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 can go for 15 minutes before I notice moisture accumulation… about the same amount of time before I start sweating hard. More impressive is that is I stop jogging the moisture / humidity seems to clear out after 10-15 minutes.
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.
The one defect of this jacket is the zipper which is water resistant, not waterproof. My first jacket’s zipper leaked very badly. ArcTeryx offered me an exchange or an upgrade to the Norvan Shell which is more expensive. I took the exchange and found the zipper on the replacement jacket was better, though it still leaked a bit in heavy rains. I originally thought the breathability offset the zipper leakage when engaged in high aerobic activities. After almost two years of use I have decided that is not the case. 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.
In the winter of 2018/19 a new version of the jacket was released with a better zipper. ArcTeryx kindly swapped my jacket for a second time in the summer of 2019. So far, it’s working for me, but I haven’t faced a serious rain. Check back in 2020 once I have more experience with longer rain storms.
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:
- GoreWear H5 or the Montbell Peak Dry which are made with ShakeDry, but on a slightly heavier fabric so they should be OK for on trail backpacking.
- 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.
- Zpacks Vertice have good specs, and I have been happy with the Vertice rain pants. My subjective experience it’s about the same as eVENT, and not up to the Norvan SL and is still subject to wet out.
- 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.