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.
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.