Dan Slater reviews three waterproof softshell jackets
Marmot Minimalist Pro Jacket - $479
The Minimalist has been a mainstay in Marmot’s range for years now, and with good reason. It’s a solid offering, with tried-and-true materials and features, but nothing too fancy. The Gore-Tex Paclite Plus is lighter than regular Paclite because the two-layer construction uses an abrasion-resistant treatment on the membrane in place of the heavier ‘half’ layer. It still feels reasonably durable, although only time will reveal if that’s the case.
Paclite isn’t the most breathable of membranes though, and I did feel myself heating up a little after I threw it on. Fortunately, the pit zips guarding the underarm venting run smooth and true, so controlling air flow is, ahem, a breeze.
In terms of fit, I was happy. The hood cleverly uses a single adjustment toggle to cinch both the crown and the peripherals and does so effectively, while the hood hangs unobtrusively when not in use.
Velcro cuffs and a hem draw cord complete the fit trifecta, cosseted within which I felt cosy but unrestricted in movement. My main niggle with the Minimalist Pro is the two hand warmer pockets, which are protected by large storm flaps, sewn to the upper side of the opening to prevent ingress of water flowing down the face of the jacket. Trouble is, they also protect the pockets from your hands getting inside too easily.
Why not use a water-resistant zip, like they have at the front? I understand storm flaps offer greater longevity, but when that front zip goes, they’re not going to save it from the bin. Might as well go all in.
A very passable option. 28,000/20,000, 380g
Mountain Designs Stratus Jacket - $379
The first thing I noticed about the Stratus was how light it seemed. This is due to the Pertex Shield fabric, which has excellent waterproof and breathability ratings of 20,000/20,000. The Pertex Shield probably wouldn’t stand up to bashing through a stand of scoparia in Tasmania, but then again it’s not designed for such brutal treatment.
The second thing I noticed was the zip – a two-way model with a water-resistant coating which allows the wearer to unzip from the bottom, a useful feature in this longer-length cut. It was a little stiff to thread at first, but that’ll no doubt get easier as it softens.
The hand warmer pockets were storm flapped and boasted tiny drainage ports lest any water make it inside, a feature not seen on any other jacket, while the single chest pocket opted for the water-resistant coating again. The hood fitted and hung well – no complaints there. Under light water flow, the DWR caused the liquid to cascade straight off the fabric as quickly as it arrived.
Mountain Designs advise users to ‘activate’ the DWR by tumble drying the jacket beforehand. I didn’t do this but it still worked fine. An area across the shoulders did wet out after a while, but water didn’t actually come through the membrane.
While it doesn’t quite match the performance of the higher-end brands, the lower price makes it a great option for less hardcore users. 20,000/20,000, 394g
ONE PLANET Cat & Dog Jacket - $479
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: ONE PLANET makes their rainwear to last forever, not to impress ultralighters. At 570g, it’s heavier than the others; get over it. It’s also the only Australian-made apparel for Australian bush conditions.
The jacket is made from three-layer Synapse fabric. No ‘abrasion-resistant treatment’ here, the membrane is protected by a full tricot layer for maximum durability while still retaining an impressive 20,000 MVTR breathability. The front zip is a monster, I didn’t even know zips came this big, and covered by an equally monstrous storm flap.
I had no trouble zipping it up with down mittens on, something which becomes significantly more difficult with the micro zippers used on some of the other models on test. Again though, I had to wrestle my hands into the pockets past the stiff, wide, ‘upper lip’ storm flaps. I thought the ONE PLANET website description of ‘beautiful 3D pockets’ was laying it on a bit thick, but at least they were high enough to allow access over a pack hip belt. And I presume the name Cat & Dog comes from the fact you could fit one in each pocket.
Pit zips? Forget it. Just another point of weakness. Chin guard? Pfft. Although as it was cut quite close to the face, I got nervous every time I zipped it past my beard. The hood adjustability was good though, and it had a magnificent brim. Considering the generous thigh-length cut (‘long enough to keep your shorts dry’ :D), it was strange that the arms were a little too short.
For proper Aussie Adventurers. 20,000/20,000, 570g