Proven: Torture Testing the Best Mountain Bike Rain Shells
Beta's most destructive tester didn't just wear these shells, he basically lived in them for whole seasons of the wettest riding (and sometimes working) conditions around.
The weather is a fickle beast, especially where the best mountain bike trails are found—in the mountains. Whether it’s torrential downpours in the fall, snowy wastelands in the winter or freak thunderstorms in the summer, eventually we all have to deal with riding in the wet or cold—or both at the same time.
Some riders experience a few inclement days a year, whereas others, like myself and everyone else in the riding mecca of the Pacific Northwest, must endure a lot of them. If you’re not riding in the rain up here, you’re not riding much. But I took it to a whole other level when torture testing this group of jackets. Let me tell you, it’s weird actually planning rides to coincide with the worst storms (providing the trails can hold up, of course).
I put the four jackets you see here through the absolute wringer over not just a couple-week test period, but whole riding seasons—two of them have actually been in use for several. From the ultra-high-end 7mesh Revelation to the work-horse Dakine Dewit, if you’re looking to stay out no matter what the weather has in store, one (or more) of these will have you covered.
All of the jackets on this list are hard-shell storm jackets that are waterproof and breathable well above the minimum industry standards (with price tags to match). However, they aren’t all the same. Just like the vast diversity of trail-bike offerings, even though they all claim to “do it all,” each jacket actually occupies a niche of ideal real-world use. Spoilers, it’s not always what the tag line claims.
7mesh Revelation | $475
- On-bike-specific fit that also works off the bike
- Durable and reliable GORE-TEX Pro fabric
- Easy to care for
Picture the absolute worst weather conditions. Then picture yourself riding in those conditions. If you did the first two steps correctly, you should be picturing yourself warm and toasty inside the 7mesh Revelation, happily spinning along while the elements feebly batter against this jacket’s hatches.
Seriously though, there’s a reason this jacket is the only one on test I actually went out and purchased for myself. The price tag is nothing to scoff at, an amount roughly equivalent to a brand new steel hardtail frame, but the Squamish brand brings that special sauce to their outerwear that puts the Revelation head and shoulders above the rest.
While you can play spec-sheet comparison games all day long between the jackets here, there’s no denying that GORE-TEX Pro is one of the best fabrics commercially available for waterproof, breathable outerwear. In fact, on paper, only Endura’s ExoShell40 beats out GORE-TEX Pro in breathability rating. But here’s the thing, while Endura’s MT500 jacket might breathe better than the Revelation, that’s not the end-all, be-all reason to buy one jacket over another.
For starters, 7mesh designs their jackets better than any other company I’ve tried. That’s a bold statement, but it’s justified. This the second iteration of the Revelation, the first was heavily weighted for on-bike comfort, meaning that the cut and fit really only worked when you were sitting in the saddle, stretched out on the bars. Off the bike, the jacket didn’t fit very well. This second version splits the difference, with slightly forward-rotated shoulders that don’t cause binding either on or off the bike, plenty of room for layering without getting overly roomy (like the Patagonia Dirt Roamer Storm Jacket), long sleeves that reach all the way to overlap with winter gloves, vents that can be opened and closed with one hand and a drop-tail long enough to keep the wet, brown stuff out of your waist band. That’s not an exhaustive list either—in a nutshell, the Revelation is a jacket that fits and works exceptionally well on the bike, but still works off the bike too.
As an interjectory side-note, the hood of the Revelation is the only removable hood of the jackets tested here, a feature I took advantage of often. It’s also an under-hood design, which actually works way better than over-helmet hoods as it doesn’t lift the jacket up at all, and works with any helmet shape (even a full-face). However, I felt the hood was slightly less protective in sideways rain storms than other designs, leaving more of your face exposed to the elements.
The other jackets in this list are not uncomfortable by any means, however, if you’re going to spend hours or days wearing a jacket in shitty conditions, getting one that fits right is more important than you think. Waterproof fabrics, even the “stretchy” ones, aren’t actually that stretchy, and binding in the shoulders or elbows, a tightness in the shoulders, too-short arms or other small imperfections in fit will start to compound after enough time. I’ve spent multi-day bikepacking trips in this jacket in downright terrible weather, and never once has the jacket felt restrictive or uncomfortable.
So what’s the catch? The Revelation is in a slight confusion in what its intended purpose stacks up to in the real world. GORE-TEX Pro covers a wide range of applications—it’s the most durable fabric GORE-TEX offers, so you can beat it up without much worry, but it does sacrifice on packability and breathability. GORE-TEX Paclite, well, packs better and GORE-TEX Active is better for high-intensity work, like hot laps or KOM chasing. The Revelation can be your hot lap jacket or bikepacking elemental-protection, but it isn’t quite as good as a more focused fabric. In short, it’s like a jacket quiver-killer (there, I’ve said it) that totally works in the bike park or an XC race, but will get bested by purpose built machines for those arenas. It’s a high-end compromise, kind of like modern day trail bikes.
