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Zpacks Vertice Review 2018

  • Ultralight Backpacker
Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket
$299

Zpacks Vertice Overview

There exists an eternal battle which wet-weather hikers are all too familiar with — a struggle to bring balance between external and interior moisture, an everlasting search for dryness when all you know are rain and sweat. I’m talking about the dance of the rain jacket zippers.

Up and down go the main zips and pit zips in a rhythm of ventilation desire. An open zipper brings relief from perspiration, only to let in the cold stormy weather, but zipping back up means you must endure clammy skin and swampy armpits.

Fret no more, friends. The Zpacks Vertice rain jacket has put an end to the torment. This ultralight rain jacket keeps wet weather at bay and its thin nylon fabric breathes like no other. That means you’ll be all-the-way-dry even if you’re hiking uphill in the rain.

Due to the impressive performance in heavy-rain climates, we’re awarding the Zpacks Vertice rain jacket the Premium Pick for the Ultralight Backpacker.

Yes, there are lots of rain jackets on the market many of them are excellent. They use Gore-Tex and in-house waterproof membranes, they typically weigh between 8-14 ounces, and they all keep out water. But breathability is the main issue. The Vertice is incredible here, and you’ll pay a premium for it, in addition to shaving off more ounces than nearly any other jacket around.

Read our in-depth rain jacket guide for the full scoop on membranes, fabrics, and waterproof-ness. Scroll below for the full Zpacks Vertice review.

Zpacks Vertice Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 6.2 oz. (176 in g) Arguably the lightest 3-layer rain jacket on the market.
Layer 3-Layer The Vertice has the full 3 layers for waterproofness, breathability, and against-the-skin comfort. More on rain jacket layers in our Guide.
Waterproof Membrane Vertice Zpacks custom waterproof breathable fabric. 20,000 mm hydrostatic head rating, and 56,000+ g/m2 on the vapor test. In short, incredibly water resistant and breathable. More on rain jacket waterproof membranes in our Guide.
Face Fabric 7D Nylon Ripstop A super thin shell material that is durable, but not overly so. The lack of weight is most apparent in the thinness of the face fabric.
Lining Material Tricot Lining The lining feels good against the skin and breathes well.
No. of Pockets 1 Zippered Chest Only one pocket on the Vertice. A large zippered chest pocket, but this thing is slimmed down for ultralight purposes.
Pocket Placement Below sternum strap The chest pocket sits under the sternum strap for easy storage and access while backpacking.
Pit Zips/Vents Yes Two full, watertight pit zippers allow full venting in warm climates.
Water Resistant Zippers Yes The Vertice uses water resistant zippers on the main zipper and the pit zips.
Storm Flaps Yes, inside main zipper There’s a storm flap on the side of the main zipper, which helps to keep rain out.
Packs Into Itself? Yes The Vertice rolls up small, and can pack away in the chest pocket if you want it to.
Hood Helmet Compatible, Roll Away, Stores, 1  Toggle Adjustment The hood fits well, can fit a small helmet, and stows away for more casual use. It has one strap adjustment to tighten or loosen depending on head size.
Fit Slim/Trim The Vertice is cut fairly slim, so make sure to check Zpack’s sizing charts before ordering.
Seams Fully taped All seams are taped well.
Manufacturer Warranty 1 Year Limited Warranty Zpacks offers a 1 year limited warranty on this product. We wish it was longer for the price.
Retail Price $299 A high price for an outstanding, truly ultralight rain jacket (more than a shell).

Gear Review of the Zpacks Vertice

Origins: Easing You In

The Zpacks Vertice rain jacket was born and bred for ultralight backpacking, but it looks too darn good to be confined solely to the deep woods. I couldn’t help but strut around town and go on a few rainy day hikes around Eugene and Bend to show off this sleek piece of gear.

The Vertice faired well and felt good hiking along some popular spots, like Mt. Pisgah and the Deschutes River. The slim fit and hip-hugging-hem shaped well to my body — it felt like I was wearing a designer coat that looked as good downtown as it did on trail. (I’m talking outdoor fashion here, not Paris fashion!)

Zpacks-Vertice-review-hood-up-and-down
The Vertice looks good, right?

But you’re not looking for an ultralight rain jacket for its downtown appeal, are you? That’s why I gave the Vertice rain jacket the full ultralight backpacking test on my hike of the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail in the Oregon Cascades.

The less weight you carry the faster you can hike, so I kept my gear list short since I planned to make over 20 miles each day. Along with the ultralight Vertice Rain Jacket I packed the featherlight Patagonia Micro Puff, my tried-and-true Tarptent Double Rainbow, a few days of food, and a few other items into my Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor backpack.

z-packs-vertice-review-gear-north-umpqua-trail
The full gear spread for a few-day jaunt along the North Umpqua Trail.

My one heavy sacrifice? A BV500 Bear Canister. I had all of my food stolen from me on a hike last summer on the nearby Rogue River (read about it in my REI Half Dome 2 Plus review) and did not want to experience a repeat. It’s bear country and bear season. You know what they say: you pack your fears!

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

The Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket keeps out the rain and doesn’t make you sweat. Do you understand what that means? It keeps you dry — inside and out! That’s all I’ve ever wanted from a rain jacket. I’d long ago given up hope of such a thing. I thought it was an impossible dream.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-full-rain-gear-hiking
Happy and — dare I say it — dry on the North Umpqua Trail.

But no! It’s true. I wore the Vertice during nearly every step of my North Umpqua hike, and nearly every step was wet with rain, rivers, and rivers of rain on the trail. For much of the hike I even wore the Patagonia Micro Puff — a synthetic puffy that is quite warm — underneath. The pairing worked well together. Through constant rain and humidity I felt protected under the Vertice, rather than trapped. Sometimes rain jackets can feel like a ziploc bag filled with my own perspiration, but the Vertice felt dry like rain gear should (and we have all hoped it could).

