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Montbell Rain Trekker Jacket Review

Montbell Rain Trekker Jacket Review

The Montbell Rain Trekker Jacket is a 2-layer Gore-Tex Infinium rain shell that’s loaded with features but still exceptionally lightweight and affordable. Weighing just 7.8 oz in a men’s XL (6.9 oz in a size medium), it’s a great seam-taped jacket for 3+ season weather with a three-way adjustable hood, front brim, velcro wrist-cuffs, a water-resistant front zipper, and two hipbelt compatible zippered chest pockets. Those chest pockets are a pretty rare thing on rain jackets designed for warmer weather use, but they are extremely valuable if you like to treat your rain jacket pockets as an extension of your packing system.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 6.9 (Men’s M) – Women’s sizes available
  • Weight Tested: 7.8 oz Men’s XL
  • Type: 2-layer, waterproof/breathable
  • Membrane: Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper
  • Outer Fabric: 20D Nylon Ripstop with DWR finish
  • Helmet Compatible: Yes
  • Hydrostatic Head: 30,000 mm
  • MVTR: 43,000 g/ m²/ 24hrs

The Montbell Rain Trekker is a lightweight but fully-featured seam-taped rain jacket. I’ve been using it since this spring for rain and for wind protection in cooler weather, usually layered over a fleece midlayer. While the Rain Trekker is billed as a waterproof/breathable jacket, I haven’t been blown away by its ability to vent water vapor. It’s adequate as far as these things go. I certainly accumulate perspiration when wearing it, but if you have low expectations about waterproof/breathable fabrics, you’ll never be disappointed.

The neck adjustment cords are buried in the neck so you can tighten them while wearing gloves
The neck adjustment cords are buried in the neck so you can tighten them while wearing gloves.

The main reason to get a waterproof/breathable jacket instead of a silpoly or silnylon one boils down to the fit, features, and seam taping which are usually far superior for hiking in mountainous terrain. If you know how to manage wet-out with midlayers, so it doesn’t chill you, or you only use a waterproof/breathable jacket as a hardshell in winter when the precipitation is solid, then a waterproof/breathable jacket makes sense to wear.

Besides its low weight, the features on this jacket that really rock my boat are the hood and its three-way adjustability, the velcro wrist cuffs, the seam-taped construction, and the exterior fabric which is quiet to wear and doesn’t have a shiny surface that you find on some of Montbell’s other rain jackets like the Versalite. If the Rain Trekker had pit zips, it’d be an even more desirable jacket.

The velcro tab lets you position the front brim, while the neck elastic lets you control the hood volume.
The velcro tab lets you position the front brim, while the neck elastic lets you control the hood volume.

The Hood

Good hoods are hard to find on rain jackets. This one is exceptional because it can be adjusted in three ways.

  1. The size of the face opening can be adjusted to block wind from entering around your face. This is done with elastic cords which Montbell tunnels through the upper chest so that they can be adjusted while wearing gloves. They use the same system on other jackets and it’s brilliant.
  2. There is a velcro tab in the back than can be used to raise or lower the front brim. The brim is not bendable but does prevent the front of the hood from flopping down over the eyes.
  3. A rear cordlock lets you adjust the hood volume to help reduce flapping in the wind.

While the Rain Trekker hood is helmet compatible, these adjustments also let you tailor it easily for non-helmet use. I have a small hat size and I don’t have any problem shrinking the hood to a more formfitting size.

The hood has a front brim so you do not need to wear a billed cap to prevent it from flopping down over your eyes.
The hood has a front brim so you do not need to wear a billed cap to prevent it from flopping down over your eyes. I hate billed caps, so this is a big plus for me. 

Hipbelt Compatible Pockets

The Rain Trekker has two chest pockets that can be easily accessed while wearing a backpack. I like keeping hats and gloves in these pockets so they’re easy to put on or take off when I’m hiking. But they’re also large enough to hold a folded map, compass, phone, or snacks.

The front pockets are positioned above the hip belt and completely accessible when a backpack is worn.
The front pockets are positioned above the hip belt and are completely accessible when a backpack is worn.

Most rain jackets don’t have chest pockets like these, because they’re actually not designed for hikers who wear hip belts. I like these pockets because I can access or put away frequently used items that you really can’t easily put into backpack shoulder strap or hip belt pockets. Both of these pockets are quite large and also have water-resistant zippers with zipper garages on top to prevent water streaming down your chest from leaking in.

