Last Updated on January 5, 2023
|Price: $199 MSRP – Check Price on Montbell|
|Noel’s Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars|
|Pros: Lightweight, packable, full-featured, great fit, breathable|
|Cons: Wets out after long rain exposure, pricey|
|Weight: 6.4 oz | 182 grams|
|Women’s Model: Versalite Jacket|
|Lighter Option: Enlightened Equipment Visp – 4.9 oz | 140 grams|
|Budget Alternative: Outdoor Research Helium II – $99|
Overview: Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket
The Versalite rain jacket is yet another piece of Montbell gear that has made it onto my ultralight backpacking gear list and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
At the start of this hiking season, I’d been searching for a new rain jacket after hiking for a couple of years with the underwhelming Marmot PreCip. My decision came down to two popular ultralight rain jackets: the Outdoor Research Helium II and the Montbell Versalite.
In the end, I chose the Versalite and have since worn it for over 100 miles in light drizzles, heavy downpours, and everything in between.
A minimalist rain jacket at heart, the Versalite does everything I ask of it, without including unnecessary features or adding excess ounces. It’s a breathable, compact, and lightweight rain jacket that is extremely well designed.
The jacket isn’t flawless when it comes to weather resistance, however, as it tends to let a little water in during prolonged exposure to heavy rain. This is the norm with ultralight rain jackets, though, and what you should expect from a piece of gear that’s so incredibly lightweight.
So what do I think about the Versalite overall? I love it and consider it one of the best ultralight rain jackets on the market. Let me tell you exactly why.
For how lightweight it is, the Versalite is extraordinarily full-featured and leaves very little to be desired. It’s clear that this jacket was thoughtfully engineered and masterfully designed, which is what I have come to expect from Montbell gear.
Here are a few of its best features:
Pit Zips: Arguably my favorite feature of this jacket, the Versalite’s 16.5-inch armpit zippers allow hikers to zip and unzip as they please, letting in air to manage breathability and body temperature throughout their hike.
Fully-Adjustable Hood: The Versalite has a 3-way adjustable hood: a velcro tab on the top to control the brim, a drawcord on the back to widen peripheral vision two drawcords at the sides to adjust the hood’s fit to your face. The hood can also roll up and be secured down by the velcro tab.
Velcro Wrist Cuffs: Two velcro cuffs allow you to secure the jacket sleeves snugly around your wrists to keep out rain and/or drafts of wind. They can also be adjusted to help manage breathability.
Raised Pockets: The Versalite’s two side pockets sit just below the chest, higher than you might expect for a rain jacket. Why? So the pockets stay above your backpack’s hip belt, which would obscure standard placement pockets otherwise.
Fully Taped Seams and Waterproof Zipper: Every single seam on this jacket is covered with waterproofing tape, which means precipitation won’t seep in along the stitching. The jacket’s Aqua-Tect weather-resistant zipper saves weight by eliminating the need for storm flaps.
How Montbell squeezed all of these great features into the Versalite while keeping the jacket at featherlight 6.4 ounces is remarkable. For perspective, Outdoor Research Helium II — a very popular ultralight rain jacket that also weighs 6.4 ounces — doesn’t have pit zips, adjustable wrist cuffs, or side pockets. Its hood is also only adjustable in one spot, as well.
Features Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Though the Versalite does a good job at shedding precipitation, small amounts have seeped in on a couple of occasions during prolonged periods hiking in heavy rain. The water that does make it through comes in mostly via my jacket’s forearms, which I extend perpendicular to the rain as I hike with trekking poles.
When precipitation does sneak into the jacket, it can be dealt with by utilizing a couple of the jacket’s helpful features. Unzipping the pit-zips and loosening the wrist cuffs will help vent the jacket and allow your body heat to evaporate the moisture and release it back into the air.
During light or intermittent periods of rain, the jacket has never wet out on me. It’s easy to shake off and will drip-dry quickly once the rain stops.
The Versalite, made from GORE-TEX Infinium Windstopper nylon, does an excellent job at blocking wind and preventing chilly gusts from penetrating layers and zapping morale. If you pack this jacket, there is no need to carry a windbreaker.
Keep in mind, the Versalite is an ultralight jacket and is made with a thin and lightweight 10-denier nylon. If you’re searching for a jacket with similar features that’ll do a better job of keeping precipitation out, look towards Montbell’s Storm Cruiser Jacket, which uses 20-denier nylon and is rated to be nearly twice as water-resistant.
Weather Resistance Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Versalite gives me all the breathability I could ever ask for in a rain jacket while still maintaining solid water resistance, largely due to its wonderful pit-zips. These weatherproofed zippers run from my lower lats to halfway up my tricep, which makes venting out my jacket a breeze.
Even when my pit zips are fully closed, the Versalite still breathes well and doesn’t trap my perspiration underneath. The jacket’s fabric — a thin two-layer GORE-TEX Windstopper + 10-denier ripstop nylon combo — is far more breathable than that of my retired Marmot PreCip and or the Frogg Toggs Ultralite jacket I tried briefly.
As I mentioned earlier, the Versalite’s 10-denier fabric doesn’t offer the best water resistance. Still, I believe this lightweight material enhances its breathability, which is a trade-off I’m happy to accept.
Breathability Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I’m 5’11” and 175 pounds, and the medium-sized Versalite fits me perfectly. I have a full range of movement while wearing this jacket and don’t feel constricted in any way.
Its three-way adjustable hood is easy to manipulate to my liking and can roll up and tuck away to avoid capturing gusts of wind or getting tangled up in my backpack.