Zpacks-Vertice-review-lots-of-water-featured
Layering the Zpacks Vertice with the Patagonia Micro Puff proved the ultimate in wet weather protection.

It’s not simply conjecture, either. For the gear-heads out there, the Vertice has a breathability rating of 56,000+ g/m^2/24hr vapor transfer per test JIS L 1099 Method B1. Don’t know what that means? That’s OK. Just know the numbers back this jacket up.

Digging Deeper

The Vertice breathes well because it is composed of three remarkably thin layers, the outermost being a mere 7D ripstop nylon shell. But its 20,000 mm hydrostatic head rating means it is strong enough to remain waterproof under very high pressure. I experienced a fair amount of wet wind toward the end of my hike, which would have permeated a lesser jacket, but the Vertice held firm.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-hiking-in-the-woods

This jacket was designed to keep water out at every vulnerable spot. The waterproof main zipper, chest pocket zipper, and pit zips seal so tightly that they look like freshly applied silicone window sealant. Adjustable elastic allows the cuffs and hood to be tightened as needed (a feature that’s a step above the typical Velcro-esque closure), and the hem drops low to keep your hips dry.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-bridge-hit-by-tree-near-Lemolo-Falls
A waterproof main zipper keeps out water, and the overly secure chest zip keeps your at-hand items from getting soaked.

The hood has a long visor which holds stiff against the storm on its own. Zpacks claims that the brim works best when paired with a stiff brim hat, but I found that unnecessary. The hood’s length can be adjusted by a strap on the back, which also can be used to roll up the entire hood and clip it down when it’s not in use.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-wet-hood-with-patagonia-micro-puff
The stiff brim of a hat can make the Zpacks Vertice hood extend a bit more, but it’s not always necessary.

All of this weighs only 6.2 ounces (for a medium) and can be packed smaller than a soda can into its own chest pocket.

Comfort 

The Vertice’s breathable fabric is comfortable against my bare skin, and it also layers well with a shirt and the Patagonia Micro Puff, making for an extremely cushy combination.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-packed-up-for-the-umpqua-trail
Comfy, tight-fitting and waterproof.

Durability 

This ultra-thin jacket is tougher than it looks. The zippers are amazingly solid — every time I zip up it feels like I’m sealing the airlock of a spaceship. The fabric is strong for how thin it is, but when giving it a fair tug you can feel when you’re approaching the point of no return — that’s the point where Zpacks won’t accept it as a return because you just ripped the jacket to shreds like Superman.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-filtering-water
The face fabric is 7D nylon, so while it will fend off general stretches and brushes against nature, don’t push it.

The low weight has to come in somewhere, so be careful with that fabric.

Breathability 

This is the absolute highlight of the Vertice. In all the miles I hiked in this rain jacket I never once felt that the Vertice was causing me to sweat. It kept me all-the-way-dry (can I TM this line for Zpacks?) as I hauled my backpack uphill in the rain. I couldn’t hope for more breathable rain protection.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-dancing
All-The-Way-Dry (TM pending) keeps us dancing.

Waterproofness 

I expected this jacket to wet through, but it never did. I experienced several straight days of wet weather and the only moisture issue I had was at the hem, though as you’ll see in the next section I believe this had to do with the fit. The fabric didn’t let any rain seep through, and the adjustability of the cuffs and hood allowed me to cover up as much as I needed. Because of its extraordinary breathability the jacket dried while I was wearing it whenever the sun popped out for a moment to say hello.

Zpacks-Vertice-review-falls-along-the-river
Truly waterproof — at least, as “proof” as it gets.

Fit

At 5’10 and 180 pounds I usually fit into a medium for everything. That said, the Zpacks Vertice was a little tight compared to what I’m accustomed to. It looked great and felt like a perfect fit when all I had was a t-shirt underneath, but it was too slim for layering and hard hiking.

Though the ultralight Patagonia Micro Puff synthetic puffy fit great under the Vertice, anything more burly would have made me feel like a balloon that was about to pop. The Vertice’s hem was tight around my butt and would slide up above my hips as a result of any lunging steps, and this would result in an uncomfortably wet bottom.

Know that you may have to order a size larger than usual and follow the Zpacks sizing chart so that you don’t have this issue.

Grievances

As stated, the only issue I had was the tight hem that slid up to my waist. My butt was just too big for a medium (not the worst thing in the world!)

I feel that if I had gone a size larger this issue would have been avoided, as the hem gains four inches of girth with the bump to large.

Other than that, a nearly flawless rain jacket.

Final Word

The Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket may just be the most breathable rain protection on the market. This feature-laden ultralight rain jacket will keep you all-the-way-dry (™ Pending) by keeping the rain off and blowing your sweat away.

Where to Buy Zpacks Vertice

We tested the medium Zpacks Vertice rain jacket. At the time of testing (and writing) there is no women’s specific jacket. So, while this is technically unisex, it was made more for men. We seriously encourage Zpacks to make a women-specific model as clothing is almost never unisex.

Zpacks is a small, ultralight backpacking brand and sells all of its own products.

See the Zpacks Vertice rain jacket below.

Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket
$299
arthur mcmahon outdoor gear reviewer

Arthur McMahon

Arthur loves to walk. It's as simple as that. Whether it be in the mountains, on the beach, or along the city streets -- he believes walking is the best way to experience the world. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was his first backpacking foray, and he hasn't stopped since. He and his wife chronicled their journey in their book Adventure and the Pacific Crest Trail. They now regularly travel into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest seeking new trails to hike. Follow his adventures on Instagram. Arthur also hosts the Better Hiker podcast & blog where he discusses trail wisdom, philosophy, and historic adventures.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.

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