REI Talusphere Jacket
$149, 15 oz. (women’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XXL
When trying to outfit themselves for backpacking and other backcountry adventures, many people may prioritize dollars for a better backpack or tent, and settle for a bargain waterproof-breathable rain jacket—especially if they intend to mostly avoid hiking in the worst weather. Parents trying to outfit a growing kid for the backcountry may feel similarly inclined toward frugality. To test that gear-buying strategy, I got my 14-year-old daughter a sub-$150 rain jacket that many consumers will undoubtedly consider, the REI Talusphere Jacket, for our eight-day trek on the Tour du Mont Blanc in July. Mixed weather—including wind on most days, and a day of hiking through wind-driven rain and cool temperatures over the 8,323-foot (2537m) Grand Col Ferret—spotlighted this jacket’s strengths and weaknesses.
REI’s proprietary Elements waterproof-breathable fabric compares with other sub-$200 rain shells: It’s moderately breathable and repels a steady rain, but it gets a bit clammy if you’re really working up a sweat, and it’s likely to eventually wet through in sustained, severe, wind-driven rain. But the seams are sealed and the jacket did keep my daughter dry through hours of steady rain, with strong winds at times, on the Tour du Mont Blanc. The 2.5-layer polyester fabric also has good stretch and a very soft, supple feel for a rain shell—it’s not stiff or loudly crinkly like some hard shells—delivering good comfort and allowing a natural range of motion.
While the hood has two-way adjustability, in the back and around the face, to move with you when turning your head, the hood is also the Talusphere Jacket’s weakest feature: It lacks much of a brim, so my daughter took rain directly in the face while hiking into the wind on that rainy day, and said her face got wet and cold. Two-way zippers on the pit zips allow for venting, although the zips aren’t as deep as you’ll find on some higher-end jackets.
Two roomy hand pockets with water-resistant zippers have space for gloves and other accessories and mesh linings to act as core vents, and are positioned higher than a pack hipbelt. Like most backcountry rain shells, the Talusphere has adjustable cuffs and hem.
While the hood leaves something to be desired, REI’s Talusphere Jacket, in men’s and women’s sizes, still delivers a good value for backpackers and dayhikers seeking waterproof-breathable protection, at an affordable price, for all but the most severe conditions.
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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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