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We put the featheriest of lightweight waterproof jackets to the test.

salomon outspeed

A lightweight waterproof shell jackets is a fantastic buy for any avid outdoor enthusiast. At this end of the market the cost of clothing can become truly wallet busting, but if put to good use across a range of activities you can often get your monies worth, especially in temperamental climates.

For hiking it’s not advisable to leave home without a waterproof jacket, even if you’re not expecting rain. Add an overnight wild camp into the mix and your choice of jacket becomes pivotal, both in terms of protection from the elements and the dent it puts in your overall pack weight. It’s much the same for cycling where having an easily packable jacket that you can throw on in a downpour can make the difference between a miserable ride and a great one.

A decent lightweight waterproof jacket can also be used for travelling, daily wear and anything else you care to throw at it but take care as the materials used are often optimised for weight rather than durability so wearing one too often could risk prematurely wearing out your expensive investment.

Lightweight jackets often compromise on features to bring down weight so expect to see jackets without any adjustment at the hood, hem or cuffs as well as a distinct lack of pockets and any other bells and whistles. 

The lightweight jackets on test have been put through their paces across a wide range of activities – we don’t believe in pigeonholing active outdoor clothing too much – and in a number of different climates to whittle our choices down to what we consider to be the best buys available today.


Vaude ZebruVaude Zebru | £310

Weighs: 198g

The big story behind the Zebru is that it somehow manages to marry a low overall weight of 198g with features more readily found in heavier jackets like pockets and adjusters as well as a highly waterproof, breathable and durable 3-layer construction.

An athletic cut keeps everything streamlined while still allowing for vital layering underneath, but the cut doesn’t restrict freedom of movement which is superb around the arms, shoulders head and just about everywhere else, in fact it barely feels like you're wearing it at times. The hood is very spacious and has a single adjuster which does a good job of reducing the volume down. Unlike some 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. 

A combination of 20,000mm hydrostatic head, taped seams and water-resistant zips simply laugh in the face of rain and this is all in a quiet, soft and supple package.

Breathability isn’t too bad, long slogs up hills 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.

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.

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.


Berghaus Hyper 100.jpgBerghaus Hyper 100 | £250

Weighs: 97g

Perhaps the pinnacle of ultralight waterproof jackets, this 3 layer Hydroshell Elite Pro effort from Berghaus has fast become a favourite amongst the Active Traveller test team. Despite weighing a ridiculously light 97g and packing down to the size of a large apple this jacket offers fantastic protection in all but the worst of downpours.

There aren’t too many superfluous bells and whistles to be found on the Hyper 100 but one thing it will do is keep you dry in a storm thanks to a highly technical and competent 3 layer construction and a reasonable list of choice features.

Cut is just long enough in the arms and hem but there isn’t any excess material to speak of, we usually take a medium but would probably size up to a large to facilitate easier layering underneath and to gain an extra few cm in arm length. Having said that we’ve been hiking, running and cycling in this jacket and it has served us well in all conditions, not only proving to be highly waterproof but also very breathable, enabling it to be used for higher intensity activities.

Hem and cuff are both elasticated rather than adjustable, but this works just fine and the hood also has no adjustment but stays on your head and moves with it even in blustery conditions. There are no pockets to speak of, in fact the only accessory you get with this jacket is the stuff sack but for fast mountain pursuits this is a hard one to beat.


Outdoor-Research-Helium-II-7-1527260170.jpgOutdoor Research Helium II | £138

Weighs: 174g

This is an excellent value waterproof jacket at only £138, making it a great option for the budget conscious backpacker.

We loved how the Helium II jacket could be stuffed into its inner pocket, a neat touch indeed and the little package you're left with is around the size of a Big Mac but pliable enough to be tucked into the smallest slither of space in your backpack. Weight wise this jacket is definitely a contender at 174g. 

As lightweight and packable as it is the Helium II still needs to stop you getting wet in demanding conditions like carrying a heavy pack, up a steep hill, in a torrential downpour - and this is where some ultralight jackets fail miserably. Mercifully the arm and hem length are both just long enough to offer protection in a storm, and the hem can be cinched up easily using a single drawcord adjuster. The elasticated cuffs are comfortable, and they stop trickles of water creeping up your arm, but they're difficult to pull over a pair of gloves due to their lack of adjustability.

