Review Date:October 4,2018
Rain gear is never perfect. It is a matter of compromise.
Rain gear and shells are no exceptions.
The jacket I ended up using the most is the newer version Montbell Versalite. And the jacket I took on my Great Divide Trail thru-hike. The new version is redesigned with 2-Layer Gore Windstopper and is an improvement regarding moisture protection, durability, and breathability versus the older Versalite model by all accounts. The first third of my GDT hike consisted of a lot of rain and willow bashing. Rainstorms rolled in, and I’d be wearing my rain gear constantly. Or if the rain did move out, the overgrown trail would be full of cold, soaking rain for hours on end. And I often had to navigate over many blowdowns also soaked with rain. The Montbell Versalite proved up to the challenge. Not only did it keep my torso dry during all the weather, but it also held up for the occasional bushwhack that admittedly made me worry about jacket! ( Now, if I had taken some “real” rain pants, I’d have been happier overall!) The jacket was reasonably breathable by itself regarding the material. And at 6oz, comparable in weight to the DriDucks. But the best part of the jacket and what makes this jacket even more versatile than other light jackets? PIT ZIPS!!!!! Yes, old school, but effective PIT ZIPS. You can vent the excess heat you generate very effectively. The pit zips are sized generously up and down the whole sleeve so thermoregulation can be finely tuned. Unlike other pit zips I’ve used in the past, the pit zips move up and down easily even while wearing shell mitts. Again, all in a six-ounce jacket! For that reason alone, I fell in love with the Versalite. Other little touches added up to the elegance and functionality of the jacket such as a hood that cinches down and adjustable velcro cuffs versus just elastic cuffs.
In other words, the Versalite is an amazingly featured and effective piece of lightweight more functional and well designed than other jackets in this weight. I’ll gladly continue to use this jacket going forward for my three-season needs when the jacket is mainly stashed in my pack, and I don’t expect heavy bushwhacking. Unlike the DriDucks, which I used similarly, I know the Versalite can handle heavier rain if need be and *some* careful bushwhacking. And though $200 does not make the Versalite precisely budget-friendly, it is less expensive than offerings that are similar from other companies. And should last a while, too. The durability is better than what a person would expect out of a 6 oz jacket. Of course, the Gore Windstopper will get dirty at some point and lose its effectiveness, too. (But, again PIT ZIPS! Did I mention I love the fact the jacket is 6 oz and has pit zips?!?!?!) For sustained precip, esp. outside of three-season conditions, a more traditional Montbell 3-Layer shell is what I’ll take. (I’ll give a review on that jacket in a few months.)
In general, though, I expect the Montbell Versalite to be a mainstay of my shell use. Overall thoughts? The Montbell Versalite is a light rain jacket that is durable for its weight, keeps the rain out, and is breathable with such touches as pit zips, a cinchable hood, and adjustable cuffs. All in a remarkable 6 oz package. Take a different jacket however if you expect more bushwhacking or constant precip.