Westcomb Specter LT Jacket
Westcomb Specter LT Jacket
Gear Guy

What’s the best super-light raingear for an extended backpacking trip?

I’m hiking the John Muir Trail and want to take some super-lightweight raingear. But there are so many options on the market, that it makes the choice confusing. What are your top picks? Janet Charlotte, Vermont

Westcomb Specter LT Jacket

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There are indeed a lot of choices. And it can indeed be confusing.

Westcomb Specter LT Jacket

Westcomb Specter LT Jacket Westcomb Specter LT Jacket

For the Muir Trail—a 211-mile route through three national parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia)—what you’re really after is semi-emergency wear as a hedge against afternoon thunderstorms. And these days there are lots of well-priced pieces that fill that role admirably. Best-known is Marmot’s PreCip Jacket ($99). It’s a perfectly functional rain jacket that, while not as breathable or durable as more expensive pieces, is just perfect for those occasional downpours. Add a pair of PreCip Pants for $90, and you’ve got a decent rain suit for under $200.

For a longer-term investment, I like REI’s Taku Jacket ($199). It uses a proprietary laminate to give you a jacket with excellent waterproofness, adequate breathability, and good durability. The Taku also uses stretchy fabric in the hood and around the torso, so it’s a good piece for reaching and scrambling. And it’s light and compressible.

You also can get into Gore-Tex for $200, in a piece such as Mountain Hardwear’s Typhoon Jacket, which uses Gore’s PacLite material.

After that, well, it’s a matter of what you care to spend. The Westcomb Specter LT ($300) is an excellent lightweight jacket that uses eVent, a material that I think is superior to Gore-Tex in some regards. It’s a tough and functional piece—fine for your Muir hike, excellent for future climbs. And it’s the kind of jacket you can wear during long days of rain or snow.

Or, there is Arc’teryx’s Alpha LT ($490), which uses Gore’s new light and very tough Pro Shell material. This jacket is a real investment, and I do like the Pro Shell fabric. And it weighs just 13 ounces! But yikes…that price!

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