3-layer jackets are generally considered to offer the best waterproof performance, breathability and durability but are usually heavier than their 2.5 layer counterparts, which is why the 198g of the Zebru is quite an achievement.
198g puts this jacket into the highly exotic 'ultralight' category where the price of kit can rise to exorbitant levels, and the £310 of the Zebru isn't exactly bargain basement. As such the Zebru is marketed towards serious mountain users like alpinists and climbers who don't mind spending a bob or two on top end kit. Saying that, there's no reason this jacket can't work well across a multitude of activities, especially if you like to push a punishing pace and aren't afraid of the weather.
An athletic cut keeps everything streamlined while still allowing for vital layering. Articulation is superb around the arms, shoulders head and just about everywhere else, in fact it barely feels like you're wearing it at times.
Although Vaude tout their fabric as 'low stretch' we found it to be more like 'medium stretch' when compared directly to a host of other jackets on test. This clearly helps when you're stretching for your next hand hold. Not being a climber, I wouldn't know about this but it certainly feels good when hiking or cycling.
The Ceplex Pro waterproof membrane contained within the 3 layers of the jacket is 100% PTFE free, this satisfies my inner eco warrior but performs well too. The 20,000mm hydrostatic head, taped seams and water-resistant zips successfully keep rain at bay and this is all in a quiet, soft and supple package.
The hood is very spacious in order to accommodate a helmet, and the single adjuster does a good job of reducing the volume down over the head. There's no loss of peripheral vision with the hood up and the face is well protected from the rain, with the jacket sitting just below the nose. There's also a good sized wired brim which channels water away from your face.
Unlike some other lightweight jackets, the Zebru retains decent arm and hem length with the cuffs sitting over the backs of the hands and the hem finishing mid buttock for good overall coverage.
The inner has a lovely next to skin feel should you be wearing the jacket in a hot weather downpour with only a t-shirt below, this adds to the overall feeling of comfort.
The two hand warmer pockets are perfectly placed for use with a pack, starting just above the hipbelt and staying well away from the shoulder straps. They're big enough to be map compatible and have water resistant zips which glide smoothly and are snag free.
Breathability in the Zebru is okay, long slogs uphill in heavy rain take their toll but it would have to be a very special waterproof jacket not to induce a fair bit of sweat in these conditions. Ventilation options are very limited which is one of the downfalls of the jacket, a pair of pit zips or mesh lined pockets would have put the icing on the cake for us.
There is no stated fabric thickness on the specs of the Zebru but being this fully featured and lightweight it's as thin as you might expect. We have some concerns over long term durability of the jacket but there's nothing adverse to report as yet.
A 3-layer jacket that provides rain protection this good at such a light weight is a rare thing. Sure it comes at a hefty price, but if you're serious about your mountain pursuits then we think it's worth it.