by Ryan Jordan | 2004-10-02 03:00:00-06
You want light? The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket is light: our review sample weighs 8.8 oz (size M).
You want breathable? The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket is breathable. It’s made with eVENT, one of, if not the, most breathable nylon-faced waterproof material available.
How about durability? No sweat for the mainstream lightweight hiker – the 3-layer eVENT used in this jacket has a tough nylon face that makes two-layer fabrics of similar weight seem fragile indeed.
The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket inches that much closer to being the perfect waterproof breathable rain jacket for the lightweight hiker...
Snug cuffs, a trim hem, no pit zips and a single non-vented pocket mean that ventilation opportunities are slim on the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket. However, that’s by design: lack of such dramatically reduces the jacket’s complexity, which has tremendous appeal both philosophically (it embodies the “light and simple” philosophy of many ultralight backpackers) and practically (less points of failure). A full zip provides adequate ventilation options in drier weather, while a not-too-snug hood keeps your head cool while hoofing it in sloppier conditions.
"Spartan" best describes this garment's feature list, but before you dismiss its lack of bells and whistles, ponder its simplicity for a moment.
Simplicity reigns in the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket. A single left side breast pocket (backed with eVENT fabric) is opened with a #4 YKK water resistant zipper and is large enough to stow a double runner (commonly used and kept readily accessible by alpine climbers as an anchor sling), a pair of windstopper gloves, or a sizable handful of energy bars and gel packets.
The hood is one of the more remarkable features of the jacket: no drawcords, no volume adjusters, no rollaway tabs. Just an attached hood with a simple, nonadjustable, elastic hem. Its simplicity hides its functionality well: the hood works, providing adequate ventilation if you're not wearing a hat, and a snug fit over a lofty 300-weight fleece cap to retain precious heat when needed.
Adjustable wrist cuffs are wide and easy to operate with mittens. A dual-drawcord hem with drawcords and standard cordlocks at the base of the zipper forgoes the seemingly ubiquitous cordlocks activated (tightened) with one hand in exchange for loosening the hem more easily with a single gloved hand.
Sizing and Fit (4.0)
The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket is sized trim. At 5'8" and 155 pounds (my normal size is M), I found a size M jacket to layer beautifully with sufficient mobility when worn over a single midweight base layer (e.g., GoLite C-Thru Lightweight Zip-T) and a thin wind shirt (Montane Aero Smock). Adding a midweight fleece vest (in this case, the Patagonia R2 Vest) between the wind shirt and the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket was a perfectly acceptable combination while hiking when braving very cold and windy fall conditions (34 °F, 25-40 mph winds, snow) on Montana's Bridger Ridge. I found that replacing the vest with a lightweight synthetic high-loft insulated jacket (Mont-Bell Thermawrap) didn't cause restricted mobility in the shoulders, compression of the loft of the insulating jacket in the back and sleeves, or too much bulk at the neck. Even when layered over a slightly loftier jacket (Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon Prototype, see photo above), I was still able to fully zip up the necks of all of my layers and not experience excessive bulk in the neck area.
The length of the jacket has to be considered a climber's hem - harness friendly and providing little coverage below the waistline, in spite of a slightly dropped hem (shorter torsoed individuals may certainly appreciate the short cut of the jacket). Sleeve length was sufficient to allow hands to be half-drawn into the sleeves for protection in the rain, and hands could be reached overhead without riding up the arm more than an inch or so. When testing the jacket, I was yearning for one more inch of sleeve length, or a larger size.
In short, if you are looking for a trim, high-action jacket that will be layered primarily over thin layers, choose your true size. If you like a bulkier fit that can accomodate uninhibited mobility and the ability to layer over bulkier insulation, consider sizing up one notch above your normal size.
Storm Resistance (4.0)
The YKK water resistant zippers worked as expected - they kept rain and snow out of both the pocket (where I stowed a camera) and front of the jacket, even when hiking on an exposed ridge into wind-driven precipitation for several hours. The eVENT fabric is completely waterproof, and as expected, provided total protection from outside precipitation. The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket's only weak points in a storm are its hood (it can't be cinched tight if necessary, and some water entry occurs around the perimeter, although a baseball cap helped a great deal here) and its short hem (if you size the jacket for your true size), which requires that the jacket be mated with rain pants in severely wet conditions or your lower trunk will get wet.
