Ultralight Rain Jackets:

I am looking around for a new rain jacket of both of us. People’s raincoats often weigh as much as 500 grams. Try weighing yours. So there is nearly a day’s worth of food (weight) to be saved in exploring a change to this item alone.

For many years I hunted deer in winter in the Victorian mountains carrying only a bum-bag or one of those poacher’s vests to keep all my gear down to a minimum. If it was not raining when I started out so that I was wearing my raincoat (which I would tie around my waist – as you do) if it stopped, all I ever carried was one of those 50 gram emergency ponchos (orange is a good colour in case you need to be found!). Often it rained all day. Admittedly I shredded them completely in the rough bush, but they even then they did keep me substantially dry. If you are track walking only, (and are careful with them – and have a bit of emergency repair tape besides) you can keep one going for several days. The best part is they cost only $1-3! You would be even better carrying one of Coghlans Emergency Survival Ponchos (mylar) at 88 grams and approx $10 as they will also keep you warm – even overnight in an emergency.

PS: Waterproofness and Breathability: I doubt very much of a raincoat ever needs to be over 1500mm of waterproofness. What this means ois that the fabric will support a column of water 1500mmm height (That’s 5’ in English!) before it begins to leak. Unless you are planning to use your raincoat as a boat, that will be quite enough. I doubt it can ver rain hard enough to exceed the weight of 5’ of water pressing onto it. Mind you, where there is also other pressure (eg your shoulder straps, that will have to be added to the waterproofness, so maybe, just maybe. Most every raincoat is over 10,000mmm of waterproofness, so I think you can probably ignore any figure over this. They will all keep out the rain!

As to breathability. I admit I was awestruck when Goretex first came along and wasted lots of good money on their rain jackets. I never found they were any better than my old oiled or waxed japaras. Under the right (or wrong) conditions of humidity you would get soaked to the skin in either! I have thought Event was a little better, but I have since been utterly drenched in that too – so I don’t know. A girl reviewing the Arcteyx below claims utterly superior breathability – perhaps I need to try that out!

We have a number of reasonably lightweight raincoats, some of which have done us sterling service in pretty wet places like Fiordland or Southern Tasmania, for example. Sometimes though, you can not like the feel or fit of a particular coat without finding any other fault with it. It is probably much like shoes and handbags (or cats as Lewis Carroll used to say): you just can’t have too many of them. Naturally though, the lighter the fabric the less durable the jacket will be in rough going. If you are going to be doing a lot of bush-bashing over the life of your jacket you should not choose an ultralight raincoat. We would mainly be buying a new ultralight jacket as a weight saving to have in our packs on multi-day hikes when we were not expecting it to rain.

Naturally I would want a raincoat Mens Size (eg Large) which is at least under 200 grams and preferably under 150, and one in Womens Size (eg Small) for Della which is under 150 and preferably under 120. Available colour can be a problem for some people. For example, I have a white raincoat, which is fine except I want it to be green. Probably neither of us wants to own another blue one – and so on. Price can also be an important factor. I have been looking at some possible choices:

Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket 176 grams (Mens Medium) US$299 http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/wpb_jacket.shtml  The white raincoat I have is one of Joe’s. I accidentally ordered it in the wrong lengths (sleeves and coat) so that it doesn’t quite suit me, though it keeps me quite dry enough (and weighs under 150 grams in Men’s Large). This (white) material is his old material which is clearly lighter than his new one. I personally don’t like the ‘sticky’ feel of it, though there is nothing wrong with it. I dislike running my fingernails over felt too, but I can’t explain why. We both have rain pants in his new fabric and they feel fine and work excellently.  You may want something cheaper though…

Montane Minimus 230 grams (Mens) grams: https://www.montane.co.uk/mens-c1/minimus-jacket-p57  Della has a Montane jacket in Event which she just loves. This one would be a lightweight replacement for it. They used to make a jacket known as the H2O which would have been even lighter (around 150 grams) but it is no longer available. I am seeing this jacket from around A$170 which is pretty good value for a well-made product.

Montbell Versalite Jacket. I really like this one in Green, my favourite colour! We have lots of Montbell products which are lightweight and very functional, so this one has to be a likely candidate for me. It is good value for money from a well-known brand: https://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?cat_id=25013&p_id=2328167&gen_cd=2 189 grams (Mens M)  A$189


Outdoor Research Helium 2 182 grams US$159.99 https://www.rei.com/product/846522/outdoor-research-helium-ii-rain-jacket-mens

Arcteryx Norvan: This Arcteryx jacket has to be worthy of consideration. This lady has given it an impressive review here. https://www.switchbacktravel.com/reviews/arcteryx-norvan-sl-hoody  $299 (215 grams in Mens large – 100grams (XS Womens?) US$299

Lukes Micro 10 Jacket 4.1 oz (Large) US$179: https://lukesultralite.com/products/raingear I really like the sound of this jacket. I just received a pair of Luke’s shorts. They actually weighed less than his listed weight (25/28 grams) and were very well made. The legs are quite long too, so I will probably hem them up a bit shorter so that they come in at about 22 grams, which would be hard to beat for an item of clothing to wear when mixed bathing or doing the laundry on the trail. Luke’s jacket seems to be the lightest and relatively the cheapest. I am tempted to order one and see how it goes. The Specs sound really impressive. A sub 120 gram jacket in my size (Men’s Medium) is pretty awesome.

PS (14 April 2018): Luke has been ill and unable to regularly maintain supply of his excellent gear for some time. You will need to contact him and be patient if you really want one of his coats (or etc) We wish him a speedy recovery.

Two others I should mention:

DriDucks: These are both ultralight and ultra-cheap (as well as being probably the most breathable available. if you are very careful with them, they will keep you quite dry. They also feel beautiful. The jacket alone is 103 grams. The jacket plus pants costs around US$20! https://www.froggtoggsraingear.com/DriDucks.shtm & 

DIY Tyvek: As usual, you can make your own out of Tyvek. We are talking 150 grams and around US$10 here: Here is the link to do so: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultra-cheap-ultralight-rain-gear/

Good Luck and Happy Shopping!

PS: Looking at the pics above I am reminded of Henry Ford’s comment: You can have any colour you like as long as it’s black!’

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