Ask Me: Expensive Waterproof-Breathable Jacket Vs. Inexpensive, Which Do You Recommend?
Westcomb Focus LT Hoody vs. Montbell Versalite for $150? Just wondering.
(submitted as a comment to my review of the Westcomb Focus LT Hoody rain jacket)
Good question. I have not tested the Versalite, though I have reviewed the MontBell Torrent Flier Jacket, which is basically a step up in quality from the Versalite because it uses Gore-Tex. MontBell and many other outdoor-apparel brands have their own proprietary waterproof-breathable technology; the Versalite uses “Super Hydro Breeze,” while other companies give their proprietary waterproof-breathable technology their own name. Basically, these are all simple coatings applied to the fabric. Coatings are less expensive than Gore-Tex or eVent (which are both membranes, not coatings), and frankly, less breathable and durable.
My colleagues at Backpacker magazine and I (as well as reviewers elsewhere) have consistently found eVent to be more breathable than Gore-Tex, though Gore-Tex has other strengths as well as newer versions, like its Pro Shell, that are highly durable and more breathable than earlier Gore-Tex. Both Gore-Tex and eVent will be more breathable and resistant to wetting out (becoming saturated) than any proprietary coating.
There’s a good, very long explanation about waterproof-breathable technologies at rei.com/learn/expert-advice/rainwear-how-it-works.html. But the short answer is: When you pay more for a jacket, you’re usually paying for better technology, either Gore-Tex or eVent.
So which should you buy? Only you can decide what you can afford, of course. But I would also consider the environment and weather you typically head out in. Is your rain jacket more for “just in case it rains,” or do you often find yourself in a steady rain?
I would also consider how breathable a jacket you need. Personally, when I’m hiking with a pack on in mild temperatures (mid-50s or higher) in the rain, I find myself deciding whether I’ll get more wet hiking without the rain jacket on, or with it on–which comes down to how much I’ll sweat hiking with a jacket on. So I prefer a highly breathable (eVent) jacket for those conditions. But I run hot. Some people who get cold more easily won’t overheat as quickly when hiking in the rain in mild temps. Conversely, if I expect generally cooler temps and rain, I find that eVent still works well, but Gore-Tex is adequately breathable and has other advantages.
Lastly, you have to make choices of personal preference regarding the jacket’s weight, fit, features (how many pockets, how adjustable the hood is, etc.).
I hope that’s helpful. You may want to check out my other rain jacket reviews at thebigoutside.com/tag/rain-jacket-reviews/.
Thanks for the detailed response regarding what to consider for a rain jacket. I didn’t know eVent was a membrane.
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