ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket

Author wearing the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket in the Redwoods of Northern California. Photo credit: Brian Doyle

Greetings hikers,

Today I want to share with everybody my thoughts of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, which at this time is the worlds lightest three layer rain jacket and produced exclusively by ZPacks LLC.

This is a 127 gram rain jacket made of waterproof breathable cuben fiber, which has a fitted hood, full length waterproof front zipper, elastic adjustments on the waist, wrists and hood, is fully tape bonded, and compresses down into a small size stuff sack.


Follow-Up Articles About This Jacket:

ZPacks Rain Jacket – 2013 review (using the new 2013 fabric)

ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber / eVENT Rain Jacket – This is a very important article to read that talks about the latest generation of the ZPacks rain jacket!

ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, 1 Year Update

ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, 2 Month Update


Jacket Performance:

The ZPacks website states that the jacket is “breathable enough to sleep” and I will admit I put them to the test on that. I have spent many nights inside of my sleeping bag sleeping with the jacket on. I wake 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. The first time I fully expected I would wake up part of the way through the night all soaking wet, but this material actually did its job at breathing while wearing it and sleeping. 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 (and has been) sold, and the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket is the only rain jacket I that makes it into my backpack.

The purchase of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket was not an easy one. It might seem like an expensive piece of clothing (as most top end clothing it) and it uses a material that few have been able to really put to the test to see if its claimings actually works. I can now say without a doubt that this material has proven itself to me (postscript: even after a year of using it.)

The ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket has shown in the June 2013 TGO magazine.
The ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket has shown in the June 2013 TGO magazine.

Jacket Weight:

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:

  1. First, it has the ability to be the finest rain jacket I have ever put on.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Fourth, because of the fact that it breathes so well I have the option to no longer take a wind jacket – 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.


Jacket Durability:

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.

(one year update) After more than a year of wearing and using this jacket I have found the material to be extremely durable. I have had zero issues with the material ripping, stretching, or have any damage to it. The seams and all the sewing have held strong.


Jacket Breathability:

All of us have different reasons for choosing a rain jacket. Some hikers rarely need a rain jacket and as a result a rain jacket is mostly dead-weight. Other hikers need a rain jacket on a near daily basis and that makes having a solid rain jacket important. Other hikers live in areas where it rarely stops raining and so they need a rain jacket that will perform at the highest levels of both breathablity and waterproofness.

I make the following statement about breathablity within my ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, 1 Year Update and thought it was important to include/update it within this primary review:

It is no secrete that the breathability of the waterproof breathable cuben fiber is not all that spectacular. We hikers who choose to buy this rain jacket are not buying it for its crazy high breathability, we are buying it because we are skilled enough to control our own thermoregulation, and because a rain jacket is mostly dead weight, so having the lightest three layer rain jacket on the market just makes sense to help reduce the long haul dead weight of a rain jacket. At 127 grams (4.5 ounces) for the regular size jacket, it dominates the market for a three layer jacket when it comes to the scale and its effect on your total backpack weight.

Independent tests have shown that the breathability of the WPB Cuben Fiber is 8,000 g/m2/24hrs.

To give you an idea of that number I did a bit of comparison and came up with this:

Some of the recent Toray Dermizax NX garments are in the 35,000 to 40,000 range.

Some of the recent Gore-Tex Pro-Shell garments are in the 24,000 to 25,000 range.

Some of the recent Marmot MemBrain garments are also in the 24,000 to 25,000 range.

Some of the recent eVENT garments are in the 22,000 to 23,000 range.

What it really does come down too is are you willing to sacrifice breathability for dead weight? While the Cuben Tech WPB CF may not be the most breathable material on the market today, it does continue to hold and dominate the market for being the lightest weight three layer material being used for rain jackets.


Final Thoughts:

My thoughts on this jacket are simple: If you are a SUL/XUL hiker looking for the lightest viable rain jacket that has some level of breathablity, the  ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket should be at the top of your list. Same goes for if you are an adventure racer. If you live in a region where there is non-stop rain you need to consider whether you are able to control your own thermoregulation or if you need help from a high level breathable jacket to help you do so – at the expense of double or triple the weight. As somebody who lives in a rain forest, I highly recommend if you do as well, to order yours with pit-zips to help with some air circulation – an additional 11 grams is a small weight penalty for the advantage of having the ability to offset the low breathability of the material to help you maintain a constant peripheral temperature.


Where To Buy:

You can find the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket online at: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml

+John Abela

Updated: May 30, 2013. Added breathability and durability sections. added tgo image. made slight textual changes. added links to follow-up articles. updated disclaimer.

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket mentioned within the content of this article was not supplied to me in exchange for services.
As of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Gossamer Gear, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.

32 thoughts on “ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket

    1. Hey JP, thanks for letting me know. I took a look at the numbers and sure enough I messed things up. I rewrote the article to fix the numbers and change the overall outlook of the chance to using this jacket! Made the switch even sweeter!

  1. Nice video…I also have one – with the pit zips and extra length, to go with their rain chaps. Haven’t put it to an outdoor test yet!

