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LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket Review

manufactured by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
99.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On June 6, 2016
Last modified:August 29, 2016

Summary:

If you're like me and sick of waterproof-breathable rain jackets that don't live up to expectations, I suggest you give the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket a try. This jacket has found a home on my backpacking gear list and it might just restore your faith in waterproof rain gear.

The LightHeart Ran Jacket is coated with Silicone and Polyurethane to keep it waterproof.
The LightHeart Ran Jacket is coated with Silicone and Polyurethane to keep it waterproof.

The LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket (MSRP $99) is a lightweight ripstop nylon waterproof rain jacket made the old-fashioned way, without any so-called breathable fabric. Coated on the outside with silicone and on the inside with polyurethane, this maintenance-free rain jacket won’t wet out like much more expensive waterproof breathable jackets that are coated with Durable Water Repellant (DWR) and need to be periodically reproofed to keep keeping you dry. (See: Why does Rain Gear Wet Out? and Why Does DWR Suck?)

Weighing just 7.0 ounces in a size large, the LightHear Gear Rain Jacket in fully featured with all of the bells and whistles you’d find on much more expensive jackets. I’ve been wearing mine for four months in a wide range of temperatures and there’s precious little that this jacket can’t do.

The LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket has an adjustable hood with an extended brim.
The LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket has an adjustable hood with an extended brim.

It has an adjustable hood with side cord-locks so you can cinch down the opening, along with an extended brim to keep rain off your glasses and forehead. The front zipper has a fold-over rain flap to keep water off the zipper and can be zipped up over your chin to keep water off your face in blowing rain.

There are two large pockets on the inside of the coat, handy for carrying a hat or gloves, that are large enough that you can stuff the jacket into one when not in use. In addition, there are two hand warmer pockets on the outside that can be used while wearing a backpack hip belt, along with elastic and velcro cuffs on the arms to keep the rain out.

Since this rain jacket is not made with a “breathable” fabric, it has two 15″ long pit zips that run under the upper arm and down the torso that are used to vent hot air, even when it’s raining.

The jacket has 15 inch long pit zips to vent heat
The jacket has 15 inch long pit zips to vent heat

I’ve worn this jacket in everything from freezing rain to heavy thunderstorms and it will keep you warm even if you’re hiking in the pouring rain. When water hits the surface of the jacket, it beads up and rolls off as you’d expect, rather than soaking the fabric and chilling you. The fact that the LightHeart Rain Jacket is coated in silicone and polyurethane, means that you never have to worry about a DWR coating wearing off or having this jacket wet-out, the most common point of failure for rain jackets made using waterproof-breathable fabrics.

But there’s no denying the fact that this jacket retains a lot of heat when you’re active. While that’s a good thing in cold weather, I start to sweat when the temperature is about 60 degrees or higher, with or without rain. My view: there’s a big difference between sweating on the inside, where it’s warm, and getting soaked from the outside, where your body heat can’t offset the cooling effect of a garment that’s been soaked through by wet-out.

If you’re like me and sick of waterproof-breathable rain jackets that don’t live up to expectations, I suggest you give the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket a try. This jacket has found a home on my backpacking gear list and it might just restore your faith in waterproof rain gear.

Disclosure: LightHeart Gear provided Philip Werner with a sample jacket for this review. 

Visit LightHeart Gear for full rain jacket specifications.

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41 comments

  1. Great review, I hope you’ll try out the Sierra Designs Cagoule ( http://andrewskurka.com/2015/sierra-designs-partnership-designing-a-better-way/ ) and compare it with the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket. I’m curious to know what you’d think comparing the two.

  2. Yes, that is a good jacket well made and designed. I could wish for a slightly wider/stiffer brim over my eyebrows. This would add a slight bit of weight, though.

    One thing you did not mention was long term use. I do not think the silicone/poly is the best for this, though it is easy to manufacture. Only time will tell. Once the poly is damaged, there is no way to repair it. So, my belief is that a jacket made from silnylon, then coated again with a 1:10 mix of 100% silicone caulk and odorless mineral spirits will be just as waterproof, far easier to maintain in that state, and, somewhat lighter (between 5-6oz.) I recommend two coats of sealant, ie one on the inside and one on the outside. (It might need an overnight delay between coats.) After 7-10 years, If it ever starts to leak/wet out, it can be coated again.

    • You’re handier than me, I guess. As for repair, the transparent glossy “color” of tenacious tape is waterproof.

