Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring

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A quality hardshell is one of the most pivotal items to include on a bikepacking and bike touring trip. Here’s why, what to look for, and reviews of seven waterproof rain jackets under 10oz (280g)…

Clothing recommendations for inclusion in a minimalist kit is an often debated subject, and a question we’re regularly asked. Unless the intended adventure location is a bone-dry desert, our answer always factors in an ultralight waterproof jacket. In tumultuous mountain environments, a hardshell can be a crucial means of survival; at the very least, it’s an added tool to combat cold weather, wind, driving rain, or even persistent drizzle that can leave you in a state of misery. In short, whether you’re planning a multi-day mountain bike route or a longer tour, a good quality rain shell is a staple.

An elemental choice.

Like most bikepacking gear choices, picking the right jacket should be based on where you’ll be riding — and more specifically, the temperature, humidity, and average rainfall. There’s a big difference between the technical shell needed for a shoulder-season Colorado Trail traverse, and a jacket fit for the dirt roads of East Africa during the dry season, used only during a few showery afternoons.

For starters, most non-insulated rain shells are either ultra-minimal ’emergency’ jackets meant to broken out for the occasional rain event, performance waterproof jackets made to withstand heavy precipitation, or burly technical shells with added armor to protect against wind and more extreme weather. The jackets we targeted for this review – indeed, those that we feel are applicable for most multi-day bikepacking trips – fall somewhere in between these classifications. None are super heavy technical shells, nor are they dainty “weather-resistant” jackets. But they do vary, so here are three characteristics that we always bear in mind when offering advice.

Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring

Fabric Breathability

Although we could spend hours geeking out on various hardshell materials, eVent vs H2No vs Paclite, numbers/types of layers, and compiling various acronyms such as PU DWR, we’ll ignore the details and get straight to the point; there’s plenty nerdery-laden content out there for detailed investigation. All of the jackets tested here are considered waterproof/breathable. The first of the keywords means that the jacket is not simply “water resistant” and won’t be effective during an excessive soaking rain. Not only should it be waterproof but it should be made with a fabric that is breathable and moves sweat and humidity to the outside, where it belongs. If a hardshell is not breathable, you will get equally as wet from perspiration as you would from the rain. In order to repel precipitation and provide an escape route for perspiration vapor, materials are constructed with laminated layers and/or coated with a liquid solution called a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) finish. There are all kinds of proprietary shell materials on the market. The most common waterproof/breathable fabric is Gore-Tex, and it’s also the most expensive. Others include eVent, Polartec Neoshell, and Pertex Shield+. OK, we went a little down the rabbit hole, but we’ll stop there.

Weight and Packability

As with any element of a bikepacking setup, the packed size of a jacket is crucial. A heavy technical insulated “soft-shell” jacket is too bulky, whereas Gore-Tex Paclite is designed to compress. We looked for shells that roll or fold up very small and preserve precious luggage capacity, preferably in their own stuff-sack. Weight is is of equal importance, so all the jackets we looked at are under 10 ounces, and a couple are under six. Our general rule of thumb is weight and size should correlate with how much you expect to use the jacket and the temperatures where you’ll be wearing it. As temps go down and wearable time goes up, anticipate packing a more robust jacket; conversely, if you only expect to wear a jacket two or three times a week, perhaps you should choose a minimal option.

Ultralight, packable rain jackets for bike touring

Clockwise from the left: the Montbell Versalite (medium), Outdoor Research Helium II (men’s medium), Montbell Torrent Flier (medium), Oskar Blues Pinner (12oz can ;)).

Fit

Last but not least, consider the fit of a jacket. This is kind of a goldilocks conundrum. If the jacket is too big, it will impede movement; if it’s too long, it may interfere with the saddle; if it’s too tight, it may bunch and restrict, and layering for cold will not be possible (another factor where climate comes in to play). So we found that having a fit that’s on the athletic cut slim side, but has a little wiggle room, makes for an ideal all around jacket. In addition, consider your riding position when trying on jackets. When you reach and bend forward does it constrict, or allow you to move freely?

Bells and Whistles

There are a few features that aren’t necessarily guaranteed on all ultralight rain jackets. Here are a few worth noting. To make it easy to skim each of these jackets, we added a yes/no flag column in the spec list for each of these features.

Hood: Some people might prefer to get by without, while others prefer the added protection of a hood. Most of these jackets reviewed here in fact have a hood, but there’s one without, and one with a detachable hood. Here’s what Joe Cruz had to say on the subject, “For years I wasn’t a hood guy and instead wore a weatherproof cap, but on my most recent bikepacking trips I’ve come around. Many companies have designed their hoods so that they can be worn under a helmet to not restrict movement or vision, and I now consider having the watertight seal behind my neck worth the weight.”