The hood comes equipped with a volume reducer that works well, and a large, slightly stiffened but wireless brim which effectively keeps water off your face. You can flip the brim up for hiking or fold it inside if you want a subtler look. The top of the main zip sits quite low on your chin which leaves a bit too much of your face exposed but it's comfortable nonetheless. The hood pulls slightly at the far extents of head movement but it’s still decent for a lightweight waterproof.

The 2.5-layer Pertex Shield+ fabric is a little stiff and crinkly compared to some but with a 15,000mm hydrostatic head, taped seams and water-resistant zips it does the job it’s meant to do. Breathability wise, the Helium II feels pretty good in use but there are no pit zips or mesh pockets so dumping excess heat is taken care of exclusively via the main zip. 


Haglofs-LIM-Proof-Jacket-Coral-58-1527260127.jpgHaglofs L.I.M. Proof | £140

Weighs: 215g

The L.I.M Series from Haglofs is all about minimalism. The Less Is More range is made up of ultra-light gear designed to facilitate speed in the outdoors and the L.I.M Proof Jacket we tested is a perfect example of the Swedish brand's commitment to producing stripped back, high performance kit.

The first thing you'll notice about that L.I.M Proof Jacket is the total lack of bells and whistles. If you're partial to pit zips, adjustable helmet-compatible hoods, and multiple fancy storage solutions then look away now. The concept is Less Is More - remember?

What the L.I.M Proof Jacket may lack in zips and pockets, it more than makes up for where it really matters - ie actual performance on the hill. As a lightweight breathable and waterproof jacket, the L.I.M Proof is the perfect layer to carry with you on a spring/summer adventure in the mountains. It takes up next to no space in your pack and the stretchy 40D 2.5 layer PROOF fabric moves with you as you progress whilst keeping you protected from the wind and rain.

In terms of breathability, the L.I.M Proof Jacket does a decent job of regulating body temperature. It may not be a world class, jaw dropping performance but when you consider that this is a £140 jacket, it's pretty much spot on. Pit zips might help increase breathability, but this would obviously add more weight and fuss to this streamlined uncomplicated bit of kit.

At 215g, the L.I.M Proof Jacket may not be the world's lightest waterproof but it's certainly still a feathery piece. This makes it an ideal choice for almost every outdoor sport where heart rates are raised and speed is the goal. From fast hiking to mountain running, from ski touring to mountain biking, the L.I.M Proof Jacket is more than applicable across the board.

The final feature worthy of note is the eco credentials of the L.I.M Proof Jacket. You've probably heard about PFCs - those nasty little, environmentally unfriendly chemicals traditionally used in a wide variety of waterproof outdoor clothing that have been found to have damaging effects on the environment. If so, you'll be reassured to hear that the DWR used on the L.I.M Proof Jacket is fluorocarbon-free.

If you're looking for a lightweight summer waterproof that will work for a wide variety of sports, the L.I.M Proof is well worth a look. It's not the lightest, most breathable or most robust jacket but if you wear it for its intended purpose and keep the price you paid in mind you'll be very happy with your choice. 


Columbia Montrail.jpgColumbia Montrail Outdry Ex Caldorado | £180

Weighs: 188g

Montrail is a legendary brand known for producing one of the first dedicated trail running shoes, the Vitesse, way back in 1982. Columbia acquired them in 2006, in that way that behemoth sportswear brands tend to do, and have since been turning out high end kit under the re-branded 'Columbia Montrail' moniker, successfully differentiating them from the main brand.

The latest collection includes a range of athlete backed, UTMB approved footwear and apparel including the Outdry Ex Caldorado jacket on test. This jacket marries the best technologies from Columbia with that legendary Montrail performance to create a waterproof jacket that's not only great for trail running but also works fantastically well as a fast and light hiking piece.

