Q:

What's the most versatile rainjacket on the market?

I looking for a rainproof jacket, light enough to wear during south Florida's humid, rainy summers, and still be able to use it as outerwear for a spring Yosemite trip. I was considering the Patagonia Ready Mix. Is that too heavy? Any other ideas? Jorge Mii, Florida

Apr 28, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Marmot Essence

Marmot Essence

A: Look, any rainjacket is going to be too heavy for use in warm, humid climates. It's even debatable whether wearing such a jacket will do any good. After all, you're apt to get just as wet from sweating under a jacket as you are from warm rain on the outside. One possible solution is to get an umbrella. Then you can wear whatever you want!

As for the Ready Mix ($199; www.patagonia.com), it's one of two types of soft-shell jackets on the market. In this case, it's sort of a light rainjacket—soft and stretchy, but not entirely waterproof. So it's good for those short downpours you're apt to see in Yosemite. I will say it's also more breathable than most completely rainproof garments, so it might be more comfortable when it's warm.

That said, I admit I don't fully buy into the concept of a rainjacket that isn't really rainproof. I prefer the other evolutionary branch of soft shells, which offer short-term water-repellency along with some insulation. That way they can be combined with a traditional "hard shell" when the weather gets really nasty. So you might also look into a light fully waterproof jacket. Marmot's Essence ($150; www.marmot.com) is one such jacket. It uses Marmot's very good PreCip Plus coating, for a jacket that offers lot of weather-proofness plus modest breathability. Another good choice would be REI's Taku ($199; www.rei.com), which adds some features such as stretch panels and pit zips for better ventilation.

For a little more breathability at a higher price, Arc'teryx's Alpha SL ($250; www.arcteryx.com) is a light jacket made with Gore PacLite, a very breathable material that still offers excellent rain protection. Enough breathability for those times when it's 85 degrees and raining? Um, no. But for all those other times, it's great.

Pick up a copy of the 2006 Outside Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now, for a look at 396 torture-tested products, including the 2006 Gear of the Year award winners and an all-new women-specific review section.

Filed To: Hard Shell

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