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 a 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, Non-Porous PU 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
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.
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.
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.
Enlightened Equipment Visp
Comfort & Mobility
Solid Ultralight Raincoat
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.
Two-way adjustable hood
The Visp Jacket has a two-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 of the 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.
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 its other limitations are less important unless you plan to wear the jacked in colder and much more hostile weather.
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 2.0 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.
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 / Model||Pit Zips||Adjustable Hood||Wrist Cuffs||Avg Weight|
|Marmot Precip ECO||Yes||Yes||Yes||10.9 oz|
|Black Diamond Stormline Stretch||Yes||Yes||Yes||9.9 oz|
|Outdoor Research Helium||No||Yes||No||6.3 oz|
|Enlightened Equipment Visp||Option||Yes||Yes||5.3 oz|
|Montbell Versalite||Yes||Yes||Yes||6.4 oz|
|REI DryPoint||No||Yes||Yes||10.5 oz|
|Zpacks Vertice||Yes||Yes||Yes||6.2 oz|
|Marmot Bantamweight||No||Yes||No||5 oz|
|Montbell Storm Cruiser||Yes||Yes||Yes||10 oz|
|ArcTeryx Zeta SL||No||Yes||No||10.9 oz|
The Enlightened Equipment Visp is 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, pit zips, and a drop tail which are important features for hikers and backpackers. 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.
Last updated September 2022.
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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.
It was FUN hearing the Interviews Phillip !
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…..
Thank you for this great review!
I was debating between the EE Visp and the Zpacks Vertice (jackets and pants), and I was definitely starting to lean toward the EE Visp, but you made me reconsider the Montbell Versalite (also jacket and pants).
To be clear, my focus is to find my ideal 2-3 seasons ultralight rain gear for both long hikes in the Northeast (I live in Quebec) and the occasional long hikes out West or Southwest. I want to be able to carry it «just in case» but also to have a decent system that can hold up to one or a few complete days of rain (where obviously I will get wet one way or another, but then I want to avoid getting too chilled). I already have burlier systems for hiking in consistently wet climate (Northwest, UK, Northern Europe…) or during Winter.
I get that you would recommend the Versatile over the Visp for most ultralight-enthusiast backpackers. I had a few questions or concerns where I would love to have your input.
First, even though I know they are ultralight and by default quite delicate (AKA not for bushwacking), I wanted to get a better sense of their respective durability (or anticipated durability). The Visp is a 3L construction which in theory should hold its own better than the Montbell 2L construction, especially since the WP/B membrane in 2L construction tend to get clogged up faster than 3L by body oils and dirt. On the other end, the Montbell 10D face fabric should theoretically be a little more robust than the Visp 7D (unless such a small difference is inconsequential?). Do you have the sense that the Montbell would be slightly more abrasion-resistant, but delaminate faster with potentially compromised breathability (and/or waterproofness) earlier than the Visp?
Second, I am worried about the sizing of the Montbell, as many people report you should size up one or even two sizes if you want to put some layers underneath (Japanese + tailored fit…). Being 198cm and 98kg (6’6’’ and 215lbs) with a chest size of 42-43, according to their size chart I would be a large, but from the comments I see (and my experience with Japanese sizing) I should get at least a XL. The problem is that they do not offer this jacket in XXL, and I am worried the jacket will be too tight to put anything other than a baselayer and a thin fleece, let alone a puffy. I am also concerned about the centre back length at only 73cm (28.7’’) according to their website. I have a long torso and I am worried it will ride up my back like so many hard shells. What is your experience with the sizing in terms of layering and back length?
Third, I just wanted to know if you had any opinion or suggestions regarding rain pants (Visp vs Versatile vs other). They might often be superfluous out West, but it can get cold and miserable in the Northeast!
Your 3 questions:
1) No opinion.
2) Mine XL feels a little large. Call them and ask or use their return policy and try on different sizes.
3) I like both of their rainpants, but I carry the Montbells. Used mine today to glissade down a peak as a matter of fact. Here’s a review. https://sectionhiker.com/montbell-versalite-pants-gore-windstopper-review/
Thank you for your answer!
I might order both the jacket and pants in XL (when the pants are back in stock). The return policy of Montbell is also advantageous in case the size doesn’t fit (compared to the penalty you get from EE when returning a custom item).
BTW, I just realized you had answered right after I posted a similar question on your review of the Versalite. You may ignore the redundancy!
I guess if the Versalite has been holding up fine in your experience, it is a testament to its (at least) decent durability. Obviously, any W/B membrane product is a somewhat expendable one at the end of the day.
Exactly. I usually go through one pair of rain pants per year.
Hi Philip, Thanks for the review. Any updates on your opinions on this jacket? I’m looking to possibly replace my 11 oz ArcTeryx zeta sl with a lighter shell that can double as a wind shirt. The Visp fits the bill re CFM and MVTR, and dropping some weight, but your experience with it wetting out so fast is concerning. Looking at this, the MB Versalite and maybe a shakedry like MB’s Peak. Any thoughts? Thanks again!
No updates/opinions. I use a versalite as both. It has much longer pitzips.
Thanks a lot for the great review. I couldn’t help but notice that Enlightened Equipment list the waterproof membrane as a ‘Hydrophilic Non-Porous PU membrane’ rather than the ePTFE you mention in the review. Would you consider updating your review to reflect this (given the difference in technologies and implications for long term durability/waterproofness)?
I can’t imagine it making a huge difference. The jacket still has a tricot liner to protect the membrane and its hyrostatic head and MVTR rating haven’t changed. What’s long term anyway for a rain jacket? I replace mine every few years after I rip the shit out of it.