The wrists cuffs are half elastic and half velcro.
The wrist cuffs are half elastic and half velcro. (Guess this jacket needs a wash.)

Wrist Cuffs

The jacket also comes with wrist cuffs, which are half elastic and half velcro, so you prevent wind and water from leaking up the arms or wrap the sleeve around glove/mitten gauntlets. I’ve also found them easy to use when I pull the jacket sleeves up to vent my wrists since this is a good way to regulate body heat.

Recommendation

The Montbell Rain Trekker Jacket is a very lightweight 2-layer Gore-Tex Infinium rain jacket that’s good for 3+ season use. I like it because it is so lightweight, but still quite “technical”, with a highly adjustable hood and hipbelt-compatible pockets that complement my style of hiking. I rate it as a 3+ season jacket because I have found it a little too cool to wear in winter and prefer a thicker and warmer hard shell for winter use.

If you’re wondering how this jacket compares to the Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket (link to review) which I also recommend, they’re actually quite similar, except that the Versalite has a shiny exterior fabric and long pit zips, which are desirable for venting body heat so you perspire less. That said, they’re both superb rain jackets and really are best-in-class.

Disclosure: Montbell donated a jacket for this review.

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13 comments

  1. Helpful review, thanks. I picked up the Torrent Flier jacket about 6months ago for the pit zips and fabric but I looked hard at the Trekker. The Torrent Flier is a functional rain and wind jacket for me, and I’ve been impressed with Montbell’s quality. Unfortunately inflation seems to be hitting gear prices pretty hard: I think both jackets are up $50 since spring. Not sure which jacket I would pick today.

  2. Would love your guidance please –
    What is the sizing on montbell today – for example is a M a US medium, a European medium which is a size smaller, or Japanese medium, often 2 sizes smaller ?

    From their size guide it appears they are close to European ie a size down on US fittings

  3. Thanks for the review. I am struggling between Storm Cruiser (which is Gore-tex) and this. It seems the Storm Cruiser has better waterproof but worse breathability when compared with the Rain Trekker. While the Rain Trekker mainly relies on the DWR coating (v.s. the Storm Cruiser with Gore-tex), I am worried about its drop in the water resistance with times. Which would you recommend if I would like to purchase a jacket for daily use and weekend hiking? Thank you.

    • Both jackets rely on their DWR coating to prevent wet out (you seem to be confused about this). The Storm Cruiser will be much more breathable because its made with Gore-Tex C-Knit in a 3-layer construction. I consider the Storm Cruiser to be the winter-weight version of Rain Trekker and it is much heavier. It will also be much warmer.

      • Thank you for your information! I am really confused about the DWR and the Gore-tex membrane as I thought that even if the DWR coating wears off, the jacket with Goretex membrane is still waterproof.
        While for the Goretex Infinium, as stated in the Goretex website, it is just a water resistant fabric instead of waterproof one.
        Based on your experience, is the Rain Trekker with Goretex Infinium enough for protection against rain? In the montbell’s website, its water resistance is 30,000 mm which seems to be as well performed as some Goretex jackets of other brands. I am interested in the Rain Trekker but is a bit worried if the water resistance is sufficient for use as outer waterproof layer.
        (p.s. in montbell’s website, the breathability of Storm Cruiser is Breathability: 35,000g/?/24hrs (JIS L-1099 B-1 method) and that for Rain Trekker is 43,000 g/ m2/ 24hrs, would it be more breathable for Rain Trekker for daily use?) Thank you again for your patience in answering =)

      • Thank you for your detailed reply!
        I am really a bit confused about the DWR coating. I should present it in another way. My original thought is that, even with the DWR coating worn off, the Storm Cruiser with GoreTex membrane will still keep the inner clothing dry (coz the membrane will prevent water from entering inner layer), while that is not the case for GoreTex Infinium as it is not built for waterproof purpose, and, the resistance mainly relies on the DRW coating.
        For the breathability, I saw from the montbell website that the breathability for Rain Trekker is 43,000/g/m2/24 hour, while that for the Storm Cruiser is 35,000. Would the breathability for Rain Trekker be better?
        (p.s. Would you think the Rain Trekker water resistance is good enough for daily use / sudden rain? I tried both Rain Trekker and Storm Cruiser, and I think Rian Trekker is softer and more comfortable, but I am just a bit worried on its water resistance. Storm Cruiser seems to offer waterproof ability but is harder, heavier and more expensive. Thanks for your patience in answering! =)