    • So Marco, can you recommend a jacket like that? No problem for me to do the silicone/mineral spirits thing on any nylon windbreaker-type jacket, but the issue is the waterproofness of the zipper.

      • Well, I guess you answered your own question. IMHO, I am with Philip on this one. Any silnylon or PU/sil wind breaker/rain jacket will leak a little. Breathable jackets don’t work over a couple weeks out, a little dirt/body oil contaminates the WPB barrier making them leak/and seal up anyway. Zippers can be a problem but, usually I am bent over slightly, anyway (I have my pack on my back and it requires a slightly stooped posture to balance it.) Stopping the rain and repelling the large majority of it is all that is really required.
        Getting wet from sweat is not as bad as getting soaked with rain, especially freezing rain. On a cold day, I will often wear the rain jacket to hold in heat, which it does whether it is raining or not. Often I hike with the zipper open part way anyway, mostly to cool off. Soo, my chest is usually wet/sweat soaked anyway. I don’t see a zipper without a flap as a major problem. A $15 wind breaker can easily be made into usable rain gear. Down to below freezing, it works. Colder than that, it is just a matter of brushing off snow/ice before it starts melting. Lightheart makes a good jacket covering 99% of my needs.

        Philip, yup, tape works well for major rips and pokes.

    • Actually, looking through the LIghtheart website, I see that certain colors are silicone/PU but other colors are only silnylon. Plus you can get longer sleeves. Wow, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thanks Philip!!

  3. I’m glad to see the ever-increasing number of folks who concur that a true waterproof jacket is far better than an expensive, wet-out, so-called waterproof “breathable” jacket. I get a bigger size for more ventilation and, if it’s warm rain, just go without. This jacket sounds like a good one!

  4. Looks really promising. I too have sworn off DWR jackets. I have been using froggtoggs but they are not very durable. This looks like a great alternative. By the way the “brimmed hood” looks rather strange in that picture, does it fit well? I’ve had a couple hooded jackets that seemed really awkward once cinched down.

  5. I have been thinking about going to a completely waterproof jacket myself. I usually backpack in the winter when it is not warm. I don’t like for it to get over 50 degrees when I am backpacking. I almost always get soaked from an all day rain. I wind up cold from the soak through where I wouldn’t be if I were just sweating.

  6. That looks incredibly hot especially for Florida.

    • Do you even want a rain jacket in Florida? In Costa Rica in rainy season, I would just wear a waterproof sombrero to keep rain off my face and let the rain soak the rest of me – it felt better to be soaked with rain rather than just soaked with sweat.

  7. I like all the features except the color. Green or brown would be perfect.

  8. I saw on Light heart’s website that the seams on the jacket are “bound not taped”, but they make no mention of whether they need to be sealed with silnet or similar. Did you seal yours Philip? If not, how are leaks at the seams prevented?

    • You don’t have to seam seal it. The bound seams (lost sewing arts) do it for you. Judy should explain that better since it’s confusing if you’re not a fashion sewer.

      • The seam is first sewn like any other seam, then it gets folded over on the sewn line, and encased in a strip of the same fabric the jacket is made from- technically it is not waterproof, theoretically, the seam could leak, but I’ve never had any problems with it leaking. If you were concerned about the seams leaking, the only one I would suggest you seam seal with SilNet (from the outside) is the neck seam at the back of the hood. This would be the only place water might pool. The Royal Blue and Espresso brown colors are the Sil-PU fabric, they shed water better, and are opaque so a long distance hiker can wear them while doing laundry and not be concerned about ‘show through’. the other colors are silnylon, the same as I use on the tents. These are more transparent , but also weigh on average ab out 1 oz less than the Sil-PU.

      • This may seem picky but… Do you plan on offering the PU coatings fabric in any other colors?

      • Josh, Not in the immediate future, but that can always change – what color/s would you be interested in? (Understand that I have to buy a few thousand yards of the fabric at a time)

      • I’m not privy to your sales data, but I would assume offering either black, camo, or some shade of grey (such as pewter) would appeal to a wide array of consumers.

      • Seconding the pewter.

      • Thirding the pewter.

  9. Good points.

    I just read all the old posts linked to and was reminded of a couple of things.

    (1) Around 1980 I went to a presentation at REI (at the original Seattle store in the converted warehouse). It was about a group that had bicycled around the world together. Their consensus was to get the heavy-duty, nowhere-near-breathable yellow jackets and pants, because the main problem for them was staying warm. And after that came durability.

    Hiking needs are different though. I wouldn’t want to wear three pounds of rubbery rain gear, especially the bright yellow stuff.

