Posts Tagged ‘rain jacket’
Introduced to the mass public at the ISPO 2015/16, the Inov-8 ‘Race Ultra Shell HZ’ instantly become a ‘must have’ piece of gear for a whole lot of folks around the world. Initially, and still to some degree, the ability to acquire this shell was/is rather difficult, both in Europe and here in the USA.
One of my readers, who lives in Alaska, was able to acquired one from a store in Europe. After using and not finding it to work out for him, he contacted me and asked if I would like to have it, to which I said yes and a week or so later it showed up at my house — so many thanks to him!
Before I talk about how this shell performs, I think it is important to really address what this shell was designed for. More so than many other pieces of gear I have used over the years this shell has proven itself to me, and others that have reviewed it, to have a rather narrow POU (Purpose of Use) and in many ways, the POU that Inov0-8 seems to have designed this shell for is not where it seems to be performing all that well at. But that is far from saying it does not excel at other POU’s, or in different climates, because it surely does.
ZPacks Rain Jacket, Challenger Version:
In mid 2014 ZPacks updated their rain jacket to use a new combination of fabrics: a layer of eVent on the inside, a layer of spectra (CF) in the middle, and a layer of nylon on the outside.
I have written more about this jacket than anybody else so I have gotten a lot of people asking me thoughts about this new version, called the “Challenger“. If you want a lot of backstory on this rain jacket you can read my original post, my thoughts after using it for a few months, my thoughts after using it for over a year, my full review of the last version, and my post going into detail of the fabric being used.
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“.
The topic today is the “waterproof breathable fabric” from Cuben Tech Corp.
The issue: that they have been using GE eVENT in their WP/B material.
Yes, that’s right… Cuben Tech Corp has been using eVENT inside of their breathable cuben fiber/laminate.
When I first learned about this information I have to say that I simply did not believe it. I thought the individual who told me about this was joking around with me. I quickly came to realize that my leg was not being pulled and I think my response was along the lines of “wow“. I sat stunned in my chair and it probably took me a good ten minutes to respond back to the person with that one-word response.
Why Is This Important, My Personal Thoughts:
This knowledge is important for a few reasons, and far more reasons than just what I plan to address today.
I believe this is an issue worth writing about, and the hiking community as a whole discussing, because for far too long there have been a lot of haters of the material that Cuben Tech produces. For some of these haters I believe they have total justification for having the opinions that they have, but for the vast majority of the ‘haters’ of the cuben fiber material it has all just been a bunch of puff and smoke with no real substance. It is not my goal here to change their minds, I might further validate some of their issues and I might further invalidate their issues, I have no idea and really it does not matter all that much, haters will be haters. But what I hope to do is to point out some facts that those of us who care a great deal about the gear we use, is that often times it seems that we, the end-users of gear, tend to be left in the dark about things and that sometimes can do more harm than it can do good.
It was a little over 14 months ago when I wrote my first review of the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket (allow me to just abbreviate that as “ZPWPBCF” from here out) and it continues to be one of the most asked about pieces of gear that I own. A few months later I proceeded to write a follow-up article on the jacket that helped to address some of the more popular questions that I received about the jacket. Over the last year I have continued to carry and use the jacket out on the trail and at home when it is raining – which is quite often here in the Redwood rainforest of Northern California.
Since my initial purchase of the ZPWPBCF rain jacket I placed an order for a second jacket with longer arms and a shoulder pocket to hold my wallet when I am in a trail town and all of my cloths are being washed. It has proven to be very useful both out on the trail and in-town, and my thanks go out to ZPacks for their continued efforts put forth to make custom modifications to gear that they sale.
All of us as hikers seek different features in our gear, but when it comes to a rain jacket the end result is whether or not it keeps us dry. There are of course two factors regarding this: external moisture (rain/snow/etc) and internal moisture (thermoregulation) and usually one of those does not come about without the other trying to mess things up. It is an important part of learning to be a hiker is to learn how to properly manage and control your thermoregulation – failure to do so can result in a lot of unnecessary suffering on your part. For example: sometimes when it is raining and very cold, you are better off removing a layer or two of mid-layer base clothing when wearing a rain jacket to prevent overheating – which can lead to condensation build up on the inside of the jacket.
In this article I am going to try to summarize the questions I have received over the last year regarding the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket.
