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Let me start this review by confessing that in the past I have been a cheapskate when it comes to rain gear. This has led to many damp and miserable misadventures which would have been far more enjoyable with reliable waterproof kit. The Marmot Essence Jacket is not excessively expensive for a waterproof of its quality, but being more than I have paid in the past made it an investment for me. But what a great investment it’s been.
Over time my ‘money-saving’ attitude means that I have had some decent waterproofs, but have also spent a hell of a lot on useless ones. Ones that are great price wise, but that in reality are a false economy. Ones that don’t breathe, ones that don’t fit, ones without hoods (yes, really!) and ones who’s claims to be waterproof are outright lies. After years of wasting money on poor performing jackets I just wanted something that would actually work. The Marmot Essence ticks all the right boxes, while not hitting many negatives.
Now that thrifty declaration is out of the way, let me tell you why this is the best waterproof I’ve ever owned, and certainly worth every penny.
I have used the Marmot Essence jacket on hikes, bike tours, on the beach, in the wilds, fishing out on the ocean (it had a whiffy sniff of squid bait for a while…) and for everyday general use. To say I have tried my best to abuse it would be an understatement.
It has been battered by waves, had fish with vicious spikes leap at it, got covered in oil from my bike and withstood the sulphur effects of volcanic Rotorua – yet it still looks pretty new. On rainy days, windy days, and ‘I-need-to-be-visible’ days (it’s bright yellow), it has practically been lived in. It’s not just a waterproof jacket, but great as a multipurpose piece of kit – something that I always look for in my gear to minimise carrying too much equipment.
Although it lacks a stuff sack to store it in, I have rolled it unceremoniously into its own hood, hurled it in to panniers, and left it at the bottom of a bag for weeks crushed under all sorts of other gear. It has been used as a pillow when camping, worn in my sleeping bag on particularly cold nights and the singular pocket has had to carry two pockets-worth of things on several occasions.
In my exploits with inferior jackets (which would make an excellent title for a terribly boring book), I have suffered periods of heavy sweating whilst exercising, got disgustingly damp from crap ‘waterproof’ materials and lugged about overtly weighty coats across vast distances, only to be disappointed at their performance. Marmot’s ‘featherweight phenom’ – and who doesn’t like to sound like a prat when stating they are sporting the latest ‘phenom’? – outperforms all the waterproof characters in my soon-to-be-published boring book.
It’s not only the fact that it keeps the water out (a vital element in a waterproof jacket, I find), it’s the fact that it hardly weighs anything. Yes, I cannot rave enough about how light this ‘phenom’ is. It’s incredible. For someone just shuffling to the local supermarket in a downpour, a fancy wax heavy raincoat will do the trick. For someone like me, who needs a performance to weight ratio that means I can be pedalling fast on my bike, stomping up mountains or battling the high seas in a boat whose engines just failed and all we have is a paddle to get us back to shore (yes, again, really, this has happened!), the Marmot Essence Jacket is hard to beat.
Fit and Components
The Marmot Essence jacket fits nicely, which may not be something you consider when buying a dull but essential piece of kit – but let me tell you, it makes all the difference. No longer am I drowned by an oversized coat, or squished by a too-skinny fashion piece. This jacket just works. The shape and design of it means it hugs without squeezing and moves as you move. So when doing physical activity, it doesn’t hinder your movements. I cannot stress how important this revelation was to me when I finally got a jacket that didn’t compromise my exerts!
Air vents in the armpit areas mean air escapes without making you stinky, which is also a bonus if you plan to grab a beer or few after a hike. Who wants to sit next to a smelly walker in the pub?! Ditto if you’re sharing a tent with someone. Or even in a tent on your own – you just don’t want to smell your own stench when you wake up in the morning!
The zipper is a sturdy little bugger, and, like the rest of the jacket, hard to miss in the dark. The colour of the jacket is – high vis … The only way you can camouflage yourself in this garment is by striking a pose next to the Devils Bath in Rotorua.
The hood has a hefty lining to it (I believe in the world of outdoor clothing this is referred to as a ‘moldable brim’) but more importantly, especially for the cyclists out there, this is helmet compatible. This means when in a rain shower, you can slide the hood over your helmet and not have it interfere with your vision. Ordinary hoods blind side cyclists and have the effect blinkers have on a horse; that is, restrict your vision even when you turn your head. The Marmot Essence jackets hood doesn’t. Nor does it slide off your helmet or cause any other collision-potential conditions.
The Marmot Essence Jacket feels a tad flimsy at first – how can something so light (less than 6 oz!) be so effective? To understand this means to delve deep in to Marmots technological fabric. I’m not overly keen on knowing the full details of how something combines lightweight with great waterproofness, I just want to know that it is. But for the fabric tech fans out there, I can tell you it boasts ‘state-of-the-art NanoPro® MemBrain® stretch fabric that is waterproof and breathable’. In real terms, who knows, or cares, what these ® rated names mean? The important thing is: does it perform? The answer is: a solid YES!
The waterproofness of this jacket is something I have tested time and again. Currently being in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ (aka: New Zealand; aka: rain) means I have had ample opportunity to put it to the test, and not once has it failed me. It has a waterproofness of 20,000 mm, which is the highest waterproof rating you can achieve. You (or Mother Nature) can throw whatever at the Marmot Essence – heavy rain, snow, high pressure, whatevs. It’ll do its job under any and all conditions. I haven’t yet experimented with it in the snow, but I wouldn’t hesitate to try.
