The LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket (MSRP $115) is a lightweight silpoly waterproof rain jacket made the old-fashioned way, without any so-called waterproof/breathable fabric. Coated on the outside with silicone and on the inside with polyurethane (PU), 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 repel rain. (See: Why does Waterproof/Breathable Rain Gear Wet Out?)
An earlier version of this rain jacket was made with silnylon, but LightHeart Gear switched to silpoly (siliconized polyester) in the past year. The new silpoly jacket is not as slick as the old silnylon one and is not as loud and crinkly plastic sounding. Otherwise, the design and feature set is the same.
Specs at a Glance
- Best use: Hiking, Backpacking, Everyday
- Weight: 6.6 oz in a unisex XL
- Hydrostatic head: 3000 mm
- Fabrics: 20D ripstop polyester, silicone-coated on the outside, PU coated on inside
- Seams: Bound, not taped (see below for explanation)
- Colors: Many, including blaze orange which is good for hunting season and off-trail use
- Origin: Made in the USA
Rain Jacket Features
Weighing just 6.6 ounces in a men’s size XL, the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket is fully featured with many of the bells and whistles you’d find on much more expensive jackets. This includes an adjustable hood with neck cords and a front brim, dual front handwarmer pockets, two internal drop pockets that you can stuff the jacket into, adjustable wrist cuffs, and 18″ long pit zips that run below the biceps and down the torso to vest excess heat.
The hood can be cinched tightly around your head to prevent wind, rain, and cold from blowing in and chilling you. I’ve never understood why rain jacket manufacturers don’t provide full hood controls to help trap the heat around your head or why hikers buy jackets with oversized helmet-compatible hoods that can’t be cinched closed. The hood brim on the jacket can prevent rain from dripping down onto your face or glasses when it’s drawn tight, but it is also compatible with wide-brimmed and billed hats.
The front handwarmer pockets are not zippered. I can usually get my hands into them to grab something when I’m wearing a backpack, but it depends on how padded the hip belt is. I’d love to see two zippered chest pockets added to the jacket instead, but that would probably make the jacket more expensive to buy. The jacket also has two deep internal drop pockets that are open at the top and which can be used to stash gloves or snacks. You can also stuff the jacket into one of them for storage.
There are 18″ pit zips that run down the biceps and down the sides of the jacket to help vent extra warmth and reduce your perspiration rate. The cool thing about these long pit zips is that you can stick your arms through the pit zips and wear the jacket like a vest. This sheds a lot more heat than the pit zips alone when hiking, especially in warmer weather where you want some evaporative cooling from the surface of your skin to reduce the amount of heat buildup inside the jacket. I’ve found this to be very effective.
The rain jacket has elastic wrist cuffs that have been augmented with velcro (hook and loop) tabs so you can crank them down. This is helpful if you wear rain mittens and want to close off the jacket-to-mitten interface to stay warmer or to prevent rain from dripping down your jacket sleeves. Your blood flows close to the surface of your wrists, so keeping them warm is important in cold weather.
The jacket’s front zipper has a fold-over rain flap to rain from blowing through it and can be zipped up over your chin to keep water off your face. There are also velcro tabs along the zipper that you can use to hold the jacket closed with the zipper open for venting or if the zipper fails. The front zipper is not water-resistant or waterproof, and neither are the pit-zip zippers.
Warmth Not Dryness
When water hits the surface of the LightHeart Rain 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 where the outer fabric gets soaked with water, 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 rainy weather, you need to be proactive when it comes to venting the jacket if you start to overheat and perspire. The long pit-zips facilitate this as does sticking your arms out through the pit-zip holes. You can also unzip the jacket partially since most people hike hunched over and your head and upper torso will block the rain.
But there’s an underlying philosophy behind this jacket’s design that I haven’t touched on yet that’s important to discuss. That is, that it’s more important to stay warm and prevent hypothermia when you’re hiking in the rain than to stay dry. My view is that 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 by wet-out. That’s the advantage of wearing the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket, which is permanently waterproof. The rain jacket acts as a thermal barrier to prevent uncontrollable heat loss.
If you adopt the “warmth over dryness mindset”, features like seam-taping and waterproof zippers become far less important. If there is any rain leakage at all, and bound seams are pretty leak-resistant anyway, it’s not going to chill you significantly.
LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket
Comfort & Mobility
Made for Backpacking by Backpackers
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. It will probably be the last backpacking rain jacket you ever need to buy.
