Ultralight Rain Jacket
Westcomb Focus LT Hoody
$280, 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL
Here’s the thing about a rain jacket: Other than a first-aid kit, it’s often the least-used item in my pack, whether backpacking, climbing, or dayhiking. But when I need it, of course, I sure wouldn’t want to be without one. Like a lot of people, I have contradictory desires for a rain shell—I want it to be functional and protective when the weather turns foul, but also super lightweight and compressible. On backpacking trips in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, California’s Sequoia National Park, and Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness, as well as a 28-mile dayhike in Idaho’s White Clouds Mountains, and a hut trek in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Focus LT was consistently my go-to shell. Why? It delivered protection when I needed it, and virtually disappeared inside my pack when unneeded.
This nine-ounce jacket—with a full-length, waterproof, front zipper despite the “hoody” moniker—staved off strong, cool winds and occasional rain on a mostly off-trail, three-day traverse of Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold formation in the first week of April. It’s made with eVent’s new DVL (Direct Venting Light) fabric, which is 100 percent waterproof up to a 30,000 ml water column—the highest standard of waterproofness in the industry, Westcomb says. Plus, it’s air permeable, meaning vapor actually moves through the material (like Gore-Tex) rather than wicking moisture from the inside to the outside (like many proprietary waterproof-breathable jackets). DVL, according to eVent, also has a higher Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate—the technical term for breathability—than traditional, three-layer eVent, which other Backpacker Magazine gear testers and I have consistently found to be more breathable than Gore-Tex. When I hiked in the Focus LT wearing a pack, typically in inclement conditions, the jacket proved very breathable, not building up moisture inside.
With a rain shell this light—especially one with a full-length zipper—you sacrifice features and sometimes jacket length. But the Focus LT doesn’t skimp on fabric—the length covers my butt, and the sleeves don’t ride up my arms when I reach overhead. And it has a fully adjustable hood that stays in place when I turn my head side to side. While there are no pit zips or hem drawcord, and just one pocket (chest), I don’t miss any of them. The breathability is good enough without pit zips. The partly elasticized hem and athletic fit, with enough space for a light insulation layer underneath, preclude the need for a drawcord. And I rarely use hand pockets.
You won’t find many rain shells at this weight that deliver this level of performance, especially under $300.
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See my “5 Pro Tips For Buying the Right Rain Jacket for the Backcountry” and all of my reviews of outdoor apparel and rain jackets that I like.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.