ZPacks Rain Jacket

Hiker, and author John Abela, wearing the ZPacks Rain jacket in the Redwoods of Northern California. On this hike, a sub-24-hour hike, in temperatures in the low 40’s(f) I wore the jacket all day long as a thermal layer to help keep the chill off.

Greetings hikers, adventure racers, alpinists, runners, and all other outdoor enthusiasts.

The time has arrived for me to review the latest version of the ZPacks Rain jacket. If you have not yet read my reviews of the previous generation of this jacket and would like to do so you can read my initial review, my 2-month use review, and my 1-year review.

In July of 2013 the company that makes the fabric that the ZPacks Rain jacket uses made a change to their manufacturing process which resulted in a massive increase of MVTR of the fabric.  I would encourage you to read this article that I wrote on the changes made to the fabric. Suffice to say, the jacket went from a rated 20,000-25,000 g/m2/24hrs range up to a range of 40,000-41,000 g/m2/24hrs. These are based on the JIS L 1099 testing method.

Such a drastic change in breathability of the fabric has changed the way that this jacket performs. It also places this jacket up in the highest rated MVTR of any rain jacket on the market. It would be foolish of anybody to dismiss this jacket as a legitimate rain jacket simply because it has the “cuben fiber” fabric associated with it.

Now I often hear a lot of outdoor folks say “there is no such thing as a breathable jacket“. Let us just be clear here, what they really mean is “when you really start working up a sweat, a rain jacket causes you to sweat more“.

Their statement has nothing to do with whether a fabric is breathable or not – because the fabric of all modern three-layer jackets does breath, it is simply unable to be breathable enough to allow full ventilation so an athlete does not get all clammy inside of their jacket – and yet still be viable as a rain jacket. Regardless of whether they are using a cliché to make a point, they are all correct. No rain jacket on the planet, this one included, will be able to keep you from sweating if you are so active that your body is going to naturally be sweating. And let us remember, this is a good thing. If your peripheral temperature rises and your body starts to try to cool itself via thermoregulation, in order to stave off core body temperature increase, you want that to happen. Let us not sit here and blame the entire rain garment industry for something that the industry itself is not responsible for. In this day and age with the advancement in layering systems, athletes need to learn better use of a layering system and stop blaming the industry or the fabrics being used. I live in one of the rainiest places in the United States and I have tested dozens of jackets, from small name companies to the big name companies, and every single one of them has “failed” (a term used by those unable to agree with what I just wrote). Why? Because in the end a rain jacket, no matter how low or high of a MVTR is eventually going to cause your peripheral temperature to rise when your are under a strenuous situation and your heart starts really bumping the blood throughout your body. So, let us get over all of this issue as a hiking community, or whatever outdoor community you happen to be a part of.

The ZPacks Rain Jacket along with the Black Rock Gear Hat make an amazing combination for mild to cold weather.
The ZPacks Rain Jacket along with the Black Rock Gear Hat make an amazing combination for mild to cold weather hiking without overheating. Underneath the jacket I am wearing a 150 gm Icebreaker t-shirt. Here I am waiting out a rain storm, eating lunch, under a fallen Redwood tree.


The latest version of the ZPacks Rain jacket has all of the features of the previous generation of the rain jacket.

ZPacks advertises the following features for their rain jacket:

The full length zipper is what it is. A zipper. Mine has never failed.

Adjustable elastic waist, cuffs, and hood. The elastic at the cuffs make it really nice to help vent, or warm up, your arms. Same with the waist closure. The elastic at the hood is a pretty serious bit of elastic and really enables you to cinch up the hood really tight if you find yourself face-first into a rain storm, something I have had to do a few times and have been grateful for it.

Stiffened visor. Unquestionably the best visor of any rain jacket I have ever used.

Additional pit zips. The more I hike in the rain the more I want my rain jackets to have pit zips. 11 grams of weight is a small penalty for the ability to help your body maintain thermoregulation. I cannot see any reason for not adding them to every rain jacket.

Bonded seams. Not really sure I have ever encountered a three-layer rain jacket that was not bonded.

