I’ll be the first to admit it: it can be a bit confusing to shop for rain jackets. It seems every manufacturer has their own proprietary waterproofing technology, a couple of trademarked names, and there must be hundreds of different rain jackets on the market!
Since Marmot makes our best-selling line of rain jackets, let’s start by focusing there… but things are still a little tricky. What’s the difference between Precip and Membrain Strata? What about Gore-Tex? Do I need a $100 Marmot Precip Jacket or a $150 Marmot Aegis Jacket?
Well, good news: we’re here to help.
First, whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to discuss some technology so we can compare the options. I promise there won’t be any math, but it is worth understanding what you’re paying for!
Most importantly, these rain jackets are breathable. This means that they allow water vapor from your body to pass through into the outside air, while simultaneously preventing external rain or moisture from penetrating the jacket. This task is critical for staying comfortable and dry, and the different technologies perform it with varying efficiency. Despite this breathable quality, all of these options remain 100% windproof.
The primary factor here, then, is this breathability; if you’ve ever tried to hike in one of those cheesy vinyl “packable rain jackets,” you’ll appreciate how important vapor transfer is when selecting foul-weather wear. Without breathability, a few moments of exertion will make the inside of the jacket just as wet — from sweat — as the outside of the jacket! The more breathable a jacket is, the faster it can transmit water vapor to the exterior environment.
Certainly, waterproofness is the other characteristic you look for in a rain jacket, but we’ll consider that a secondary factor because all of these Marmot jackets utilize fabrics that are 100% waterproof. They’re also 100% seam-taped. After all, a rain jacket that isn’t waterproof wouldn’t be very effective, would it?
To rate these two seemingly-contradictory properties, the fabrics are subjected to a series of confusing scientific tests that I won’t try to explain here… because I don’t understand them myself. Here’s the short version:
- Waterproofness is measured in a test which increases the pressure until the fabric starts to leak. The unit of measure is millimeters. Anything above 15,000mm or so can be considered completely rainproof and generally waterproof, including shallow immersion. The higher the number, the more waterproof a fabric is.
- Breathability is measured in a test that determines how much water vapor can pass through it in a 24 hour period. The unit of measure is technically “grams per square meter of fabric per 24 hours,” which is a mouthful, so we’ll abbreviate this as g/m2. The higher the number, the faster your sweat can evaporate.
OK, enough of that; just remember, higher numbers = better performance. Makes sense, right? Here are specs for the waterproof/breathable technologies used in these Marmot rain jackets:
- Precip – A proprietary Marmot coating, now 50% more waterproof and 20% more breathable for 2011. Waterproof @ 15,000mm & breathable @ 12,000 g/m2.
- Membrain Strata – A proprietary Marmot PU-based laminate, representing a special version of the Membrain laminate that doesn’t require a full lining. Waterproof @ 20,000mm & breathable @ 20,000 g/m2.
- Gore-Tex Paclite – A premium, high-performance PTFE-based laminate manufactured by W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. Waterproof @ 28,000mm & breathable @ 27,000 g/m2.
When choosing a Marmot rain jacket, you also need to consider technical features. If you’re going to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, you probably want to make sure you select a jacket with pit zips. Likewise, if you’re going to be mountain biking in the rain, you probably want to make sure the hood will fit under your helmet!
Alright, that’s enough of a primer. Here is Rock/Creek’s selection of Marmot rain jackets, with information about each. From this guide, you should be able to make an informed decision about which jacket is best for your needs & budget.
- Marmot Precip Jacket (men’s) &
Marmot Precip Jacket (women’s)This is the standard, all-around everyday rain jacket. I keep mine in the car, so I’m basically never stuck without a rain shell. The Marmot Precip has seemingly been around forever, but Marmot has improved it many times over the years; the 2011 version uses the updated Precip coating — see above– as well as improved fit and durability. The DryTouch lining feels great, and the jacket includes large pit zips for venting.The Marmot Precip is also the best value if you don’t need a super-technical rain jacket, and comes in a tremendous variety of colors! Its reputation as a classic is well-deserved.
- Marmot Aegis Jacket (men’s) &
Marmot Strato Jacket (women’s)Winners of the 2009 Outside Magazine “Gear of the Year” award, these two jackets represent a premium upgrade over the Precip. The Membrain Strata laminate breathes almost twice as well as Precip, and these jackets incorporate a lighter, stretchier fabric for comfort and range of motion.The Aegis & Strato jackets also add many technical features, including an adjustable hood, Driclime-lined cuffs and chin/collar, water-resistant zippers on the pockets and pit zips, and sleeve pocket. These are the lightest, most breathable jackets in their price range, intended for active use.
- Marmot Mica Jacket (men’s) &
Marmot Crystalline Jacket (women’s)One word: ultralight. The Mica Jacket & Crystalline Jacket are what you’d get if you took a Precip, removed the non-essential features, gave it a more athletic cut, and made it from the lightest-weight materials available. The result is a 7 ounce masterpiece that’s so light, you won’t notice it in your pack.Make no mistake, this Membrain Strata piece is a minimalist’s rain shell, with no pit zips or mesh backing in the pockets to aid ventilation. The benefit, of course, is that it weighs almost nothing on the trail, and it compresses down so small you can carry it everywhere… for whatever you get yourself into!
- Marmot Super Mica Jacket (men’s)The Marmot Super Mica is the best choice if you want the features of the Aegis Jacket without the weight. Made from the same fabric as the Mica Jacket, the Super Mica adds water-resistant zippers, pit zips and mesh-backed pockets, along with an abrasion-resistant coating on the shoulders and hips for improved durability when worn with a pack. These additional features add to the weight, of course, but at 9 ounces this is still one of the lightest rain shells you can buy.It’s no surprise, then, that the Marmot Super Mica has earned itself an award or three since being released, including Outside Magazine‘s “Gear of the Year” award for 2010.
- Marmot Nano Jacket (men’s)Fundamentally, the Marmot Nano Jacket is the Gore-Tex Paclite version of the Marmot Mica Jacket. This fabric represents an improvement in both breathability and durability over the Membrain Strata, hence the significant difference in price! Like the Mica, the Nano does not feature pit zips, but it does incorporate perforated pocket linings to improve venting. Elastic wrist cuffs help shave weight even further.Weighing merely an ounce more than the Mica, the Marmot Nano Jacket is the ultralight, technical choice when you need a seriously tough, seriously waterproof rain jacket that breathes well enough for prolonged high-output activity.
- Marmot Storm Shield Jacket (men’s)The Marmot Storm Shield is a little different; think of it as a bomb-proof, more comfortable version of the Precip Jacket, optimized for the urban jungle. Best suited for moderate activity, the Storm Shield is fully-lined and features a flexible shell fabric that doesn’t look or “feel” like a value-oriented rain jacket. It utilizes the same Precip technology as the Precip Jacket, and is probably Marmot’s most durable rain jacket.This is another great one to keep in the car, where the additional weight won’t be a concern. With muted colors and the aforementioned lining, it also looks nicer than some of the other options if you have to wear it to meet a client!
Well, if you haven’t charged off to buy a Marmot rain jacket by now, that means you’re still reading along. Hopefully, this guide helps you make a better purchase decision… at Rock/Creek, along with only providing high-quality gear that lasts years and years, it’s our goal to help you choose the right gear in the first place. Stay dry out there!