is an inexpensive and durable rain jacket with a fully adjustable hood, zippered side pockets, velcro wrist closures, and a cord-adjustable waist. This well-fitting jacket is a great waterproof and windproof layer with fully-taped seams to keep rain out. Priced at an MSRP of $45 (but available for much less), it’s an excellent budget backpacking and hiking rain jacket that weighs 10.3 oz in a men’s XL.
Waterproofing and Breathability
The Xtreme Lite is sold as a waterproof breathable rain jacket. The waterproofing is a permanent property of the fabric, unlike DWR-coated breathable fabrics (Gore-Tex, eVent, Pertex, etc), and requires no maintenance to stay waterproof for the lifetime of the garment. That’s a real strength of this jacket. Rain beads up when it hits the surface and rolls off. It’s really a reliable and low maintenance rain jacket on that score.
The breathability of the Xtreme Lite isn’t that good however and I have experienced noticeable moisture built-up inside the jacket (from perspiration) while backpacking in rain. It’s not as bad as the , but it’s still noticeable. While the Xtreme Lite jacket does have two grommets located near the underarms, they’re so small to be inconsequential for any kind of water vapor emission and most of the time they’re covered by the jacket’s folds or blocked by an internal garment.
For completeness, I asked Frogg Toggs to supply me with the breathability ratings for this jacket. Breathability tests measure the amount of water vapor (in grams) that can pass through a square meter of fabric during a 24-hour period. But it’s important to understand that there isn’t a universally accepted breathability test in the outdoor industry, so the following stats are directional at best.
With that qualification, the Xtreme Lite has a breathability rating of 200-300 g/m2/24hr. Compare that to Gore-Tex PacLite @ 15,000+ g/m2/24hr ) or Gore-Tex Performance 3-layer @ 10,000-15,000 g/m2/24hr ) As you can see, the Xtreme Lite is far less breathable than DWR-based waterproof breathable fabrics, and effectively non-breathable.
Temperature Regulation Features
I don’t think the Xtreme Lite’s lack of breathability is a big deal in a rain coat intended for backpacking because I don’t think there’s a foolproof way to stay dry if you’re hiking 2-3 miles per hour, all day, in the rain, while carrying a 20-30+ pound backpack.
It’s exercise, you’ll perspire, and quickly overwhelm the breathability of any rain jacket. End of story. If you accept that fact, it’s easy to conclude that the primary function of a backpacking rain coat isn’t to keep you dry, but to keep you warm . This requires having a nonabsorbent waterproof barrier that prevents conductive heat loss and venting features that can be closed to trap heat or opened to vent it.
The Xtreme Lite Rain Jacket is made with a translucent 2-ply 100% polyester fabric that has a tight weave and gives the jacket a silky feel. Water beads when it hits the coat and rolls off naturally. All of the seams are fully taped and while the zippers themselves are not waterproof, the main zipper and side pockets zippers have fabric flaps to prevent water from leaking inside.
The hood is fully adjustable with a velcro strap in back that lets you adjust the volume of the hood and cord lock loops at the neck so you can adjust the size of the face opening. The hood also has a soft brim, one that’s not stiffened by a wire, but still useful for draping over a billed-hat to keep it dry and wind spray out of your face. I think fully adjustable hoods are super important to trap heat, especially if you hike in wind or wind-blown rain. Non-adjustable hoods might be sufficient for dry or hot climates, but not in places where it gets cold, windy, and wet.
Zippered side pockets are also included, though they get trapped under a backpack hip belt, since they’re not located higher up on the torso. The interior of the pockets is made of mesh, so you get a modest venting effect if you leave the zippers open. More importantly, the mesh liners act as interior pockets that can be used for storing gloves, hats, and food close to your core, where they can be kept warm with body heat.
As a backpacker, I view pockets as an extension of my packing system because they let me carry food, gloves, hats, etc. where I can reach them without having to stop and unpack my pack. This helps eliminate many stops and keeps me moving and generating body heat to stay warm in challenging conditions.
The Xtreme Lite’s arms have velcro wrist closures, which are good for insulating the blood stream at your wrists, or for rolling up your sleeves and dumping excess heat. The closures can also be used to trap rain mitts if they’re long enough to fit partway up the sleeve.
A cord-lock adjustable hem completes the feature set and is another useful temperature regulation feature for sealing in torso heat, particularly in windy weather.
How durable is the Xtreme Lite Jacket? While I wouldn’t recommend hard-core bushwhacking with it, the exterior of the Xtreme Lite is much stronger and durable that the rain jacket included in , which gets cut up quite quickly when it comes in with branches, shrubbery, or high grass.
In terms of value, is a win because it’s permanently waterproof, fits well, and has superior temperature regulation features that make it good in rain and wind. I also think it’s a fantastic value at this price and enjoy using it.
How does the Xtreme Lite compare to the clownishly oversized ? The Xtreme Lite is 4.5 ounces heavier in a men’s XL. But it’s far more durable, fits better, has a volume adjustable hood w/ brim, velcro wrist closures, and a hem adjustment strap that are all missing on the Ultralite Rain Jacket. I personally care more about the fit and durability than the added weight, but your mileage may vary.
How’s does the compare to the Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket? For starters, it’s far less expensive, weighs 3.3 oz more, and doesn’t have pit zips, which really make a difference in warm weather. But the Xtreme Lite does have a hood volume adjuster, velcro wrist cuffs, and adjustable hem, external pocket zippers, and is seam taped, which are all missing features on the Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket. Those pit zips are pretty damn important in my opinion which is why I still prefer the Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket, but the Xtreme Lite is still a pretty good value in a side-by-side comparison.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds.
Published 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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