Learn more About eVENT and Waterproof-Breathable Technologies
Be sure to read our comprehensive waterproof breathable fabric technology primer and state of the market review (M).
Durability:Weight Ratio (4.5)
We've only been testing the Integral Designs eVENT Rain Jacket for a short period, so we can't make any bold statements about its long term durabilty. However, we expect the jacket to find a sweet spot in any accomplished lightweight climber's or hiker's kit for a long time. The 3-layer eVENT fabric is tougher than it looks and even after bushwacking through thick willows in a river bottom, we expect it will be as equally suited for Rocky Mountain alpine rock and ice climbing as for hiking slide alder approaches and shortcuts in the North Cascades. For trail hiking, the jacket should be acceptably durable for many seasons.
The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket retails for US$220.00. For its simplistic feature set, you might think that's a lot of money. But compared to the overbuilt, overpriced, and overweight Gore-Tex XCR and eVENT jackets currently on the market (ranging in price from $300 to $450+), the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket is a good buy. Consider this: you get the durability of a 3-layer fabric, the tremendous breathability performance of eVENT, and the simplistic design you want as an ultralight hiker, for a remarkable weight of less than 9 ounces. For some, purchasing the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket will be a no-brainer. Others will scoff at the price and prefer their contentment served on a platter of homemade silnylon.
Few hardcore ultralight hikers would be caught dead in the backcountry with a three-layer rain jacket. Once considered as necessary for backcountry travel as a pair of sturdy boots, three-layer rain jackets have been replaced by their lighter two-layer counterparts. However, ultralight raingear often comes at a price: poor durability and poor breathability. With the introduction of lightweight three-layer eVENT, combined with a simple design philosophy set in motion by Integral Designs, finding a three-layer jacket in an ultralight backpacker's clothing kit may no longer be an unrealistic scenario.
The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket is a perfect complement for a variety of layering situations. Now that eVENT raingear has broken the long awaited 10-ounce barrier, we have options for creating layering systems that are both light in weight and offer incredible performance:
Option #1: Alpine Winter Hiking and Climbing in Subfreezing Conditions
Comments: In the winter ensemble, the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket serves its primary purpose as a completely windproof, but sufficiently breathable outer layer for foul conditions. A lot of hype has been invested into the use of soft shells in subfreezing conditions, but for many backcountry winter pursuits (where multi-day trips may prevent the ability to dry a soft shell out at night, or where you can't always predict dry snow conditions), a fully waterproof rain jacket is still mandatory.
Total Weight, Option #1: 38 oz
Option #2: Three-Season Backpacking
Total Weight, Option #2: 31 oz
Long distance hikers know well the need to keep moving in spite of weather conditions. A fully waterproof shell is sometimes a necessary (and sweaty) evil if mileage targets are to be maintained in the quest to see the end of a long distance hike. With the breathability performance of eVENT at the weight of lower-performing two-layer hard shells on the market, the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket should earn hard looks by backpackers used to hiking in wet conditions.
There is a market and context for using this jacket exactly as it is designed. The manufacturer can add more features (pit zips, handwarmer pockets, adjustable hood), or increase the size of the cut, or add reinforcement panels in the shoulders and elbows for added durability. However, we've been screaming for years for a rain jacket that embodies brutal simplicity, disappears into the bottom of our packs, but works (breathes) when we need it to. And frankly, the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket precisely fits that bill.
The Integral Designs eVENT Jacket hit the US market this week, and will be introduced by ProLiteGEAR.com, where you can view 360 degree rotational animations and a full-color online catalog dedicated to educating the consumer about the jacket. Expect the Integral Designs eVENT Jacket to begin arriving at other online Integral Designs apparel dealers (which seem few and far between these days) in the coming weeks, including Backcountry Gear and Pro Mountain Sports. For information about how BackpackingLight.com Premium Members can tap into the first inventory that hits the U.S. market and be the first to order this jacket, read the 10/3/04 Premium Members' Newsletter in our Newsletter Archives.
"Integral Designs eVENT Rain Jacket REVIEW," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/integral-designs-event-rain-jacket-review.html, 2004-10-02 03:00:00-06.