That being said, I’ve used my personal Revelation for a few seasons, both for multi-day trips and evening hot (well, cold and rainy) laps, and I have few complaints. Could it breathe better? Probably. Could it pack down more? Maybe. But it always keeps me dry, like always, no matter what I throw at it and even with many spills and shoulder checks on trees (not to mention many hours of backpack straps rubbing down the DWR coating on the shoulders) the Revelation has never, ever let me down.
Plus, I can throw it in the washer and dryer like your average t-shirt, something that can destroy a jacket like the Endura MT500. The heat of a dryer reactivates the DWR, making the jacket just like new again. Plus, on really cold days you can start off with a toasty warm kit. If that sounds like bonus points to you too, check out the Revelation at 7mesh.com.
Endura MT500 Waterproof Jacket II | $330
- One of the most breathable waterproof fabrics out there
- Highly durable and tear resistant
- Front zipper can leak in heavy front wheel spray
When it comes to nasty weather, the Scottish brand, Endura, knows a thing or two about making garments to battle the elements. The MT500 Waterproof is nearly single-minded in its goal—keeping you dry. It also happens to be build like an absolute tank.
Now, there are two parts to staying dry. First, of course, a rain jacket needs to keep the rain and spray out. But just as important, the best rain jackets move heat and sweat out of the jacket to keep the inside from turning into a sauna.
The MT500 uses Endura’s ExoShell40 fabric which is claimed to almost double the breathability of Patagonia’s H2No fabric, as well as besting Gore Tex Pro and even the impressive eVent fabrics. Specifically, ExoShell40 is spec’d at 40,000g/m²/24hr—if you’re not familiar with waterproof fabrics, most sit between 5,000 and 15,000g/m2/24hr.
Of course, that sounds pretty incredible on paper, but how does it work in the real world? Do you stay totally dry in the MT500, no matter how much you’re sweating? Short answer, no. When push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter how breathable a material is—when you sweat without a shirt, your skin still gets wet, right? Where the breathability ratings of waterproof fabrics comes into play is in determining the ceiling before the ability of the jacket to dump moisture becomes overwhelmed by the sweating body inside. Even if you have the best wicking base layer, if your jacket can’t let things evaporate, you’ll just get wet.
On low-end jackets, that ceiling is pretty dang low. On a jacket like the MT500, I can push pretty dang hard before the sauna starts to form, especially if I have a good wicking base layer underneath. Eventually, I’ll still become saturated, but that point comes well after most other jackets have succumbed. It’s impossible to put real numbers on it as there are so many variables that factor in: temperature, humidity, fitness, airflow and base layer, to name a few. In a nutshell though, if you want the best chance of staying dry from the inside out, the MT500 is going to be the jacket for you.
Getting to the water on the outside, a rain jacket’s other nemesis, the MT500 boasts a 20,000mm waterproof rating, again bringing it in line with the best in the business. A rating of 10,000mm-15,000mm is said to be fully waterproof in extreme weather, so nearly doubling that really keeps the elements at bay.
I used the MT500 as my daily driver not only for winter riding, but also for full-time construction work last year. If you’ve ever worked construction, you’ll know how fast that industry destroys clothing. Standing and working outside for ten hours a day, no matter what the weather, will really put a garment through its paces. The MT500, despite this treatment, kept me dry in torrential downpours that lasted entire work days, multiple days in a row, survived being blasted by grit while vactoring and carrying hundreds of yards of pipe on the shoulders. That’s not to mention a winter spent in the saddle to boot!
Impressive doesn’t even begin to cover the performance and durability of the MT500 ExoShell40 fabric. That’s really all I need to say about that.
However, while I love the fabric Endura uses in the MT500, I do have a few quips with the rest of the jacket. The fit is slightly too small for my frame, admittedly at 6’4” and 230lbs I’m a bit bigger than the average human, but an XL sized garment should be large enough for specimens of my size or even larger. While the arm-length of the MT500 is generous, even stretched on the bike, the shoulders and back were a bit tight, and the torso length could have been four inches longer to get a better overlap with the waistband. Again, part of this is me, but there are plenty of riders at least my size.
The snug fit was a small quip, however, to an issue I discovered one very wet day on the bike. There’s a long local trail that, in the wettest months, turns your front wheel into a constant pressure washer of spray for about fifteen constant minutes. I found that the MT500, possibly the chunky front zipper, leaked during that constant watery attack, leaving me with a soggy stomach for the rest of the ride. It’s disappointing that such a fantastic fabric gets let down by a simple, non-waterproof zipper.