Two features that a lot of other rain jackets have that this jacket does not – and for which I personally am in agreement in and happy it does not have:

The first is a huge front chest pocket. I just do not get these. I have had jackets and outer layer garments that had these front chest pockets and I honestly cannot remember a time when I thought to myself, “oh, now this pocket here where my backpack chest-strap is would be a perfect spot for… whatever”. As a hiker, chest pockets add weight, add an additional layer between the outside air and my layering system, and typically have a zipper that causes rubbing because of my backpacks chest strap. Maybe for skiing, maybe for rock climbing, they are sweet to have, but as a backpacker, I like the fact that ZPacks does not have a chest pocket.

The second feature I am glad ZPacks does not add to their rain jacket is a hood helmet strap. Again, like above, I very much understand how this feature could be useful in the rock/ice climbing world. However I am really grateful that ZPacks does not have this feature because I have often slept in my ZPacks Rain Jacket and having extra things on the back of my hood just causes my head to have to deal with it all night (pressing against me, catching my pillow, catching my sleeping bag, etc).

Three features that would be nice to see in a future version would be: having an extended amount of fabric in the back for sitting down on snow, having extra long arms, and having thumb-loop holes. This latter feature would be really awesome, as I have become a huge fan of garments with thumb loop holes. At the very least it would be nice to see ZPacks offer these as available options on their website.

Pricing / Value:

Amazing. $250 dollars is a really sweet price-point for a three-layer jacket, size large, with pit zips, and that has one of the highest, if not the highest, MVTR of any three-layer rain jacket on the market.

Read the section entitled “Thoughts On Pricing” within my previous article for what I really think when it comes to pricing of three-layer jackets.

Allow me to pull a quote from my original review of this jacket:

Over 90% of hikers do not hike even 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 than 3000+ miles a year or have 10,000+ miles of hiking, the vast majority of them that I have talked with have used their rain jackets for under 200 miles of hiking.

Something that I often tell folks who contact me about wearing rain jackets is this: Are you really going to be wearing your rain jacket for that many miles? Stop and think about that.

If you are going to be carrying a rain jacket and it is going to be dead-weight for 90%+ of your hiking, why not go with the lightest three-layer rain jacket in the world. The price to value of the ZPacks Rain Jacket speaks for itself.

Somewhere along the Eel river of Northern California.
Somewhere along the Eel river of Northern California. This was day one of a two day hike where the rain almost never stopped. After about 20 minutes of no rain, I decided to setup the monopod and take a photograph, as this was a really beautiful valley.


I have hundreds of miles of hiking in my previous generation of this jacket. I have over a hundred miles of hiking in the latest generation of this jacket.

My new jacket is holding up amazingly well and is not suffering the discolouration as quickly as the previous generation of fabric.

The jacket is made of 1.4 ounce per square yard fabric. This makes it one-third the weight of other three-layer jackets, yet just as tough because it too uses two layers of eVENT (like jackets from Rab, Arcteryx , etc) and the single layer of high strength Dyneema.

Three layer jackets exist to give you the durability, yet comfort, that a two layer, or a 2.5 layer, jacket cannot provide. The is no reason to question the durability of the ZPacks Rain jacket over any other three-layer sub 10 ounce rain jacket on the market.


Taking into account the final paragraph of my opening to this article, what really matters in the end is performance vs weight vs intended uses. So for those readers that are simply wanting to know my thoughts on whether or not this new version of the jacket is any ‘better‘ than the previous version of the jacket, when it comes to breathability, below are my thoughts.

So, how does this new generation of the fabric compare to the previous version?

I would say: “a noticeable difference”.

From a simple “I use it a lot so I know the garment” perspective, I can honestly say that I have noticed a major difference in the newer fabric when it comes to not getting clammy. I often find myself wearing it all day long because it has been able to handle things better. I should preface that statement with the knowledge that the weather conditions that I have used/worn the jacket have all been below 60(f) / 15.5(c). As I have said so many times before, the only real reason for wearing rain gear (be it pants or jacket) is to help with thermoregulation in mild to cold temperatures. If it is over 60(f)/15.5(c) there realistically is no reason to be putting on a rain jacket. Don’t be afraid of the rain, you won’t melt. Enjoy it. Since I acquired the latest generation of this rain jacket I have used it in the Redwoods, and for 14 days of hiking on the beach where it pretty much never came off. I used it while hiking part of the California Coastal Trail and it proved to be excellent at helping to deflect the sun while hiking on the beach for two weeks. A few times I found the need to unzip the front and the pitzips, but for most of the two weeks hiking along and near the beach it stayed on and stayed zipped up – I used it as part of my layering system (3rd layer.)

