Ultralight Rain Jacket
Marmot Mica Jacket
$160, 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
Ultralight rain jackets usually come at a heavyweight price. Given the relatively diminutive cost of the Mica, I decided to take it out in wet, windy weather from New Hampshire’s White Mountains to southern Utah’s Dirty Devil River canyon to see how it measures up to much pricier ultralight shells (such as Marmot’s Crux Jacket, which lists for over $100 more). What I discovered didn’t surprise me: Differences in price usually align with performance. Still, the Mica delivers what you expect from a basic rain shell—protection from rain and wind—raising a legitimate question of why you would spend a lot more money for a comparably lightweight jacket.
I wore it through a couple of hours of strong gusts and rain showers on Franconia Ridge during an August dayhike of the 32-mile Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains; and at various times during a week of dayhikes and backpacking in the Southwest, including an overnight hike in the Dirty Devil River canyon, where we got a mix of sunshine, cool temps, chilly wind, rain, and hail. Marmot’s proprietary Strata MemBrain waterproof-breathable fabric isn’t as breathable as the newer-tech NanoPro MemBrain used in the brand’s Crux Jacket (which itself doesn’t measure up to the most breathable membranes in today’s best rain jackets). Sweating hard in the Mica builds up moisture inside; and like most ultralight rain shells, it lacks armpit zippers. Still, for the hikes on which I wore this jacket—in light rain, wind, and temps from roughly 40 to 60℉—it gave me all the protection and breathability I needed.
The Mica comes fully seam taped, and the adjustable hood forms a close fit that stays put in strong winds, with a low-profile brim that keeps rain off your face as long as the wind isn’t blowing hard. The length reaches just below the waist—less coverage than heavier jackets, but typical of ultralight shells. The shoulder design prevents the jacket from riding up when lifting your arms. It has two zippered hand pockets and adjustable cuffs and hem. The Mica also stuffs inside its left pocket, packing down to the size of a softball.
I wouldn’t choose an ultralight rain shell for trips where I expect sustained rain, because many of them, the Mica included, don’t offer the length, hood coverage, and breathability I prefer for spending hours a day, perhaps day after day, in steady rain. And frankly, ultralight shells eventually just feel clammy inside in torrential rain.
But many hikers, climbers, and even backpackers avoid forecasts of torrential rain; a lightweight rain jacket may be all they need, and preferable to carrying a shell that’s heavier and bulkier, especially if it’s in your pack most of the time. If you’re looking for a good value in an ultralight rain shell, the Marmot Mica Jacket merits a close look. The women’s version of the Mica is the Marmot Crystalline Jacket.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Marmot Mica Jacket at backcountry.com or Moosejaw.com, or a women’s Marmot Crystalline Jacket at moosejaw.com or campsaver.com.
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, including my story “The 5 Best Rain Jackets For the Backcountry,” and these stories at The Big Outside:
“10 Smarter Ways to Think About Your Layering System”
“Review: 6 Super Versatile Layering Pieces”
“Review: The Best Base Layers and Shorts For Hiking, Trail Running, and Training”
“Gear Review: The Best Gear Duffles”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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