Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket Review

Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket Review

The Enlightened Equipment Visp is an ultralight 3-layer waterproof breathable rain jacket with a fully adjustable hood, velcro wrist cuffs, a waterproof zipper, and drop tail, that’s fully seam-taped seam taped.  The Visp is lightweight and breathable enough that it can be used as a wind shirt or a rain jacket, which is a real perk if you hike above treeline or across exposed terrain. It also packs up very small making it easy to carry on all of your day hikes and backpacking trips.

Like all waterproof/breathable jackets, the Visp is prone to wet-out when the external DWR coating rubs off, but I’m a little surprised at how quickly the DWR failed on mine.  Enlightened Equipment offers pit zips as an add-on option on the Visp, which I highly recommend getting, although I think they should be a standard feature on all waterproof/breathable rain jackets intended for hiking and backpacking use.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 5.9 oz in a men’s size XL (women’s sizes also available)
  • Type: 3-layer WTB, with ePTFE membrane
  • Material: ripstop 7D nylon outer layer with DWR coating and a soft tricot lining
  • Waterproof to 20,000 mm H20
  • Moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR): 75,000 g/m²/24hr
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Center-back length (men’s XL): 30″
  • Sizing: Runs a bit large for layering

Waterproof/Breathability

The Enlightened Equipment Visp is an amazingly quiet and comfortable 3-layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket with an ePTFE membrane (the same stuff Gore-Tex and eVent is made from). The exterior of the jacket is a 7 denier nylon with a DWR coating and comfortable tricot interior lining that helps protect the membrane and increases durability. The Visp 7 denier nylon has a very soft texture which makes it very comfortable to wear and very different from rain jackets with a smoother, “shinier”, and stiffer exterior. However, the thinness of the fabric is a concern in terms of durability and you’ll want to treat the jacket with care.

While the Visp has an impressive set of waterproof and breathability specs (see above), you need to take these with a grain of salt since they’re probably carefully controlled laboratory-based measures of swatches of the fabrics and materials used to make the Visp and not the jacket itself. Jacket performance is usually quite different after a person wears a backpack for a few weeks and breaks the rain jacket in.. That’s when the DWR coatings used on rain jackets like the Visp (which are used to make water bead on the surface of the jacket so the membrane can vent water vapor) degrade and rub off because the jacket is repeatedly stuffed into a backpack or rubbed raw from shoulder strap and hip belt abrasion.

The Visp runs large to facilitate layering, especially useful when used in winter
The Visp runs large to facilitate layering, especially useful when used colder weather and alpine conditions.

I’ve been hiking on and off with the Visp for close to 6 months and the DWR has worn off on the shoulders, waist, and forearms resulting in wet out and soaking the interior of the jacket because water can’t escape through the breathable membrane. Is that surprising? Not really. It happens to all waterproof/breathable jackets sooner or later. Although, I’m a little surprised at how quickly the DWR failed on the Visp. Despite using the Visp in winter, it’s one of the chief reasons I waited until I could try the Visp out in summer rain. Your mileage may vary. It’s hard to generalize my jacket’s DWR performance given how much variance exists when different people use the “same” jacket.

That said, one way to help get rid of the excess body heat and perspiration that leads to wet out is to add pit zips to a rain jacket. Pit zips won’t eliminate moisture buildup inside a jacket completely, but they’ll help increase your comfort, by decreasing heat buildup and perspiration.

The Visp’s Pit Zips would be more effective if they were significantly longer
The Visp’s Pit Zips would be more effective if they were significantly longer

The Pit Zip Option

Pit zips give you the ability to vent the excess body heat that causes the water vapor and moisture that’s generated when you sweat. While you can achieve much the same effect by unzipping the center zipper to vent heat, you can’t do that when it’s pouring rain without getting soaked. Pit zips, which are located under your armpits, prevent water from getting inside the jacket because your arms and shoulders cover the openings.

The Visp’s pit zips are 11 and 1/4 inches long and easy to open and close while wearing the jacket. They have waterproof zippers and zipper garages at one end, which is a nice touch. The Visp’s pit zip zippers are also easy to open and close with one hand, without the aid of a friend. I think the pit zips would be much more effective however if they were longer, like the 18″ pit zips on the Montbell Versalite Jacket, or the pit-to-hem torso length pit-zips found on jackets like the Outdoor Research Foray Jacket and the OR Women’s Aspire. 

Enlightened Equipment gives you the option to add pit zips to your jacket for $10, which I’d recommend doing. I think providing them as a standard option would be far better out of the box, even if it raises the price by $10, since the Visp is demonstrably prone to wet out when the DWR wears off. If it was a standard feature, Enlightened Equipment could also make and stock inventory, thereby eliminating the 8-10 week manufacturing delay associated with customized orders.

The hood has a built-in brim but does not have a shapeable wire to hold it in position.
The hood has a built-in brim but does not have a shapeable wire to hold it in position.

Three-way adjustable hood

The Visp Jacket has a three-way adjustable hood with a cord lock on the back to adjust the volume of the hood. The hood is very low volume as rain jacket hoods go which is actually a good thing because it tells you the jacket is designed for hikers and not climbers or skiers and their colossal helmets. It also means that you’ll have better control of the hood and a lot less noisy flapping in wind.  The front of the hood has a small fabric brim, but there’s no wire in it to position or shape it. If you wear glasses, you’ll probably want to wear a billed cap with the Visp in the rain.

The size of the hood opening is controlled by two cord locks at the top of the neck. All three cord locks are sewn to the jacket so you can’t lose them, even if you accidentally pull the elastic cords out of the hood. That’s a really nice design detail. It also means that you can pull on the cords and tighten them with one hand because the cord locks are anchored and not loose. The cords are very thin elastic and you’ll need to grip them with bare hands so you have enough dexterity to pull them. That’s fine for warm weather, but it will be an issue for winter use.

