Introduction

The Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket (4.93 oz/140 g, $190) is targeted to users interested in a minimally-featured design, a fit-and-feature set for backpackers (instead of trail runners or climbers), made with high-performance fabrics at a low weight, and at a reasonable price.

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Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket. Photo: Enlightened Equipment

About this Review

This Limited Review is based on my initial testing of these products, over about 10 days of day hiking, trail running, and overnight backpacking in the Tahoe region of the California Sierra in January and February.

Features & Specifications

  • overview
    • weight: 4.93 oz (140 g) – men’s size Medium
    • MSRP: $190
    • customization options: pit zips (adds $10 and about 1 oz/28 g)
    • sizing: men’s (S-XXL) and women’s (S-XXL)
  • fabric
    • 1.5 osy (51 gsm) 3-layer waterproof-breathable fabric construction:
      • 7 denier face-fabric with C6 DWR
      • ePTFE membrane
      • tricot lining
    • waterproof to 20,000mm H₂0
    • moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR): 75,000 g/m²/24hr
  • waterproof #3 YKK Uretek full front zipper
  • adjustable hood with stiffened brim
  • adjustable waist hem and wrist cuffs
  • no pockets
  • seam-taped

Performance Analysis

marshall visp 9 2
Testing the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket (and pants and mitts) in a light snow-storm.

Since this is a Limited Review, a detailed performance analysis based on long-term use will not be presented. Instead, performance observations and issues are noted below.

criteria observations and issues
water resistance Other than a shower test, I haven’t been able to subject these garments to sustained rain in the field. Minimal hood brim limits its ability to provide protection in heavy rain. Zipper is effective at resisting water entry at high pressures.
fabric breathability Breathability seems on par with other high breathability spec fabrics (e.g., MVTR > 30,000), based on moderate-exertion hiking while carrying a backpack uphill.
ventilation Pit zips as an option is a very nice feature. Combined with a full-length zipper, these two items are critical for a rain jacket designed to  be worn for several hours in an all-day rain. Waist hem and wrist cuffs can be fully relaxed. Hood volume is low, which limits ventilation around the head while wearing the hood.
usability I used all adjustment mechanisms and zippers with one hand, bare hands, and while wearing both gloves and mittens.

  • Small zipper pulls, no pull tabs, shock-cord and adjustment mechanisms are small
  • That, combined with the roomy cut of the jacket, means that it’s difficult to tighten drawcords or engage zippers while using one hand – but it is possible to loosen or disengage zippers with one hand.
  • Usability with two bare hands is high, with usability dropping as expected while using gloves and mittens respectively.
  • This is especially true with the side hood drawcords and mechanism, which are the smallest, most fiddly bits of the jacket.
fit and patterning Designed for layering, plenty of room in the shoulders and across the chest* for light high-loft insulating layers (e.g., less than 14 oz)

  • Raglan sleeve/shoulder junctions, articulated elbows, drop hem, and long sleeves offer good moisture protection and a full range of motion.
  • I can bend over, reach across my body, extend my hands over my head, without pinching, bunching, retracting wrist cuffs, or a riding waist hem.
  • With the hood up and tightened there is slight resistance when turning my head side-to-side, but nothing that prevents the motion from being completed.

*I tested a size medium jacket. I’m 5’6, 170 lbs with a somewhat broad and stocky athletic body-type.

quality of materials and construction My close inspection didn’t turn up anything unusual with regards to quality.

  • Fabric has no blemishes or defects.
  • Stitching is straight and tight, and wouldn’t loosen even after I pulled hard on it while wearing the jacket.
  • Bound and sewn edges are even.
  • Seam taping is evenly applied with no edges peeling up or loosening.
  • Zippers move freely and without binding.
durability To date, I’ve only used this jacket on well-cleared paths and didn’t subject it to any bushwhacking – and would be extremely cautious before doing so, the fabric is light!

  • Face fabric is (so far) not showing wear signs in pack strap contact areas.
  • Seam taping has remained intact.
  • Zippers have remained smooth.
  • No apparent short-term durability issues.

Commentary

What makes the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket, Rain Pants, and Rain Mitts unique?

In a market crowded with dozens of competitors (i.e., “lightweight rain gear”), the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket, Pants, and Mitts are somewhat unique for

  • a minimalist design,
  • a backpacker-oriented fit and patterning, and
  • their use of a high breathability spec fabric.

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Minimalist Design

The Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket includes minimal features in its base model configuration (no pockets, and no pit zips). This design choice makes it squarely targeted to hikers who place simplicity and weight savings above all else, and makes the Visp Rain Jacket a more interesting choice for users who want a lightweight rain jacket “for incidental use” rather than a full-featured garment for sustained wear in heavy rain. Of note, the Visp Rain Jacket can be ordered with pit zips as an option (which is the model I’m reviewing here).

