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REI XeroDry GTX Jacket Review

REI XeroDry GTX Jacket Review

The REI XeroDry GTX Jacket is a 2-layer waterproof/breathable jacket that’s good for use in cooler weather or as a winter hard shell. While it doesn’t have pit zips, it’s fully featured in every other way, with a two-way adjustable hood, velcro wrist cuffs, and three external pockets. The XeroDry jacket has what REI calls “core vents” which is a little misleading: the handwarmer and chest pocket are mesh-backed, so they can dump excess body heat if you don’t store anything in them and leave them unzipped. Despite this, the XeroDry is quite a nice rain jacket/hard shell with many features suitable for more technical use. If you’re in the market for a colder weather/winter shell, the REI XeroDry GTX is a good choice.

Specs at a glance

  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s also available)
  • Waterproof/Breathable: Yes, Gore-tex Paclite
  • Weight: 14 oz in a men’s XL
  • Two-way Adjustable Hood: Yes
  • Pit zips: No
  • Velcro Wrist Cuffs: Yes
  • Hem Cinch: Yes
  • Chest Pocket: Yes, zippered and mesh-backed
  • Handwarmer Pockets: Yes, zippered and mesh-backed
  • Packable in a pocket: Yes
  • Sizing: Runs large for layering, Tall sizes are also available.

Rain jackets fall into two general categories: lightweight minimalist jackets intended for use in rain and warm weather and heavier-weight jackets that are thicker, warmer, and often have a richer set of features for use in colder weather or winter. The XeroDry GTX falls into this second camp making it good for early spring, later autumn, and winter conditions in conjunction with more technical base and mid-layer garments. While it’s perfectly suitable for hiking in the rain, its feature set and warmth make it an excellent hard shell in the cold, snow, and higher wind speeds.

When evaluating rain jackets/hard shells for colder weather, I look for the following features:

  • Fully adjustable hood
  • Lots of large zippered pockets
  • Temperature management features
    • Pit zips or torso zips
    • Two-way front zipper
    • Adjustable hook and loop (velcro) wrist closures
    • Drawcord hem closure

Two-way Adjustable Hood

The XeroDry GTX jacket has a superb two-way adjustable hood with a rear volume control to adjust the interior volume and buried neck controls to adjust the size of the front face opening. These features are must-haves for hiking in higher wind speeds or blowing rain and snow because you don’t want wind whistling around inside your hood when you’re trying to stay warm. A surprising number of rain jackets/hard shells lack these features because they’re intended for skiers or climbers who wear helmets. So the fact that the XeroDry GTX has them indicates that it was designed with hikers in mind.

The XeroDry had buried neck controls to adjust the size of the face opening.
The XeroDry had buried neck controls to adjust the size of the face opening.

The XeroDry also has an enlarged front bill to keep the wind and precipitation off your face and glasses so you don’t have to carry a billed baseball cap for that purpose. The bill does not contain a shapable wire which you can sometimes find on higher-end jackets, but has a plastic stiffener to preserve its shape which is perfectly adequate for that purpose.

Philip ascending Mt Madison (NH) in Winter in an REI XeroDry Jacke
Philip climbing Mt Madison (NH) in Winter in an REI XeroDry Jacket. Note the front bill which kept the wind off my forehead in conjunction with a face mask in 40+ mph wind.

Pockets/Core Vents

The XeroDry GTX Jacket has three external pockets: a chest pocket and two handwarmer pockets. All of these are mesh-backed, so they can be used to vent extra body warmth and moisture if you keep them empty and unzipped. I don’t think they’re terribly effective for that purpose and my preference is to use them for storage instead. All three pockets have water-resistant zippers and flaps to keep rain off them. The jacket can be stuffed into one of the handwarmer pockets which zippers closed, but an external hang loop is NOT provided for clipping it to a climbing harness.

