Buying a rain jacket has got to be one of the most confusing purchases a new backpacker can make. With dozens of manufacturers and rain jackets to choose from at all levels of the pricing spectrum, inflated expectations about the effectiveness of waterproof/breathable fabrics in real world conditions, and a constant flow of new jacket models each year, it’s a wonder that new backpackers and hikers can figure out what to buy.
We recently surveyed 322 backpackers in order to answer the following questions:
- What are the most popular backpacking rain jackets?
- What are the most important criteria used to purchase a rain jacket?
- How satisfied are backpackers with the jackets that they have purchased?
Our results may surprise you.
Top 10 Backpacking Rain Jackets
The most popular rain jacket purchased by the backpackers we surveyed is the Marmot Precip Jacket, perhaps the best known waterproof/breathable outdoor recreation jacket ever made. An astonishing 28.8% of our survey respondents own this rain jacket, far more than any other, as shown in the table below.
|Rain Jacket||% Owned||MSRP (USD)||Satisfaction 1-5|
|Marmot Precip Jacket||28.8||100.00||4.07|
|Frogg Toggs UL Suit||13.2||24.99||4.10|
|Outdoor Research Helium II||8.14||159.00||4.04|
|The North Face Venture||2.4||99.00||3.60|
|Columbia Watertight II||1.4||90.00||4.00|
|Mountain Hardwear Plasmic||1.4||139.95||3.80|
What do these results tell us?
First, slightly over 50% of our survey respondents purchased one of three rain jackets: the Marmot Precip, the Frogg Toggs UL Rain Suit, or the Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket. Knowing backpackers, it’s incredible that so many would share such a strong consensus about these three items.
Second, none of the top three rain jackets are made with a Gore-tex or eVent waterproof/breathable membrane. Of the top 10, the only jacket made using Gore-tex or eVent is the ZPacks.com Challenger, the most expensive jacket listed. It would seem that have a Gore-tex or eVent membrane is unimportant to most backpackers when purchasing a rain jacket.
Third, the backpackers who own these jackets are fairly satisfied with them (on a scale of 1-5, where 5 is the highest level of satisfaction,) but most of the ratings fall between 3 and 4, not approaching a 5. If you were reading customer reviews on an online retailer’s web site, I doubt these ratings would have a big impact on your decision-making for or against a product. This tells me that cost is probably the most important criteria behind the purchase decision to buy one of these jackets, not performance or features. We see further evidence of this below.
Most Important Purchase Criteria
What are the most important reasons that backpackers give for purchasing one jacket over another?
|Ventilation (Pit Zips)||26.10|
We asked respondents to pick the three most important factors that determined their rain jacket selection. As you can see in the table above, cost was the most important decision criteria, cited by 71.8% of respondents. This is consistent with cost of the top 10 jackets purchased by the survey respondents, shown in the first table above.
Light weight is the second most important purchase criteria, which gives you some indication to which backpacking gear and clothing weight has become an increasingly important reason to favor one product over another.
Surprisingly, breathability is less important than waterproofing, packability/compressibility, and ventilation (pit zips), providing further evidence that backpackers are less willing to pay extra for it when purchasing a rain jacket. This and the fact that the overwhelming favorite Marmot Precip Jacket has pit-zips, is a good indication that backpackers understand the breathability limitations of rain jackets in real world conditions.
Do any of these results surprise you? What takeaways do you conclude from these results?
About this Survey
This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.
While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general backpacking population based on the size of the survey results where n=322 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.
There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: backpackers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all backpackers, backpacker who read Internet content might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all backpackers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.
The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to backpackers who are interested in learning about the most popular rain jackets carried by backpackers are and the reasons that their peers use to select the jackets that they buy.
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