Hand Warmer Pockets: If you are one to shuffle around camp, hands in pockets, this might be a necessary feature. But if you strictly use a rain jacket for riding, you may want to choose a streamlined option without pockets. The additional material required adds a little weight and bulk—not much, but every little bit counts.

Pit Zips: Some jackets have zippered side vents, aka “pit zips”, and some don’t. A lot of folks will argue that this is a necessity to allow more airflow, and zippered vents do indeed allow significant well-placed egress for hot air. But they also require additional zippers which increase the overall package. If you aren’t a heavy sweater, and plan on riding primarily in cooler and less humid climates, perhaps they aren’t a necessity.

7 Waterproof Jackets… under 10oz/280g

Which is the best rain jacket for bikepacking? There are ton of great options out there, and we picked a few to put through months of testing to find out. Here are seven ultralight rain shells that pack small and will keep you dry when the weather turns sour… ordered by weight.

Endura MTR Emergency Shell

I’m an enthusiastic fan of Endura’s inclement weather offerings. Their Stealth Lite Tights, for instance, have been a staple on my bikepacking trips for years. It’s easy to imagine their talented designers drawing inspiration for new products while riding under Scotland’s unpredictable skies. More recently I tested the MTR Emergency Shell over the course of a winter bikepacking trip in the American Southwest. We saw a reasonable range of conditions, including cool breezy sunshine days where I wore the piece in the morning and evening as well as snowfield hike-a-bikes with light flurries and precipitation at six-thousand feet where it stayed on longer. The MTR ES was the only shell that I brought and it performed very ably.

Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Endura MTR

  • ultralight-rain-jackets-12
  • Endura MTR Emergency Shell, Rain Jackets

The most immediate impression is of how startlingly light and compact it is. It squashes down into a pocket or pack more readily than, say, my Gore Bikewear Alp-X 2.0 jacket. Rolled up and secured by the elastic loop hidden under the collar, it is the size of a soda can. That elastic, by the way, is only kept from being a gimmick by the fact that it is handy when assembling gear before you leave home. In practice it wasn’t used much in the field; I tended to turn the jacket inside out while taking it off and just quickly stuff it into my pack.

Worn, the jacket has a welcome trim fit with no flapping or bunching material. The MTR ES sizes run pretty small. I usually wear a size small jacket, but wore a medium MTR ES and that felt about right. It feels comfortable enough against the skin but isn’t anything special. I’d say it’s about standard for a single layer shell. Nor does the material possess any magical breathing properties over other breathable shells. Under high effort I felt the clammy accumulation of moisture in the jacket. And with only the main zipper to vent, I would grade the MTR ES as a bit below average in terms of overall breathability. The jacket does keep you dry from water from outside, though. The fully taped seams do the job and I got no leaks during a snow/drizzle mix. True, the jacket didn’t get tested in a multi-hour downpour. I’ll keep this page updated as I gather more data.

  • Endura MTR Emergency Shell, Rain Jackets
  • Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Endura MTR
  • Endura MTR Emergency Shell, Rain Jackets
  • Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Endura MTR
  • Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Endura MTR

The low-key appearance hides a number of well thought out details. The stretch panels on the shoulders carry through behind the back and go a long way in achieving the terrific fit. The same material at the wrists keep things snug around the forearm. The collar has elastic trim to seal it against the elements when the jacket is fully zipped. The collar is also lined with fleece for warmth and comfort. The back of the jacket drops low to handle spray off the rear tire and features more elastic trim, but it doesn’t gather so tight around the buttocks as to seem like a diaper. I never once caught the zipper on the fabric of the jacket. The reflective accents are sensible. These are very nice touches for a jacket that is aiming at minimalism. That said, in the less than exemplary column, I also found the jacket hard to unzip one handed; the downside of the gathered collar fitting close to your neck is that there’s no obvious place to bite to create zipper tension on the fabric.

  • Weight: 5oz/142g
  • Shell Material: waterproof/breathable
  • Hooded (Y/N): N
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): N
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): N
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): N
  • Price: $155.00

“I would bring this jacket if I were going on a short trip where there was a decent possibility of wind and rain but where I wasn’t anticipating wearing it day after day (for that purpose, there are jackets that, while heavier, have more venting possibilities, more advanced fabrics, and have a hood—something I missed). I admire that Endura isn’t trying to misrepresent this piece. They call it an emergency shell, and I don’t know of a better performing one of those. Honestly, it’s even a little more than that. If this was your only shell because you are obsessed with weight and compactness, or if you reasonably enough only wanted to buy just one shell, that would probably be just fine. The MTR Emergency Shell—like so many of Endura’s products—is functional, durable, and weather-wise. There are rival shells that vent better, have more features, and look better. But if packability and weight are what you are after, or, more pragmatically, if you want to make it impossible ever to have an excuse for leaving a shell behind, this is is a winner.” – Joe Cruz

