I’ve learned a few things about rain gear after three long thru-hikes. First, no lightweight rain jackets are fully waterproof. They will wet out eventually. Second, lightweight rain jackets typically last one thru-hike before needing to be replaced. Third, rain gear – especially ultralight rain gear – can be prohibitively expensive. The right rain gear for a thru-hike is important, but it can be difficult to strike the right balance between weight, function, and cost.
For the Continental Divide Trail, I wanted my rain gear to be lightweight but reliable, well-fitting but not too expensive. I use my rain jacket as part of my layering system, so I need it to be sturdy and hold up to frequent use. However, it’s not a piece of gear that necessarily gets used every single day, so it is important that it is as lightweight as possible. Most importantly, I wanted something affordable that still had a decent fit. I thought the My Trail Company Storm UL Rain Jacket just might strike that balance I was looking for.
Paul and I both purchased a rain jacket from My Trail Company. (My Trail Company is the rebooted version of GoLite, the now defunct/reborn ultralight gear company). While my review is based mainly on my own experience with the female version of the jacket, I do add a few impressions based on how the men’s jacket performed for Paul as well.
My Trail Company products can be found in other stores, but if you buy directly from their website you’ll get the best price. The Storm UL costs just $79 when purchased online. That’s less than half the cost of similar jackets such as the Outdoor Research Helium II.
The Storm UL weighs in at about 10 ounces. While there are lighter rain jackets out there, they tend to cost significantly more. Plus, as a general rule, the lighter the rain gear the faster it will wet out. The Storm UL does a nice job of balancing durability and weight.
While other lightweight rain jackets usually only offer a single chest pocket, the Storm UL has 2 side pockets that zip closed, plus 2 internal pockets for storing water sensitive gear. Pockets are not totally necessary but can be really nice in those cold mornings and evenings. Plus I like the convenience of being able to quickly stow my gloves or buff and know they are secure in my zipped pockets.
Overall, I think the jacket fits very nicely. However, If I could, I would make the arms slightly longer and the cuff opening a little wider. The sleeves were long enough, but they were slightly shorter than sleeves on the long sleeve shirt I hike in. That meant that in sustained rain, I’d have to make sure to roll up my sleeves underneath the rain jacket. If I didn’t, my sleeves would gradually get wet starting with the exposed portion and seeping up. And when I had several layers on, I wished the cuff opening was just a little wider. Not a major inconvenience but still worth mentioning.
Maybe it’s unfair to list this as a con, because I don’t think any ultralight rain jackets are particularly durable. If it lasts a thru-hike, I feel it’s done it’s job. While my jacket held up pretty well, by the end of the hike the inner layer in Paul’s jacket was starting to peel away, particularly around the neck and shoulders. Paul used the jacket more frequently than I did, and often wore it while hiking, so it’s normal to see this part of the rain jacket start to fail first. If we’d had a lot of cold wet weather up North, we might have had to look for a replacement.
The Storm UL was an effective jacket for a thru-hike without breaking the bank. It’s durable enough for a rainy hike like the Appalachian Trail, and works well as a wind shell or added layer against cold on trails like the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails. It will last as long as a $200 UL rain jacket and fit better than a cheap Frogg Toggs rain jacket. In short, this jacket is a great value for a thru-hike.