This is an update to my previous article about the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket, which I really recommend you read if you are at all interested in what is possibly the lightest cuben fiber rain jacket on the market.
As I promised within that article I would provide updates on this jacket as I get some usage of the jacket. I have now reached the 25 hour mark of wearing the jacket in the rain, and have nearly 40 hours of total wear time with this jacket. I believe it is safe to say that this is more than enough time spent wearing this jacket to provide a solid initial update article on this jacket.
I have been able to use the jacket on the trail, around my house, and while out doing business around town. It may not be the biggest fashion statement around town, but what SUL/XUL hiker cares about fashion – none that I know. It has performed flawlessly.
Keeping Things In Perspective:
In a comment I made in the original article I made this statement:
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.
So with this in mind we need to ask ourselves, is the weight of a 10+ ounces rain jacket really worth carrying? I say no. If I can hike any of the long distance trails in the USA and typically encounter less than 20 days of rain, why would I carry twice the amount of dead weight when I need too. For me, being able to save 5 ounces off a largely dead-weight item such as a rain jacket is an amazingly exciting aspect.
It is no secrete that this latest edition of the waterproof breathable cuben fiber is not the most breathable material out there. I will be first in line to say such (though I know a lot of other folks that would like to get in line ahead of me, because they just enjoy trash talking cuben fiber) and have never made the statement that this new WPBCF is the end-all of breathable material, it is not.
However I can say for a fact that this WPBCF is pretty amazing. I have used it in hail, in snow, in the rain, in my sleeping bag, as a thermal barrier, and sometimes just as a jacket to slip on when I am going out the door. I have used it while hiking with a backpack on as well, obviously. I have tried to use it in every aspect of my life as I can since I purchased it.
Not a single time have I thought to myself “man, this jacket sucks!”. Not a single time.
As a SUL/XUL hiker I carry very little gear, so the gear that I do carry has to be amazingly reliable. The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket has now officially made it into my backpack as an “always in my backpack item”. Yes, it is even in my sub-2-pounds summer gear setup!
How Does It Perform As A Wind Jacket?
This is the most popular question I have received about this jacket. While I did mention in my previous article that “I will no longer be taking” my wind jacket, I did not expect to get the kind of feedback about how this jacket performs as a wind jacket as what I have gotten.
Let us just look at this from a pure number perspective. The wind jacket I have been using the last few seasons is the MontBell Tachyon Anorak wind jacket which I really do love, though it is almost impossible to find for sale anymore. This wind jacket is made of 7-denier nylon. The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket is made of 1.42 oz/sqyd cuben fiber. No matter what way you look at it, the 1.42 oz/sqyd cuben fiber is thicker than the 7-denier nylon material of the MontBell wind jacket. So from a material thickness perspective, the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket is a better wind jacket. Breathablity does not equate to the ability for wind to blow through it.
The ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket is also much less nosy than any other wind jacket I have owned and/or used. A couple years ago I had a wind jacket that was so loud I just could not stand using it. The WPBCF makes pretty much no flapping noise in even the strongest of wind that I have encountered.
So as I move into the 2012 hiking season the most awesome MontBell Tachyon Anorak wind jacket is going to be staying at home and the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket will for-sure be making it into the very top of my backpack for those times when I just want to put on a clothing item to help with some cold wind.
discolouration – the act of changing the natural color of something by making it duller or dingier or unnatural or faded
Within this photograph (click it to view a much larger image) you can see some discolouration that has occurred to the jacket. The white is slowing fading off in those places where it receives the most rubbing against my backpack, sleeping bag, and chair when I am wearing it around the house.
When I first noticed it I was a bit perplexed. I have read accounts of non white and non black cuben fiber rubbing off some of its colors, but I had never read any account of white cuben fiber having discolouration issues.
So I put out an email to a half-dozen guys I know that are developing products using this WPBCF material to see if any of them had encountered this issue. A few of them were able to confirm that this WPBCF does tend to have some discolouration issues. I keep meaning to ask two of the guys I know with a Water Penetration Tester (Hydrostatic Pressure Tester) to see if they would be willing to do tests on the jacket to see if the jacket is loosing any ability to repeal water, but it has been winter season and I have needed my jacket, so maybe come June or July I will see if they would be willing to test it. If they are willing and if I do have them test it I will be sure to provide any results that I get back from them.