In addition, you can’t put the MT500 in the dryer, unlike the other jackets here; it needs to be air dried. I went against this recommendation for scientific purposes, which resulted in the delamination of the waterproof tape backing the seams. This was no fault of the jacket, but it’s still a bummer that you could potential ruin your jacket if it gets tossed in the dryer by accident.
In light of the potentially leaky front zipper, I found that I used the MT500 more for longer, slower expeditions where I can avoid that high-pressure frontal spray and take advantage of the impressive breathability of the jacket. Bikepacking or shoulder-season epics would be a prime habitat for the MT500.
To learn more about the MT500, visit endurasport.com.
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Storm Jacket | $320
- Very generous fit goes over hip packs and promotes air circulation
- Highly waterproof, stretchy H2No fabric
- H2No fabric doesn’t breathe as well as others
This might be the jacket I’ve been waiting for all my life. For some reason or another, I love pullover rain jackets, so when the new Storm jacket showed up I was over the moon frothing to try it out. As anyone that followed the weather in the PNW this year knows, there were plenty of opportunities to put a rain jacket through its paces.
To recap, the Dirt Roamer Storm jacket is a pullover style shell from Patagonia that uses the brand’s own H2No fabric. That fabric is rated to around 20,000mm waterproofness and 15,000g/m2/24hr breathability. I say “around,” as fabrics have to pass Patagonia’s “Killer Wash” stress test that simulates real-world use. To pass that test, fabrics need to maintain 10,000mm and 12,000g/m2/24hr, even though they might start out their lives numerically higher. In the real world, dirt, sweat and simple wear-and-tear make a big impact on a garment’s performance, so getting a fabric rated in this way puts the on-paper performance closer to the real-world implementation.
On the trail, the Storm jacket breathes well enough to keep things from getting too steamy under moderate exertion, but if you’re really giving it the beans, you’ll cook yourself sooner than in a jacket like the Endura MT500. However, the Storm jacket fits much looser, especially in the torso, than the MT500, so there’s more opportunity for airflow, which can help keep things fresher inside. Especially if you’re wearing a hip pack (which can fit under the jacket, bonus!) rides under an hour feel about as pleasant in the Storm jacket as they do in the MT500. It’s when you get longer rides with multiple heating/cooling (read: climbing, descending) cycles that the Storm jacket starts to loose a bit of pace. I’ve noticed that pulling off the jacket after a longer usage session can get a bit…ripe.
That being said, I prefer using the Storm jacket over the MT500 most of the time. First, the Storm jacket is just as waterproof as the MT500 for the rides I typically go on (sub 5 hours), and there’s no zipper in the front to leak front tire spray through. The extremely generous fit, and I mean I’m swimming in the torso of the Storm jacket, is actually a huge boon when riding with a hip pack as it keeps everything dry from rain while also lifting the jacket off my back and hips for better airflow. It’s almost like a poncho. The loose fit also lets me use the hood over a helmet without any restriction, something that is rare to find on jackets.
As far as pockets and features go, the Storm jacket is a fairly bare bones, K.I.S.S-type of affair. And I love that. You can chuck it in the washer and dryer without worry, throw it on like a poncho over many layers of cold-weather riding gear, even a mid-weight puffy jacket, and it performs for the average rider’s demands almost as well as the highest-end jackets out there. The Storm jacket has become my “oh-my-it’s-really-raining-out-there” item that I can just grab and trust to keep me dry and comfortable. I just have to make sure to put on some deodorant afterwards.
The final aspect to the Storm jacket that I love is more about how Patagonia does business than about the Storm jacket specifically. First, the brand uses recycled nylon to make the H2No fabric as well as a fluorocarbon DWR coating, helping cut down on negative environmental impact and resource demands. Secondly, Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee is designed to repair damaged garments to keep them in use, not landfills. They’ll send you Tenacious tape for small tears, or you can send the jacket to them for larger boo-boos, which they’ll usually repair at no cost to you. If you find that you want to move on from the Storm jacket at some point, their Worn Wear program offers trade-in options and the opportunity for the jacket to see more trail time and stay out of the landfill for a few more seasons.
The new Storm jacket will be available this August, just in time for the northern hemisphere to start getting hangry for cooler temps. The Storm jacket isn’t up on Patagonia’s website as of the time of writing, but when it is you’ll find it on patagonia.com.
Dakine Dewit 20K 3L Jacket | $290
- Holds up to abuse well
- Front pockets double as vents
- Extra length seals out elements nicely
Halfway to futuristic super-soldier performance, the Dewit 20K jacket feels ready to do battle with the worst the weather has to throw at you. Dakine isn’t always the brand that comes to my mind when talking about high-end performance garments, but the Dewit jacket has impressed me on more than a few occasions, even testing alongside big names like 7mesh, Endura and Patagonia.
