Rain Kilt Showdown

A few weeks ago I posted a video review of my Cuben Fiber Trail Designs CloudKilt by ZPacks here on my blog. This is basically a rectangular piece of cuben fiber which is attached around the waist using a hook-and-loop closure device (Velcro) and is an alternative to using rain pants while hiking in less-than-perfect weather. The benefit: lighter-weight than pretty much all rain pants currently available as well as functioning as a multi-use item (ground sheet & tarp beak as well as its primary use, rain protection for my legs).

However, the CloudKilt is not the only rain kilt on the market. ULA (Ultralight Adventure Equipment) also sells the Rain Wrap. While both of these are essentially the same item, they each have a little different twist to them.

Recently, another hiker by the name of Raul Perez (which has quite a few great videos on hiking gear) has recently striked up an interesting conservation with me in the comment section of the CloudKilt video over on YouTube concerning the real world use of the CloudKilt. Unfortunately, I have not actually needed to use the CloudKilt on any of my hikes yet so the actual effectiveness is still, well, up in the air…

Raul owns the ULA Rain Wrap and after asking him a few questions, he decided to simply do a video review of the rain wrap to answer a few of my questions. So, I decided to go ahead and repost the video of my CloudKilt as well as Raul’s video of the ULA Rain Wrap here in one place. From watching his review, I think that the ULA Rain Wrap is a great piece of kit, as well as the CloudKilt, so I wanted to post these videos together so that anyone interested in this idea could see both versions and go from there.

But before I post these videos, I would like to say that both of these companies make great products. I own gear from each of the companies which I am really happy with and on top of that, well, their customer service has been super. Plus, if it is any count, they are both owned and operated here in the USA. Also, Joe at ZPacks will do custom work to items if contacted first, and while I am not 100% sure, I think that the guys at ULA may do the same. Simply give them a call before ordering and discuss the possibilities. (Of course be aware that by doing this the items may cost a little more $$$ as well as take a little extra time to get to you.)

I would also like to add that the main reason I have decided to carry a rain kilt, as opposed to rain pants, is simply due to the weight savings. Typically, my rain gear is carried much more of the time than it is actually being used, so in this light, weight is a legitimate factor. However, in those times of need, I want to know that the items I carry will go the distance as well, and I believe that either of these kilts will do that job, respectively. I would also like to make note that, in my opinion, the kilts are more so a 3-season piece of kit. If I am planning to be in snow and/or sub freezing temps, I will be smart and carry full rain pants. There is a time and place for kilts, at least in my opinion.

So, without further a due…

Thanks for reading/watching. If you have any comments or questions please just post them below. I would really like to hear some feedback from owners of either of these items (or even some of the DIYers out there ~ come on, I know you’re out there…) And now, I am going to follow Raul’s lead and don my rain gear and hit the showers…  🙂

Later that night…

Well, I followed Raul’s lead and hit the shower wearing my rain gear. I wore my Sierra Designs jacket with the CloudKilt (my Tumalo is packed up getting ready for my coming-up hike). I turned the shower on and then started doing the rain dance in the shower, and my daughter walked in and wondered why daddy got to play in the shower with his clothes on and she didn’t… 🙂

Really though, I kept marching in place while slowly turning in circles. I did this for a little over 5 minutes. (Keeping in mind that I had to be careful when facing the shower head because if I looked up the shower would spray me in the face, and inside my jacket…) I also moved forward and backward while in the shower, which, when closer to the shower head, obviously made the water concentrate on the jacket and then run down over the CloudKilt. Then obviously, when farther away, the water hit directly along my waist line. I also stood still letting the water pound on the kilt at times (but not directly at the opening).

After watching Raul’s video I decided to turn the kilt with the opening to the side rather than in the back. By doing this the split seemed to be smaller as well as opening less while moving around. Also, the split didn’t really start until just above my knee, and opened more so when I was stepping up using the leg on the same side as the split, and for only a very brief moment.

So, what are my conclusions?

