GEAR SHOP: Roundup
5 Rain Jacketsfor the Wet Season
After a sunny and mild entry into fall this year, the rain has returned to the Northwest. Time to break out the rain gear. In anticipation of the next wet season, we’ve been sampling some of the latest rain shells from some of our favorite brands. We were a bit hard-pressed to find any rain locally this summer, so we took several of them on vacation to the stormy Isle of Skye in Scotland—and here they really got put to the test! We figure if they can withstand that, they can take anything the PCT and Northwest weather might throw at them. Here’s the rundown on our five picks.
1. Outdoor Research Interstellar
Topping our list, the Interstellar jacket was the most comfortable of the rain shells we sampled. The fit is nice and comfortable, both with and without bulky midlayers, making it great on mild days over a light baselayer, or on chilly days over heavier layers or a lightweight puffy. Our favorite characteristic of the Interstellar is the soft interior of its AscentShell 3L material, which kept us cool and comfortable, even when we got sweaty—no sticky, clammy situation here. Plus, it has a nice amount of stretch for easy, free range of movement. Of course, its water and wind repellency are superb, even in harsh conditions. Additional features include a wire-brimmed hood, large, pack-friendly pockets, and a waterproof chest pocket. It’s no wonder the Interstellar received an OutsideGear of the Year award! $299
PROS: Superior comfort, stuffs into pocket.
CONS: No pit zips; high price.
STYLE: Men’s & women’s • FIT: Standard • WEIGHT: 11.6 oz. • MATERIAL: AscentShell 3L
2. Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II
We can always rely on our Mountain Hardwear gear to get us through the cold and wet. What we like most about the Quasar Lite II is its superb breathability, which comes from its 2.5-layer DryQ Elite construction. We put this jacket through some serious deluges, even on some pretty strenuous trails, and give it big props for keeping us completely dry and comfortable underneath. An innovative feature that assists in its breathability is the incorporation of tricep vents in place of pit zips. Plus, this shell’s soft touch and slightly stretchy fabric keeps it light and relaxed for easy movement. We found layering underneath to be adequate due to its slightly trim fit, but it got a little bulky when we added our puffy. Additional features include large, venting, pack-friendly pockets and a helmet-compatible hood. $300
PROS: Bombproof rain jacket, light weight.
CONS: Large hood is a bit wonky; high price.
STYLE: Men’s & women’s • FIT: Trim • WEIGHT: 10.9 oz. • MATERIAL: DryQ Elite
3. Montbell Versalite
We’re always impressed with Montbell’s outdoor gear for its innovation and light weight—and we continue to be impressed with this hyperlight rain shell. Weighing in at a scant 6 ounces, the Versalite performs admirably under heavy rain and wind thanks to its seam-taped GORE Windstopper material. The fit is generous enough to accommodate a few layers underneath for adjusting to changes in temperature, and underarm zips help with the ventilation when needed. Stashing this one away is a breeze, as it takes up hardly any room at all when stuffed into its tiny sack. Additional features include adjustable cuffs and a draw-cord hem. We also sampled Montbell’s Rain Trekker shell. If weight and compressibility are less of a concern, this 9.9-ounce, less-expensive alternative is equally effective. $199
PROS: Extreme light weight and compressibility.
CONS: Loose hem draw cord can catch on things.
STYLE: Men’s & women’s • FIT: Standard • WEIGHT: 6.4 oz. • MATERIAL: GORE Windstopper
4. Sierra Designs Neah Bay
The great fit and function of the Neah Bay rain jacket is only outweighed by its amazing low price. Yet that’s no reason to underestimate its quality. For shedding wind and rain, it performs just as well as many of its higher-priced competitors. What we really like is the Neah Bay’s casual style that doesn’t scream, “I’m a hiker!” The combination of its textured, stretch fabric with its relaxed style, slightly longer cut and refined color options makes it great for trail-to-town use. As a midweight jacket, it’s a little heavier and bulkier than others, so probably not ideal for ounce-counters, but as a reliable rain shell for both dayhikes and backpacks—without breaking the bank—it’s a solid choice. Jacket features include taped seams, large hand pockets, and adjustable hood and cuffs. $89
PROS: Nice styling at a great price.
CONS: A little bulky for packing.
STYLE: Men’s & women’s • FIT: Relaxed • WEIGHT: 16.9 oz. • MATERIAL: Hurricane Extend 2L
5. Cotopaxi Tikal
Cotopaxi is a newer outdoor company that we’re just getting acquainted with. Their philosophy to outdoor gear is to take an “inventive, considered approach … to help make a positive impact on the world.” Plus, a portion of proceeds for every gear item sold goes to help impoverished communities in Latin America with health care and education. Sounds good to us! But how does it perform? The first piece we checked out was their 10-ounce Tikal Active Shell. It’s a pretty straightforward rain shell with commendable water and wind repellency, and a nice feel to the material that doesn’t get clammy inside. The fit is pretty standard, if just a bit on the trim side. We were able to layer up sufficiently, but under a puffy jacket it got just a little snugly. Features include taped seams, perforated underarm vents and a bombproof front storm flap. $150
PROS: Basic, lightweight rain shell at a reasonable price.
CONS: No stuff sack or pocket, but compresses adequately.