Outdoor Research Helium II (Women’s)

The Helium II is the most lightweight offering in Outdoor Research’s line of jackets and shells. The minimalist design is realized using an ultralight 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+ fabric, fully taped seams, and YKK AquaGuard Zippers. The end result is a ridiculously lightweight jacket that functions beautifully as both a windbreaker and a waterproof shell. Weighing only 5.5 ounces and compressing down to the size of packaged Ramen noodles, the Helium II is a dream come true for any weight and space conscientious bikepacker.

Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II, Women's

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II, Women's
  • Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Outdoor Research

In order to shave off unnecessary weight, the Helium II doesn’t include any of the bells or whistles that you might find in other tech gear. In fact, it is pretty much as barebones as you can get. There are only 2 pockets, a zippered chest pocket and a velcroed inner pocket that also serves as the jacket’s stuff sack. The sleeve design is equally as spartan. Instead of adjustable hook and loops, the cuffs are half-elasticized. And, while many rain jackets have side vents or “pit zips”, this jacket has none. No hand pockets? No vents? I know… deal breakers for some folks. But, for me, the Helium II’s simplicity is nearing perfection. The single chest pocket provided ample space to keep a few small items dry and secure. The half-elastic cuffs held my sleeves securely in place without cutting off any blood supply. And, the jacket felt amazingly breathable despite the absence of pit-zips. Did I mention the jacket was tested in humid equatorial East Africa?

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II, Women's
  • Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Outdoor Research
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II, Women's

Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Outdoor Research

Another seemingly simple but thoughtfully engineered element of the Helium II is its hood. The hood, which is large enough to fit over a helmet, has an elastic pull-tab and toggle at the back for cinch adjusting its fit. It is cut wide enough, with slightly receding sides, so that peripheral vision is unencumbered. To top it off, the slightly stiffened brim stays in place while riding.

Unlike other rain jackets I’ve worn, the Helium II is really comfortable. Instead of feeling like I’m performing “The Robot” for anyone who might be watching, I can actually move my limbs freely. The length provides OK rear coverage without interfering with hip flexure. And, the elastic drawcord hem has a single toggle for adjusting waist fit.

  • Weight: 5.7oz/161g
  • Shell Material: Pertex Shield+
  • Hooded (Y/N): Y
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): N
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): N
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): Internal Pocket
  • Price: $159.00

“I had my doubts about this jacket. 5.5 ounces, 100% waterproof and super-breathable… way too good to be true. But the Helium II provides outstanding weather protection and seemingly good breathability in an amazingly lightweight package. Although we didn’t experience very much rain in Uganda, the wet season started a little earlier than I had anticipated in Rwanda. The rains are torrential, albeit short-lived, and ducking for cover isn’t always an option. Although I would have liked it more with pit zips, if you are looking for a very minimal and ultralight rain jacket to provide protection from afternoon storms, or as an added layer for cold, the Helium II is a solid option.” – Virginia Krabill

Outdoor Research Helium II (Men’s)

This will be short; the men’s version of the Helium II is almost identical to the Women’s, reviewed above. Skip to the ‘Take’ below to hear a few additional thoughts.

Also, I will add a bit about Pertex Shield+. This is a fabric which uses a polyurethane film coating for a very high waterproof rating. It’s also known to have good levels of breathability in addition to being very lightweight and packable. Overall it has a nice feel, although it seems a little less robust than Paclite or H2No. But considering the fact that it costs less, and performs very well, it seems like a great alternative.

Outdoor Research Helium II, Ultralight Rain Jackets for bike touring and bikepacking

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium II
  • Outdoor Research Helium II, Ultralight Rain Jackets for bike touring and bikepacking
  • Outdoor Research Helium II, Ultralight Rain Jackets for bike touring and bikepacking
  • Weight: 6.2oz/176g
  • Shell Material: Pertex Shield+
  • Hooded (Y/N): Y
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): N
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): N
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): Internal Pocket
  • Price: $159.00

“I agree with most of what Virginia had to say regarding the Helium II. I haven’t spent as much time with it as she, but I might add a few points. First, I also love the simplicity of this jacket, but I am known to sweat profusely and unless it’s under 60°F outside, pit-zips are a must. I tested a medium which is my size of choice for outer layers; it fits well, but I might suggest that it runs a tad short. I have a relatively short torso, so it’s actually perfect for me, but anyone with a longer torso might size up. Ideally OR would make it with a more angled waste similar to the Endura reviewed above. One feature they didn’t leave out, which I really like, is the reinforced hood brim; you can flip it to wear under your helmet, or leave it out off the bike. Overall the Helium II is a great value with high performance in a small package, and its weight is barely noticeable in the handlebar bag.” – Logan Watts

