Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Looks rood, extremely light, great waterproofing.
Cons: Zippers/pit zips are sticky, doesn’t pack in on itself, hood cinches are tough to use, not very breathable.
Best Uses: Ultralight backpacking, everyday use.
The Patagonia Rain Shadow is an attractive option for someone who needs a rain shell that looks good, is super light, and isn't overrun with extraneous features. It is on the expensive side, so we would generally recommend the Patagonia Torrentshell (slightly heavier but almost the same jacket for $60 less) or go really cheap and get the Marmot PreCip, our Best Buy and $80 less). To see exactly how the Rain Shadow compared to others, check out our complete Rain Jacket Review.
The Rain Shadow is Patagonia’s slightly more high tech lightweight offering in the shell category (their bare bones jacket is the Patagonia Torrentshell). The Rain Shadow was the most attractive jacket that we tested and we loved the fit and cut of the coat. It was also fairly comfortable and layered well.
We found the Rain Shadow to be completely waterproof. We stayed dry on rainy days around town and after a 1 hour run in a steady downpour the only moisture inside the jacket was self-made perspiration. The rain shadow breathes OK, but as with any rain shells, it does tend to get a bit stuffy. In high intensity activities we got wet on the inside so if you're a sweaty person well…you get the picture. The pit zips help keep the jacket circulating air and preventing a complete soaking from the inside, but it was not as breathable as the Marmot Oracle or the Marmot PreCip, which have pit zips and large mesh pockets that can be left open to help with breathability.
The Rain Shadow is the lightest jacket we tested (11.4oz), and would be perfect as a super lightweight option for light and fast adventures, except for the fact that it can’t pack into one of its own pockets, making it impossible to conveniently hang from your harness or the outside of your ultra-light pack. Bummer.
The hood is of good design and generally bombproof, but testers found it difficult to tighten as the loose ends of the cinch are inside the collar. The cinch on the back of the hood was very easy to use however and testers found themselves forgoing the cinch around the rim, and just using the back cinch. We also found the zippers on the jacket to be much stickier than other jackets we tested. This was particularly annoying in the pit zips where one hand operation was virtually impossible (perhaps the zippers will loosen up over time?).
A big part of Patagonia is the history, manufacturing process, and philosophy behind their gear that is told in Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard. Highly recommended reading.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Comfort and Mobility
We really liked the way this jacket looks. As far as rain jackets go, this one is as attractive as they come. We thought that because the zippers lacked any type of storm flap the jacket has a cleaner look than its competitors whose zippers have a flap of fabric covering them. The cut and fit of the jacket are also spot on. We could wear the jacket comfortably with a layer or two underneath, and it still looked good when thrown quickly over a t-shirt. The Rain Shadow is also pretty darn comfortable for a rain shell. It has a little bit of micro-fleece along the collar, making it slightly cozy, and it just flat out fits well.
None of the rain jackets that we tested proved to be very breathable. Almost all of them boast a “waterproof breathable technology” of some kind, but please interpret these claims loosely. We found that when we wore the jackets for any kind of high exertion activity (we took at least one hard one-hour run in each jacket in the rain in addition to climbing in them, hiking in them, walking in them and biking in them) we found that we were promptly creating our own weather inside the jacket. The only thing that saved us from our self-made monsoon was the fact that many of the jackets we tested had pit zips to let out some of moisture.
Some of the jackets also had larger mesh-lined pockets that can be left open and, when coupled with the pit zips, significantly helped with the jacket’s breathability. The Rain Shadow is not one of these jackets. As mentioned above, the pockets of the Rain Shadow are made of the same “waterproof breathable” fabric that the rest of the jacket is. As such, the Rain Shadow jacket was one of the least breathable jackets we tested.
The best thing about the zippers on this jacket is that they have a coating that actually keeps all the water out.
We found the Rain Shadow to be totally waterproof. We tested the jacket in everything from Bay Area misty foggy nastiness, to warmer Southern California downpours, to Truckee Autumn almost-frozen miserableness and the jacket kept all moisture at bay. We never felt any seepage or leakage, even at potential problem areas such as the zippers and along the seams. The waterproof zipper coating is effective and all the seams are taped up tight. Simply put, Patagonia’s 2.5 layer H2No fabric does the trick.
Weight and Bulk
The jacket is one of the lighter ones that we tested. At about 11.4 ounces it would be a good choice if you need a light rain shell. In an effort to make the lightest jacket possible, Patagonia also eliminated the ability for the Rain Shadow to pack inside one of its own pockets. We found this strange as it is one of the only rain jackets we’ve ever seen that doesn’t pack up small inside its own pocket. What’s the point of making such a light jacket if it doesn’t pack down small?
We liked the design of the hood and the way that it fit our head. Fitting a helmet in there would be a super tight squeeze and would likely alter the effectiveness of the hood. The cinches for the waist are right in front and straightforward, making it super easy to tighten up the bottom of the jacket. The cuffs tighten with simple Velcro and do a good job of sealing up tight.
We also found that, while we liked the design of the hood itself, the hood tightening system left something to be desired. The loose ends of the elastic tightening cord inside the hood are located inside the collar. This means that to tighten the hood up you have to unzip the collar. Kind of a pain if you are putting the hood on in the rain and have to let some water in/heat out to tighten up the hood.
One of the coolest features on the jacket is also one of the biggest problems with it: the zippers. The waterproof coating on the zippers makes them look totally cool and eliminates extra fabric on the coat, but also makes the zippers really hard to operate, particularly on the pit zips. We found the pit zips almost impossible to operate with one hand… so basically impossible to use. We did notice that the zippers started to loosen up after a lot of use, so maybe they will break in well.
In an effort to craft the lightest possible rain jacket, Patagonia eliminated the need for more than two pockets on the Rain Shadow. The pockets themselves are pretty cool (they’re made of the same waterproof material as the jacket so that whatever is in the pocket doesn’t get wet from your condensation).
Any activity in wet or rainy conditions; around town use. Can also cross over as a shell for skiing or other winter activities, but layer up. As with all rain jackets, breathability is poor, so layer with a synthetic base layer in high intensity adventures or suffer the clammy consequences.
At $180 this is most expensive jacket we tested. Considering the bare bones design and lack of convenient features such as packing down small, we wouldn’t call it a good deal.
Patgonia Torrenthell – Slightly heavier, $60 less
— Robert Beno
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Most recent review: February 14, 2013
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