Final Thoughts:

So all of the above said, what do I really think about this latest version of the ZPacks Rain jacket?

I think if you already own the last generation and you are not all that active of a hiker/athlete in the rain, save spending any more money and keep the one you have until you really need a rain jacket.

I think if you already own the last generation and you hike a lot in the rain, sell your old version (folks at BPL are still getting good money for the last generation) and buy one of these new generation with the higher MVTR.

I think if you are out there with some 10+ ounce rain jacket you owe it to yourself to spend $250 bucks and buy this jacket. HikeLighter.Com is, after all, a website about SUL/XUL hiking – and a 10oz rain jacket has no place therein. But beyond just that, the performance to value to price of this jacket just makes it a no-brainer… go buy it.

If you are planning a thru-hike, or any long distance hike, next year you should absolutely be buying the ZPacks Rain jacket. Consider it one of the lightest multi-purpose pieces of gear that you will be buying and using.

What Others Have To Say:

Jason B – http://jwboutdoors.com/zpacks-waterproof-breathable-cuben-fiber-rain-jacket/

Where To Buy:

Exclusively at ZPacks: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml

Thank you,
+John Abela

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Ultimate Direction, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.

Deep in the woods of the Redwood forest of Northern California.
Deep in the woods of the Redwood forest of Northern California.

22 thoughts on “ZPacks Rain Jacket

  1. Thanks for the update. How do you store it when you do take it off? In a stuffsac or does it pack into itself?

  2. Since I’m in the market for a new rain jacket, your article gave me a few really good points to ponder. I appreciate the details, the reminders of managing expectations, and evaluating time spent hiking in the rain.

    I’ve had a Patagonia jacket for many years and been quite happy with it’s breathability, and have never found myself sweaty even without pit zips, although it does have mesh pockets that when unzipped provide extra circulation. I have used this as my all purpose jacket, for day hiking, snowshoeing, and on the rare occasion I expected rain on a backpacking trip,but it is definitely above the 10oz limit and really unacceptable to carry. Looks to me like it’s time to consider specialty jackets . . . . hmmmm . . . it really is too bad I’m a gear junky, I see more dollar signs in the my future!

    I’m adding a link to this posting to my blog, I think it is very timely after hearing about how many from the PCT Class of 2013 found their rain gear inadequate for Washington conditions.

    1. Great to hear BeeKeeper.

      Yeah it was/has-been a wet season up North.

      $230-250 in order to save 5 ounces is not always something I advice, however when it comes to a rain jacket, I tend to think they are an important part of a hikers layering system – so to me the money is worth it – and saving 5+ ounces from having to be carried for 2700 miles is always a nice thing.

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

      1. As a major-supporter of Z-Packs gear, I bought their poncho to do double-duty as rain-protection and a ground cloth in the Zero+ tent until I encountered a day I made camp and it was raining. I bought the SkyscapeX (based largely on your recommendation) and used it in south-central Utah this last month with great satisfaction. But the poncho (unused in Utah due to dry conditions) continues to be my raingear of choice. JD

  3. John, thanks for the write up. I was just about to ask BPL if anyone had any info on the breathability of the new jacket. 40k is pretty incredible but it sounds like the claim may be at least close to correct.
    Although I travel around some, the majority of my hiking is in the southern appalachias. We have not only rain, but also heat and humidity. Would you agree its probably a pretty good choice for me?
    Also, does this fabric have to rely on a dwr treatment at all?

    1. Hey Huckleberry,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

      Yes, a 40k mark is amazingly impressive, especially for a three-layer jacket where the water has to make it through an extra layer of fabric.

      I would tend to say that you should be good-to-go with this jacket in your situations/conditions. I have read a number of reviews from hikers in the SW using the previous generation during the day as a sun protection, with the pit zips unzipped and the front as well.

  4. Here, here!! That paragraph on the realities of rain jackets and moisture is so true! I get so frustrated at reviews and evaluation of gear that expect unrealistic results.

