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 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.
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.)
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:
Where To Buy:
Exclusively at ZPacks: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml
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.