October 9, 2017

Light, Strong & Packable: Testing The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket

At less than 7 ounces, The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket is a must-have rain layer for every hiker, camper and aerobic athlete.

Hiking enthusiasts are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to shave mere grams off their gear and daypack weight.

Now, I don’t know if I’d ever call myself a total diehard, but after a recent trek with 30-plus pounds on my back, I knew it was time to lighten up somewhere. Most people start with the tent, sleeping bag, or backpack, but I found a weight-shaving opportunity in my new rain layer—The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket. And while not recommended to wear beneath a  backpack, this jacket is a great everyday carry for its instant, convenient waterproof benefits for hikers, cyclists, urban explorers and other aerobic activity enthusiasts.

My home state of Arizona doesn’t see much precipitation in the desert, but when it rains it pours. I need a rain layer to keep me dry in a pinch but, honestly, 99 percent of the time it stays tucked away in my bag. So what I really need is a lightweight, packable rain jacket.

The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket: Arrival & first impressions

Who doesn’t love a present in the mail? I try out my new gear the moment it arrives at my front door, even if it means setting up a tent in the living room. I have to admit, when I first tried on the The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket I thought, “Am I going to rip this? It’s so light.” This ultra-light jacket weighs less than 7 ounces and the GORE-TEX® fabric was thinner than anything I’d ever felt, but don’t mistake this for cheap. At $250, I had a premium, durable product in hand.

Jacket fit

There are online reviews that say lightweight jackets run small, but the large (my normal size) sat well over a T-shirt and was very true to fit. I didn’t try the jacket over a down coat, and I imagine that it might have been a little snug, but I almost never hike with a rain layer over a down coat so that wasn’t a concern.

Jacket packability

Now comes the true test, for me anyways, which is how well this jacket packs down. It’s already several ounces lighter than my previous rain layer, but the real estate inside my daypack might be even more valuable than its load weight. I scrunched, rolled, and folded the jacket every which way to figure out its peak packability (which turned out to be conveniently stuffed inside the hand pocket).

The end result was almost nothing more than a hockey puck, and weighed less than an apple.

Jacket breathability

The first impressions were clearly wonderful, but I was still inside the four walls of my apartment. It was time to compare the comfort and breathability between this jacket and my old rain layer. The previous rack jacket was fantastic at keeping water out but abysmal at letting sweat out.  Hiking in anything other than cold weather meant I was essentially wearing a sweatsuit. The North Face Men’s HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket was another tale. I was lucky enough to find a rainy day on the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona and take the new jacket out for a spin.

Testing in the rain and wild

Most people picture the desert when they think of Arizona. And while there’s no shortage of sand in the southwest, northern Arizona is actually home to breathtaking mountains, lush evergreen forests, and cool temperatures. Luckily for me, I just so happened to pick the perfect rainy weekend to test the elements.

The afternoon showers were ideal for testing a new waterproof jacket. I had plenty of daylight to hike and work around my campsite as I gathered what dry wood I could find, and explored the trails warping around the Mogollon Rim. The early impressions of the jacket were like any other in the wild—Am I dry? Yes? Good.

But the more physical the activity, the more The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® JACKET shone through the thunderous Arizona cloud cover. Through several wind-sucking rounds of chopping wood (something I love to do but am admittedly bad at), there wasn’t a pool of sweat sitting between the light jacket and my skin.

And it wasn’t just the inside that kept dry. The GORE-TEX® SHAKEDRY™ technology of the jacket wicked and repelled water away from the surface throughout the afternoon as I hiked in the rain. Even the most waterproof jackets have a way of feeling saturated after several hours, but the GORE-TEX® HyperAir jacket only required a few, well, shakes to almost completely dry off (the name is quite literal in this case).

Jacket form and function

The jacket cinches in the two places you need it most—hood and waistline—and the velcro straps around the wrists use a more modern plastic material that seems like it would avoid fraying over time. The “active fit” description on the product page felt accurate once I had everything cinched down and I was pleased that it was even fashionable.

Aside from the novelty of wearing new gear, I really enjoyed having this on my back as the rain crept through the evergreen treeline. It was fun to experience firsthand how breathable, lightweight, and downright waterproof this jacket stayed through hours of continuous rainfall. And when the sky cleared and the jacket fully dried after moments in the sun, it packed down to that same puck-sized pouch inside the large hand pocket.

Final thoughts: This should be your next waterproof jacket

The $250 price tag puts this jacket at the mid-premium range. It’s certainly a fair price in light of extremely technical layers designed for hardcore backpackers and mountaineers. And while it’s not recommended for bushwhacking through thick brush and risking tears, the lightweight material will certainly hold up during normal hiking conditions, trail runs, cycling or other aerobic activities in the great outdoors.

My desert hikes aren’t likely to see much rain in the future. But when they do, I know that The North Face HyperAir GORE-TEX® Jacket will absolutely deliver. I might just keep it in my pocket at all times, so I’m never stopped by a little storm.

And did I mention the jacket is available in women’s too? See it here.

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