Montbell Versalite

The Montbell Versalite is a full-featured waterproof jacket under 7oz that retails for 150 bucks. I could probably leave this review at that, but let me expound. In order to create an ultralight waterproof jacket with hand pockets, pit-zips, a hood, and full adjustability, Montbell constructed the Versalite from 15 denier Super Hydro Breeze. This fabric isn’t considered as air permeable as other performance waterpoof-breathable materials, but it’s pretty good, and is indeed waterproof.

Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Versalite Jacket

  • Ultralight Rain Jackets for Bikepacking and Bike Touring, Motbell
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Versalite Jacket
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Versalite Jacket
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Versalite Jacket
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Versalite Jacket

To offset the slightly less breathable fabric, Montbell added two 8″ pit-zips. For folks who sweat heavily, these make the Versalite is a great choice on the ultra-lightweight and packable end of the spectrum. Pit-zips aren’t the only added feature that it offers over the OR jacket reviewed above; in addition, at just 12 grams (.4oz) over the Helium II (men’s medium), it also has adjustable velcro cuffs and hand warmer pockets, granted they pockets are the only two on the jacket. Although I like having hand pockets, sometimes, I’d prefer an internal chest pocket to stash my phone during a rain event.

Fitting its name, Montbell also stacked the Versalite with features for adjustability. I already mentioned the velcro cuffs, but it’s worth noting that they are also half-elastic, which makes them all the more easy to maneuver. The Versailte also has a waist drawcord which can be tightened from the waist pockets and loosened from inside the jacket. The smallish hood won’t fit over a helmet, but I found it perfect for under the helmet operation; it has a dual-sided drawcord as well as a rear tightening cord. All these features add to it’s fit, which I was impressed with anyways. It is fairly slim fitting, but not to tight, and like the Torrent Flier reviews below, it allows body movement with a nice athletic design. It also has an angled waist, good for the bent pedaling position.

  • Montbell Versalite Stuffsack, Ultralight Rain Jackets
  • Bikepacking Pack List and Gear

One of my favorite things about the versatile, as well as the Torrent Flier, is their packability and included stuff sack. As shown above, it has two drawstrings that can be swapped. If you want it longer and skinner, use the outer, for a bulkier, short pack, use the inner drawstring. You can also remove one altogether, in case you are the kind of gem-counter who saws off the end of a toothbrush to shave weight.

  • Weight: 6.8oz/194g
  • Shell Material: 2.5-layer Super Hydro Breeze
  • Hooded (Y/N): Y
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): Y
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): Y
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): Y
  • Price: $149.00

“Out of several choices, the Versalite is the jacket I chose to bring on the Trans-Uganda and Congo-Nile Trail bikepacking trip, for pretty obvious reasons. The Versalite is unbelievably lightweight and I require pit-zips. While in Rwanda, the rainy season was starting, so almost every afternoon included a heavy deluge; we usually sometimes ducked for cover, but there were several days where I wore it while riding for a significant time and stayed completely dry. I also used it to layer up during a couple nights above 8,000′. Overall it performed without a fault for both of these conditions; it held out the moisture surprisingly well without becoming a sweatbox, and was comfortable as a layer to wear around camp.” – Logan Watts

Patagonia M10

Given how much good gear there is on the market, we tend not to write reviews for products that simply don’t work. However, while unsuited to bikepacking, we’ve left in Patagonia’s M10 to illustrate the importance of fit. Just to preface, it’s an extremely impressive jacket on paper, suited to a wide variety of uses. Just not cycling. For this reason – along with the limited testing period which the sample was available to us – we’ve kept our words brief.

Ultralight Rain Jacket, Patagonia M10

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Patagonia M10
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Patagonia M10

Our main gripe was the length of the jacket, and particularly how it could catch the rear of the saddle. The model shown in these photos is a medium, which seemed to run a hair large. But this jacket is cut so long that even a small may have had the same issue. Granted, it could be cinched it around the waist, eliminated the problem to some degree. But for ventilation and feel, a cinched waistband is never ideal when cycling, and besides, it even felt long while walking around too.

Overall the M10 has a decent feature set that includes hook-and-loop cuff closures, a drawcord hem, a single-pull adjustable hood, a watertight chest pocket… and it stuffs into its own inner chest pocket. But even solid features in an amazingly lightweight package, it just doesn’t seem fit for bikepacking. In short, unless you have a really long torso, or you’re an alpine climber or backpacker to whom the jacket is marketed, the M10 is not the ideal choice.