I do wish that the design/cut of the CloudKilt was wider. The ULA is 62″ wide vs the CloudKilt’s 52″ wide. However, I would like to see the shape be narrower at the top and actually widen out at the bottom. This way, when the “kilt” is being worn, the bottom would actually be shaped like a bell. By doing this, it seems that the kilt would be able to stay secured together leaving no openings and still allow pretty near full strides. Also, if the edges of the split were to be able to be connected with a piece of Velcro, it would be able to easily come undone if taking too large of a step such as stepping up onto a tall object without causing any damage to the actual kilt itself, and then could easily and quickly be re-secured. (The ULA Rain Wrap appears to do this.)

Next, I like the cuben in rain much better than I do silnylon. I have found that the cuben is actually water proof whereas silnylon is simply resistant (although very highly resistant). When wearing the cuben in the shower, no water got through nor did the material feel damp. Then afterwards, a quick shake resulted in an almost completely dry piece of material. (Imagine shaking water off of a sheet of plastic.) In my experience (with my sil tarp), silnylon takes a little longer to become dry. It can be shaken out and become somewhat less wet, but it seems that the material actually holds onto the water a little while, and for it to completely dry it must sit out in a dry place and be allowed to air dry.

Also, in this light, I wonder how the silnylon would feel against my legs once it was soaked. I would imagine it being almost similar to a wet shirt and almost sticking to you, of course not that extreme, but similar. From standing in the shower I can say that the cuben didn’t feel any different once water was pounding on it.

So, if I had to do it all over again, at this point I think I would still go with the Cuben CloudKilt. But, I would call Joe first and ask him about making it in the shape I described above, and even adding a small piece of Velcro along the sides so the split could be closed up while being worn.

I would say though that the CloudKilt as is would work fine though for smaller people. I must admit, at 5’10” and 200 pounds, I am not the smallest of them out there…

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
This entry was posted in Gear, Gear Stores, Rain Gear and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Rain Kilt Showdown

  1. jaime9999 says:

    I made a rain kilt out of ripstop nylon with some interesting features, researching the commercial offerings mentioned. Design features I considered that others might wish to as well.

    – thin ripstop tent-fly nylon, not crinkly cuben or not-quite-waterproof silnylon.

    – conical shape, not cylindrical, to allow legs and knees to swing wide and step up high when climbing large rocks etc, yet not waste excess fabric weight or volume or be puffy and oversized around the waist. Hiking in the Sierras often involves a lot of high rock stepping.

    – use of a very lightweight “boning” strip (ask at a fabric store) along the bottom seam, to make that edge of the cone a little more stiff so: (a) the skirt does not billow around in wind as much and (b) it’s less clammy against my leg skin when it’s damp (a real issue with urethane-on-the-inside nylon and near-plastic cuben; less of an issue with silnylon).

    – use fabric strips of preinstalled plastic snaps (ask at a fabric store) for the closure instead of velcro or zippers like the commercial kilts, or nothing like the authors (which requires additional overlapping material). Velcro loses its stick, catches on lots of natural material, and the hook side can be scratchy on the skin. Having a closure should help in wind-blown rain and/or to block wind on chilly windy nights camping.

    – use *flat* elastic with an adjustable fastex closure for the waistband, instead of round bungee material like most of the commercial kilts, because it will be under the backpack hip belt and pressed hard into my bony flesh: important that it be flat and smooth not small and round and pokey.

    Now doing it this way took many hours to prototype on paper and then sew (a walking foot was essential on my sewing maching with the slippery nylon). The tyvek design posted here is a great version 1.0 prototype.


    • Stick says:


      That is cool that you decided to make your own! In fact, the kilt is one of the easiest DIY projects there are. It can be something as simple as just a piece of rectangular material (and in the spirit of true “UL” backpacking, one would simply wrap their polycro groundsheet around their waist), or they can opt to add a few more bells and whistles. As you have found, even something as simple as this can still warrant different needs from person to person.