There’s no doubt that XeroDry GTX would be an even better jacket with pit zips or torso zips like those found on the OR Foray II Jacket. REI does not publish breathability specs, but Gore-tex Paclite is usually rated to have a Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) of 15,000 grams over a 24-hour period which is adequate but not exceptional. When I find myself overheating in the XeroDry, I just crack open the center zipper and shed excess body heat and water vapor that way. Direct venting always trumps a breathable layer.

Velcro wrists cuffs area another effective temperature regulation feature.
Velcro wrists cuffs area another effective temperature regulation feature.

Wrist Cuffs

The XeroDry GTX Jacket has velcro (hook and loop) wrist cuffs which is another very useful cold weather feature to prevent cold air from chilling your wrists and hands. The cuffs are wide enough that they can be layered over glove or mitten gauntlets or pushed up your arms and cinched above your wrists. The latter is an effective way to vet heat in winter when you feel yourself starting to perspire because your blood flows close to your skin in your wrists.

Jacket Comparison Table

Men'sWomen's
Outdoor Research Foray II JacketOutdoor Research Aspire II Jacket
Rab Downpour Eco JacketRab Downpour Eco Jacket
Patagonia Torrentshell 3LPatagonia Torrentshell 3L
Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0
Arcteryx Alpha SVArcteryx Alpha SV
Arcteryx Beta AR JacketArcteryx Beta AR Jacket
Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell JacketFjallraven Keb Eco Shell Jacket
Patagonia Triolet JacketPatagonia Triolet Jacket
Montbell Storm Cruiser JacketMontbell Storm Cruiser Jacket
REI Flash Stretch JacketREI Flash Stretch Jacket

Recommendation

The REI XeroDry GTX Jacket makes an excellent rain jacket or winter hard shell in cooler weather conditions. It sports an impressive set of technical and temperature regulation features from a two-way adjustable hood to velcro wrist cuffs and ventable external pockets. We think it’s an exceptional jacket for the price and one that provides excellent flexibility as part of a complete hiking and backpacking layering system.

Disclosure: REI donated a jacket for review.

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7 comments

  1. Phil – How would you compare the REI Xero Dry GTX to the Lightheart Gear rain jacket? Which would you personally pick over the other? What are your reasons to pick that jacket over the other?

    • It really comes down to climate. the LHG jacket is for warm-weather 3-season hiking while the Xerodry is for colder weather because its heavier, thicker, warmer, and more fully featured. I use both depending on the conditions.

    • I have both jackets. I have season tickets for a college football team in addition to hiking/backpacking. I spend a lot of extended time outside in bad weather, so I’ve tried a bunch of rain gear over the years.

      The Light Heart rain jacket is a very simple, very light weight jacket that packs small. It will 100% keep cold rain out without needing to ever treat it for water repellency. It has massive pit zips, which you will need. (Sweat condenses inside half way through a 3 mile dog walk.) It’s cut very generously to allow layering. My normal size has plenty of room to wear a puffy underneath. There’s no need to size up, and you might even be able to size down.

      The REI Xero Dry is a comfortable, full featured jacket. The material has some stretch, so it makes a better everyday jacket than many other rain jackets I’ve owned. I’ve had a generation older model for the last 3 years. (The current version has the chest pocket that mine doesn’t.) I pretty much agree with Philip’s review. It was completely waterproof for the first year. Even with regular washing and treatment, the DWR has worn off on the back of the neck, shoulders, and cuffs since, and I can’t revive those areas. It wets out in those areas in extended heavy rain now. It’s still the best ‘breathable” rain jacket I’ve ever owned.

      For being active in warmer weather, or standing around outside in an all day rain with insulation underneath, Lightheart shines. In cold weather you will need insulation underneath, and it’s hard to manage sweat when very active.

      Xero Dry is better for being active in cold weather, and as an everyday jacket. It’s a little heavy for being active in warm weather. Like every breathable jacket, the DWR will eventually wear off, and it will start to wet out.

      If you can afford both, they have their place. Neither excels at everything.

  2. This jacket sounds good but without the pit vents AND the fact that it is a discontinued jacket, it makes me think that an improved model with pit vents may be coming soon. I will wait and see.

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