe this.) We just spent 8 days trekking in Patagonia in ton’s of rain, wearing our WP/B rain jackets most of the trip and they worked well — doing what they are supposed to. If had worn fully waterproff jackets (all day) we would be considerable wetter from the inside vs. WP/B jackets. That being said, for brief showers the silnylon would likely do the job. Hope this helps, All the best. Warmest, -alan

  6. Jeritt
    Jeritt says:

    Hi Alan, I am a taller guy and have a hard time finding gear that has the length I like. How are the lengths and fit of the Hyperlite “The Shell” vs the Zpacks “Vertice”.

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Jerritt,
      In my sizes the ZPack jacket is longer than the HMG. You can find Zpacks garment Sizing here. Unfortunately all I have is a size Medium HMG Jacket which has a 30 inch zipper (about 2″ shorter than the same size Zpacks jacket). It appears they hold this 32″ length all the way to XXL. HMG does list the dimensions of their garment sizes so you’ll need to contact them about zipper lenght for size L and XL. Hope this helps and good luck getting a fit. Warmest, -alan

  7. Mary
    Mary says:

    My REI rain jacket delaminated after a few years with not even that much wear – an employee told me it happens just from temperature changes in the room, just one of the drawbacks of laminated fabrics, they don’t last forever. If I ever get another (yes, the ultralight ones are tempting me) I would store it in the refrigerator! Anyway, I ended up replacing it with an REI eVent jacket, a little heavier but far more durable and I’m happy with it so far. It’s supposed to be the equivalent to Gortex but way less expensive.

  8. Ethan
    Ethan says:

    Alan your Adventure Alan website is a fantastic resource and an enjoyable read I regularly share with friends. Thank you for the work and passion you put into it. A few quick questions about the shells:

    1) You wrote about the Montbell Storm Cruiser with 3 layer construction at 10 oz. and $289. Montbell has another shell, the Peak Shell, at 9.1 oz and only $199, which also has 3 layer construction and I think all of the same features including generous pit zips. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t recommend the Peak Shell which should be just as durable? I also notice that Montbell provided breathability and water-resistance stats for the Peak Shell (which may or may not be accurate) but not for the Storm Cruiser. I realize you can’t review every shell out there but hoped you had a chance to compare the Peak.

    2) Which of the mainstream lighter shells – OR Helium II, Montbell Versalite, etc. do you find most water-resistant and durable? There is very little if any info out there comparing light shells to each other in terms of water resistance and durability. I’m mostly interested in a rain shell for waterproofing rather than breathabiltiy, typically relying on zippers for air flow, though it’s nice to have a fabric with a good feel.

    3) Which of the heavier more durable jackets you tried have the longest coverage front and back?

    4) Which of the lighter jackets have longest coverage front and back?

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Ethan, good Qs. First the Peak Shell is a great jacket and it would have been my first choice. Unfortunately it is in very low stock and will not be in next year’s lineup. As such I chose the Storm Cruiser as a close replacement. BTW the SC is an excellent jacket in its own right so no problems at all. The reason that there are no MVTR spec’s for the SC Jacket is that it is GoreTex and Gore does not report MVTR resorting to instead a “trust us it’s breathable enough” strategy for spec’ing their fabrics. That being said there is nothing wrong with the GoreTex fabric on the SC Jacket.

      As to the lighter shells I find no discernible difference in water resistance in the field. They are all waterproof enough for my purposes. That is until they delaminate. And in the field given all the other ways you can get wet inside a shell, I find it hard to believe that people can point to the lack of waterproofness as a cause, unless it is from delamination. The OR Helium is a fairly snug and short fit, and if you want more length or room to layer you’d likely want to size up. One of my testers currently has the Versalite but I recall that it wasn’t quite as snug as the OR Helium.

      The more durable shells are more similar in sizing than different. Per above, for the lighter shells size rec’s will remain the same for the more durable jackets. That is for a snugger fit choose your size. If you want more room to layer and a bit more length size up. But given that everybody’s body and sizing tastes are different, it’s only a rough starting point.

      Hope this helps and have a great year trekking. Warmest, -alan

  9. Andy
    Andy says:

    Hi Alan,

    First off, I just want to say thanks. Thanks for this beyond amazing catalog of information, it is a godsend to have so much information in one place from someone who has lived it all. It has been especially incredibly helpful in understanding the new complexities of TdP and the fact that I won’t be able to multi-day trek there. Without you I’d probably still be chasing false leads and wasting a lot of time.

    My question to you is: I am preparing to head down to Patagonia next month and I will buy a rain jacket for the trip. While my preferences are now ultralight where possible, I have been feeling that maybe Patagonia requires something more robust in this category, if not for rain then for wind. And yet, from your gear list it appears your outer shell was the OR Helium? Can you speak to it’s effectiveness in Patagonian conditions and whether or not you still recommend it or something more robust but heavier like the Realm?

    Thanks again!



    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Andy, Good Q. Yes, you will likely wear your rain jacket more in TdP than other places on the planet. If you already own a Helium or other light jacket, I would just take it. The jacket will do fine. And if at some point the WPB liner delaminates you can always send it back to OR under warranty. Ditto if you want a buy light jacket for TdP. It will certainly be solid for the hike and you won’t be bushwhacking.

      That being said, if after TdP you will also be wearing your rain jacket in wet environments a lot, and you can afford the extra $ I might go with a light 3-layer jacket. It will last longer and there will be less hassle with having to send it back under warranty, and less chance of it starting to leak mid-trip. And my experience is that whatever rain jacket I really like also gets worn around town a lot with my daypack on. That may contribute more to wear and tear in the neck and shoulders than its use on true backpacking trips. Just something to think about. Warmest, -alan

      • Andy
        Andy says:

        Thanks Alan…as another poster has just mentioned, Montbell offers an alternative 3L jacket (Peak Shell) with a slight weight penalty but nearly identical features to the Versite…which are actually my final two choices.

        To quibble over 2-3 oz seems almost absurd, except that as you know it continues to multiply as we assemble all the different gear pieces. Anyway, thanks again


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