Another great point worthy of a mention is that it is incredibly breathable. I’ve done some pretty hardcore hikes and cycle stretches in this thing, and not once have I broken a sweat that’s broken the jacket. I’ve never felt disastrously warm in this garment, nor felt the need to throw it off in a fit of rage through overheating. It’s just comfortable – like a delicious Sunday morning coffee with a newspaper, or a good friendship. I doubt anyone else has ever compared a raincoat to those, but there we go!
One final thing to note – it’s a great windbreaker. Even when it’s not raining, it’s light enough and comfortable enough to act as a standalone wind stopper, or just as an extra layer when out and about.
However…and there’s always a ‘however’…the Marmot Essence jacket does have its downsides. This is primarily pockets. I am a pocket person, and a lack of pockets makes me a bit squeamish. The Marmot Essence jacket lacks in pockets. In fact, it has just one. One. I didn’t contemplate this when I bought it (to be honest I assumed all jackets came with the obligatory two hand pockets and the obvious one on the left breast was a bonus), however on closer inspection at home I discovered, to my horror, I had purchased an almost pocketless coat. As a cyclist, this doesn’t bother me too much. I have an Ortlieb bar bag on my bike so all my key kit components reside in there. As a hiker, however, the lack of places to put things (chocolate bars, random pieces of string, mobile phone, wallet etc) was horrifying. Fortunately, the one pocket that does exist is roomy enough for all the above. Just. In an ideal world, there would be a hundred pockets, each with a pocket inside. But we don’t live an ideal world. The Marmot Essence jacket just scrapes through the Becky pocket test. Just.
This is taken directly from Marmot’s site, as who knows better than them? It does, however, have some notes from yours truly…
- State of the art Marmot branded Superlight 12 denier Marmot® NanoPro™ Membrain® Waterproof/Breathable Fabric (in English this = very good).
- 100% Seam Taped (which = rain ain’t gettin’ in!)
- Adjustable Hood with Laminated Moldable Brim (read: goes over a bicycle helmet)
- Chest Pocket. Singular. Boo. In an ideal world, as discussed above, this would be plural. But whatever. The zips are at least waterproof, which you would expect in an H2o proof jacket.
- Armpit vents. Fancily termed as cooling vents in the catalogue.
- Asymmetric Cuffs with Elastic. Read: Marmot, we need to talk about this. There ought to be Velcro.
- 360 Reflectivity. I cannot vouch for this, as I haven’t seen myself in 360 degrees. But if Marmot say it is, then I guess it is. A friend told me I light up like a Christmas tree when I am cycling in this, combined with my lights and some hi vis elastic cuffs I put around my ankles. Very fashionable!
- Elastic Draw Cord Hem. Agreed. This makes it the comfort fit.
- Angel-Wing Movement™. Who knows what on earth this means?! I’m no angel, but the movement the jacket allows is lovely. If angels are lovely I guess this is where Marmot are going with this…
- Weight: 5.8oz (164.4g) Less than 6oz! Less than 165g! Ridiculously light! Rejoice!
- 100% Nylon Ripstop 1.5 oz/ yd. Hard to rip. I think. I haven’t ripped mine so far, which means it’s fairly non-rippable, considering the beating I give it regularly.
- Fit: Athletic Fit. Totes for the athlete in you. Or the ‘it’s raining and I need a pint of milk’ scenario.
- Breathability: 47,000gm + /24hrs. This one’s important. It means it’s very breathable. Essential when you are doing exercise.
- Waterproofness: 20,000 mm. The most waterproofness proof you can get. Whoopie!
I must also mention that Marmot dub this a ‘hooded diva’ who is ‘stealthy and ready to roll’. I’m not sure I agree with the personification of garments, and if I did I’m not convinced ‘hooded diva’ would be my choice of phrase. But the important thing is that despite their dubious choice of descriptive language, the tech specs speak for themselves – and they are excellent.
I sing the praises of the Marmot Essence jacket for good reason. For me, it is the ideal raincoat for all activities. Rather than spend the same amount on 2 or 3 rubbish rain coats, invest the money upfront in one that will outlast and outperform all others.
- The weight, or lack of! You won’t even know you’re wearing it, or carrying it in your pack. It weighs 6 ounces. Six ounces! That’s just 170 grams. You read that correctly. It is insanely light, while not compromising on performance.
- The fit of this jacket is immaculate. It’s surprisingly comfortable, regardless of whether it is raining or not. I have used it as a windproof jacket on cool but non-rainy days.
- You’ll be seen in dark conditions. As a cyclist, visibility is paramount. When the weather is gloomy I have used it as a hi-vis jacket – even when it’s not raining. It is certainly a stand out piece.
- Helmet compatible hood.
- There’s no Velcro straps on the wrists. While this isn’t a major complaint (the fit is actually very good around the wrists) I’m so used to having my circulation cut off by Velcro.
- There’s no pocket to stuff it in. It does, however, roll snugly in to its hood.
- On the subject of pockets, it significantly lacks in these. There’s just one breast pocket (verticle) which is surprisingly roomy – you can fit a map, keys, sunglasses, a bar of chocolate – all the essentials in it – but I am a pocket person and would love more.
- You can’t close the armpit vents, even if you want to.
Who is this product for?
The Marmot Essence Jacket is ideal for weight conscious hikers and cycle tourists. It’s also handy for anyone backpacking who doesn’t want to carry a heavy coat around with them. In fact, if I’m being honest, I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t find a great use for this jacket. If the fancy fluro yellow doesn’t appeal, fortunately it does come in other colours.
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If the doesn’t tickle your fancy, one of these other options may. All these raincoats are high spec, have great waterproofness and breathability and are lightweight. Quite why most are in purple I don’t know. Good for people who like sporting a fancy mauve.