LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket Review

Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket Review 2021
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 Rain Jacket Hood has neck controls so you can adjust the size of the front opening.
The Rain Jacket Hood has neck controls so you can adjust the size of the front opening. It’s also compatible with billed or wide-brimmed hats.

Adjustable Hood

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.

You can also wear the hood without a hat and the front brim will keep the rain off your face.
You can also wear the hood without a hat and the front brim will keep the rain off your face.

Pockets

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.

The Lightheart Gear rain jacket has long pit zips to venbt excess body heat
The LightHeart Gear rain jacket has long pit zips to vent excess body heat

Pit Zips

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 pit zips are large enough that you can put your arms through them which is even more effective for shedding excess heat
The pit zips are large enough that you can put your arms through them which is even more effective for shedding excess heat

Wrist Cuffs

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 has velcro wrists cuffs that you can close over gloves to seal in the heat.
The jacket has velcro wrists cuffs that you can close over gloves to seal in the heat.

Zippers

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.

What is a bound seam? 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. While it is not technically waterproof, any leakage is minimal. If you are concerned about the seams leaking, LHG suggests you seam seal the neck seam at the back of the hood, where water could pool, using Silnet.

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.

The rain soaked through my robic backpack, but I stayed warm and comfortable in the LightHeart Rain jacket even after 7 hours of rain.
The rain soaked through my robic backpack on this trip, but I stayed warm and comfortable in the LightHeart Rain Jacket even after hiking all day in the pouring 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

Water Resistance
Breathability
Comfort & Mobility
Hood Adjustability
Weight
Durability
Packed Size

Made for Backpacking by Backpackers

The LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket is made with silicone and polyurethane coated siliconized polyester that never wears off like the DWR coating on a Gore-Tex jacket. Long pit zips, adjustable wrists cuffs, and an adjustable hood provide excellent comfort and mobility while weighing under 7 ounces.

Shop Now

Recommendation

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. 

Visit LightHeart Gear for full rain jacket specifications.

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25 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Could you use this as a wind shirt as well as a rain jacket? Or do you still carry both?

  12. 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.

  13. CAPT Gary Andres USN ret

    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!

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