Best Lightweight Rain Jackets

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The buyers at ProLite Gear considered over 20 different Lightweight Rain Jackets before selecting 7 to do an in depth review of and sell in our store. All 7 of these jackets are excellent, but one jacket stood out as being a notch above the rest.

In order to qualify as “lightweight” the rain jackets had to weigh less than 12 ounces(340 grams), and cost less than $250. We were tempted to place an upper limit on weight at 10 ounces(283.5 grams) since many rain jackets now weigh less than that, but this would have eliminated the more full featured jackets that included features like wire brims.

Lightweight Rain Jackets are positioned between Lightweight Wind Jackets on the low end, and lighter weight 3 layer Hard Shells on the high end. Some may argue that Wind Jackets and Lightweight Hard Shells are “squeezing” out the Lightweight Rain Jacket Category as wind jackets become more water resistant, and with many lightweight 3 layer hard shells weighing less than 14 ounces(397 grams). Wind Jackets are going to weigh less, and 3 layer Hard Shells are going to do a better job with air permeability. However, it could also be argued that Lightweight Rain Jackets are putting pressure on the Lightweight Wind Jacket and 3 Layer Hard Shell categories.

The Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic was the only jacket of the seven that had any amount of air permeability on our test device. While on the test device the 2.5-Layer Dry.Q EVAP™ fabric used in the Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic jacket was the only fabric that showed any air permeability, it is important to point out the amount of air permeability is not significant. It is not nearly as air permeable as NeoShell, and it is unlikely you will be able to detect a significant difference in performance when wearing the jacket when compared to a fabric like Pertex® Shield +.

The Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic was also the only jacket to use a YKK Vislon AquaGuard® zipper, which is superior to the coil zippers used on the other jackets. The Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic has a helmet compatible, 3 way adjustable hood, adjustable cuffs, and two very usable pockets. After considerable debate, we elected to give the Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic jacket our first ever Premium Performance Award. The only complaint we had with the jacket was that the feel of the fabric wasn’t as nice as the Rab Spark, Mountain Equipment Lattice, or Montane Mountain Minimus jackets. However, each of those jackets was substantially heavier.

The Rab Spark was the only jacket to use fabric that had any noticeable mechanical stretch, and it had the best feel or “hand” of all the jackets tested. It is important to point out that the Rab Spark, Mountain Equipment Lattice, and Montane Mountain Minimus jackets all use a wire in a brim, allowing you to adjust the shape. This makes those hoods more functional, but adds weight.

The lightest weight jacket is the Outdoor Research Helium II, followed closely by the Patagonia Alpine Houdini but those jackets don’t include adjustable cuffs, a second pocket, and 3-way adjustable hoods to save weight.

The test team was a bit disappointed with the Patagonia Alpine Houdini. Using just average fabric, with no external pockets and non adjustable cuffs the Patagonia is not only outclassed by the other jackets, but it is overpriced at $200.

Lightweight Rain Jacket Review Videos

Mountain Hardwear Superlight Plasmic Review
Mountain Hardwear Superlight Plasmic
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Review
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Review
Rab Spark Review
Rab Spark Review
Montane Mountain Minimus Review
Montane Mountain Minimus Review
Montbell Versalite Review
Montbell Versalite Review
Mountain Equipment Lattice Review
Mountain Equipment Lattice Review

Related Articles and Videos

VISLON®(molded) vs. Coil Zippers
VISLON®(molded) vs. Coil Zippers
Wind Resistance vs. Air Permeability
Wind Resistance vs. Air Permeability
What Does Fabric Breathability Really Mean?
What Does Fabric Breathability Really Mean?