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Pit zips are a new feature option in the 2020 Enlightened Equipment Visp Jacket.

In spite of the lack of pockets, which is the Visp’s most obvious nod to minimalism, the rest of the feature set isn’t exactly Spartan. The jacket includes:

  • dual drawcord (aperture and volume) adjustment for the hood;
  • waist hem drawcord
  • full-length zip
  • hook-and-loop wrist cuff closures
  • generous sizing

Its generous sizing and articulated fit are welcome in a market category where manufacturers love to save weight by reducing the amount of fabric used (and thus limiting its ability to layer over insulating clothing or provide decent articulation and mobility).

Rain Gear for Backpackers (Fit and Pattern)

Ultralight backpackers are often drawn to the lightest possible gear. Often, minimum weight comes with significant sacrifices in form and function. After looking at a photo of the Enlightened Equipment Visp Jacket, and noting its pocket-less design, you too may be balking at the apparent “over-simplification” of the jacket’s design.

marshall visp 15
The Visp Rain Jacket worn under a pack and layered with an active insulation layer (Arc’teryx Proton LT Hoody).

However, consider many features that backpackers value that are often sacrificed in ultralight rain jackets:

  • lack of layering volume underneath
  • Over-simplified pattern that limits range-of-motion
  • Short arms and waist hem
  • No or minimal means of adjusting fit in the hood, or at the wrists and hem
  • No or minimal means of adjusting ventilation through zips and other closures
  • poorly-breathable fabric (e.g., silnylon)
marshall visp 20 2
The design philosophy behind the Visp Rain Gear is to strike a balance between maximum functionality and minimalist aesthetic. It doesn’t fall prey to the “over-simplification” trap of much ultra-light gear. For example, the wrist cuffs offer full hook-and-loop adjustment closures instead of the non-adjustable bound elastic trim found on some ultralight jackets.

The Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket doesn’t skimp on any of these important features for backpacking. In particular, when you consider that the jacket is targeted to the long-distance hiking community, it does these things very well:

  • provides a design that performs very well while wearing it in the rain (highly breathable fabric, good ventilation, well-considered cut)
  • saves as much weight as possible (light fabric, light zippers, and other notions, no pockets) so it doesn’t impact your pack weight much while it’s stowed
  • Still retains functionality (adjustable where it needs to be, pit zips optional).

Breathability: MVTR 75,000 Fabrics

High MVTR levels are a nice marketing feature that helps manufacturers sell jackets to users who don’t understand the relationships between breathability and ventilation, or how to manage ventilation effectively when hiking in a sustained rain.

Even at this level of breathability (MVTR of 75,000+), the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket still won’t breathe well enough to keep you dry and cool when slogging uphill at a moderate pace (MET 6-8+) while wearing a pack.

At lower metabolic rates (e.g., MET 4-6) in cooler temperatures, the breathability of this fabric is quite sufficient for most users, especially if you compare this to a jacket made of fabrics with MVTR of less than 15,000 (assuming the same test).

And when comparing its breathability performance to jackets made of non-breathable fabrics, like silnylon, the differences are like night and day, even when performing light-duty chores around camp at low MET rates (2-4).

However, don’t expect this to provide a level of breathability that will allow it to replace your wind shirt, and don’t expect it to perform heat-and-moisture-shedding miracles at high MET rates without utilizing its generous ventilation features.

marshall visp 8
Highly breathable fabric helps keep you dry while exerting yourself, but mechanical ventilation (pit zips) are still a necessity when exerting yourself.

Compared To

Both the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket and the ZPacks Vertice Rain Jacket are targeted to the long-distance backpacking community, are made with similar fabrics and offer similar feature sets.

Compare: Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket vs. Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket

 commentsedge
weightsimilar weight (for pit zip models), but Vertice is available in a lighter option without pit zipsVisp
featuresVertice offers a stowable hood and pockets at a similar weightVertice
priceVisp is $70 cheaperVisp
layeringVisp offers a roomier cut at a similar weightVisp
mobilityVisp offers more sophisticated patterning and better articulation at a similar weightVisp
durabilityboth jackets use similar fabricstie

Strengths

  • Fit and Mobility
    • roomy fit without being baggy allows for layering over mid-layer insulation
    • sophisticated patterning and articulation, long hem, long sleeves
  • Ventilation and breathability
    • high-performance premium quality fabric
    • pit zips option
  • Value
    • lots of performance for a reasonable price

Limitations

  • No pockets
  • Fabric durability
    • may result in durability issues in response to long term use or abrasion/bushwhacking
    • C6 DWR is known to not be a very resilient treatment, so user refresh should be expected

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