While Dakine doesn’t list performance numbers for the Dewit’s fabric, the name and on-trail performance both suggest that the waterproof rating might be in the 10,000-15,000mm benchmark arena. On hours long rides in the absolute pouring rain, getting slapped by thick salal and laden branches, the Dewit never soaked through, even though the DWR coated eventually wetted out on the forearms and shoulders from the floral abuses. A quick trip through the laundry reinvigorated that DWR, and the Dewit’s fabric has proven to be as waterproof as any of the other jackets on test here.
I was initially a bit skeptical of the jacket’s two diagonal vents along each shoulder blade, but even in the pouring rain I never felt water intrusion from these areas. Back venting, at least from my experiences, usually results in water intrusion that’s pulled along stitching by capillary action or the like—thus far that’s not been the case on the Dewit. I’ll caveat that I haven’t worn the Dewit in any high-wind environments, like ridge lines with updrafts, where moisture can attack from more than one direction.
The Dewit is cut perfectly for light layering in mild to chilly weather, rides where you could get away with just a wool jersey and shell for wind protection. The jacket actually reminded me a lot of my personal 7mesh Revelation jacket, which I consider to be the benchmark for the perfect on-bike fit, at least for my body.
Of course, breathability is as much of importance as waterproofness; again, there aren’t any numbers to go by, but the Dewit feels to be close to H2No fabric; somewhere around the 10,000g/m2/24hr mark. When it comes down to it, the other jackets here, especially the Endura MT500, outperformed the Dewit in breathability, but that’s not to say the Dewit is especially lacking in that department. The jacket actually dumps heat very well, better than some breathable windbreakers I own that aren’t even waterproof—except in the forearms. It’s strange, but I noted that I finished a few rides in the Dewit with completely sweat-saturated sleeves just above the wrist, but nowhere else. The Dewit has generous sleeve lengths that do a great job at keeping wrists warm and dry, but I wonder if that extra coverage is preventing some air flow that happens on other jackets with “worse” wrist interfaces.
In light of this phenomena, I’ve mentally put the Dewit in the category of “for slow and shitty weather rides” where the emphasis is more on weather sealing than on breathability and venting. The very high collar and tighter hood also push the Dewit into that camp—with the hood on and the jacket zipped, the collar sits just below my nose. It’s quite wonderful for extra cold and wet days, but with heavy exertion I’d rather have some more space to, well, breathe.
The Dewit 20K jacket might not be your first thought when thinking about high-end waterproof riding jackets, but it certainly deserves to be on the list. It’s fully waterproof, fits great and performs very well on the bike. It’d be an ideal jacket for riders that shuttle or ride lifts as much as they pedal, as those gravity-oriented rides tend to be heavier on elemental protection than they are on dumping body heat.
Look over Dewit 20K in more detail at dakine.com.
In the Real World
The 7mesh Revelation is my go-to jacket for when I need to stay dry all day long or just don’t know when a multi-day trip might have in store. The versatile GORE-TEX Pro fabric can take a beating and come back for more, all while keeping you dry in all conditions. It takes a hit in breathability, but that’s small potatoes compared to how well the Revelation is designed and cut to work with or without layering, on or off the bike. If I only owned one jacket, this would be the one.
If the Revelation is durable, the Endura MT500 is downright nuke-proof. As long as you don’t put it in the dryer, not much can cause this jacket any grief. It’s also the most breathable jacket on test, and just as waterproof as the Revelation, apart from the front zipper that sometimes leaks in heavy front-wheel spray. If you’re very hard on outerwear and/or want a jacket that is durable and highly breathable, the MT500 is a top pick.
I doubt I’m the only one, but a pull-over performance rain jacket like the Patagonia Dirt Roamer Storm just has that sex appeal that’s hard to pass up. From the minimal construction and clean looks to the above average technical performance, the Dirt Roamer will keep you dry and looking good all day long. There’s no zipper to clog with mud or leak, and the fit is generous to completely cover a fanny pack, keeping your gear dry too. However, it’s not the most breathable, so be sure to keep some deodorant handy post-ride.
A dark horse in the high-end outerwear world, the Dakine Dewit 20K 3L impresses with its exceptional coverage, high-performance fabric and easy-going fit. The Dewit is more than capable of keeping you dry in driving rain, and its longer sleeves and higher collar will help keep the sideways rain out. As with the Dirt Roamer though, it’s not quite as breathable as the MT500 or Revelation, so the Dewit is best suited for wind-cooled, gravity-fueled laps or less-intense efforts.
Photos: Samuel McMain