It seems like all major manufacturers have an “ultralight” rain jacket in their line. The problem, however, is that all is not what it seems to be…ultralight often results in a compromised feature set, reduced sizing (trim and short!), tiny hoods, no cuffs, etc. So, we surveyed the market for the lightest full-featured rain jackets that had full sized hoods, full zips, two torso pockets, pit zips, adjustable cuffs and hem, and waterproof breathable fabric – and weighed less than 13 ounces. This criteria thinned down the playing field considerably – but two jackets in particular stood out as being particularly functional pieces of rainwear.
Weight: 12.2 oz size M
The Drizzle is made with a 2.5-layer waterproof breathable fabric, has a trim fit but will still layer over a Polarguard parka. The jacket sports waterproof zips on its two hand warmer pockets, pit zips, and full length zipper. The addition of waterproof zips seems like a nice feature but they are not easy to maneuver up and down with a single hand. And, after wearing the jacket for more than six months, the zippers remain stiff. The hand warmer pockets are sized a little on the small side, and they lack mesh backing – which we think is a serious oversight on any piece of waterproof raingear, because the fact is: mesh backed torso pockets are capable of venting a lot of moisture, and the success of any waterproof garment is going to depend on its ability to ventilate more than on the ability of the fabric to breathe. On the other hand if you are in really, really wet climates you can use the pockets in the rain without getting wet. Ditto on storing wet gear in the pockets. We leave it up to the user to decide if they want ventilation or water resistance on their front pockets. (The jacket does have two very long, dual slider pit zips.)
The hem is a good length, but by no means generous, the sleeves are plenty long and feature a yoke that doesn’t cause the jacket to ride up the midriff when reaching up, and the fabric has a supple, durable feel. We abused the Drizzle on rainy rock scrambles and found that the lightweight fabric stood up to more abrasion than we expected. The jacket is stylish and its trim fit does have a key benefit – this is an ideal jacket for those that need mobility in brush or mountains.
Overall Grade: B+
Weight: 12.5 oz size M
*** TRAIL’S BEST AWARD: RAINGEAR ***
The Precip uses a 2-layer waterproof breathable fabric that seems only a shade less durable than that used on the Drizzle. However, the fabric has certainly stood the test of time and abuse in our review period, in which we’ve worn the jacket during more than 200 hiker days of rain. In contrast to the Drizzle, Marmot skipped waterproof zippers, choosing to add conventional fabric zipper flaps to protect zippers from leaking. For the most part, we found the zippers to be plenty durable and really appreciated the easy-gliding large-toothed plastic zipper down the front. Zipper flaps didn’t get in the way and they protected all of the zippers from leaking in the hardest downpours. Marmot’s hood, piz zips and torso pockets are more generous than the Drizzle’s, and combined with Marmot’s use of mesh in the torso pocket backing, is one of the most well-ventilated jackets we’ve tested. The cut is roomy enough to layer over synthetic high-loft fill garments or thin down jackets, but it’s not as baggy as the GoLite Newt/Squall (which is sized to layer freely over their puffy Polarguard 3D Coal parka), so it’s suitable enough for the bushwacker or mountaineer. We thought the Precip hit the mark for rain jackets, and are pleased to award it with a BackpackingLight.COM 2003 Trail’s Best Award.
Overall Grade: A