        • When the DWR coating rubs off, the waterproof/membrane remains waterproof but the breathability plummets because the external fabric is saturated with water and water vapor is blocked from passing through. The hydrostatic head on this jacket is 30,000 which means that it is outstandingly waterproof. Compare to a silpoly rain jacket which only has a hydrostatic head of about 3000. I have hiked in the pouring rain in the Rain trekker and never gotten wet from rain. You will always get wet from some perspiration and internal condensation because the breathable membrane does not work fast enough. Doesn’t matter how much you pay. Thermodynamics is a bitch.

  4. Hey Phillip, I respect your views on gear and have purchased many items because of your advice. I have the Torrent Flyer and was wondering what your outlook on this jacket is. Or do a review on this jacket. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a better rain jacket. Function, fit and rainproof without getting wet inside is fantastic from my experience with it so far. Thanks

  5. I have really been enjoying your search for the perfect rain gear. I think I have read all of your articles on the topic to date.

    My own experience has been that I prefer a windbreaker unless it is raining hard. (But real rain gear is necessary eventually.)

    I recently found an interesting thread on some other forum about an “alternative to WPB gear for active backpacking” by Richard Nisley. It’s old and 15 pages, but I found it a fascinating read. Nisley discusses the collaboration between Polartec, Patagonia, and the DoD in the development of the ECWCS (Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System) at the Natick Soldier Systems Laboratory in Massachusetts.

    The TLDR is that special operators who spend their lives outdoors prefer a highly breathable garment even when it is raining. ECWCS specifies two garments for most weather while active at 7 METs:

    Level 4 Windshirt: >300 mm HH, ~35 CFM air permeability (over wicking layer) (45F and up).

    Level 5 Soft Shell: >300 mm HH, ~5 CFM (cooler weather, but still active)

    Level 6 is GoreTex, which they recommend only for STATIC purposes or freezing weather. (This is consistent with your “WPB is neither” experience while active).

    (They recommend a fully-waterproof-but-ventilated poncho for active use in warm rain).

    Of course, being the DoD, flimsy DWR is out. So that is PEMANENT hydrostatic head >300 mm. Not super waterproof, but significantly water resistant that will not fail over time. They achieved that with GE’s EPIC fabric.

    There are not many commercial windshirts that meet the L4 spec (maybe Black Diamond Alpha Start), but some soft shells are close to the L5 spec. Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi fabric is close. I’ve got the hoody jacket and can say that it breaths better than any rain jacket and I *think* that it is woven tightly enough that it will be water resistant even after the DWR wears off.

    Patagonia Houdini also fits L5, but my understanding is that it depends on DWR for water repellency. Not certain of that; it might be worthwhile testing. Probably other DWR garments are in the same ballpark.

    I thought you might find the discussion interesting in context of your investigations into rain gear. If nothing else, it is a good counterpoint to the never-quite-fulfilled hype about WPB garments. (I didn’t post the link because it might be impolite, but I figure that you may know Nisley.) (Not the auto-racer Nisley; the backpacker.)

    • Love this thread, I in fact own an L4 windshirt encapsulated with EPIC. I also was a member of BPL (where the thread above was probably posted) for many years before they required a membership subscription. I also spent several years as a support technician for Special Forces that were issued all levels of this uniform (got to try out many garments myself) … my take away was that the L4 is great, but only water resistant to a light sprinkle before soaking through & yes a thick Polartec fleece does help keep one more comfortable when things start to get sketchy. I’ve used all types of WPB fabrics (Gore-tex, Pre-cip, Dri-ducks, eVent, etc…) They all leave much to be desired. That’s why my current favorites are a kid’s poncho, & a sil nylon raincoat (similar to lightheartgear) In fact the British softshell paradigm such as Buffalo systems Ltd. using pile under a fast drying nylon (similar to the L4 w/ fleece underneath) seem to work slightly better for me short of a down pour. Marmot Dri- clime adopted this principal in the U.S. but only offered a lightweight pile, much of the lineup has disappeared… probably due to insistence that one can remain warm & dry (not possible unless moving very slowly)

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