As some of you may already know, at least by now, just a couple of weeks ago Zpacks added their new Vertice rain jacket & pants to their webpage. For the last couple of months I had been waiting (somewhat patiently… lol) for their new rain gear to become available. I checked their site daily (usually several times a day), and for a while I actually thought to myself: “I’ll just wait and see what the new stuff looks like.” Then after talking with Matt & Will at the ATKO a few weeks back, and even putting my hands on a swatch of the new material (which isn’t cuben fiber at all), I got even more excited about it! The day it posted to their website I was actually driving to a hike when my buddy Benny Braden sent me a text that it was finally available! I pulled my car over and placed an order for both the jacket and the pants right then and there… Since that day I have been waiting like a kid at Christmas for the package to arrive… then today, it finally did! 🙂
To begin with, this post is merely an unboxing, just a “first look” at these pieces. I obviously do not have ANY time with either of these pieces, and in order to type this post up, and make a video, I actually pulled away from packing my backpack for a trip I am leaving on in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. Considering this, the rain gear made it just in the nick of time!
At this point, I don’t know of any actual reviews currently posted on the web about either of these pieces, however, John Abela did recently share a first look post on his site last week for the jacket (click HERE for that post). They recently sent him one of their earlier prototype versions of the jacket (not the final version). He shared some initial impressions of that jacket, but also on every other previous version of their older Challenger jackets. It’s worth looking at for some more info.
So, first off, why did I decide to go with these pieces?
To be honest, I have 2 other rain jackets that work just “fine” and both actually weigh less than the Zpacks Vertice jacket. I have a silnylon jacket from Luke’s Ultralite that is great, but it’s made of silnylon, thus it has zero breathability. However, it is very light weight (only 4.7 oz w/ a stuff sack) and very well made. I also have my Montane Minimus Smock, which is not quite as light as the Luke’s Ultralite jacket, but still lighter than the Zpacks Vertice jacket at only 5.6 oz. Unlike the silnylon jacket though, it does have some breathability to it, and even better yet, it doesn’t get so clammy next to skin when it’s wet! But, my son is now using the Minimus Smock… so this was my excuse to get the new Zpacks Vertice!
As for the pants, I gotta say, I haven’t really used rain pants in about 6 years. When I first started backpacking, I bought a pair of Sierra Designs rain pants for about $40 from an REI. These were nothing special, and at 7 oz weren’t exactly “heavy”, however, when I started using my Zpacks rain kilt back in 2011 I immediately became a fan! Since then I have only carried some Frog Togg rain pants on cold weather hikes when I carried my GooseFeet Gear down pants, and that was more so just to wear over the down pants for added protection. Of course I could wear them if it were raining too, but my kilt was always what I reached for instead.
Now… as you can tell from the most recent entries here on my blog, I have been thinking pretty hard about our JMT hike coming up next summer… Being that I am planning on spending nearly 3 weeks out on this hike, and spending much of that time above treeline (it is the Sierra’s, after all…), I have decided I would rather carry rain pants on that hike, than my skirt. In some of the videos I have seen, the wind can be pretty intense, and I imagine I would have less concerns with full pants rather than a breezy skirt. Considering this, why not make the jacket and pants match…?
And this is part of the reason as to how I decided to go with the Zpacks Vertice rain gear.
The rest of the answer is actually kind of tough to answer being that neither I, nor anyone else (save a select few from the actual Zpacks crew) actually have any experience with these particular pieces. And I mentioned above, aside from the first look that John Abela posted last week, there is nothing else out there about them… so then why these?
First and foremost, I have spent quite a bit of my own hard-earned money with Zpacks over the years. And I would say that at least 95% of these experiences have been absolutely stellar. Their customer service has always been on-point, and their gear just works for me. We all have different needs and wants, but I must say that Zpacks has met my specific needs and wants with several (big) pieces of gear. To name a few things, my tent, backpack and sleeping bag are all from Zpacks, and I love them all. Besides this, there are also a number of smaller items that I use from Zpacks too. Basically, for me, Zpacks is typically a hit for me, and based on this fact, I chose to give the Vertice rain gear a try over other brands currently available.
Besides this, the features on these pieces (or in some instances, the lack of features) line up just about perfectly with what I wanted in them. The jacket in particular is actually pretty feature-rich in my opinion.
- It includes a waterproof, full-length zipper (but not a 2 way zipper – which I have never cared for, so this is a plus for me) with a storm flap/rain guard behind the zipper. (See photo below.)
- It has a large (water proof) chest pocket, which is good for stowing my phone or camera in for quick access.
- The (one-handed) adjustable wrist cuffs are well done, simple and lightweight. (See photo below.)
- I am also happy to see that pit-zips are included on the jacket since I like to have lots of venting options (although, they are claiming that this new material “blows away other rain gear” in terms of breathability… I’ll see…)
- The bill on the hood is stiffened, and to me, looks like it may be extended out just a little farther than typical bills…
- As an added bonus, the hood can be cinched around the face, as well as front to back (something not all other jackets will do). As a side note, the hood can roll up and stow away when not in use… this is not necessarily something I am excited about as I have never used this feature on other jackets that had it, but I’m willing to give it a chance… These connections can be seen in the first 2 photo’s below. Also note the taped seams, which are throughout both the pants and the jacket.