      Some feedback on some of your choices:

      The cuben is a really nice material in that it is 100% waterproof. Cuben consists of tiny dyneema threads sandwiched between 2 sheets of mylar (or plastic, which makes this material actually waterproof). Something that I have found though is that the cuben is a bit stiffer throughout than ripstop or sil, which in this case, does allow it to keep it’s shape much better. While it won’t keep the bottom edges rounded like the boning strip you used, it won’t get all clingy like rip stop or sil does when it gets wet – in fact, it won’t get clingy at all and still keeps it’s usual shape, even when wet. Considering this, extra shaping strips are not needed when using cuben. This is just another nice feature of cuben.

      As for the conical shape, I agree with you on that one. The old ULA rain wraps were made similar to this. The rain wrap I have is rectangular (which is the original design – and I must add, I have come to really love). I will admit, when I was a little heavier, I wanted more of a conical design, but now that I have slimmed down, I am actually just fine with the way the rectangular cut meets at the back (or side if you choose to wear it that way).

      I have added a piece of hook and loop (the thin stuff, not ordinary hook and loop – AKA: Velcro) towards the bottom of the kilt. The pieces will catch when they meet and hold together when the material is not pushed beyond it’s limits (i.e.: wide or tall steps), but it will easily come apart when it needs to. This is the reason I did not want to use snaps. They will not automatically connect together, and they may not separate so easily when they are needed to. Also worth noting, this hook and loop has been great over the years. It doesn’t really collect dirt and it still sticks just as well as it did on day one. And it isn’t babied… I use my rain kilt as a ground sheet under my tent or my sleeping pad, as a sit pad, or as a door mat to my tent. Rain or shine. It has done really well, so I gotta say, not all hook and loop is equal.

      And the flat elastic is a good choice for the waist hem. This is what they use in the ZPacks rain kilts and it’s a good option.

      Anyway, hope this gives you more to think about. Have fun with your kilt!



  2. There are actually a couple more manufacturers of some kind of rain kilt, but all function the same. Regardless of how breathable the material, any exerted effort in even freezing conditions will usually still cause most hikers to sweat. So regardless of the weight savings, the real reason is that a rain skirt is far more functional in just about every respect. It is far more breathable, easier to put on, cheaper, and has a ton of dual uses which include a modesty wrap when washing clothing, a ground sheet, a protective blanket for your sleeping bag/quilt under a leaky shelter, you can use it to bundle kindling and even water, as a sling or tourniquet, as a neck warmer in the coldest of conditions, as a vapor barrier of sorts over your chest when freezing…. Honestly, it has a ton of uses. I have both the ULA Rain Wrap and the Z-packs Kilt. Both are fine products, although the ULA Wrap is a litlle more polished. Cuben isn’t as easy to work with as silnylon which is why Joe didn’t put a pouch on his to wad up into. The highlight with Z-packs as a whole though, Joe will often tinker with the design and add little features often for little or no charge. ULA won’t do that. For example, I asked Joe to make mine a little longer because I wanted more options as a ground mat and also because I’m tall. It won’t win any fashion awards, but I have yet to find a tree or forest animal that cares.


    • Stick says:

      Green Giant,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts on these things.

      I assumed that there were other manufacturers out there that also made kilts but I am not sure of any exactly. These were the only 2 that I was sure about. I also felt that it was a safe assumption to assume that they do in fact all function the same, with only minor differences….

      Also, I agree that the weight-savings are not the only reason that I wanted to carry a kilt, but I may not have done a great job at pointing out the other benefits which you have pointed out well. Thanks.

      I am not completely sure what you mean when you say cuben is not as easy to work with as silnylon though. I have found that sewing sil can be a pain in the tail because it is super slick. But with my (limited) contact with cuben I have imagined it is much simpler to sew on since it is not near as slick. The thinner cuben like what he uses for the stuff sacks and the rain cover seems to even be a bit textured which seems like it would be easier to sew because I could actually grip it and hold on to it. Even the thicker cuben like what he uses on the Blast food bags seem like they would be easier, although they are not quite as textured feeling like the thinner stuff, but it is definitely more stiff and easier to control than sil.

