Dyneema Composite Fabrics is a family of fabric constructions known for their durability, compressibility, lightweight, waterproofness, low water absorption, and tear resistance. They consist of hand-lain matrices of Dyneema fibers in a proprietary adhesive matrix that is bonded to any number of different films/coatings/fabrics. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Shell Jacket is made using Dyneema Composite Fabric bonded to a polyester fiber outer face for durability, and to a monolayer eVENT membrane on the inner face for breathability.
The result is a full zip, hooded jacket that is long enough to cover your butt, roomy enough for three-season layering, waterproof enough to keep rain out even under the pressure of a heavy pack, and as breathable as any other rain jacket that I've worn. Consider that The Shell can be compressed to a volume of less than a pint, and weighs less than six ounces, it's a worthy contender in the growing field of ultralight rain jackets.
I've been wearing prototype and production models of The Shell for the past two years, and this review reflects my experience and long-term assessment of its performance.
Features and Specifications
- Jacket Type: Full-zip, hooded, waterproof-breathable (rain) jacket
- Hood: Front and rear hood shock cord adjustment, helmet-compatible, stiffened hood brim (the stiffened portion is 1.75 inches wide at the center of the hood crown)
- Hem: Bottom hem shock cord adjustment
- Cuffs: Hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs
- Pockets: One small waist-level pocket on the right-hand side (waterproof)
- Fit: "Performance fit"
- Sizing: (Unisex) X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Fabric: DCF-WPB, i.e., Dyneema Composite Fabric bonded to a nonwoven polyester fiber outer face and an eVENT membrane on the inner face
- Breathability Rating: 32,000 gm2/24hr
- Waterproof Rating: 10,000 mm
- Main Zipper Spec: #5 YKK Vislon Aquaguard (tooth zipper)
- Chin Guard Fabric: Polartec Power-Dry
- Weights: 5.16 oz (146 g) to 6.20 oz (176 g) depending on size
- MSRP: USD $450
Member's Only Content
- Performance Assessment
- Finish Quality
- Assessment of DCF Seam Construction Techniques
- Fit and Layering
- Drawcord Adjustments
- Wrist Cuffs
- Zipper/Zipper Guard
- Chin Guard
- Breathability and Ventilation
- Weight and Compressibility
- Strengths & Limitations
Word Count: 3,375
Review Rating: Recommended
This is not the jacket to buy if you need maximum durability for rock scrambling. But if you're used to using rain jackets in this weight class (i.e., 8 ounces or lighter), then The Shell is probably going to be a significant step up in durability. It's roomy enough for three-season layering, long enough to provide below-the-belt coverage in inclement weather, and has a hood that's well-suited for severe rainstorm protection. Improving the articulated fit, making the pocket more functional, and fixing the drawcord problems are all minor issues for most backpackers, but those improvements would be enough to make this jacket a Highly Recommended buy for hikers with the cash to spend on what is probably the most durable jacket available at this weight.
The Shell would be a good choice for someone who has the money to spend and wants the highest durability-to-weight ratio possible in an ultralight shell jacket. You probably know who you are - you have bushwhacking scars and spend a lot of time in inclement conditions wearing your rain shell (and can thus appreciate its high level of breathability).
Where to Buy
Don't Buy This Product If...
- You're already carrying credit card debt. This is not a cheap jacket, and at this price, it's not going to give you any significant emotional reward. It's still just a jacket.
- You spend all your time on maintained trails. You don't need the durability. There are cheaper options (see below).
- You need extreme durability because you're constantly scraping against sharp rocks. Sharp, crystalline granite, and limestone will shred any "ultralight" jacket, including this one.
Other Options to Consider
- ZPacks Vertice Jacket - Similar weight, higher breathability, cheaper.
- Patagonia M10 Anorak - Slightly heavier, similar breathability, similar durability, better fit, cheaper
- Outdoor Research Helium II - Similar weight, lower breathability, similar fit, much cheaper.
- Arc'teryx Beta LT - Heavier, similar breathability, much better fit, similar price, much more durable.
- Patagonia Alpine Houdini - Slightly heavier, less breathable, less durable, better fit, much cheaper.
- Arc'teryx Norvan SL - Slightly heavier, similar breathability, less durable, slimmer fit, cheaper.
Learn More About Dyneema Composite Fabrics
- Backpacking Light Podcast, Episode 002 | Dyneema Composite Fabrics
- Backpacking Light Tech Webinar | Dyneema Composite Fabrics
The manufacturer provided both prototype and production models to Backpacking Light for this review. Some links above may be affiliate links, which means this: if you follow a link to a merchant website and then make a purchase, we may get a small commission on that purchase. That helps us maintain backpackinglight.com - thank you!