    1. Hey Raul,

      Its been holding up really well. I got a few more miles on it now and wear it around town a lot, slept in it a few more times, and use it around the house as just an extra layer of clothing.

      I just noticed yesterday that the white color is starting to fade away on the very back of it (probably from sleeping/sitting with it on) and I need to contact Cuben Tech to see if this is just something that happens to the white material or if it is a deterioration of the material. I remember reading that some of the black CF that is out there right now has been fading, so I suspect its just that. I am going to do a water puddle test on it later today as well and see if it leaks. In the end I think its just color fading, but give me another day to do some testings on this and see if its a fault with the material itself or just color fading. I will add a reply to this comment once I have finished the water puddle test and if I heard back from Cuben Tech.

      1. Cool thanks John. Don’t you sleep?! LOL

        I will be eagerly awaiting your testing. I plan on purchasing a few items from Zpacks but the big purchase is the jacket so I’ll wait on the purchase until you can offer more insight from your testing. Plan on using the jacket on my 100 mile hike this late spring/early summer.


        1. Ok after having two different water puddle tests for around 80 minutes, the results are in.

          I placed one puddle of water on the hood where I know it has not gotten any rubbing and it resulted in zero noticeable water leaking through.

          I place the other puddle of water right in the middle of the darkest spot where it has been rubbing a lot and it resulted in zero noticeable water leaking through.

          So based on that alone I conclude that it is simple a matter of the material color rubbing off.

          Here is a photograph of what it looks like, hope you are able to see the difference:


          I have heard back from a few people on this matter and they are all starting to notice the same issue with their WPBCF products (from jackets to gloves to pants and other gear) and nobody that responded indicated that they had water leakage problems.

          So based on that I conclude that it is still simply a matter of the color rubbing off the material.

          I will very much be keeping an eye on this issue in the weeks and months ahead as it gets further usage. At this point I wear it around two hours per day, be it inside the house or outside. Trying to get as much time as I can inside of this jacket to see where its weak points are and so far this minor color fading issue is the only one.

          1. sweet thanks for the update. Being that I get out about 3-4 times a year with an average of 15-20 days a year (significantly less than your testing of this jacket has been) I think my wear and tear will be much less over a longer period of time.

  2. Hi John, great first look on this material. It seems like a strong version of a DriDucks jacket which is just what we needed. I too am curious about the long term durability of the CF. The 1.43oz regular CF is known to breakdown after about 2600 miles according to ZPacks, and for a premium jacket, I’d want to get a lot more than that out of it. Keep us posted. Thanks.

    1. Hey Jhaura,

      The only true long-term durability issues that face the WPBCF is whether or not it remains to be breathable as it builds up residue from being used and comes in contact with other dirty cloths. But eVENT and GorTex face those same issues – so this is not a fault of the CF but rather the nature of having WPB material. Reading through the post over at BPL on this product can give you further insight into this issue, as I and others addressed it in much more detail in that post.

      I really do not have any real answer for how to address/answer the issue that folks claim that CF does not handle “long term durability”. NO material has long term durability if it is not treated correctly. I put less miles on a ULA backpack before its material broke down than what I have on my most used CF backpack. Personally I just do not play that “CF is not durable” game that folks like to play these days. No offense meant by this, I just think that any material of any weight has its limitations, and to many people like to play the “CF is not durable” excuse rather than actually getting out there with it and proving themselves wrong. I have more miles on my original CF backpack than I do on all of my other backpacks that are not CF and it has zero durability issues.

      As for saying “I’d want to get a lot more than that out of it”… only one sentence after “DriDucks is just what we needed”. Huh? You do not really want to start comparing the material of DriDucks verses 1.43 cuben fiber, right? I think I will leave that comment alone from my end ;)

      Over 90% of hikers do not hike a 500 miles a year. Of the remaining 10% less than half of them do over 2000 miles a year. Those rare few in the 1-5% of hikers that do more the vast majority of them that I have talked to have had very very few items that gotten used for 2000+ miles have durability issues, and typically it is socks and shoes, nothing more, and they are the two things we expect to not last that far. As most tripple crowner can testify too, the use of rain gear on the big-three trails is typically less than 2% of the 8000+ miles. You really going to be wearing your *rain jacket* for 2600 miles? Stop and think about that.

      Just to put things in perspective.

  3. Got my jacket and some other Zpacks items over the weekend. Wow really great jacket. Love a lot of the features on it. Will do a review once I get it on the trail the end of march for an overnighter. Plan on using it as a wind breaker/rain jacket. Thanks for the review. OH I have broad shoulders for a medium and this medium fits just fine (in case there are any short stocky guys out in the world)

    1. That is awesome!!!

      I have been holding off doing a follow up review on mine (something I know a lot of people want me to do) because I really want to get some hours logged while wearing it. Think I am up around 18-20 hours so far. Figured I would put together some thoughts around the 25 hour mark and push out an update.

      That is far more than what the average weekend hiker (those who spent less than 20 nights a year on-trail) are likely to encounter in a season, and getting up into the thru-hiker level. I recall back in 2010 a PCT thru-hiker said he encountered less than 100 minutes of rain the entire hike and he stopped only once to stand under a tree for a few minutes. So, safe to say that at the 25 hour mark I probably have more than enough usage to be able to share some solid thoughts for a follow-up post. I look forward to hearing what you have to say within your initial post and see how it falls into line with my own present thoughts on the jacket.

