The Best Ultralight Hiking Rain Jacket of 2019
If there is one thing I know for certain about playing outside its that no one likes getting caught in the rain. Anyone, that has ever visited Colorado knows that the mountain weather can change in the blink of an eye. This often results in some pretty horrendous levels of precipitation in short spurts. Hikers almost always have to carry something for cooler weather and something for wet weather, when heading out into the Rocky Mountains. This can quickly add up to unwanted bulk and unwanted weight in your pack. To an ultralight gear geek like me, this is definitely an issue. Enter the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket. The lightest, most breathable rain jacket I have ever tested, and wow was I impressed.
I have had the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket now for around two months. I’ve had it with me during hiking trips, hail storms, and downpours. It’s been in every condition from wind to rain, and hail in Colorado. The Visp delivered and kept me dry in every instance.
Details for the Geeks:
• Customized waterproof/breathable fabric has a ripstop 7D nylon outer layer with a durable water repellent finish, a waterproof/breathable membrane, and a tricot lining
• Waterproof to 20,000mm H₂0
• Moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR): 75,000 g/m./24hr
• Full length, #3 waterproof YKK Uretek zipper
• Fitted hood with stiffened visor adjusts at the front and back to keep it in place while also pulling it out of your line of sight
• Shaped cuffs have a velcro adjustment for coverage or ventilation
• Waistband adjusts with a shock cord
• Droptail hem offers extra coverage in the back to keep the jacket from riding up under a pack
• Raglan sleeve design for a full range of movement
• All seams are factory seam-taped and fully waterproof
• Handmade in Winona, Minnesota
Off the rack when you first pick up the jacket you think two things. I thought, wow, this thing light and how could a rain jacket be so soft! My men’s XL jacket weighs only 5.74 oz which comes in almost a full ounce lighter than my Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket (which I have loved and used for many years).
I’m 6’1” tall and weigh about 235 lbs and the XL fit me perfectly with a little extra room to have a base layer underneath. The cut of the jacket I found to be extremely well suited for my body type. Big guys don’t look the greatest in athletic fit clothing that hugs the body like some other technically climbing jackets tend to do. I felt very comfortable wearing this jacket and it was by no means baggy. The fit was just right.
The technology in the fabric is what makes this jacket truly incredible. As mentioned in the details the fabric that Enlightened Equipment is using on these jackets is a customized waterproof/breathable fabrics. It has a ripstop 7D nylon outer layer with a durable water repellent finish, a waterproof/breathable membrane, and a tricot lining. The fabric feels soft to the touch on the skin and does not have the stiff feeling, and plastic feeling that some other rain jackets can tend to have.
If fashion is something you are looking for I would say that I personally felt like the jacket looked nice on me, but I often care way less about how a piece of apparel looks and worry more about how it functions. I would say that this jacket isn’t made to be a fashion jacket or make you look extra cute on the trail. It is made to be a minimal jacket that serves the purpose of being lightweight and keeping you dry. Both of which the Visp achieves at a high level.
The Enlightened Equipment Visp is custom made and comes in 5 different colors: blue, black, sage, purple and red.
Unlike many rain jackets, the Visp does not utilize pit zips. I believe there are two reasons for this. Pit zips would add extra weight to the jacket but also, and more importantly, they are not needed in this jacket because the material is so breathable. The moisture vapor transmission on this material is 75,000 g/㎡/24hr which basically translates to really really breathable.
The Visp may seem simplistic in its design but its features are well thought out. I really appreciate the drop-tail hem which covers a little more of the butt. This ensures that rainwater won’t drip down the back of your pants and also ensures prevents the jacket from riding up if you are hiking and wearing a hip belt which jackets tend to do in this instance.
The hood is fitted and has a stiffened visor and adjusts to keep itself out of your line of sight which can become extremely annoying on other rain jackets.
The waistband can be cinched with an adjustable shock cord and the shaped cuffs have velcro adjustments which allow for coverage or ventilation. This is another example of how Enlightened Equipment has added a very simple yet extremely function feature to the Visp.
The one thing I personally feel like is missing from this jacket is a pocket. Now again, I realize this would add weight to the jacket but I would hope that Enlightened Equipment might consider the addition of a napoleon pocket to stash a phone or map in while it’s raining. This could also serve a storage pocket for the jacket when not in use.
WEIGHT & PACKABILITY
For my money, there isn’t a lighter more packable rain jacket on the market. Most models weigh less than 5 ounces and roll up smaller than a soda can. They take up virtually no room in your bag and I’ve even gone as far as to just stuff the jacket in my back pocket if the forecast called for rain. You truly don’t know it’s there until you need it.
The Enlightened Equipment Visp delivers on function and performance. I haven’t felt a drop of rain get through to my body. I have also never felt like I was missing the pit zips that normally I do value as a feature on a rain jacket.
I might also add the Enlightened Equipment also makes the Visp Rain Mitts in the same fabric that I think would be extremely useful when paired with the Visp Rain Jacket.
My only worry about the performance of this jacket is I wonder about the long term durability of the material. It is, after all very lightweight and very thin in nature. I haven’t been in many places where the jacket could have been snagged on branches or brush just yet. In all honesty, it does worry me a bit. I reached out to EE and asked them about the material performance in this scenario. They responded that in normal trail use including such instances, the material should hold up with normal wear and tear. Like anything though, if you push a material too hard, expect it to rip or tear. If you are mindful of where you are hiking and it should withstand normal abuse on the trail. At the time of this review and amble testing my, Visp shows no signs of tearing or wear. It is an extremely well-made jacket.
COST: $200 USD
Now a lot of you might be thinking that $200 is a lot to pay for a rain jacket. You’d be right. The Visp does fall on the higher end of what you would pay for a piece of rain gear. That being said, I am a true believer in you get what you pay for. I particularly believe this when it comes to the outdoor gear you expect to use for a long time. This rain jacket is no exception to that and I think everyone at Outdoor Gear Geeks would agree.
The cost of the best lightweight rain jackets on the market can range from jackets like the budget-friendly Marmot Precip at around $100, to the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket at $299. The REI Co-op Drypoint GTX jacket comes in at $249. That being said, realistically you’re paying a pretty fair price for a very high-quality piece of gear.
These jackets are custom made in the United States by Enlightened Equipment. That is something that this gear tester tips his hat to and hopes that other people can recognize the value in as a consumer. Its ability to be both lightweight, extremely water-resistant, and breathable all at the same time is truly something that will add value to anyone who is looking to lighten their load on the trail. The Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket gets the Outdoor Gear Geeks award for Best Ultralight Rain Jacket of 2019 and we highly recommend it.
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