The bottom of the jacket rests well below my hips and cinches tightly about six inches below my rain pants’ waistline. This means that there will never be a gap in water protection between my jacket and pants, even if I extend my arms fully and pull the bottom of the jacket upwards.
Because of the Versalite’s broad set of features, I can utilize the jacket’s pit zips and wrist cuffs to avoid overheating or getting clammy and sweaty underneath. Conversely, if the wind picks up and temperatures drop, I can tighten up the waist, velcro the wrist cuffs, and cinch the hood snug to trap my body heat and stay warm.
Comfort Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Over my time hiking, backpacking, and traveling with the Versalite, I’ve worn it for around 100 miles. As of yet, it has shown little sign of wear, and I anticipate that it will continue holding up for many more miles in the future.
The stitching on this jacket is flawless. As I look over the jacket now, I can’t find a single crooked stitch, nor have I seen a single loose thread for the entire time I’ve owned it. I don’t exactly baby the jacket, either.
Though the Versalite’s fabric is quite thin to the touch, that doesn’t mean that it’s delicate or easy to tear. The outer layer of the Versalite is made from Ballistic Airlight nylon ripstop, which is woven in such a way that protects against tearing and abrasion while still letting the fabric stretch and breathe.
Its zippers are sturdy and well made. Though they take a little force to zip and unzip (due to their waterproofing), I never worry that they’ll come off track or tear the nylon if I pull too hard.
The fact remains that this jacket is made of 10-denier nylon, which is quite thin and not impervious to tearing. So, stay away from low-hanging tree branches and rogue trekking poles, and your Versalite should hold up for a long time.
Durability Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Compared to rain jackets with similar features across the industry, the Versalite is second-to-none in terms of weight and packability. I’ll say it once more: it blows my mind how Montbell fit all of these features into a jacket that weighs a minuscule 6.4 ounces.
The Versalite comes with its own stuff sack, which is separate from the jacket. The jacket can be jammed into the stuff sack, much like you would with a sleeping bag, without any worry of damaging it. No need to fold this jacket up neatly or baby it; it’s durable enough to pack tightly away.
It compresses down a little bit larger than a 12-ounce soda can, making it an extremely packable piece of outerwear for any hiker or backpacker. Because it’s so compact, the Versalite will add value to anyone trying to lighten their base weight and dabble in the ultralight realm.
Weight/Packability Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
At $199, the Montbell Versalite isn’t a budget purchase by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s worth the price tag for those in search of a compact, breathable, full-featured ultralight rain jacket.
Other, more affordable, rain jackets in its weight range — like the Helium II or Frogg Toggs Ultralite — simply don’t offer the same features or performance. When comparing these three jackets, be aware that you’ll get exactly what you pay for.
If you’re looking for a rain jacket that’s a little more sturdy and sheds heavy precipitation better, I recommend looking in a different direction. Your money might be better spent on a burlier and more bombproof rain jacket like the Storm Cruiser.
Value Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The Final Word: Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket
For my light and fast hiking style and backpacking, the Montbell Versalite does exactly everything I ask of it. If you want to upgrade your ultralight rain gear and are on the fence about the Versalite, know this: I recommend this jacket without hesitation.
The Versalite isn’t going to hold off heavy, prolonged rain quite as well as you’d expect from bulkier, heavier rain jackets across the market. That’s fine with me, though, as it performs very well in most rainy situations and has the features to manage any of the precipitation that seeps through.
Other than its weather resistance, this jacket is virtually flawless. It’s comfortable, durable, breathable, extremely lightweight, and packs down into the palm of my hand.
I’m an ultralight backpacker gear nerd. I value thoughtfully designed products built to elevate my experience in the backcountry.
That said, it seems as if the Versalite was made just for me.
Hiking & Backpacking Resources
- Essential Backpacking Gear: The Items I Can’t Hike Without
- What to Bring on a Day Hike: 10 Essentials + Checklist
- My 8.8 lb Ultralight Backpacking Gear List
- Budget Backpacking Gear: Affordable 10 lb Ultralight Kit
- Backpacking Food: Meal Plan Tips & Ideas for Your Next Hike
- Get Paid to Hike: 10 Jobs to Make Money on the Trail
- Best Gifts for Hikers: Unique Hiking Gifts for Any Budget
Do you have any questions about the Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket that weren’t answered in my review? Let me know by leaving some feedback in the comments below!
Amazing what’s out there these days.. unthinkable 25 years ago (when I bought most of my gear haha..), I’d imagine. All sounds pretty cool, even though I’m eyeballing that bombproof Storm Cruiser.
Yeah, it’s crazy how lightweight and functional gear companies are getting these days! Interested to see where the industry goes in another 25 years!
Hi Noel. Would you recommend the sort of pants that you would combine with the versalite jaket.
I think the Versalite Pants would go quite well with the jacket!
Good review mate, thanks. You should head to Tasmania Australia and hike the western Arthur range. Wonderful place. Cheers andy
Thanks, Andy! I’m going to Google the Western Arthur Range right now. Always looking for a new adventure in a part of the world I’ve never visited.
Great review, thank you! Its a pitty Marmot discontinued their 2014 Marmot Essence which was a perfect UL 175gr rain jacket, always stayed in the bottom of my pack for the just in case situation and was half the price of the Versalite.
I’ve never heard of the Marmot Essence, but it sounds like the perfect budget-conscious backpacker’s ultralight rain jacket. I love the Versalite, however, and I imagine it was built to be more durable and repel more water than the Essence (hence the much higher price tag). Happy hiking!