Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $95 - $179 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros: Looks good, very light, great waterproofing.
Cons: Zippers/pit zips are sticky, doesn't pack in on itself, not very breathable.
Best Uses: Ultralight backpacking, everyday use.
All things considered, we think the Rain Shadow is a very attractive option for someone who needs a rain shell that looks good, is super light, and has some hip features on a trendy brand. We give it our Editors' Choice award for all-around rain protection with light weight and good styling. We thought that it was the best looking of all the jackets that we tested, but found it lacking in some areas of function. The biggest drawbacks to the jacket are that it doesn’t pack down into its own pocket for easy transport, and that it was slightly less well ventilated than other jackets.
Performance-wise, we found the jacket to be completely waterproof, and it was on the lighter end of the jackets we tested. It is on the expensive side ($180 MSRP), so for a similar jacket with a lower price tag we'd recommend Patagonia’s own Torrentshell (slightly heavier but almost the same jacket for $60 less) or go really cheap and get the Marmot PreCip -Women's or the Columbia Arcadia Rain - Women's.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Patagonia Rain Shadow is a well crafted, chic women’s rain jacket. With a bit of feminine form and lengthening of the body, it’s a distinct enhancement from Patagonia’s Torrentshell. The slightly longer cut in front and more so in back provided a comfortable fit that seemed better suited than some to protection from many weather conditions we encountered. Whether in the urban jungle or the actual jungle, our backsides kept dry! The Rain Shadow is also pretty comfortable for a rain shell. It’s got a nice bit of micro-fleece along the collar, making it slightly cozy, but possibly dirt attracting. The hood is supposedly helmet compatible; we didn’t find this to be true at all. Also, as we’ve mentioned in other reviews, we value a hood that can accommodate both our head and hair and helmet. We can at least say our head fit properly into the hood, unlike the North Face Venture.
Patagonia’s reputation precedes it in regard to quality; we have no doubt that this shell will hold up for quite a while to most any adventure you get up to. It is clearly well constructed of high quality materials. We recommend using the RainShadow in all rainy conditions. It can also seamlessly serve as a comfortable shell for skiing, ice climbing or other winter activities with plenty of layers. As with all rain jackets, breathability is mediocre, so layer with a synthetic, merino or silk base layer for most comfortable results.
None of the rain shells tested displayed real, comfortable breathability. Most boasted a “waterproof breathable technology” of some kind, but please allow for some leniency in your interpretation of this claim. When testing coats we found that wearing the jackets for any extended, high exertion activities routinely generated a fair amount of moisture inside of the jacket (we tested all jackets for at least one hour with a run…in the rain, in addition to climbing, hiking, walking, and biking in them). Each jacket had armpit zips to let out some heat and condensation, but the Rain Shadow was definitely the least breathable due to the pocket design.
Some of the jackets had larger mesh-lined pockets that can be left open, and when coupled with the pit zips, significantly helped with the jacket’s ventilation. 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.
As expected, the Rain Shadow is perfectly waterproof. We tested this jacket in Bay Area rolling fog, warm, sudden Southern California downpours and Truckee Autumn near-frozen slush - and the jacket kept all outside moisture outside. 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 is a great material technology. As mentioned above, Rain Shadow's breathability is not one of its best features; as with any of the rain shells reviewed it does tend to get a bit airless. The armpit zippers definitely add to the circulating air inside your jacket, but it didn’t prove to be as breathable as the Marmot Oracle or Marmot PreCip, which offer pit zippers plus large mesh pockets that can be left open to help with breathability.
Weight and Bulk
The jacket is really light. At about 11.4 ounces it would be your best bet if you’re looking for a super light rain shell. 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.
In an effort to craft the lightest possible rain jacket, Patagonia eliminated all but two pockets on the Rain Shadow. While the pockets themselves are pretty cool (made of the waterproof material that the jacket is, so that whatever is in the pocket doesn’t get wet from you condensation) 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?
So while the Rain Shadow is the lightest jacket we tested, and would be perfect as a super lightweight option for light and fast adventures, the fact that it can’t pack into one of its own pockets is a real deterrent. Because it’s impossible to pack down and hang from your harness or the outside of your pack it sidelines itself to more casual usage. Sigh.
As expected from Patagonia, this jacket looks as great on the hanger as on us testers; the Rain Shadow is as smartly styled as they come! Because the zippers are constructed without storm flaps, the jacket has a more modern, fresh look than its competitors. The cut and fit of the jacket are also spot on for our varied feminine forms. We could equally wear the jacket comfortably with a layer or two underneath, and it still looked good when thrown quickly over a t-shirt.
Moreover, the zipper is two-directional. This is a pretty cool, common design feature right now in ladies sport tops, but this is the only shell with it. We definitely used the two-way zipper when we needed to cool off while also maintaining some protection from lighter elements.
Patagonia site details having modified the ”hand warmer” pockets; we have already elaborated that we think it’s a bummer. We found the new, waterproof pockets to be cold, lonely and clammy.
Our more favored rain shells had mesh pockets, which we greatly preferred. The mesh pockets have two important advantages the way we see it: creating another vent system to help disperse moisture buildup inside the jacket and presenting a warm, maybe even fuzzy fleece (depending on your base layers) place for your hands.
We also found that 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. Obviously, if you are putting the hood on in the rain you will end up letting some water in/heat out to tighten up the hood. 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?).
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 wouldnt call it a good deal.
Patgonia Torrenthell - Women's Slightly heavier, $60 less
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.
— Erisa Coppernoll and Robert Beno
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Most recent review: November 27, 2012
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