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!
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.