Disclosure: LightHeart Gear provided Philip Werner with a jacket for this review.
I got this jacket a few years ago on your recommendation and have been very happy with it. One of the benefits of not wetting out is that you can still wear it as a layer in camp after hiking in the rain. I wipe the sweat from inside with a camp towel, then wear it over dry clothes. You can’t do that with a soaked waterproof/breathable jacket.
I need a new shell. I backpack about three times a year, a few days in relatively mild winter conditions in Big Bend and a hike of about 10-12 days each spring and autumn. The shoulder season hikes have the most wet weather. I’m fine with having to renew the DWR in a few years since I don’t think I’m using a pack enough to wear it off too quickly. I may be wrong about that, but it wouldn’t be the first time–just ask my wife!
With my back condition, I have to aggressively cut weight. I’m working on the belt weight and spending on the pack weight. At the moment, I’m considering three shells, in no particular order:
1. OR Gear Motive Ascent Shell 10.9 oz. The main reason I’m considering this is OR will give me a $150 credit on my present jacket, a discontinued model, which has failed. The drawbacks in my opinion are weight and lack of chest pocket.
2. Montbell Versalite. This one checks lots of boxes and is 6.4 oz.
3. Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket reviewed here.
Considering my circumstances, do you have any observations about my choices that would help me make my decision?
I wasn’t blown away by the Motive, which I reviewed recently. The DWR will wear off whenever you wear the Versalite or stuff it in a bag. It doesn’t just get rubbed off by a backpack. I use both of the jackets myself. I like the Versalite for on-trail use when I want a garment with zippered pockets that can also serve as a wind shirt. However, for off-trail use and during hunting season (like now), I wear the LHG Jacket because it’s available in blaze orange. I guess it depends on whether you want a very “finished” jacket or a very “cottage” one.
As long as you know that the Versalite won’t keep you dry (before or after the DWR rubs off), then you won’t be dissatisfied if you buy it.
How true to size is the Versalite?
I was on a section hike in light rain a couple years ago with a buddy who has the LHG jacket and I was gear testing the now discontinued OR Gear jacket. The OR Gear jacket didn’t have pit zips (and the one I’m looking at doesn’t either). Both have a stretchy mesh under the arm and down the sides a bit.
At one point, I was really building up the sweat and decided to take off the jacket and was wondering if pit zips would have been better. My buddy was 50 yards up the trail ahead of me and he stopped to take off his LHG jacket at that very moment since he was sweating past the ability of the pit zips to handle. It told me the mesh was about as good as the zips at that time.
I have a couple of the very similar AG jackets (a well-used Blaze Orange and a brand new Gray). I’ll be looking at this one when I need a replacement – Made in the USA.
“AG jackets”? I’ve googled but come up empty, other than Adriano Goldschmied, which doesn’t seem too good a match. Is AG a backpacking gear brand?
Anti gravity gear
Hi, I am considering buying this one over the AGG because this one has a brim whereas the AGG doesn’t have one (I wear glasses). Do you know of any other differences that I am not noticing? Thanks. ???
Not offhand. I haven’t used the AGG rain jacket in a while.
We are roughly the same vintage. You will therefore remember all the PU-coated nylon gear (backpacks, bivy bags, stuff sacks e tutti quanti) from the 80’s and 90’s of the past century. Im my experience this PU coating invariably hydrolyzed, lifted off the nylon base fabric and flaked off over time. In a jacket I would surmise there is additional mechanical stress on this PU-layer. Any thoughts/experience/speculation on how the PU coating will fare on a jacket?
I had the previous version which was sil/pu on nylon for many years. I can’t remember how long, but it was easily over 5-6 years. It never showed any signs of wear of degradation. I wouldn’t worry about it.
I’ve also had that experience with peeling and sticky PU-coated nylon tents, jackets, and packs from the 70s through 90s. Had a Northface VE-24 tent that was peeling on the inside floor and fly so badly that we had to give up using it.
Keep in mind that materials science is constantly improving, and current coatings are likely far better at standing up to use. Also, the issue of PU flaking away happens faster if the item is stored wet (this was VERY true for older gear). I’ve had a Sierra Designs tent with PU coated floor and rainfly, for 15 years now, used at least a dozen times a year, and it shows zero signs of the coating coming off. We always air out the tent, remove any debris, and ensure it’s bone-dry before we store it.