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Patagonia M10
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Patagonia M10
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Patagonia M10
  • Weight: 8.9oz/252g
  • Shell Material: H2No® 3-layer 15-denier
  • Hooded (Y/N): Y
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): N
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): N
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): N
  • Price: $379.00

Don’t get me wrong, the Patagonia M10 is a slick jacket. The H2No fabric has a really nice tactile quality and the finish and details of the jacket are very polished. Overall its streamlined features make it small and light enough to to pack small, and with advanced H2No fabric it should be, as Patagonia puts it, “a study in minimalism and performance”. But as mentioned, depending on your build and taste, it may not be a good choice for cycling. Do know that it’s marketed as an alpine climbing jacket, and could indeed be perfect for that exploit.” – Logan Watts

Montbell Torrent Flier

When temps drop in an alpine thunderstorm at 10,000 ft or wind-driven rains hit hard in a shoulder-season, this is the shell you’d want to have on hand. The Torrent Flier features a 12 denier Gore-Tex Paclite membrane and delivers solid waterproofing and good wind protection. But equally as likeable is that at 9oz, it’s one of the lightest and most packable semi-technical rain shells on the market. And it accomplishes this without losing 15-inch pit zips, a generous chest pocket, velcro/elastic cuffs, a waist drawcord, and two-way hood adjustability.

Montbell Torrent Flier, Ultralight Rain Jackets for bike touring and bikepacking

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Torrent Flier
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Torrent Flier

But there are tradeoffs. It has just one chest pocket, and lacks hand-warmers, which may be a deal breaker for some. Like the Versalite, the hood lacks heavy brim, although it does have a very minimal bit of heavier material there. And there is not much of an extended brim, which is good for under the helmet operation, but not so much off the bike. Surprisingly, the ultralight weather resistant “Aqua-Tect” zippers feel extremely sturdy; I could literally feel them closing as opposed to some other weather zippers.

The Torrent Flier has a similar fit to that of the Versalite, not too bulky but allows a good range of motion. It’s close to perfect, although for skinner guys it could be slightly slimmed down. It also has a small hood that fits well under the helmet and a gently angled hem that’s good for a pedaling stance.

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Torrent Flier
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Torrent Flier
  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Montbell Torrent Flier
  • Montbell Torrent Flier, Ultralight Rain Jackets for bike touring and bikepacking
  • Montbell Torrent Flier, Ultralight Rain Jackets for bike touring and bikepacking
  • Weight: 9.2oz/261g
  • Shell Material: Gore-Tex® Paclite
  • Hooded (Y/N): Y
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): N
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): Y
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): Y
  • Price: $225.00

In my opinion, the Torrent Flier competes with ultralight technical jackets out there, such as the M10 and shells from Arc’teryx and Mountain Hardware. And for an hardshell at this level, the Torrent Flier seems like a really good value. You will be very hard pressed to find a sub 10oz Gore-Tex jacket for a similar price. My biggest complaint would be the lack of hand warmer pockets. But as a true minimalist hardshell, the Torrent Flier is a great choice when low weight and packability is as high a priority as all-weather protection.” – Logan Watts

Acre Meridian, Alpine Edition

Acre’s Meridian is a minimal shell made from Polartec Neoshell, a technical material claimed to be especially breathable, waterproof and form fitting. As sleek as it is – especially in stealth urban black- there’s no shortage of detailing within. The Meridian includes a front pocket on the chest and pockets on either side. The iPhone-sized inner compartment features a headphone port to keep tunes piped unobtrusively into your ears. Meanwhile, elasticated thumb loops keep H2O ingress at bay, while two generous underarm zips maintain airiness on climbs. The hood is easily removable – note that it’s unusually large, designed to fit over a helmet, rather than under one, with a adjustable cord to tighten it into place. Good for on the bike, less so for sauntering around town. This said, the Meridian’s low key branding certainly suits urban outings; you’ll be hard pressed to even see the Acre emblem on the sleeve, which will certainly appeal to some. Fit wise, the jacket runs a little small, so you’ll probably want to size up.