Cord lock detail: The cord locks are sewn to the jacket and a washer prevent them from being sucked back into the hood. This means you can tighten the hood by simply pulling on the cord.
Cord lock detail: The cord locks are sewn to the jacket and a washer that prevents them from being sucked back into the hood where they’re hard to retrieve. This means you can tighten the hood by simply pulling on the cord.

While I’ve pointed out some limitations with the Visp hood, it is still way better than most rain jacket hoods. The fact that has a three-way adjustment is important, but it’s other limitations are less important unless you plan to wear the jacked in colder and much more hostile weather.

Wrist cuffs

The Visp Jacket has long velcro (hook and loop) wrist cuffs which are much better than the elastic cuffs you find on many minimalist rain jackets, because you can wrap them over the gauntlets of rain gloves and prevent rain from dripping down your arms. The same holds for cold air in winter when using insulated gloves. Your blood flows very close to your wrists and keeping them warm and dry, especially in wet hypothermia-inducing conditions, is important. I usually wear the Visp Rain Jacket with REI’s Minimalist GTX Mittens (see review), which are great rain gloves, also with velcro wrist cuffs. The combination works really well and keeps my wrists warm and dry in wet and cold weather.

Velcro wrist cuff help prevent water from running down your arms and help trap body heat
Velcro wrist cuffs help prevent water from running down your arms and help trap body heat

Additional features

Seam Tape: The Visp Rain Jacket Jacket is seam-taped so it won’t leak in heavy rain. This can be a problem with ultralight jackets made with silnylon or PU coated fabrics that have bound seams instead of taped seams like the Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket and the Anti-Gravity UL Rain Jacket. Getting wet isn’t a huge deal in summer, but it can be pretty miserable when it’s still cold in spring or autumn and your body heat can’t compensate for the heat loss.

Waterproof zippers: The center zipper, as well as the pit zip zippers, are waterproof. This eliminates the need for an extra external fabric flap to cover the zipper while reducing jacket weight.

Hem adjusters: The Visp has elastic hem adjusters so you can prevent cold wind from cooling your torso from below. These are situated on the lower hem of the coat and use the same cord lock/thin elastic cords found elsewhere on the jacket.

Drop tail: The rear length of the Visp is slightly longer than the front, so the jacket won’t ride up (above your belt) when you wear it with a backpack. This is a critical feature and often missing in rain jackets that are not specifically designed for hikers.

Comparable Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Rain Jackets

Make / ModelPit ZipsAdjustable HoodWrist CuffsAvg WeightPrice
Marmot Precip ECOYesYesYes10.9 oz$100
Black Diamond Stormline StretchYesYesYes9.9 oz$149
Outdoor Research HeliumNoYesNo6.3 oz$159
Enlightened Equipment VispOptionYesYes5.3 oz$190
Montbell VersaliteYesYesYes6.4 oz$200
REI DryPointNoYesYes10.5 oz$249
Zpacks VerticeYesYesYes6.2 oz$259
Marmot BantamweightNoYesNo5 oz$275
Montbell Storm CruiserYesYesYes10 oz$299
ArcTeryx Zeta SLNoYesNo10.9 oz$299

Recommendation

The Enlightened Equipment Visp an ultralight waterproof/breathable rain jacket that has a surprisingly rich feature set despite its light weight. It’s seam taped, it has a three-way adjustable hood, velcro wrist cuffs, and a drop tail which are important features for hikers and backpackers. You can also add pit zips as an add-on option, although I really think they should be offered standard as a core part of the jacket, to help vent your body heat and reduce internal perspiration. If you decide to buy the Visp, I think you’ll enjoy using it. It’s sized a little large so you can layer under it, nicely seam-taped, and easy to pack since it’s so thin and compressible. With a 7d surface layer, you do have to be careful that you don’t rip it on obstructions and you need to be prepared to reproof the DWR coating periodically when it rubs off.

How’s it compare to the Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket (see our review), which is arguably the best fully-featured lightweight backpacking rain jacket available? The Montbell Versalite is an ounce heavier in a men’s XL than the Enlightened Equipment Visp. It’s made with a slightly thicker 10d nylon and is only a 2-layer jacket compares to the Visp’s 3-layer construction, so it will probably be less durable over the long haul. The Versalite Hood is better fitting than the Visp’s, it has hip-belt compatible torso pockets, it comes with pit-zips which are 18″ long instead of the 11.25″ long pit-zips on the Visp, the jacket fittings are more durable, and the sewing is much more uniform and refined.

But I think the most consequential difference between the two jackets is that the Montbell Versalite has a wider range in terms of seasonal use, so you can use it in colder weather when interior moisture management and torso pocket storage become increasingly important. The Visp is a much more minimalist jacket that will probably appeal more to 2-season thru-hikers and fast packers who are looking for the lightest possible garments and willing to sacrifice on comfort and general-purpose utility.

Disclosure: Enlightened Equipment provided the author with a sample jacket for this review.

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3 comments

  1. Good review – thank you. Pit zips are always a must for me. I actually prefer full length zippers on most of my non-base layers as it makes it easier to regulate heat and get them on and off quickly and easily.

    Ellie

  2. It was FUN hearing the Interviews Phillip !

  3. Very nice review.. But I wiill continue to wear my U.S. Military Surplus, Brand New, in the Package, 3 Layer with Gore-tex, Multi-weather Parka with Hood…. which includes the Option you have to pay extra for here….. I paid $135.00 for it via Surplus Store…..

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