      Without a doubt the most often asked question I am getting about the jacket is whether it can do double-duty as a wind jacket. It makes perfect sense to do that – if the jacket can pull that off better than the montbell tachyon anorak (probably the finest sul/xul wind jacket out there). I will be addressing this in-depth in my review.

      I was rather surprised at the width of the shoulders – and I was very happy about how wide they are! I figured it would be really tight, but thankfully it was not. ZPacks obviously understand that this is a jacket that will at times be used as a 4th or 5th layer jacket and thus need a lot of extra room inside of it for base/mid layers. Ordering mine with extra arm length was also a very smart idea, the more I use it.

      Anyway, thanks for the update and totally look forward to hearing/reading your thoughts on this (to me) beyond awesome jacket!

    1. Hey Rob, I have enjoyed reading your blogs over the last year or so!

      I am not sure what you are asking by “Was that the large size you modeled?”. Could you expand on your question for me please.

      I will just quickly share that I used to own the OR Helium. It was good at keeping me dry from the rain but it performed rather poorly at keeping me dry from body heat condensation. It is what made me seek out a more breathable rain jacket.

      1. Thanks John – what I was trying to judge was should I get the large or medium size? If your video was modelling the large size, this looks really big? I only do 3 season hiking down here (NZ) so it doesn’tt need to fit over a down jacket (I have a Bozeman cocoon). I’m about 5.11 and 32/33 waist. Any ideas?

        1. Howdie from the Redwoods of California! One of these days I have got to get over to NZ and see the Whakarewarewa Forest!!

          Based on looking at your photos over at facebook I would say that the medium should fit you, especially if you do not plan on wearing any puffy jacket under it. I am about the same height as you but sizeably larger around the middle (I claim it is so that I do not have to eat as much my first week on a hike – giggle).

          It also looks like you might have longer arms than the rest of folks out there so it might be a good idea to order yours with extra arm length like I did. It should add less than a tenth of an ounce.

          Also, I am getting ready to publish an ‘update’ article on this jacket as I am getting close to having 25 hours of rain-wear-time, so I fired off an email to zpacks to see if they have made any updates and they have now added a secondary cord through the wrist that holds the cord lock in place, which should solve the issues you might have seen in my video in regards to getting the wrist area to cinch up easier!!

          1. Thanks John – Medium it is. Off next w/e to climb Mt Taranaki. Get your butt down here, you’ll love it. A bit tougher than US trails, but we have a great hut system – check out DOC (Department of Conservation website under tramping).

            I don’t mean this lightly, but any lightweight hiker is most welcome to camp at my place and let me show you some of our wonderful country. I can plan a great trip with you – so when you coming???????

  4. Gee John you just cost me some money…but I get to lose the wind shirt! I hope the Med. size is not too big for a lady. If so, I will pretend it is a poncho. Thanks for testing it for us.

    1. Hey Sandy!

      So you joined the small crowd of zpacks wpbcf rain jacket owners eh!!

      I would love to hear your own thoughts on it and any real life usage reports as you use it!!


      1. I got the medium, fits great! Sleeves are real long but to me that is a plus not a minus. With the elastic and the light weight works great. All other layers fit under and I can move my arms freely. Now I need some solid rain to test the jacket and the seam sealing on the Hexamid I bought myself for Christmas! It all started with buying a couple yards of cuben to make a rain skirt and some stuff sacks, now I am a cuben junkie!

  5. How would you say this jacket performs in relation to the Polartec Neoshell fabric? I’m happy with my Rab jacket re breathability but its a lot heavier… Same old story I guess. So unless heavy rain is forecast I struggle on with a windshirt. I only found this site couple days ago and its addictive reading – thanks!

    1. Hello Mark,

      Thank you for stopping by my website. Hope it has helped in some way.

      I have never used any shell that is made with Polartec Neoshell so I am at a disadvantage to be able to say how well it does, because I have never researched it to know. If memory serves me right, Polartec takes a slightly different approach to the issue of breathability and in many ways dismisses tests like the MVTR test, saying that after a certain level, it really just does not matter any more. All of that is science way out of my skill knowledge, so I just have no idea how Polartec approaches things.

      I think the only thing I own with Polartec fabric is a Polar BUFF (which has Polartec fleece on it).

      Sorry I cannot share any knowledge on this one… I would if I had any.

      If you do not want to spend the money for a good hard-shell and do not have a crazy amount of wind/rain, a really nice windjacket and a top end umbrella is always a good way to solve things :) I did that for a few years before I got my first zpacks rain jacket.

      1. Yes – the Neoshell fabric is ‘only’ 99.9% windproof so you get a little more airflow. This works fine for me – of course when working hard I sweat. I’m doing mostly long day hikes so don’t go if constant heavy rain is forecast – but wind and showers are a given in the North Wales hills anytime. If often thought about an umbrella but not sure how it would work in the wind.

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