Acre Meridian Jacket, Rain jacket for Bikepacking

  • Ultralight Rain Jacket, Acre Alpine Meridian
  • Acre Meridian Jacket, Rain jacket for Bikepacking

The taped seams are immaculate, and the general feel of the jacket exudes undisputed quality. Which is just as well, as here comes the Meridian’s most eyebrow-raising feature: its price tag, ringing in at a cool $455. Yes, it’s made in Canada, using premium materials; if supporting products made close to home is important to you, this may go some way towards justifying its expense. But still, however you look at it, nigh on $500 (inc tax) is lot of cash for what is effectively a lightweight waterproof shell; especially when compared to the most technical, 3-ply mountaineering jackets from the likes of Arc’teryx. (with thanks to Michael Dammer for images)

  • Acre Meridian Jacket, Rain jacket for Bikepacking
  • Acre Meridian Jacket, Rain jacket for Bikepacking
  • Acre Meridian Jacket, Rain jacket for Bikepacking

Acre Meridian Jacket, Ultraligh Rain jacket for Bikepacking

  • Weight: 11.9oz/337g with hood / 9.6oz/273g w/o
  • Shell Material: Polartec® NeoShell®
  • Hooded (Y/N): Y/Removable
  • Hand Pockets (Y/N): Y
  • Pit Zips (Y/N): Y
  • Includes Stuff Sack (Y/N): N
  • Price: $455.00

I have to be honest. Even appreciating the value of high quality, North American made gear, I couldn’t personally justify the Meridian; it feels overpriced by at least a $100, and I’m just too hard on clothing to make such an investment. But that’s not to say I don’t like it. I do, and a lot. In fact, the Meridian’s the nicest shell I’ve tried. It’s kept me toasty warm during a cold and snowy New Mexican winter, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to test it in truly torrential conditions, I’ve been bone dry on the cusp of a Bolivian rainy season. As someone who tends to overheat, I’ve appreciated the armpit vents, and found the jacket relatively breathable, as much as any technical fabric really is out in the real world – ie as long as the ambient conditions aren’t too humid, and the pores aren’t clogged up with dirt. Above all, I love the slim, clean, bike-friendly cut; this is a jacket that feels great to ride in. In terms of bikepacking, only the side pockets leave something to be desired, positioned as they are further back than normal. They’re fine for storing gloves and the like, but awkwardly placed if you like to mooch around camp with your hands in your pockets, as I do.” – Cass Gilbert

The Best of The Best?

Sorry to let you down, there’s not really an overall ‘best’ here… but we do have a few favorites, for various reasons. For rough all-weather use, we really like the Acre Meridian. Yes, it’s extremely pricey. But it’s also a great product – and it’s made in Canada.

For those of us watching our dollars, the Montbell Torrent Flier certainly holds its own in big weather. For even better value, the Montbell Versalight is an incredible small-packing option, yet it still has pit-zips and hand pockets, all for $149. Finally, for the minimal purist, it’s hard to beat the size, weight and level of protection that the OR Helium II offers.

We obviously couldn’t try every jacket on the market for this roundup; so if you have a recommendation for a sub 10oz waterproof/breathable shell, leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you do, please leave 2-3 sentences explaining why you like it, and details including shell material, hood (Y/N), pit zips (Y/N), hand pockets (Y/N), and weight. Thanks!

  • Brian Atkins

    Patagonia alpine Houdini opinions?

  • getindiegames

    Berghaus vapourlight V2 at only 85gr deserve some love too.

  • Sara Hansen

    I love my Zpacks rain jacket. I wear a mens small, it’s 5.1 oz and folds down like origami about the size of a small notebook. Or a soda can if I can ever figure out how they fold it like that from the site.

    Shell material: (from the site) Constructed from 1.62 oz/sqyd Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber material! The material is a three layer laminate consisting of an eVent membrane on the inside, Dyneema fibers in the center, and a thin layer of nylon on the outside.
    Hood: Y
    Pit zips: optional
    hand pockets: N but there’s a chest pocket
    Weight. 5.1oz for Small

    It’s really expensive but I’m a big fan of their stuff. Spec the tents. I have the rain pants too which pack down even smaller.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Cool, thanks for sharing Sara. Gin is a big fan of their sleeping bag, which she used on our Spain trip this past November…

  • http://asphoto.co.nz/ Andrew

    I’ve been a fan of the Montane Minimus for the past 18 months. At 230g it’s at the upper scale on your weight regime but I like the substantial feel compared to some of the almost flimsy feeling ultra light jobs.
    Pertex fabric which seems to breathe reasonably (say bike and I start sweating!) but no pit zips.
    Great hood that fits nicely inside helmets.
    One only storage pocket but no hand warmer pockets.
    Snug fit for minimum wind flap but has good arm movement.
    Reasonable solid zip.

    I’m always hesitant to wear this when I’m on a bush bashing trip as it’s in the back of my mind that I may whack a hole in it, but I think the same may be true of all jackets in this category.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Cool, thanks Andrew.

