ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket
Today I want to share with everybody my initial thoughts of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket which I was finally able to talk myself into buying recently and have now had the chance to test out since last week. While a week is not a long enough time to truly test any outdoor product, this is just an initial post on this jacket and I fully intend to write about it in the future as I am able to use it in future bad weather situations.
Yesterday while near the end of a hike it started to rain so I pulled out the jacket and put it on. It performed one hundred percent as expected. It kept me dry and it did not cause me to roast to death inside of it thanks to the truly stellar breathablity of the cuben fiber material. A short while later it started to snow and it handled that just as well. A short while after that it started to hail. At this point I became a little concerned because while the material is made of some rather rugged material (1.42 oz/sqyd) I was just not sure how it would handle the abuse of getting nailed by a million little hail comets raining down on it. After about three or four minutes the hail stopped and the sun came out. I took the opportunity to take off the jacket and give it a look over and it looked to be as in good of shape as it was when I put it on. I was totally and completely dry. I was not hot, and I did not feel clammy. The miracle rain jacket has been found!
I had read on the ZPacks website that the jacket is “breathable enough to sleep” and I will admit I put them to the test on that. The night I got it I put it on before I went to bed. I woke up like I usually do, without a single bit of feeling hot or clammy. The material has a rather soft silky/waxy feeling to it that I really enjoyed wearing. I fully expected I would wake up part of the way through the night all soaking wet, but this crazy material actually did its job. So the next night I went outside and threw up my tarp and bag and such and put on a base layer, a mid layer, a down jacket, and than the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket to see if it would cause me to roast to death and/or to wake up clammy when I had a four layer clothing system on. It got down to around 34(f) that night and when I woke up the next morning I was once again dry – and I was nice and warm.
I have owned just about every sub ten-ounce rain jacket that exists and I was not expecting anything better from this one than every other one that I have owned. Let me just declare herein that every single other rain jacket I own is now going to be sold, and the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket is the only rain jacket I plan on keeping in my backpack from henceforth.
The purchase of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket was not an easy one. It is an expensive piece of clothing (as most top end clothing it) and it uses a material that I have been able to find zero evidence from any other gear reviewers claiming actually works. My only previous experience with wp/b cf has been with my Black Rock Gear Ultralight Rain Mitts (which I will do a review on once I get a few more hours of use with them) and they have such a small amount of the material that it was rather impossible to know if the material actually does perform. I can now say without a doubt that this material has proven itself to me.
Here is a rather crappy photograph taken the day before it started raining/snowing/hailing. It was such a beautiful location that I just had to stop and take a photography. I was really disappointed that the photograph quality sucked, but here is a link to a rather nice photo (still a crappy iPhone4 photo though) looking the direction that I was looking at in the photo.
As you might be able to see from the photograph (you can click on the photo to see a larger version) the jacket goes a fair bit lower than my waist. I also ordered mine with extra-long arms as I am a long arm guy. I have attached a video that shows me opening the jacket when it showed up, along with some initial impressions, as well as some measurements of the jacket itself.
The total weight on mine, size large, with extra long arms, is: 135 grams (4.76 oz). The previous rain jacket I have been using is the ZPacks Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket (non waterproof breathable version) and it hits the scale at 82 (2.89 ounces) in size large and with the lighter weight material. So that means that this new WB/P CF rain is 53 grams (1.86 ounces) heavier. As somebody who spends a whole lot of money trying to find ways to loose half-an-ounce here and a gram-there, adding 53 grams to my SUL/XUL pack weight might not be something that will make me smile. However – let me say that again… however – there are times when we must realize as SUL/XUL hikers that a few extra grams for the ability to have a piece of gear that can perform above and beyond is something we need to be giving serious consideration too.
For those of you in the UL world 53 grams is not a whole lot of difference, so for you it really only comes down to the price-tag.
For those of us in the SUL/XUL world, here are my thoughts on the addition of 53 grams to my base pack weight – yet in the end I actually am able to reduce 12 grams from my base pack weight!
As I see it this jacket has the ability to perform four duties:
- First, it has the ability to be the finest rain jacket I have ever put on.
- Second, it has the ability to be an additional layer of clothing for when it gets cold at night, put it on over a puffy jacket and it can help trap a bit of heat – I do not yet know how much of a difference it will make, it is breathable after all.
- Third, it can be used as a quasi-beak on your tarp if you find that rain starts coming in at an angle – it is waterproof after all, and is wide enough to cover just about any solo tarp end that is in winter mode.
- Fourth, because of the fact that it breaths so well I will no longer be taking my most beloved MontBell Tachyon Anorak wind jacket which goes with me on every hike – so that right there saves me 65 grams (2.29 ounces) which in the end means I will be saving 12 grams (0.42 ounces) off my total pack weight (65 for Tachyon + 82 for previous rain jacket = 147, than minus 135 for this jacket, results in a savings of 12 grams – thanks to jp for the correction.)
Trust me when I say that I am very happy to be able to save 12 grams from my total pack weight, plus the small difference in overall pack volume, by switching over to have the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket in my backpack! A half an ounce is a half an ounce, and this jacket is one of those pieces of gear in a backpack that is beyond justifiable in both quality, fulfillment of purpose, and weight saved. For those willing to spend the big bucks on SUL/XUL gear this is one of those purchase that just makes sense.
Long term durability will be the next real test of this jacket – and by that I mean of the material itself – but given that the material is 1.42 oz/sqyd cuben fiber I highly suspect I will have any durability issues at all. The vast majority of gear that I have used for the last two hiking seasons have been 12-denier rip-stop Ballistic Airlight nylon for my pants and 7-denier rip-stop Ballistic Airlight nylon for my wind jacket and .74 oz/sqyd cuben fiber for my previous rain jacket, and given that I am not an abusive person when it comes to my gear – and I do not know of anybody who is a SUL/XUL hiker that is abusive to their gear – it stands to reason that if I am able to be out there hiking with 12d and 7d and 0.74 material, I should have very little to worry with a 1.42/sqyd cuben fiber material when it comes to durability issues. That said, the real test will come when the blackberry bushes start growing again later this year – those things I just hate, because they just so love to catch and try to rip to shreds SUL/XUL hiking gear.
I would really encourage you to check out the video I have posted below to see what this jacket looks like up-close and towards the end of the video I break out my tape measure to provide measurements, and than I put it on and show it off a little bit. As I get a chance in the future to encounter rain/snow and have a camera around I will continue to provide updates on this jacket and how it is performing.
You can find the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket online at: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml
John B. Abela
Follow-Up Article About This Jacket: http://hikelighter.com/2012/03/03/zpacks-waterproof-breathable-cuben-fiber-rain-jacket-update-1/
(disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money. It was not provided to me for review, t&e or any other reason, I actually did buy it. ZPacks is not one of my hiking sponsors.)