The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is a moderately priced, 3-layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket that’s surprisingly affordable with premium features important to hikers and backpackers. It has a two-way adjustable hood with a front brim, pit-zips, zippered handwarmer pockets, rip-and-stick velcro-style cuffs, and is fully seam-taped. When new, it is very stiff and awkward to wear but gets much softer and quieter with use. The sizing runs quite large in the torso and sleeves which can be good for cold-weather layering, but you may want to size down for three-season use.
Specs at a glance
- Waterproof/breathable: 3L
- Membrane: PU Membrane
- Weight: 13.9 oz (our test jacket is 15 oz in a men’s XL)
- Gender: Men’s (Women’s also available)
- Pit zips: Yes
- Adjustable hood w/brim: Yes
- Climbing compatible hood: No
- Pockets: 2 (handwarmer)
- Velcro-wrist cuffs: Yes
- Seam-taped: Yes
- Hydrostatic head: 20,000 mm
- MVTR: Not Published
- Fit: Runs large
- Materials: 50 denier recycled nylon ripstop external face fabric, tricot backer
- External DWR: Yes
Three-Layer Waterproof/Breathable Construction
The Patagonia Torrentshell is a 3 layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket with a burly 50 denier nylon external face fabric, a PU (polyurethane) waterproof/breathable membrane, and a tricot fabric backer. When it comes to waterproof/breathable rain jackets, 3-layer jackets are usually the cream of the crop in terms of breathability, comfort, features, and price. They also tend to be heavier than the lightweight 2.5 layer rain jackets favored by many hikers because they have a third fabric layer, an inner fabric liner that makes them less clammy to wear in humid weather.
Comparison of 3L Rain Jackets
|Make / Model||Membrane||Avg Weight||Price|
|Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket||H2NO||13.9 oz||$149|
|Arcteryx Alpha SV Jacket||Gore-Tex Pro||17.9 oz||$799|
|Arcteryx Beta LT Jacket||Gore-Tex||13.9 oz||$399|
|Arcteryx Beta AR Jacket||Gore-Tex Pro||16.2 oz||$599|
|Black Diamond Highline Stretch||BD.dry||14.6 oz||$300|
|Outdoor Research Motive||Ascentshell||10.9 oz||$199|
|Rab Arc Eco Jacket||Pertex Shield Revolve||15.1 oz||$230|
|Rab Kangri Jacket||Gore-Tex||18.5 oz||$350|
|Rab Kinetic Alpine Jacket||Gore-Tex||14.9 oz||$280|
|The North Face FUTURELIGHT Summit||FUTURELIGHT||17.6 oz||$450|
The Torrentshell 3L is one of the least expensive 3L waterproof/breathable rain jackets available today. One reason for this is that it uses a PU (polyurethane) waterproof breathable membrane instead of Gore-Tex or one of the other premium membranes. PU membranes have much lower breathability levels (like one-half to two-thirds less) and work best when there is a large temperature differential between the outside and the inside of the jacket, as in colder weather. They become much more effective to wear in warmer weather, however, when you ventilate them, in this case with pit zips. Ventilation (also called mechanical venting) can make an “OK” rain jacket perform much better in terms of breathability and comfort.
PU membranes are usually much thicker than premium waterproof/breathable ones and necessitate the use of a thicker higher denier external fabric, which is one reason why the Torrentshell has a burly 50 denier exterior shell fabric. The tricot knitted liner in this jacket is primarily provided as a comfort feature because it feels warmer and less moist on the skin. But it also serves to protect the PU membrane from dirt and oils and to anchor the jacket’s seam tape.
Jacket Features for Hiking and Backpacking
When I evaluate rain jackets for backpacking there are a few features that I look for, regardless of whether the jacket is made with a waterproof/breathable fabric or not. These include an adjustable hood, pit zips, and whether the wrists have velcro closures or elastic ones. All of these features are important for regulating your warmth level and the amount of perspiration you experience. As a hiker, you want to be able to manage your warmth and perspiration level across a wind range of temperatures, wind speeds, and trail conditions by zipping and unzipping openings and covering and uncovering your head and wrists.
The Torrentshell 3L has pit zips in the armpits to vent built-up body heat and reduce perspiration, even though the jacket is made with waterproof/breathable fabric. The Torrentshell’s pit zips are 12 inches long which is pretty average. The pit zips have dual sliders and they have a rain flap covering them to prevent water from entering. The zipper sliders are easy to pull down (from bicep to ribs) to close the pit zip but difficult to zip up (from ribs to bicep) without two or three hands. I usually keep my pit zips open all the time, even in winter, except when I get very cold. In any case, I’d recommend that you lubricate the pit zips periodically with Gear-Aid Zipper Cleaner and Lubricant to make them work more smoothly.
The Torrentshell 3L Jacket has a high volume hood but it has a rear volume control that lets you downsize it to a more manageable size scale. The hood has a front waterproof brim that covers your forehead and keeps the rain off your glasses or out of your eyes. However, the hood is not quite large enough to be climbing helmet-compatible, so you’d have to wear the jacket under a helmet if one is required.
There are also two neck control cords that hang down below the collarbone and let you reduce the height of the brim, so it sits closer to the top and sides of your head, but not enough to seal off the sides of your face from the wind or rain. These neck controls don’t lock in your adjustments under tension and have a tendency to slip, which is kind of annoying. There are two internal cord tensioners sewn into the jacket but they don’t have enough bite to hold the cords locked in place.
When the hood is zippered up all the way, you get a good deal of face coverage with it, so your mouth, neck, and upper chest are protected from the wind, and blowing snow and rain. A high neck like this is a good feature to fend off nasty weather and is a good hedge against having to wear full face protection like a balaclava during the colder months. There’s also zipper garage at the top of the central zipper, which is nice for bearded people so your facial hair does not get caught in the zipper.
The Torrentshell has rip-and-stick (velcro) style wrist cuffs instead of the cheap elastic wrists that you find on many warm-weather rain jackets. These are much more efficient at sealing in body heat at the wrists and for use with insulated gloves. I consider this a premium feature on a rain jacket and one that extends its utility into the colder, winter months.
The Torrentshell has two zippered handwarmer pockets that have rain flaps positioned over the zippers and are lined on one side with the tricot back and the other with the exterior shell fabric. The pockets are not hipbelt compatible, but that’s a pretty rare feature on US-designed rain jackets anyway. The jacket stuffs into its left-hand pocket for storage and there’s an internal loop so you can hang it from a harness. These stuff-it pockets are actually an important feature on waterproof-breathable jackets that have an external DWR coating reducing abrasion before DWR reproofing is required. (See: Rain Jackets – How to Make Your DWR Last Longer).
The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is a moderately priced three-layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket that can be used year-round for hiking, backpacking, and winter sports. While 3-layer rain jackets tend to be heavier and more expensive than lighter weight alternatives, they usually come equipped with excellent technical features, in addition to a premium waterproof/breathable membrane from Gore-Tex, eVent, or Pertex.
By using a proprietary PU membrane in the Torrentshell 3L, Patagonia is able to offer the same premium features found in other 3-layer jackets at a much lower price point. While the PU membrane is less breathable than a premium one, the Torrentshell 3L uses pit zips as an equalizer to vent water vapor and improve the jacket’s overall performance. I think the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is fairly priced for the value it offers and will prove to be a reliable garment if it’s maintained properly.
Disclosure: The author purchased this jacket.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.