  • Christophe Noel

    I just started wearing the new Gore Power Trail GTX Shell. Man…it is nice. I go through jackets like crazy because I’m a picky SOB. At 302 grams for a medium (10.7oz) it is super light, fully taped, hooded, and has just one chest pocket to keep it simple. The breathability is excellent and the cut is appropriate for riding unlike many jackets which are too boxy for my likes. It’s a supremely nice product, particularly when paired to the Power GTX shorts. Yes…shorts!

  • Christophe Noel

    I have that jacket as well. I think for emergency rain use, and as a light windbreaker, it has worked well for me, but I tend to get a lot of internal moisture in it. I wore mine for two days of consistent rain and after the first day, wished I had a more substantial layer. Great jacket though. It’s in my pack on almost every ride. Because, 85 grams.

  • Jason

    Great write up. Now ya need one on rain pants.

  • Joel Masson

    You’ve got me even more interested in the shorts idea. the majority of my wet weather riding is in spring / summer in mild to warm conditions and I just need to keep the upper and half of my lower dry.

  • getindiegames

    Yeah I would prefer a system like in the arc’terix Norvan to help get some fresh air in. However I use it every day as my primary jacket, cut the wind well and I just open the zip when it’s too hot. I don’t live in a rainy country so for now I didn’t get the chance to use it in heavy rain.

  • Maciek

    Hi guys!
    I was wondering if you have any experience with more budget options, e.g. TNF Venture or Patagonia’s Torrenshell – I’m currently looking for a decent hardshell that works well both on and of the bike and I’m leaning towards the Venture (haven’t had a chance to try in on yet, alas). Any thoughts?

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve had a Torrentshell, bought largely because it was one of the most affordable options at REI, and I liked the cut. Unfortunately, it either wetted out during heavy rain, or I sweated profusely inside it. Of course, it all depends on what you intend to do. I was heading for Ecuador, where it’s naturally humid, and heavy rainfall is common. It you’re expecting better conditions – and want to use it as a wind block and for the odd rain shower – I expect it would be fine.

  • mikeetheviking

    I’m glad to see this post today. I recently bought a nylon military style poncho (the kind that will fit over your backpack) of amazon. It arrived days before a weekend overnighter. With rain clouds brewing in the distance i was happy to have a chance to test the poncho out. We set out riding for about 2 hours in a light rain with a cool headwind… the poncho was whipping and flapping VERY loudly, at the first rest stop I took the poncho off to find my long sleeved nylon shirt completely soaked… more soaked than i’ve ever been, meanwhile my buddy removed his old school mountain hardwear conduit softshell rain jacket…. his ass was bone dry…. I was hoping to save a couple bucks not having to spend 60+ bucks on something I’d rarely use…. I did end up using my REI dividend to grab a mountain hardwear plasmic jacket for like 39 bucks or something crazy… pretty stoked right now, I will re-visit this post after running it through the ringer:)

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    You could always cut some DIY pit-zips in the poncho ;)

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Nice, waterproof shorts do sound interesting. There’s not really any reason to rep your calves dry…

  • mikeetheviking

    Right:) I’m just glad I didn’t spend too much on this damn poncho… Thinking of turning it into a tarp or something…. live and learn!

  • Chris Leydig

    While I was purusing over the modeling pics, I couldn’t help thinking “show us your face!”, and then, you did :D

  • tylernol

    I have a Westcomb Apoc , similar to the Acre Meridian(probably made at the same place in Vancouver and used Neoshell), which I have used for biking /hiking in Norway, Germany, and NZ. It holds up well as long as you wash it often. It did wet out after 3 hours of heavy rain in Norway, which sucked but I doubt much would have lasted that long. Dirt and oils jam up the membrane. Probably true for all the fabrics used here.

  • Rob Grey

    aw man, couple weeks too late! my birthday was last month and i requested a jacket, as my daily wind/rain shell died a protracted death over the past year-and-a-half. gotta say, that or helium looks like the one for me. wonder how long this new jacket will last…

    i just read a review of an arc’teryx commuter jacket that goes for $400usd, reminded me of that acre meridian. what is it about vancouver brands? must be the million dollar average house price.

  • http://MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.net Max Dilthey

    Glad to see the post didn’t devolve too deeply into a competition between proprietary fabrics, but there is a big difference between 2.5-layer and 3-layer jackets. For summer trips, warm trips, or trips without a high chance of rain I’ll almost always reach for Paclite or a 2.5-layer like the Helium II. I mean, there’s no real penalty for having less. If you get wet, you dry out eventually when it stops raining, no big deal.

