What to expect from Rain jackets
I’ve had the luxury of testing tons of different jackets for backpacking, climbing, skiing, farm work, and walking the dog. What I’ve found is there is breathability, durability and price, of which you get to choose 2 as a priority. But for any shell, the most important aspect is keeping it clean and regularly retreating the durable water repellant (DWR).
Water is supposed to bead up and roll off instead of soaking into the material - that is the DWR at work. Another factor is two layer vs three layer construction. Two layer jackets are less expensive and their best years are within the first two. At some point after 3-5 years, these shells feel more like a wind breaker than a rain jacket.
Three layer construction is used with higher end materials such as Gore-tex, eVent, and Neoshell. With Gore-tex jackets, the high price gets you a lifespan of 10-15 years, but you’ll find that you need to use the pit zips in the Pacific Northwest. For both eVent and Neoshell jackets, the high price gets you better breathability, often not needing pit zips, but the total lifespan is about 5 years. These jackets are for someone who wants the better breathability and weight savings of not needing pit zips.
Gortex, as a leader in the industry, advises re-treating your shell for every 20 days of use for optimal performance. But let’s put that in perspective - if your jacket is kept in a clean pack and isn’t crashing through the understory for weeks on end, then you may be able to stretch out those 20 days. But if you spend just one night standing around a smoky campfire, you’re kind of using your 20 days worth right there.
Gear Aid, a Bellingham based company, makes the industry leading Revivex that we recommend at Backcountry Essentials to keep your gear performing.