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Ask Me: Expensive Waterproof-Breathable Jacket Vs. Inexpensive, Which Do You Recommend?

Westcomb Focus LT Hoody

Westcomb Focus LT Hoody

Michael,

Westcomb Focus LT Hoody vs. Montbell Versalite for $150? Just wondering.

Tim
(submitted as a comment to my review of the Westcomb Focus LT Hoody rain jacket)

Hi Tim,

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/.

Best,
Michael

Michael,

Thanks for the detailed response regarding what to consider for a rain jacket. I didn’t know eVent was a membrane.

Timothy

[In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at mlanza@thebigoutside.com or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.]

About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Being a jacket hound . . . . I just haven’t found a GoreTex jacket that I would consider summer weight. I am really on the fence with the Versalite – as a summer/warm weather rain jacket. I like Dry.Q warm to just barely cool, Goretex (2.5 layer, like the Arc’teryx Alpha SL) for barely cool to notably cool (or colder with layering), then Dry.Q Elite then GoreTex (3L pro) as weather gets colder and colder.

    Is there a Goretex jacket that is truly summer weight . . . while participating in active pursuits during all day rain that will not wet out, not over heat and be ultra light? If so, I haven’t found one. But then, I haven’t found any UL summer weight rain jacket that fits that bill . . . has anybody?

    Looking for a summer weight rain coat for my son’s next backpacking trip for an Xmas present. He’s set with a 3L Goretex shell for cooler weather, but looking for that jacket that will take him through the range of summer temps (hot days, cold high elevation nights, and into early fall – with layering).

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  2. Avatar

    I am also a fan of the REI eVent rain shell. By far the most breathable rain jacket I’ve ever tried. And for the record, I am a prolific perspirer. Plus, with my annual dividend and 20% off coupon, I walked out of the store with the same amount of money I went in with.

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  3. Avatar

    I’m also a big eVent fan, still amazed that my REI jacket doesn’t have – or need – pit zips. (And I am a portable blast furnace!)

    Reply

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