Product Review Grid

PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT
PRODUCT NAME Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic
Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic
Rab Spark
Rab Spark
Montbell Versalite
Montbell Versalite
Patagonia Alpine Houdini
Patagonia Alpine Houdini
Mountain Equipment Lattice Mountain Equipment Lattice Outdoor Research Helium II
Outdoor Research Helium II
Montane Mountain Minimus
Montane Mountain Minimus
Outdoor Research Helium HD
Outdoor Research Helium HD
REVIEW READ
REVIEW
READ
REVIEW
READ
REVIEW
READ
REVIEW
READ
REVIEW
READ
REVIEW
REVIEW
COMING SOON
AWARD Premium Performance Award Best Value Award
PRICE (US $) $199.95 $199.95 $149.95 $199.95 $189.95 $149.95 $238.95 $198.95
Verified Weight (Size L) 225g/7.9oz 288g/10.2oz 215g/7.6oz 200g/7.1oz 260g/9.1oz 182g/6.4oz 263g/9.3oz 281g/9.9oz
MEMBRANE/LAMINATE 2.5-Layer Dry.Q EVAP™ 2.5-Layer Pertex® Shield + 2.5-Layer Super Hydro Breeze® Technology 2-Layer PU DRILITE® 2.5 Layer 2.5-Layer Pertex® Shield + 2.5-Layer Pertex® Shield + 2.5-Layer Pertex® Shield +
AIR PERMEABLE YES NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
STRETCH NO YES NO NO NO NO NO NO
FABRIC DENIER 15D 20D 15D 20D 12D w/ 50D ripstop 30D 15D w/ 40D ripstop 30D
HOOD HC,Three- Way HC, Three-Way, Wire Brim HC,Two-way HC,One-Way HC, Three-Way, Wire Brim One-Way HC, Three-Way, Wire Brim HC,Three- Way
POCKETS 2 Hand 2 Chest 2 Hand 1 Inner Napoleon 2 Hand 1 Napoleon 1 Napoleon, 2 Hand 1 Napoleon, 2 Hand
CUFFS Adjustable Adjustable Adjustable Elastic Adjustable 1/2 Elastic Adjustable Adjustable
MAIN ZIPPER YKK Vislon AquaGuard®
size: 5
YKK AquaGuard®
size: 5
YKK AquaGuard®
size: 5
YKK coil
size: 5
YKK AquaGuard® YKK AquaGuard® YKK AquaGuard® YKK AquaGuard®
size: 5
VENTING NO NO 8” pit-zips NO Lasercut holes underarm NO Montane Mountain Minimus 8” pit-zips

5 Responses

  1. This is a thorough and detailed review of a critical piece of gear. Thanks for covering it so well and providing such a detailed gear review.

    I was very surprised to see that the Marmot Essence or Mica jackets were not included in the review. Both are UL, WPB, under 10 oz, and under $250. The Essence also received the Backpacker Editor’s Choice Award for 2014.

    Marmot Essence Jacket – $200
    NanoPro™ MemBrain® 100% Nylon Ripstop 1.5 oz/yd
    164.4 g / 5.8 oz (Size L)

    Marmot Mica Jacket – $150
    MemBrain®Strata™ 100% Nylon Ripstop 2.2 oz/yd
    198.4 g / 7.0 oz (Size L)

    Marmot Super Mica Jacket – $225
    NanoPro™ MemBrain® 100% Nylon Ripstop 2.5 oz/yd
    246.6 g / 8.7 oz (Size L)

    Note: I do not work for Marmot in any way, but I do own the Marmot Mica. I think it’s a terrific UL WPB jacket apart from the two hand pockets that are at the waist and therefore under a pack’s waist belt – a problem that the Super Mica solves with its two pack pockets and the Essence solves with a single chest pocket.

  2. Craig Delger

    Michael, thanks for the suggestion. In the next few weeks I will try to have a review of those jackets posted.

  3. Anonymous

    I would love to see the new z-packs Challenger Rain Jacket reviewed. The three-layer combination of Cubin fiber, eVent and Nylon looks interesting for the water proofing, breathability and abrasion resistance. It looks like the lightest jacket reviewed so far at 5.5oz; but unfortunately, the most expensive.

    Your research and reviews are greatly appreciated.

    I have no association with the manufacturer, except as a past customer.

  4. I agree with Anonymous, please do a review on the new z packs challenger rain jacket.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Trevor chambers

    Very good review on this super light plasmic jacket by mountain hardwear. Did they stop making it because I can’t find the super light plasmic jacket anywhere. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks

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