ArcTeryx Norvan SL Rain Jacket is one of the lightest, most breathable rain jacket currently available. I can actually wear it comfortably jogging in cool, rainy weather. I have been using mine for more than two year without any durability issues, but people who aren’t as careful as me might have issues. I have issues with the zipper leaking which has increasingly bothered me, lead me to stop using this jacket in 2019.
The first jacket I owned had a defective zipper which seriously leaked in the rain. ArcTeryx replace my jacket free of charge (and offered to switch me to the heavier and more expensive Norvan since the Norvan SL’s zipper is water resistant, not waterproof). I stuck with the SL because I preferred it’s fit, feel, breathability and the SHAKEDRY fabric.
The zipper on the replacement jacket when I first received it leaked a bit in heavy rains. I originally thought the breathability offset the zipper leakage when engaged in high aerobic activities. After more than a year of use I have decided that is not the case. In particular, during the last couple of storms I have decided I am getting too wet through the zipper. I am not sure if the water resistance of the zipper has degraded over the last year, if the storms have been more severe, or I have become more sensitive. Whatever the reason, I have retiring my Norvan SL and going back to my Westcomb Focus LT when I need a rainshell with reasonable breathability. Rumor is that ArcTeryx is going to rework the zipper at some point. If they do this, I would likely pick up the replacement.
I have done a post about rain gear with other thoughts. If the Norvan SL doesn’t sound right for you, I would recommend looking at:
- Hyper Mountain Gear “The Shell” might be a winner in-spite of it’s high price. It’s practical “breathability” might approach the Norvan SL thanks thanks to having pitzips provided the fabric is as breathable as the Focus LT and if it resists wetting out. That’s a lot of “if”s.
- Zpacks Vertice have good specs, and I have been happy with the Vertice rain pants. Might be approaching the Norvan SL in terms of comfort, but will still be subject to wetout.
- Westcomb’s Focus LT seems subjectively the second more comfortable shell I have used after Norvan SL, but will wet out in an extended rain.
- Columbia Outdry Extreme Featherweight Shell is less breathable than the Focus LT but resists wet out like the Norvan SL, is more durable than the Norvan SL, and can sometimes be found on sale for around $120.
- O2 Rain Jacket is one of the cheapest and most breathable jackets for people who don’t care about fit or looks and don’t need durability.