Patagonia Storm Racer Review
Cons: Not super durable, DWR average in longevity, hood doesn't fit over a bike or climbing helmet, stuff sack pocket is big
Our Analysis and Test Results
Crazy light and impressively small when packed, the Patagonia Storm Racer will disappear in your pack. Clip it to your harness or running vest and forget it's there. Patagonia bills the lightest model in our review as a trail running or ultramarathon rain shell, but its versatility extends far beyond those activities, as it's ideal for actions where weight and packed size are of the utmost importance. The Storm Racer also provides adequate breathability, and all of our testers loved its stretchy material. Its only real downfall is the price, as it's $100 or more than its most direct competition.
We were impressed by the storm-worthiness despite its remarkably low weight. The Storm Racer uses Patagonia's proprietary H2No 3-layer fabric and the front zipper sports a low profile gutter on the inside, which proved effective at keeping the water out, even on wet, brushy shoulder season runs.
Compared to its most direct competition, the Storm Racer is average for its weather resistance. Its hood seals out the elements nicely, though we wouldn't recommend it for activities in which your hands are over your head for long periods of time. Otherwise, the cuffs were more than adequate.
The Storm Racer is comparable in storm worthiness to its most direct competition, which includes the Black Diamond Fineline and to a lesser degree, the Outdoor Research Helium II. While it had several advantages over these two models, we didn't find the longevity of the Storm Racer's DWR to be one of them, finding it diminished slightly quicker than the models above.
All of our testers loved the model's low profile hood, which allowed us to maintain excellent peripheral vision. The hood cinches down with a single toggle, which can be tightened with one hand. For practical purposes, you'll need two hands to loosen, or you could try one hand and a lot of jiggling.
For inquiring minds, the hood doesn't particularly fit over a climbing or bike helmet. However, it has such a low profile that it's not uncomfortable to wear it under instead.
Breathability & Venting
While the Storm Racer offers average protection in weather resistance, its breathability and comfort, despite it being one of the lightest in the review, are top notch. Offering a higher degree of breathability than both the OR Helium II and the Black Diamond Fineline, its performance is on par with that of the highest performing models.
If we were working hard whilst hiking uphill or trail running, you'd sweat out the Helium, Precip, or Venture 2 far quicker than the Storm Racer. Though the Storm Racer isn't impervious to sweating out, its performance is particularly impressive, especially when you take into account its light weight.
The Storm Racer is geared toward the weight weenies of the world, meant to disappear into your pack or running vest while taking up minimal space. As a result, it features zero ventilation options of any kind. We didn't find its lack of ventilation to be incredibly significant, thanks to its decent breathability performance. We consider breathability to be far more important than venting during testing; when its pouring rain or you're walking up a wet, brushy trail, opening vents simply isn't an option. It's more breathable than the Phoenix, Precip, Foray, and Torrentshell, but offers up less than the Drypoint, Zeta SL, or Interstellar.
Comfort and Mobility
All of our testers loved the stretchy fabric. The Storm Racer has an activity-focused design that allows for exceptional mobility. While it outperforms the Black Diamond Fineline, Outdoor Research Interstellar, and Outdoor Research Helium, it just couldn't beat the Rab Kinetic Plus, the stretchiest model in our fleet. It offered up comparable performance to the Arc'teryx Zeta SL, and the REI Drypoint GTX. The interior fabric is comfortable and uses a tricot backer that feels soft against our skin.
This model sports a slim fit; it's not outrageously slim but is geared toward more athletic pursuits rather than layering. We passed this model around to several people and found that a majority of people who wear a medium in Patagonia jackets will wear a medium in the Storm Racer. However, if you're planning on layering with more than a thin fleece, we would recommend sizing up. Only those truly on the edge between sizes or wishing to use it for backpacking or hiking, where layering will be more important, should size up.
The Storm Racer features one Napolean style chest pocket that is big enough to fit nearly any smartphone, even if it's in a beefy case. This pocket can be reversed to double as a stuff sack and comes with a reinforced clip-in loop so it can be easily attached to a harness. The climbers in our group loved this feature and commonly carried this super light model clipped off their harness to guard against afternoon thunderstorms in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Bugaboos.
Weight and packed size are why you buy this model. At 6 oz (170g) the Storm Racer is the lightest in our review and one of the highest waterproof breathable models on the market. It's lighter than its closest competition, the Outdoor Research Helium II (6.5 oz) and the Black Diamond Fineline (7.5 oz) and is more breathable and stretchier than either of them.
The Storm Racer isn't a jacket we would say is particularly durable; while it isn't fragile, it isn't tough. It's plenty durable for trail running (Patagonia's stated intended purpose), day hiking, climbing, or backpacking where it will mostly be a just in case layer. We did test it out on climbing routes and were pleasantly surprised at how well its cuffs held up after some Washington Pass Alpine granite hand jamming (though it's worth noting that our testers babied it, with lead tester Ian Nicholson taking his off for a chimney pitch for fear of thrashing it).
Along with weight, packed size is one of the primary reasons most people will consider buying this jacket. It's one of the incredibly compressible models we tested, alongside the Outdoor Research Helium II. These two models were comparable overall, though we wish Patagonia had made the Storm Racer's stuff sack pocket a little smaller to minimize its packed volume, even if it would have taken more work to stow it away.
Perfect as a just in case shell while day hiking, rock climbing, or backpacking, the Storm Racer will get you through an afternoon thunderstorm or an unexpected storm on a multi-day trip that started with a bomber forecast.
At this price, this is one of the more expensive jackets in our review, costing significantly more than either of its closest competitors the Black Diamond Fineline or the Outdoor Research Helium II. It is lighter than both but only by .5-1.5 ounces. For the price difference, it offers better mobility and breathability than either the Helium II or Fineline.
As a lightweight trail running jacket or just in case layer, the Patagonia Storm Racer is a sweet jacket that is tough to beat. While it is on the spendier side of the spectrum and does offer exceptional performance, we don't necessarily think it is 75% better than the price difference might indicate. It does have super stretchy fabric, fantastic next-to-skin-feel, and above-average breathability, which go a long way towards bridging the price versus performance gap between it and several of its closest competitors.
— Ian Nicholson
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