Rating: 4 / 5
Eddie Hinnant's eVent Packa is not a piece of UL gear, even if you factor in the combined use of rain jacket and pack cover. But it's very good for what it is and what it does. I've had the chance to use it twice now, and I've really appreciated having it, even with the weight (around a pound). I wore it for a day on the Black Forest Trail in PA -- a difficult trail with steep, long climbs. It was a chilly, rainy day -- perfect for the Packa. The large pit zips enable a good deal of venting, and the hood is not so large that it falls over your face. I was certainly sweating on the steep ascents, which I would have been doing in any jacket, but on the flats and the descents the jacket kept me warm and dry without overheating at all.
Because of the pit zips, I could easily reach into my side pockets on my pack to retrieve whatever I needed. And since I wear dual water bottles on the front of my pack straps (one per strap), I could open the jacket over the bottles, creating a great air flow channel around my sides to my back, which would be nearly impossible with a regular rain jacket (since your pack straps are over the jacket instead of the other way around). The front zip is also a dual zipper, so you can zip up as well as down for targeted ventilation. It's also quite long, especially in back, providing great coverage, even when sitting.
The second time I used it, on the Susquehannock Trail, I first put it on the pack as a pack cover because of an approaching storm. I stuffed the 'jacket' part into/around the pack cover. This worked great. It was a warmer day so I didn't mind getting a bit wet myself but still wanted to protect my pack, and this worked perfectly. As the rain intensified, I pulled the jacket part out and put it on while continuing to move with little problem. Packing the jacket part back in while on the move, after the rain subsided, is a bit more problematic though. I need more practice on that, as I ended up stopping and removing my pack to accomplish it. I do feel that with a bit more practice this wouldn't be an issue.
I wore a medium, which fit well over my MLD Prophet pack and me on the first hike, and over my SMD Starlite and me on the second.
The weight is my only gripe, but it is an eVent jacket, and a pretty long one at that. It's hard to argue with the coverage, which is superb (as is the craftsmanship). I'd also love to see different colored silnylon on the pack cover portion. I like bright colors as I often hike in hunting areas -- the option for an orange or yellow pack cover portion would be a welcome addition.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with this piece of gear. It will be on all my cool weather trips, even those that don't include rain.