I’ve had my LightHeart Gear rain jacket for a few years now and it has served me well. I have long arms and I paid a little extra to add two inches to the sleeve length. This jacket fits better than any of my previous ones. Also bought a rain skirt to complete my rain gear setup. (I found out about their rain gear when I went to their website to buy my Solong 6 tent.)
They must have fixed the front zipper. I bought the silnyl version in 2016 and the fabric is constantly getting stuck in the zipper. It’s a miracle I haven’t torn the thing off Hulk style yet. So frustrating.
I think they did. There’s no extra flap under the zipper.
I have a custom Luke’s Ultra Light sil-nylon jacket and agree w/ your observations…(Especially after being nearly hypothermic using a wetted out Frog Toggs in the Boundary Waters) The additional use that I like of these types is that it serves as a VBL in cold weather for sleeping or blocking moisture accumulation in an over garment.
I haven’t actually tried that with this garment, but you’re right about it being a good VBL/moisture barrier when worn directly over your skin or a thin baselayer.
So true about staying warm. I sweat profusely and I’m usually wet when I hike. I use my rain jacket for warmth even if it’s not raining. Why? Because I don’t want to wet out my fleece or down. I know my rain jacket will dry quickly. Those other jackets only come out when I’m at rest or in sub freezing temps when I manage to avoid sweating. If I get to warm I simply take it off. I’ve done a bunch of long rainy day hikes this past year and can attest to you analysis. A vapor barrier, like a rain coat, is often the most effective and efficient way to stay warm when wet.
The other “warm when wet” paradigm layer was originated by Buffalo systems LTD. in the U.K. I own a Pertex Tecmax Shirt w/lightweight pile, it’s drawback is poor tailoring and body mapping. I also own the U.S. made Dri-Clime copies by Marmot in a shirt and vest*(I use the vest a lot-especially sleeping). These additionally perform quite spectacularly even when layered over one another. The drawback is having to wear large amounts of soggy pile if the mountain shirt or heavier garment is used which has a thicker layer of this insulation. At this time no company has made one imbued w/ silver threads or treatment to keep stink levels abated & though I had no trouble w/ that issue, many reviews state it as a problem.
Since these look like they run slightly large, would you recommended oversizing them on purpose (better ventilation?) or choosing a standard fit?
Fwiw I’ve had this LHG jacket for a few years, purchased a large (my usual size – 36″ waist, 32″ arm, broadish shoulder) and soon after exchanged it for a medium. It’s still baggy on me, enough for several layers underneath, though YMMV.
Could you use this as a wind shirt as well as a rain jacket? Or do you still carry both?
Wind shirts are usually uncoated nylon which is very breathable. Technically you could use the LHG jacket as a windshirt, but you’ll get very sweaty and it wouldn’t be my first pick.
I got one of these after having yet ANOTHER breathable jacket spring leaks after just a couple years. Haven’t regretted the decision at all. I did regret short cutting and not sealing all the seams initially. That was an easy fix. The only time I don’t love it is above treeline in the wind. It’s a little flappy since it’s a loose fit on me.
How good is the sizing for women? Wide enough at hips? Sleeves not too long? Thanks!
The designer Judy is a woman.
Well, that’s a good sign!
A few years ago, OR sold three versions of their ‘famous’ Helium rain jacket line….included a lightweight (no bells and whistles), one slightly heavier (with pit zips), and a ‘breathable’ version. I opted for ‘Curtain #2’ because I require pit zips. It was a great jacket….worn in driving rain, sleet, wet snow, and as an effective wind jacket. Again, great jacket….but due to the infinite wisdom of outdoor gear companies, they deleted it from their line up. It was the perfect Goldilocks, in my estimation. But alas, the miles and adventures took its toll….and I’m in the market for a replacement. I’m definitely looking into this one, Phillip. As always, your reviews are truly value-added, sir!
I’m in the market for one of these non-breathable rain jackets. This one seems similar to the Anti-Gravity Gear Jacket, which has a waterproof zipper, pit zips one inch shorter (and one oz more in weight). I wonder how they compare to each other?
Thumbs up on the LHG rain jacket I’ve been using last couple of years. I was concerned first time hiked all day in rain as I got pretty wet (also have the LHG rain pants, but they’re not orange like my jacket) (orange for hiking during hunting season). I thought maybe pit zips were leaking badly, so did an experiment at home, showered in it! I couldn’t get wet, so I was confident it was doing it’s job. Probably perspiration accounted for much of the wetness and perhaps the neck seam also with pooling effect, since in the shower it was being blasted. I have silnet. All in all it’s great and I use it as a wind break as well.
