REI XeroDry GTX
$159, 12 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL, men’s tall M-XXL, women’s plus 2x and 3x
How much rain shell do you want in mountains with variable weather? How much should it weight—and how much should you pay? Those questions came to mind when I wore the REI XeroDry GTX rain shell through hours of cold wind and steady rain, with a bit of wet snow, at the tail end of a five-day September backpacking trip in the Bechler Canyon area of Yellowstone National Park. I was happy with its moderate weight and packability for three-and-a-half days of sunny, mild days at the outset of that trip, when this shell stayed in my pack. But I was even happier that it has features that kept me dry when the weather turned ugly. And paying much less for any gear makes anyone happy.
I also wore it in cool wind at times on a three-day, entirely sunny, August backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail. The XeroDry is made with two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, the lightest and most packable membrane that Gore-Tex makes. Thanks in part to a DWR (durable water-resistant treatment), this shell fended off steady rain and wind for hours of backpacking one afternoon and the next morning in Bechler Canyon.
Gore-Tex Paclite breathes moderately well—although not as well as, say, the Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket or the Black Diamond Helio Active Shell, the latter the same weight as the XeroDry GTX but made with more breathable, waterproof, durable (and expensive) Gore-Tex Active fabric and has pit zips. I didn’t overheat when carrying a backpack in temperatures as warm as about 60° F. But I was mostly hiking downhill, and there was wind, so I wasn’t heating up much. To avoid overheating in a Gore-Tex Paclite shell when carrying a pack uphill in temps in the 50s, I usually have to slow my pace. But add cool wind to the weather mix and overheating in a Gore-Tex shell is rarely a problem.
The fabric does move moisture effectively, meaning that although sweat can build up inside, my damp layers under this shell dried out when I hiked at a pace that prevented me from sweating. While the jacket lacks pit zips, I didn’t miss them, but people who perspire heavily might when working hard.
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The three-point-adjustable hood and the flexible visor, while not providing quite as much coverage as the hoods of some more-expensive shells, nonetheless kept windblown rain off my face and is adequate for hiking and backpacking in steady rain.
The fit is roomier than jackets from some other brands—it’s not an “athletic” fit, but has space for a warm layer underneath and for bigger people, although not excessively bulky for someone with an average build. I did wear it over a three-season down jacket in camp on a rainy evening and morning in the Yellowstone backcountry. The women’s model comes in a wider range of sizes than many backcountry rain shells, including plus sizes.
The two zippered hand pockets, which sit above a pack hipbelt, are mesh-lined to perform double duty as core vents; they don’t vent as well as pit zips, but do offer the benefit of focusing the ventilation at your core, rather than at your arms. The zippered chest pocket has space for a large smartphone and solid fabric backing to keep moisture out, whether from precipitation outside or body moisture inside.
The 20-denier ripstop nylon shell fabric is not uncommon in midweight backcountry rain jackets, but it’s less durable than higher-denier fabrics, and Gore-Tex Paclite is certainly not Gore’s most-durable membrane—which is why this is a three-season rain shell for hikers and backpackers who won’t typically encounter severe rain and weather, rather than an all-season shell for alpine climbing, too. REI’s website reports that the fabric is Bluesign approved, meaning the company “took deliberate steps during manufacturing and production to minimize impact on the health of the environment, on the workers who made the fabric and on consumers.”
The hook-and-loop cuffs and hip-length, adjustable hem work fine at sealing out rain and wind.
To my point in this review’s lead paragraph: At 12 ounces, the XeroDry Jacket is a midweight among rain shells—not an ultralight—precisely because it has a fully adjustable hood, pockets, a two-layer rather than a high-performance, three-layer membrane, and other features that actually keep you drier and more comfortable when the weather gets nasty. And it compresses to slightly smaller a liter bottle.
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The men’s and women’s REI XeroDry GTX Jacket is a moderately breathable, three-season rain shell for dayhiking, backpacking, and similar outdoor activities—as long as you generally avoid severe weather—at a very good price.
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