    I like my rain jacket that has no pit zips, but I’m hiking in the SW and think it would be different in a wetter, more humid place. Mostly I didn’t like pit zips on traditional jackets because they hurt my arms and side, but from the looks of things I think the zipper pull on the Zpacks jacket might avoid that issue. I am happy to see a jacket without pockets. That big chest pocket is so useless, it’s up there with the arm side pocket which is usually ill sized for anything useful at all. I only wish I needed a jacket like this one and had the money for it. My current jacket is only 2.5 ounces more than the Zpacks jacket and not worth the $250 given my likelihood of actually encountering rain.

    Great review! I will be considering this jacket when I do need a new one!

    1. Hey Joslyn,

      Hope my intro mini-rant was not over the top. Almost removed it all together, but decided to keep it in… after removing some more ranting ;)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  5. I’m 5′ 11″ (1.75m) and weigh 220lbs (100kg) 44inch chest. The largest size Z packs sell (XL) is a ‘good’ fit when I don’t have any insulation on underneath, the L size was tight across my chest, and the legs were a bit short on the L size. You might want to think about checking for size before ordering, This jacket is so comfortable it can be worn around ‘camp’ in the rain or as a wind shirt. Only thing is, in these situations you would ideally like the option of being able to put on some down underneath it – just a thought. As Joe Voleski remarks on his website it can be worn under your insulation (over your base layer) in bed as a sort of vapour barrier in humid conditions. Your base layer could get a bit stinky after a few days though!

    1. Hey Andy, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with this jacket!

      Yeah, like any garment always wise to size-up if you plan to use it over base layers.

      I have found this jacket to be a pretty good wind jacket, but I still think the 50 grams for the Montbell Tachyon wind jacket is totally worth the weight and bulk space for a dedicated wind jacket.

      I have spent many a night wearing the previous generation of this rain jacket, and the higher MVTR of this new generation just makes it soooo much nicer if there is warm weather fluctuation at night.

      Thanks again Andy, well said and agree with everything you wrote.

      1. Are you wearing a short sleeve tee under this? How is the feel of it on direct skin on the forearms? How does the feel compare to event 2.5l dvl or gotetex paclite?

        1. Hey Michael, in the second photo it states “Underneath the jacket I am wearing a 150 gm Icebreaker t-shirt” – so yes, at times I simply throw the jacket on over whatever base layer t-shirt I happen to be wearing. The WPB/eVENT/CF is rather silky like to the feel. I think most folks that try to compare what it feels likes end up using the term “silky like”. I am unable to offer any experience differences in comparison to this jacket with regards to the gore tex paclite or any 2.5 layer rain jacket.

  6. John,

    Nice write up. And I think the rant was needed. It’s not like a rain jacket will breath like a poly t-shirt or something. Since I went on over to the Zpacks website, I also discovered that there is a new tent to look at! -Keep up the good work John.

  7. I agree with your review 100%. I have this latest incarnation of the ZPacks rain jacket, as well as two other eVent fabric rain jackets, and numerous others before them of various makes and models (non-eVent). For me, eVent has been the best, and this ZPacks jacket the best of the best so far, considering all the factors. It also doesn’t hurt that ZPacks is great to deal with, and I have been very happy with the quality of all the purchases I’ve made from them.

  8. Hi. Any love for the rain pants? If not, what do you use? Do you see yourself buying one of the zpacks wind shirt/jackets even though you have the rain jacket?

    Do you use a bag liner? I notice in the photo you don’t use a pack cover. Thank you

    1. Hello, I have owned rain pants in the past, but I just never used them.

      As for the zpacks wind shirt, probably not – this is why.

      Bag liner. Yes, the ones from litetrail, but no idea if they are still available, heard they were going out of business. And you are correct, no pack cover… protect what is inside the pack, inside the pack.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Funny, but to me the most important part of a rain jacket is how well it does in the rain. I live in the Pacific Northwet and hike monthly with the scouts. I want to stay dry and lighten my pack.

    Does this nylon outer layer wet out, ever? If so it’s not for me. My $60 rubberized knockoff is perfect for wet weather, but 14 oz. I hope this works for me. I need a bullet proof waterproof jacket. Thoughts on what this is intended for? DWR is a joke. Thanks for the research!

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