Oh one thing should be mentioned about the LHG, for an extra charge they’ll custom size what you need.
Looks like there is no adjustable drawstring on the bottom of the jacket?
I find this jacket works better for snow than it does rain. Lots of room under it for thick insulation. For me, the leaky seams and leaky zippers makes it less perfect than it could otherwise be for staying waterproof. The shoulders will eventually wet through the seams when wearing a pack in heavy rain, as will the front main zipper seeping moisture through. Combined with the pockets that also catch water, it’s kind of better suited for just rain showers and/or snow. Might have to seam seal it to help around the shoulders and head. It might even be tempting to remove the zipper on mine and replace it with a waterproof one along with seam sealing. Same for the pockets.
Would be worth the money to have a more fully featured and fully sealed jacket from LHG that can take a week straight of rain without leaking a drop.
Thanks for reviewing so many rain jackets, as you should, but the DWR is the weak link in most of these. Is there a bottom line decision for you based on all the reviews when it comes to rain protection, like the LightHeart Rain Jacket packed or worn for most trips, and a more technical jacket for winter hiking? Of course features probably trump the compromise of reapplying a DWR treatment. Your thoughts on this
Yep. Lightheart gear worn for most trips three-season, winter shell in winter.
I think that I might give this jacket a try. What’s old in new again!
I come from the bicycle touring world and many years ago I found a jacket from a cottage manufacture (Pacific Northwest I think) that had similar specs. The key feature being big pit zips. The only feature that is missing is an open mesh material lining the body of the jacket. This further assisted in ventilation and kept the damp inner off your shirt/jersey.
Thanks for your review!
My concern with any of these UL jackets is durability. You gave it five stars for durability, but didn’t say much in that regards. I’m in the market for something that can withstand the rain and wind for a month in Patagonia. I usually prefer a poncho for air flow and doubling as a pack cover, but their weak point is high winds. This seems to check several boxes (waterproofness, cost, weight, pit zips). Durability is my main concern. Can you say anything in that regards?
This is a very simple garment. It requires no maintenance to maintain its waterproofness. I’ve used one for years, both in New Hampshire, on multi-week section hikes on the Appalachian Trail, and for hiking on multi-week trips in scotland. The fact that it’s “ultralight” is incidental.
Hi. Thanks for the thorough review. Please Will the hood move with you once it is cinched up, for better visibility? Thanks!
Hard to say. It depends on the size of your head. A billed cap will help.
Hi Philip, thank you so much for sharing all your thoughtful observations. I am wondering if you can help me I have been looking at getting The Packa as they argue well for the benefit of being able to have your ‘jacket’ over your back pack especially in terms of being able to went truly waterproof jackets well. But then I fell on LHG’s rainjacket and your review and like that this one has more features in the hood and is lighter. Now I am wondering if it might be useful to buy a larger than required size LGH jacket that could fit over my 40 L backpack too and maybe adding an elastic cord loop around the whole backpack to get the functionality of The Parka as well. How does that sound to you? Would it be doable you think? I ask as I am in Europe so shipping alone on each of them is $45-55 so it will be too expensive for me to ship them here to test it out.
It won’t be big enough. Just get the Packa if that’s what you want.
I currently have a very ordinary Columbia breathable rain jacket. It’s one of those pieces of gear I’d figure on upgrading someday, but never got around to it since it was cheap and work OK. I’m seriously considering this jacket. It seems to align with my priorities. I’m 6’0″, 190 lbs, longish arms. Does a L sound about right? From the reviews above, these seem to be sized generously.
I’m glad to see you demonstrating the use of pit zips to wear the jacket as a rain vest. I find radiating heat from wet arms to greatly expand the functional temperature of a rain jacket. As you pointed out, it’s about staying warm vs dry. Wet arms (and leg) are not an issue. Keeping your torso and head warm is the key. I have promoting this hack for years. I’d like to think that I invented it and you got it from me. Of course I’m sure I wasn’t the first to figure it out, but I would like to THINK that. ;-)
Figured it out on my own!