Standout features include an OutDry membrane which puts waterproofing on the outside of the jacket rather than sandwiched or laminated to the inner. This improves breathability and results in a comparatively lighter weight. Although this jacket is generously cut, both in length and wiggle room for layers underneath and has hood and hem adjusters, Columbia have managed to keep weight down to a satisfyingly low 188g. Packability is also decent, the chest pocket acts as a stuff sack and the compressed result of your efforts of squeezing it in is about the size of a 500ml water bottle.

For those unfamiliar with Columbia's OutDry jackets the look takes some getting used to, with visible taped seams on the exterior and a shiny spacesuit like sheen, it's certainly not one for blending into the scenery. Once you've come to terms with the aesthetics though the performance shines through with fantastic waterproofing, breathability and comfort, but that's not without an awful lot of crinkling and rustling from a relatively stiff material.   



Berghaus-fast-hike-jacket-image-op-16-1535023295.jpgBerghaus Fast Hike | £150

Weighs: 202g

The MtnHaus team over at Berghaus really do a stonking job of waterproof clothing and the Fast Hike jacket is no exception. The Hydroshell Elite 2.5 layer fabric ensures that no moisture will slip through, even in the pelting rain or, as we know from experience, standing under the odd waterfall. The fabric itself is soft and smooth to the touch and doesn't come with the unappealing crinkly, plastic-y quality that many shells possess. Add to this the taped zips and seams, and you can be sure that you'll stay dry underneath.

Of course, you'll still get some condensation collecting inside, especially if you wear it when you're working up a sweat, but the fabric does have a decent amount of breathability and the mesh venting pockets help to keep things a little less clammy when opened.

The hood is comfortable and easily adjustable to fit your head and features a chin guard so that it can fit snugly around your face for when it's really bucketing down.

The two front zipped pockets are all that's on offer in terms or storage, but they're a good size. We also like the elastic cuffs which sit close to the wrists and kept the rain out, as well as the adjustable elasticated hem to keep the jacket tight to the body.

However, the cut of this jacket is very snug. We tested a size 14 on a size 12/14 woman, and it just about fit with a light t-shirt underneath. This is not a jacket suited to layering up. We would have liked to have the option of adding a midlayer underneath for when the weather really starts to close in, so consider this when you're picking your size.

Overall, the Berghaus Fast Hike jacket is a great companion to slip into your pack before you head out for a summer's day hike or bike ride, offering great waterproofing in a lightweight package that stuffs down to the size of a mango. Just beware of sizing if you're planning to use it in cooler weather.


Salomon-Outspeed-54-1524235083.jpgSalomon Outspeed | £220

Weighs: 325g

The Outspeed just about sneaks into the lightweight category but we’ve included it for its versatility, durability and great breathability.

A complete lack of adjusters anywhere is a step usually preserved only for the most ultralight of walking jackets but the Outspeed weighs in at 325g. It manages to get away with this by retaining effectiveness in wind and rain. The hood not only stays put on your head but moves with it, the dropped hem provides good coverage, finishing around mid bum and the cuffs are long with a tapered finish. With the main zip fully done up the material around the chin feels comfortable as well as spacious, although the jacket sits lower on the face than some, lessening the protection it offers.

The 3 layer construction employed on the Outspeed is rugged and durable, surprisingly so for such a light jacket, it's also soft, comfortable and quiet to wear. In fact this is possibly one of the most comfortable jackets on test with great next-to-skin comfort and a modicum of stretch. There’s plenty of room for layering underneath and Salomon's 'Motionfit' technology has been put to good use allowing for great freedom of movement.

There are two chest pockets which don’t interfere with pack straps and are big enough to hold your average map. They're lined with solid material rather than mesh so don't ventilate, there aren’t any other ventilation options available on the jacket apart from the main zip but we’ve still found breathability to be excellent in very humid conditions.

The jacket can be stuffed into one of its pockets, as the pockets are rather large it doesn't compress down too much but what results is pliable enough to be squidged and squeezed into small spaces.

The garish yellow on test isn't ideal for incognito travelling but we’ve found that the bright colour and reflective striping on the hood makes this a great jacket for cycling and running. For those wanting to be more conformist there's also a much subtler black option available.

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