The Marmot Essence rain jacket represents the state-of-the-art in ultralight construction and breathability. Those seeking a compact, waterproof jacket that is breathable beyond compare will love this product. High energy fun is what this jacket is designed for, and it's our choice for everything from trail running to light and fast summer alpine climbing. The minimalist design feels barely-there, and we rarely take off this jacket.
Performance Comparison of the 2015 Model
Our Editors' Choice jacket is the best ultralight breathable protection available for high energy jaunts in the mountains.
This rain jacket kept us dry as a bone during our tests in the shower. The large, stiffened brim on this model provides more protection for the face and eyes than others we tested, and the waterproof zippers up the front and on the chest pocket seal out all water. Both have a small fabric cover for their completely closed position, a perfect small feature to add for function. The ultralight wrist cuffs on this jacket cannot be cinched down around the wrist, but the elastic fit our lead tester's wrist snugly enough to minimize water entry when raised overhead. An adjustable cuff would seal better, but also add weight. Our other two award winners, the Marmot PreCip and Outdoor Research Foray, are both heavier models with adjustable wrist cuffs if you climb in the wet or want cuffs that seal out water for overhead work in the rain.
Our yellow 2014 test model went around the world twice. Our tester Nick is super psyched to have ultralight protection while exploring rainy glaciated valleys on New Zealand's south island.
The DryTouch DWR finish that Marmot uses on this fabric's exterior performs exceptionally well. This model will continue to bead water a good long while before needing to be restored. After over 100 days of use, we found washing and drying this piece restored the DWR reasonably well. After 16 months with last year's test jacket, we're just considering reapplying a spray-on DWR.
Breathability & Ventilation
This jacket distinguishes itself with the most advanced waterproof/breathable fabric we evaluated. Marmot's NanoPro 2.5-layer laminate technology is plenty waterproof and provides better sweat-wicking performance than any other we tested. The NanoPro fabrics are the first to provide dynamic air permeability, which greatly enhances this jacket's ability to keep you dry and comfy inside during high energy activities. This laminate is thinner and has more densely packed smaller pores than earlier generations from Marmot. It is notable that when the wind blows hard, you feel it moving through this piece's fabric.
The hooded, mesh-backed pit vents are always open. On the rare occasions we were getting too warm, a tug on the front of the jacket draws cool air in through the vents. The simple vent design adds no bulk under the arm like pit zips do.
The Essence includes a pit vent feature that is unique among the jackets we tested. These vents are always "open," and backed by a mesh screen to stop any wayward insects. We found that raising one arm and lightly tugging the front of the jacket moved a lot of air through these vents and noticeably cooled down the interior. Most of the time, this isn't necessary at all because the fabric breathes so well. Having a pit vent with no closure gave us some concern about blowing rain entering, but we experienced no such problems. We found this model more breathable than the Outdoor Research Helium II its ultralight competitor. Both of these jackets block the wind better though.
Comfort & Mobility
This is a truly ultralight design with minimal features aimed solely at comfort. A small microfleece patch provides a smooth touch on the chin when the jacket is fully zipped, and the cord locks for the hood adjustment are easy to tighten with one hand. The cord lock at the bottom hem is also easy to manipulate with one hand.
Three days and two nights and Brandon never needed to take this comfortable jacket off while traversing 14,000 foot summits in Colorado. Rain showers, a sleet storm, and breezy spells in between... no problem. Bivied on the summit of Missouri Mtn.
The mobility of this jacket is excellent. Marmot uses "Angel-Wing movement" patterning for the sleeve and shoulder that keeps the model comfortably in place on the torso and waist as you move your arms around however you want. This model also maintained full waist coverage even when we raised our arms straight overhead. The only pocket on the chest operates smoothly for storing small items. The Montane Minimus is the more comfortable of this model's close competitors.
This model is one of the lightest jackets we tested, weighing in at 6.8 ounces. The Outdoor Research Helium II practically weighs the same at 6.5 ounces, and the more featured Montane Minimus rounded out the ultralight models we tested at 8 ounces. A perfect 10 in our weight metric contributed to this jacket's overall high score and when combined with top scores in comfort and breathability, landed it easily on top of our overall scores.
The exceptional light weight of this model comes with its trade-offs. The 15D nylon ripstop face fabric is the lightest fabric used in the jackets we tested. The Montane Minimus also uses 15D fabric but incorporates heavier 40D in a few high wear areas. That said, we have been astonished at how well the Essence has held up. After 100+ days of hard use, we only put one hole in it, and that was due to a close encounter with a barbed-wire fence.
We were pleasantly surprised with the long term durability of our yellow 2014 test model and are pushing the limits of our fresh new blue version in 2015.
This jacket packs down very small, but it doesn't stuff into its own pocket. We roll it up into its hood when we want to put it away in a pack or panniers. The Helium II is a very similar ultralight jacket features wise, and stuffs into an interior stuff pocket with a carabiner clip loop. We love the Essence, but being able to stuff the Helium and clip it to your harness is a major plus for multi-pitch rock climbing. It would be the icing on the cake if the Essence stowed in its chest pocket.
The Essence packs up very small, but without a stuff pocket, rolling it into its hood is the only stand-alone option. We prefer to stuff or roll up our jacket before putting it away in our backpack. This protects the inner fabric from wear and dirt.
This rain jacket minimizes features, so much so that it only has a chest pocket — no hand pockets. The hood's brim has a nice stiff section. A single elastic cinch cord extends around the face and is adjusted with exterior cord locks that can be manipulated when the collar is completely zipped up. A Velcro adjustment at the back of the hood lets you adjust the brim on the brow. This is not a roll away hood. The collar has a small micro-fleece patch at the chin and a hang loop in the back. The Essence has unique always-open pit vents that have a mesh backer. One chest pocket with a waterproof zipper provides a little storage. This model does not stuff into a pocket, but can be rolled into the hood. The wrist cuffs are not adjustable and have elastic half way around on the inside of the wrist. An elastic hem cinch secures the bottom with one cord lock on the right side. The jacket's logos do double duty as reflective patches on the front, back, and right shoulder.
The advanced 2.5-layer NanoPro laminate breathes very well, pit vents provide additional ventilation when you are putting the hammer down, and simple, comfy elastic wrist cuffs seal out the weather.
This product is a high performance, take-you-places jacket. This state-of-the-art jacket is perfect for thru-hiking and alpine climbing when weight is of utmost importance. The Marmot Essence is ideal for cool, damp weather high energy activities like rainy day trail running.
Brandon on the way back from the Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak.
At $200, this is one of the more expensive models we tested. It is very well built, and if an ultralight waterproof jacket that breathes better than all others is what you are after, it's reasonably priced. The ultralight Helium II is more affordable and packs into its internal pocket.
If more versatility and hand pockets are what you're after, the Marmot PreCip, our Best Buy Award winner, delivers great performance with a $100 price tag.
The Marmot Essence is a dream come true for buyers that want a super light, waterproof, exceptionally breathable rain jacket. Its features have been minimized and optimized to seal out the weather while staying light and easy to use. The "Angel Wing Movement" design makes this jacket perfect for fast-moving climbing, hiking, and running.
On the way down from Mt. Sopris outside Carbondale, CO.