Hi, I love your articles and thank you for posting! I have a lightheart rain jacket and pants and felt it kept me warmer and blocked more wind than my EE Visp. Like you, I don’t want to deal with recoating the DWR all the time. Do you have thoughts or experience with this lightheart rain grear in prolonged rain or heavy downpours or stong wind and rain? Just wondering of the 3000mm rating results in water getting through in those conditions? If it isn’t, would adding a simple emergency poncho over it for those conditions solve the problem?thanks. Asking because the Visp has a really high mm rating I believe. Jeff
I guess. It won’t make you any drier though because you’ll have twice as much perspiration and condensation buildup underneath. I always wear a fleece under a rain jacket since it will keep me warm even when I’m damp inside. But it’s also important to understand what a 3000 mm hydrostatic head means. It’s a pressure test. It measures the height of the water in a tube required to leak through the fabric. When it rains, you don’t have 3000 mm of water laying on top of your jacket…it bounces off. That’s why a tent with a hydrostatic head of 3000 mm is more than sufficient to keep you dry in heavy rain. Same with a jacket. What you’re experiencing is likely condensation and perspiration. If wind is an issue, a poncho isn’t going to help. But a better fitting rain jacket with sealed seams will.
Do you reckon the hood could fit over a helmet?
Don’t fear the sweat! I have been running 3 days a week since 1979 when I was 22 years old. I stopped running after I turned 66 due to an age related radial tear in my knee meniscus. It was worth the 44 years of running. Right now I am walking 2X a week and biking once a week.
Since I have run during all seasons including the pouring rain in our PNW rainy winters, I’ve always experienced a choice of 39 degree rain touching my skin or 88 degree sweat. Believe me the 88 degrees is the way to go. I personally looked for rain jackets that were the least breathable since the idea was to heat up within 1 mile and keep the 39 degree wetness out. I have ordered a LHG jacket, and I think its just what I need for my long walks in the rain. The inner pockets were a must in order to carry my cellphone and keep my lightweight iPod nano dry. The outer pockets were also essential since I always find myself stripping off gloves or a hat toward the middle to end of my walk when being cold is no longer a factor.
Any thoughts on choosing between LHG’s Hoodie Pack Cover and the rain jacket for moderate-to-heavy wind (15 to 20 mph), rain (2 to 4 mm / hr), and moderate swings in temps (20C to 50C) for 4 hours a day, almost every day, for 6 straight days?
I like the idea of the LHG jacket, but when it is cold and rainy, I can’t leverage the arms-out strategy once the pit zips aren’t enough ventilation. So, I was thinking that the hoodie might be an acceptable compromise when paired with an older DWR coated jacket (wets out in 1.5 hours of light, steady rain). I was thinking that lless heat would be trapped than with the jacket. Theoretically, the waist strap, buttons below the front of the hoodie, and the cord system for the hood as the jacket will keep it in place.
Note: if I went with the jacket…my pack would have a waterproof cover and all the gear inside my pack would be in a waterproof bag. The biggest things I lose are coverage of my lower torso, the backpack’s straps and the back panel, as well as the additional protection it provides for my DSLR which will be mounted to one of my shoulder straps (and will be in a waterproof shell).
I’d go with the rain jacket. No question. 20 mph wind – you don’t want to be in a poncho-thingy. You’ll be warm though. If it’s going to be on the cold and windy side, as it is when the trees don’t have leaves yet, I’d definitely carry a breathable wind shirt.
Thanks a lot for the quick and feedback. OK, you’re in the 100% rain jacket camp. I guess the good news for me is that one of my bad traits would finally come in handy: my extremities become quite cold while I am not active, so it will take 90 minutes before I completely heat up.
I hadn’t considered a breathable wind-shirt, but now see the folly of that.
FYI: This hike will be treeless: Landmannalaugar day hikes coupled with the Laugavegur-Fimmvorduhals thru-hike.
Thanks again for your insight.
IMO, the Hoodie Pack Cover is a brilliant solution for a narrow range of conditions: Warm light rain. Rain jackets can be far too hot, and even a poncho can be too much sometimes. Many people choose to just get wet when it is warm out, but in light rain the head and shoulders take the brunt of it. Since it is attached to your pack, you can on/off it easily.
On the other hand, the Hoodie Pack Cover is incomplete when temperatures drop, rain increases, or wind picks up. Then you will want a poncho or rain jacket.
LHG gear is light enough to carry both the hoodie and a jacket without thinking twice. A poncho is even better in some conditions, although then you are duplicating the fabric over the pack.