    That said, sometimes I reach for something more substantial. I’m getting ready to go to Iceland, where the daily temp is somewhere between 30º and 60ºF, and the chance of precipitation averages 70%. That’s a constant state of cold rain. For this, I’m going with 3-layer, heavy duty. My jacket is going to be the now-discontinued Montane Spektr Smock (eVent fabric), and my girlfriend Kelley is probably going with an Outdoor Research Axiom jacket (Gore-Tex Active Shell). It’s just the penalty of being somewhere extreme.

    All the jackets mentioned here are similar, but they definitely aren’t all for the same conditions. The last two can handle a bit more before they wet out, and that can be life or death at certain temperatures!

  • Wakatel Lu’um

    Maybe try the Patagonia Houdini?

  • Wakatel Lu’um

    Maybe try the Patagonia Houdini…?

  • http://pntmagazine.com/ Maciek

    Thanks Cass.
    I actually went with TNF’s Venture, as I was able to try it on and from what I read on the internet it had a slimmer cut than the Torrentshell. Plus Patagonia’s stuff is pretty scarce where I live. I’ll be testing it this weekend in ideal conditions (cold and wet mountains).

  • Cam

    Great experience with the Mammut Kento. On my second one after three years constant use bike commuting in PNW year round, BC skiing, bad weather hiking. No loss of WP, just gets clingy after deluge. Breathable fabrics just do lose that beading quality over time. Tried the various revival products, but just not the same. Fit is good, athleticy but not trim. Breathes surprisingly well and roll-packs the size of a standard bike bottle. Fits great in a bike cage.
    365g claimed weight.
    DryTech Premium 2.5-layer shell (20k)
    Fully taped seams
    Regular fit
    Zippered underarm vents
    Adjustable hood
    Pre-shaped sleeves with hook and loop cuffs
    Adjustable hem with drawcord
    Water-resistant front pockets

  • Harry Major

    The thing that disappoints me about this article, is it fails to mention that none of these jackets are truly waterproof. All hard shells wet out when internal humidity equals outside humidity, and high tempo excersise can and does bring this about during riding in rain. Different weathers and jackets along with types of activity and length of time alter how long or even if this process takes place, but it does none the less take place.

    I’ve found no temperature is low enough to keep me from wetting out in all day rides in the rain. And then you have a problem at night when the inside of your rain shell is wet…

    I’m really close to completely abandoning hard shells for cycling. An ultra-ultra-light unbreatable shell/poncho for off the bike/camp and a much more breathable water resistant shell are more what I’m leaning too.

    The other option being a mid layer made of Ventile/ETA Proof that can work as a single layer wind proof garment in cool conditions or layered up as a waterproof outer. I know Ventile is vastly more breathable than all the materials used in the jackets above, but without testing I’m unsure if its enough. The other downside is the fabrics outer surface absorbs water gaining weight and being slow drying.

    In anycase I do think the hard shell rain jacket is far from a must pack, if you ride a lot in the rain.

  • http://aushiker.com/ Aushiker

    I have no personal experience with this “jacket” but Will Rietveld has a review of it. The jacket or more correctly smock in question is the Berghaus VapourLight Hyper Smock 2.0. It weighs in at 3.02oz / 91 grams (XL), but it does not have a full length zip (a deal breaker for me). That said there is a version with a full length zip which weighs in at 3.5oz /99g for the medium.

    The material is Hydroshell™ Hyper, there is no pit zips and no pockets in the jacket version but it does have a hood.

  • mikeetheviking

    Update on the new Mountain Hardware Plasmic rain jacket… Spent the entire week doing activities in the rain…. only to find my shirt completely soaked with sweat even while using a much more techy fabric (fwiw i was exerting myself for many hours at a medium level exhertion) (the plasmic jacket is tough though… feels like it will last)…. Hoping readers will chime in with great/better jacket breathability experiences…

  • Ty

    The new Gore One jackets are incredible and should be mentioned. While pricy, they offer confident protection from the rain, fit well, pack super small, and they are incredibly light – 130g for an XL with a hood. I’ve used it in all conditions for a couple months with great results. Best rain jacket I’ve ever owned.

  • http://nsmb.com Pete Roggeman

    Since we started seeing waterproof shorts here in Vancouver a few years ago, they’ve started to feel indispensable for wet weather riding – and that’s for ~2 hour mountain bike rides. For touring/bikepacking (without fenders) I would say they’d be even more valuable.

  • Africa

    It is so sad seeing the woman in Africa wearing a jacket that costs more then the natives in the photo will earn in a decade.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    It’s more sad when people fear a place and have never been to Africa.

  • Donnieboy

    Using similar technology as the gore one is the arcteryx norvan.

  • Donnieboy

    Goretex active or Goretex membrane jackets will get you the most breathability the industry can provide. Count on 200 bucks plus (unless you get lucky with a clearance).

  • Donnieboy

    Good feedback, thanks.

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