      As far as the pouch to wad it up in, I like simply rolling it up better anyway. The CloudKilt is a little thicker cuben and would probably bunch up bigger and more awkward than if carefully rolled. But for the ULA it seems more appropriate since it is made of sil. Sil stuffs pretty well.

      Thanks for confirming the fact that Joe will work with you on the CloudKilt. I know that when I asked him to put a drain hole in my pack cover he did so with no extra charge, and really no extra wait time. He shipped it the next day and it arrived super quick, like all of the orders I have placed with him. But, since the CloudKilt is actually a design by Thom at Trail Designs, I was not sure if Joe would make much of a change to the CloudKilt.

      Also, I did not know for sure that ULA won’t make any changes. I thought though that they would do some custom work if needed, but maybe that is only for certain items…

      Like I said, I do wish that I would have asked him if he could have added a few extra inches to the overall width of the kilt. But, you live and learn. That’s cool, I have learned. It will still function fine though, and I am still happy to own it…



    • Cuben is more stiff, so from that angle is could definitely be easier to work with as silnylon is defintely slippery. The stiffness means that (before it is broken in) making something like a pocket can be less than ideal as it doesn’t stuff as well as the steams can be stressed. The pinholes also instantly create a weakness in the fabric (as well as a place to let water through an otherwise waterproof fabric). Personally, I think it is very important to seam seal any sewn cuben, not because of the waterproof issue, but to reinforce seams degrated by the sewing. One of the first packs I made was of cuben and the shoulder strap started pulling apart after just a handful of uses. I only had about 15 pounds and found that the seam seal pretty much fixed the problem. Bonding agents maintain seam integrity, although are more of a pain to use.

      My comment about ULA not doing custom work is based off previous experience…but with new ownership, I may have commented out of turn. They make excellent stuff regardless and it would be great if they were now willing to tweak their gear.

      Which every you own, you really can’t go wrong with either. They are a nice addition to any lightweight kit.


    • Stick says:

      Green Giant,

      Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      I was thinking about the cuben being worse as far as stuffing, especially when new. I can tell a difference in the stiffness of my CloudKilt from the time that I received it to now. Now, it does seem a little “softer.” But still, I like the idea of rolling it better than stuffing it, at least this weight. Now the pack cover on the other hand is quite thin and very easy to stuff. It almost feels like crunching up a plastic Wal-Mart bag, at least to me…

      I didn’t think about the stress on the seams though, thanks for pointing that out. I remember reading that while Cuben is waterproof, the stuff sacks were not because of the stitching and that using SilNet was advised if requiring it to be completely waterproof. But I didn’t think of it reinforcing the seams. One day when I cannot think of anything to do I will seal my stuff sacks… I wonder though if using the tape over the seams would end up with the same results as using a sealer…

      I honestly cannot say that ULA will do custom work for sure either, although I thought they might. Maybe if they do, it is a more general type of custom work, such as minor changes on packs or whatever. Either way, I do not know, but if anyone is interested I am sure a quick call will clear it up.

      And I do agree, either of these Rain Kilts are great. I guess though that since there are small differences, I thought that maybe with both of these reviews posted people can make a better decision on what they want.



  3. Raul says:

    Oh and I agree these items are ONLY 3 season. You won’t see me hiking in 2 feet of snow without rain pants as a shell.


  4. Raul says:

    Great blog post Stick!

    It’s great when like minded individuals can have an open and honest discussion about similar gear and related experiences.

    I’ll report back when I get some true trail experience with this gear. So far I’ve just used it as a “door mat” when I’ve switched out my hiking clothes to my camp clothes in damp grass/soil to protect my socks from getting wet. And as a ground mat for my pack when I was doing some snowshoeing. It is a very multi-purpose piece of kit these “rain skirts” ha. yea I’m man enough to call it a skirt.


    • Stick says:


      I agree with you. That is what it should be all about anyway…honesty.

      I will be sure to report back too once I get to actually pull this thing out a time or two…

      And yea, I guess it is a skirt…hey it could be worse… 🙂

      Happy trails dude…


Leave Your Comment Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.