I performed a standard water puddle test and the jacket did not have any seepage anywhere – be in in the middle of the hood where it is bright white, or the middle of the back where all the white has fadded off. I allowed the water to sit in a puddle for over 10 hours. That is more than good enough for me.
So I mention all of this just so other hikers who might have already bought this jacket, or those looking to buy it, are aware of this discolouration. In no way does it appear to be effecting the performance of the jacket.
A few days ago I emailed ZPacks and let them know that I was going to be writing a follow-up review of the jacket and asked if they had made any changes or updates to the jacket. (this is something I feel every reputable outdoor gear reviewer should do).
The next day the owner of ZPacks emailed me back and indicated the following:
I made one little update- I saw in your video it was a little tricky for you to cinch the wrist elastic. I added a second non-stretchy cord through the wrist that holds the cord lock in place. That way you can pull the elastic with just one hand. The same way as on my mitts.
Putting aside the fact that it is unbelievably awesome that a company is willing to update their product based on a video review of one of their products, I can say that this is really the only thing that was bothering me with the jacket. Not so much that I will be sending mine back – it really is not an issue at all – but just stop and think about that folks, a minor issue such as this and the company updated their product based on seeing the problem from a youtube video. Huge props to ZPacks for being so on-top of trying to make the best gear available. I never once mentioned to ZPacks or anybody else this minor annoyance.
Being somebody who does not like to carry single-use-items in my backpack (though I regrettably have a few), I have made it a goal of mine to try to find as many different uses for this jacket as I can.
Here is a list of other uses that I have used the jacket for – just let me be clear here though: I am not somebody who abuses their gear. I have only had a single piece of gear fail on me in the last three seasons of hiking. I treat my gear with the utmost care – you just have to when you are a SUL/XUL hiker.
Quasi-blanket. Over this winter season I have been trying out different winter season gear setups. One of the setups I have been trying is going without a sleeping bag. I purchased a pair of crazy warm down pants from GooseFeet and than using my MontBell down jacket, my ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava, Black Rock Gear Gloves and Hadron Hat, and Feathered Friends Down Booties. At one point the wind started blowing some really cold wind so I grabbed my ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket and put it over my shoulders to help control my core-temperature. It worked very well at blocking the wind and helping to reduce the shiver I felt coming on because my down jacket was not lofty enough for the temperatures – the cold wind caused a 16-degree temperature dip in the span of 20 minutes.
Food Prep. Sometimes when it comes time to prep your food it is nice to be able to put down something on the ground. I use to use my wind jacket, but this jacket works a lot better as it has a zipper and thus is larger, plus the white color makes finding those random mouse-size pieces of food I dropped – hey, calories count, grin.
Wind Jacket. I already address this issue above, but felt I should mention it here again. The jacket has thus-far proven to be very good at being a wind jacket.
A-Frame shelter door. When the weather has been nice I have gone out with my 0.34 cuben fiber tarp to continue long-term durability testing with it. Once a bit of light rain and horizontal wind came up so I threw my jacket up as a door/beak to help block the rain from coming into the shelter. It was not big enough to cover the entire entrance, but big enough to block enough rain that it was worth putting up. I might attach a small tie-out loop on the bottom of the jacket to help with staking it out better as a beak.
Future Article Updates:
As I mentioned above, I now have 25 hours of using the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket in the rain and nearly 40 hours of wearing the jacket when it has not been raining. It has performed without a single failure.
I will probably not be writing up another update for the rest of the 2012 hiking season, as once the main hiking season comes around I am on the trail to much to invest the two or three hours it takes to write these updates.
Should the jacket fail in some way, I will first notify ZPacks and from there decide what and how to share any details of the failure.
I just do not see how the jacket could have any failure if it is not directly related to user-abuse of some type. If after 25 hours of rain the jacket has not leaked, it seems safe to say that the material has proven itself.
I highly recommend the ZPacks Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket if you are looking to have the lightest breathable rain jacket that is presently on the market (at least that I know of). Only you can decide if it is worth the money, but given the fact that my last rain jacket was 10.2 ounces and this jacket from ZPacks is 4.6 ounces, as a SUL/XUL hiker, the extra money spent on this jacket was well worth it – I have spent far more money trying to save 5.6 ounces from my overall base pack weight.
(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.)
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.