    (2) A pack cover works for me. I’ve used one of those 4-ounce “contractor cleanup” bags with a couple of slits cut in one side for the pack’s shoulder straps. But most of my backpacking involves using a hammock, with the pack inside with me and under my knees. Even though I always keep an extra plastic bag set aside for the pack, I still don’t like it wet. Then again, I haven’t faced the challenge of being out in days of rain.

    (3) For day hikes at least, an umbrella is peerless. Superb. I hiked several winters in western Washington in layers of synthetics (including cycling tights) under an umbrella. Even getting splashed when passing a waterfall, I stayed comfortable. The fabric spreads the water out, the stretchability of the fabric keeps it tight against the skin, and after five minutes, even if I’ve just gotten my legs soaked and am still wet, I felt fine. And you are close to 100% breathable.

    (4) I did one four-day backpacking trip wearing fleecy-type clothes under a lightweight, Nik-waxed wind shell (Montane Featherlight Smock and pants, circa 2002, total weight, 6 oz.). Had off-and-on rain for three days, got sort of wet, but the shell kept off most of the rain, the fleecy stuff under kept me comfy, and I quickly dried out whenever the rain quit. (Nearest equivalent today: http://thru-hiker.com/kits/lr_shell_kit.php and http://thru-hiker.com/kits/lr_pants_kit.php) Overall, a bit similar to the Buffalo Systems soft shell (http://www.buffalosystems.co.uk/about/our-story/) approach.

    (5) Lots of stuff is possible. I hiked around 20 miles up the Hoh rain forest in early February, 1981 in jeans, a flannel shirt, an early Gore-Tex jacket, and coated nylon rain pants, and survived. Didn’t get wet, didn’t sweat much, had a bivy sack to sleep in and a couple of shelters to stop in along the way. I did get swarmed by mice one night, but that’s another sort of problem.

  10. Luke’s Ultralight made me a custom coat with extra long sleeves (serve as mitts) for about the same price as well! I use it also as a VBL upper layer in the winter. Quality stuff.

  11. Perfect timing. Also, hold a cookie when you take another picture all cinched up in that jacket.

  12. Great post Philip,
    as an oldie I well remember the urethane proofed cagoule which kept the rain out as well as a marine oilskin but cooked you to a turn in warm weather. Then came the ubiquitous Helly Henson slick skinned jackets in a many colors which were totally water proof and with good ventilation, these were far better. Both of these were kept for many years of good service. Then came waterproof breathable jackets! The first I had was rendered useless by gasoline fumes within the first month and I was totally disillusioned so replaced with a “Barbour” thorn-proof oiled cotton game jacket which was superb until consumed by a forest fire! Then came a succession of breathable waterproofs none of which are as good as advertised if used extensively for over a year. Many were returned to retailers as totally useless for purpose i.e. keeping you warm and dry. Now I have a urethane proofed rain poncho and a trekking umbrella plus a urethane proofed smock for emergency use. Weight wise the poncho weighs 300 g and the smock 275 g which is a great weight saving over many of the previous garments. My humble opinion tally’s with yours, urethane and silicon win hands down in the wet.

  13. +1 on Black or Grey

  14. looks great! :) I need a light jacket myself :)

  15. I’m interested to know whether you think this is a good winter shell. I would like something that can breathe for exercising in the snow but that will still provide some vapor protection from snow covered branches, falling snow, etc. This seems like it is really only good for times when there is a lot of rain coming down and wet out is inevitable.

    • I won’t be usin git as a winter shell even though its my three season coat. I prefer the OR Foray jacket for that. I’ve been using it for years. It has huge side torso length vents and pockets that don’t interfere with the hip belt. The LHG jacket is good for times when it rains a lot. While my winter shell does get rained on occasionally, I mainly wear it for wind protection and warmth when active.

  16. I’m 100% with you on the problems with the so-called waterproof/breathable gear, and after circling back to this post a number of times, I’m tempted to give this jacket a try. I wonder if you can comment, though, on the difference between a waterproof/breathable jacket that has already wetted out and one like this that (while it can’t wet out) doesn’t pretend to breathe in the first place. Is there a difference in warmth between being sweat-soaked in this jacket vs being sweat-soaked in a wetted out waterproof/breathable jacket? Thank you!

    • First off – this coat has giant pit zips which help reduce internal condensation inside the coat. But in the event you get sweat-soaked you will stay warmer since cold rain will not pool on the exterior surface of the jacket. It rolls off the silnylon. That’s how a DWR jacket is supposed to work (but doesn’t).

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