On the other hand, the pants seem to be right the opposite when it comes to features… there just really aren’t many to speak of. There are no pockets (which I personally don’t want on rain pants); and there are no zippers at the ankles. Instead they have slightly wider cuffs, which according to the Zpacks site claims that up to an US mens size 12 shoe can slide through. I actually have mixed feelings about this… I like that they can slide through for faster access, however, I wear at least a size 12.5 in trail runners (which may be to big). Besides this, I don’t really care for sliding my muddy shoes through the entire length of the inside of my pants. I actually prefer to remove my shoes before sliding any rain pants on, so the lack of a zipper on these pants are a good thing, for me at least. These pants really only have one feature, and that is a draw cord in the waist band which allows me to tighten the pants around my waist. I love this. This is all I want in rain pants, and as a bonus, this configuration also allows for the lightest possible weight!
I hope that this answer’s a bit more of the question of why did I choose to go with the new Zpacks Vertice rain gear, at least somewhat. To recap, in a nut shell, I got them because I was planning to get new rain gear anyway, and the Zpacks Vertice rain gear checked off the particular features I wanted in them, and I trust Zpacks based on previous experiences with many items!
So, now that that is out-of-the-way, how about some of my initial thoughts…
To begin with, when I purchased these pieces I had to go on memory for sizing (remember, I was driving my car down the road… I was in Chattanooga to be exact). With the jacket I felt pretty confident that the large was the correct size for me. After coming home and measuring around my chest, it looked about perfect on paper. I measure 41.5″ around my chest. (The large is stated to fit up to a 42″ chest, with actual girth being 46″. This extra space allows for layering other items such as a puffy beneath the rain jacket.) And as it turns out, I am happy with the way the jacket fits me. There is enough room for me to layer my GooseFeet Gear down anorak beneath it, although, it almost feels a little tight below my armpits. And due to the fact that the waist cinch is not adjustable, it is tight around my waist, however, it also seems to be a bit longer than most other rain jackets, so it actually cinches up right below my puffy!
I am able to stretch my arms out and move around and still remain comfortable in the jacket. Even under my pack, I find no issues with fit. The sleeve length is adequate, however, I wouldn’t have fussed fi there were another inch of length in them (I prefer longer than normal sleeves…) I do like the hood, and the brim does indeed seem to extend farther than the brims on my other rain jackets. The brim feels like the material may be doubled up to create a bit more rigidity, although, I wouldn’t call it “stiff.” The wrist cuffs work great, and they seem like they will do a fine job at sealing out water from coming in at this opening when cinched closed.
The pants size was a bit harder when deciding on what size to get, and I actually changed the size shortly after ordering. First off I wish that all pants/jeans sizing were actually a standard, measured size, but they are not. And as everyone knows, a size XX is not the same across the board… this companies size XX may be larger or smaller than the same size from the next company. Thankfully, Zpacks has opted to go with actual measured sizes (although, I don’t think it states that clearly enough on their website). Depending on the brand of jeans I wear, I am anywhere between a 32 and a 34. Because of this, I initially ordered the size mediums, which is listed to fit 30 – 34″. After confirming with Matt that these are actual measured sizes, I opted to go to a size large. When I measure my waist with a tape, over my shirt and a pair of shorts, I am 38″ so the size large pants were actually the better bet on paper.
As you can see in the video above, the pants fit me great! There is a few inches extra, even over my jeans, but I don’t think the mediums would have been a good fit for me, although, in time, when I lose some more weight, they might…
As for this mystery material, it seems to be pretty nice. It is soft, flexible and lightweight. The tricot lining on the inside feels good next to skin (although, I am curious as to how it will feel after I have been hiking up a mountain in the rain for a few hours). This is a 3L material, featuring a tricot lining on the inside, the Zpacks exclusive membrane in the middle, and a wispy thin 7D outer. The outer also has a “C6” DWR treatment applied. This will be what I will have to watch for out in the field, especially around my shoulders… eventually, all DWR wears off…
As for weights, both of these pieces are pretty spot on (which I have found that Zpacks are generally pretty accurate on their weights… more so than many other companies). On my own scale, the large size pants come in at the listed 3.8 oz, and the large size jacket comes in at 6.4 oz (0.1 oz under their stated weight). This is a combined weight of 10.2 oz. This is a bit heavier than say my Luke’s Ultralite jacket and my kilt at 6.7 oz, however, the trade-off will be improved breathability, more comfortable next to skin feel, and full protection from ankle to head. Considering this, for colder weather hikes, and of course my JMT hike, which will be on exposed mountains, I think I will be happy to have this set-up!
So, that about concludes this first look post. As I said, Zpacks gear just works for me, and while this is untested by me, I do feel confident in it. But time will tell… so until then, thanks for stopping by!
Disclaimer: I paid the full price for these pieces. I am not affiliated with Zpacks, and I do not get any kickbacks for posting reviews on this gear, or any of their other gear. The statements above are of my own opinion.