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Originally published Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Getting in Gear

Shed weight while shedding rain

Jackets of new eVent breathable fabric create super-light rain gear from Seattle-based REI and British gear maker Rab.

Get ski and boarding conditions all winter long with webcams, snow alerts and more at seattletimes.com/snowsports

The latest generation raingear drops ounces while shedding rain better than ever. Gore-Tex, the granddaddy of waterproof/breathable fabrics, continues to excel in weather protection, but the new kid on the block, eVent, has cornered the lightweight-raingear market.

Because eVent is much more breathable than Gore-Tex — up to 70 percent more breathable, depending on the face fabric used — jacket designers can do away with heavy pit-zips and other venting options. That means jackets that are lighter than ever, with no loss of weather protection or comfort. So goes the theory, anyway.

To test that, we took REI's newest lightweight rainshell, the Shuksan, into the harshest conditions we could find. We hiked the Olympic rainforests during early November deluges. We trekked through the steamy jungles of Maui during the rainy season. And we climbed through soggy Cascade brambles along the shores of Ross Lake in the North Cascades.

The REI Shuksan proved adept at shedding rain and snow. The durable water-repellent finish (DWR) forced rain to bead up and run off the shell quickly and efficiently, and even in the steadiest downpours no rain seeped in through the eVent membrane. At the same time, sweat never saturated the inside of the jacket, even when temperatures climbed into the 70s while we slid through bamboo jungles. The Shuksan allowed excellent evaporation through the membrane.

The Shuksan features a low-frills design to keep weight down. Still, we appreciated the deep side pockets and the small chest pocket (complete with cord-port so you can store an iPod securely inside). The hood is a little too voluminous since it is cut to fit over a helmet, but we found it workable if worn over a ball cap. Best of all, the Shuksan carries a price of $289. That's not cheap, but it is considerably less than previous eVent products. The Shuksan weighs a mere 18 ounces (size M). As other makers begin to utilize eVent in their designs, expect to see prices continue to fall. More information: www.rei.com.

Joining REI in offering a more-affordable eVent shell is British gear maker Rab. Their Latok Alpine Jacket boasts 3-layer eVent for durability, and a cut that's a bit more athletic and trim than REI's loose fit. The Latok's hood is smaller as well for a closer fit around a bare head. We tested the Latok in the same environs as the Shuksan, and it performed nearly identically. In fact, the only real difference we found was the fit. So folks who have a slighter build, or favor a snugger fit, will appreciate the Rab Latok. Because it is smaller in general, it is also a bit lighter — weighing just 15.5 ounces for a medium. The Rab sells for $285. More info: www.rab.uk.com.

— Dan A. Nelson,special to The Seattle Times

Freelancer Dan A. Nelson, of Puyallup, is a regular contributor to Backpacker magazine, and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. For the purpose of review, gear manufacturers lend products, which are returned after a typical use of four to six weeks. There is no payment from manufacturers, and they have no control over the content of reviews. Contact Dan with gear-related questions at gearguy@adventuresnw.net.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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