Gear Review: Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket and Pants
Enlightened Equipment released the Visp Rain Jacket last year, and added some updates this year. In particular, it now comes with (optional) pit zips for added breathability. Plus, EE added rain pants to the lineup. I love my Enlightened Equipment quilt, so I jumped at the opportunity to test out some apparel from this ultralight cottage brand.
I have a love/hate relationship with my rain gear. When backpacking out here in the West, I can walk for months without rain. And yet, heading out without rain gear is a fool’s mistake that can turn dangerous quickly. A rain jacket can provide a great outer shell in cold weather, but my rain pants usually only come out once or twice on a long hike. While I’m glad to have them when I need them, most of the time they just take up weight.
Enlightened Equipment Visp At-a-Glance
- Weight (Women’s M): 5.08 ounces with pit zips;4.56 ounces without pit zips
- MSRP: $190
- Fabric: 3-Layer Waterproof Breathable Fabric. 7 Denier nylon face fabric, ePTFE membrane, and a mesh inner layer.
- Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm
|5.4 oz (Men’s Medium with Pit Zips)
|4.04 oz (Men’s Medium)
|5.08 oz (Women’s Medium with Pit Zips)
|3.56 oz (Women’s Small)
|Optional Pit Zips
|12″ Ankle Zips with Snap
|Shaped Cuffs with Velcro Adjustment
|Longer in the Back
|Full Front Zip
This is an ultralight rain shell that also functions well as a wind barrier. For a lightweight thru-hiker on a western trail, this is a fantastic option for rain/wind gear. This would also make a great set for an ultralight hiker on the Appalachian Trail, but a more traditional backpacker might want something a bit more durable for the heavy and prolonged use that is more likely on the rainy East Coast.
Circumstance of Review
I took my Visp set hiking with me any time it rained over the past month. When I thought the only rain I’d get was at night, I took it night hiking. When I couldn’t get away for a hike, I wore it on my bike commute. I even wore it out on some bird-watching excursions.
Enlightened Equipment Visp Features
- Adjustable Cuffs with Velcro allow you to cinch the jacket at your wrists.
- Optional Pit Zips for added breathability during activity.
- Adjustable Fitted Hood allows you to secure the hood in place while in use.
- Full Front Zipper adds breathability and ease of use.
- Fully Taped Seams means that water won’t seep in through the seams.
- 12” Ankle Zipper allows you to put the pants on over your shoes, then cinch the cuff.
- Diamond Crotch Gusset offers comfort and freedom of movement.
- Articulated Knees add greater freedom of movement.
EE Visp Usage
Generally, the Visp jacket and pants are true-to-size, but customizable for those who need adjustments. Because I am tall, I was able to get a customized pair of rain pants with a much longer inseam than the standard. This is a big bonus for me, as I often have trouble finding pants that are long enough. The arms on the jacket are also nice and long, so they can cover up any long-sleeved shirt I’m wearing underneath the jacket and keep water from seeping in through my wrists.
The jacket and pants are loose-fitting, so they easily slip on over clothes and provide excellent freedom of movement. More importantly, they are remarkably light and breathable for waterproof layers.
Let’s break down the specs of the Visp, starting with the fabric. UL rain jackets typically come in 2, 2.5, or 3-layer fabric. In all cases, the outer/face layer of fabric is a water resistant layer such as nylon, followed by the middle, waterproof membrane layer. If the fabric has 2.5 or 3 layers, there is an inner mesh layer added, which adds comfort, breathability, and durability. The Visp has three layers.
The Visp is waterproof rated to 20,000 mm. This number speaks to how much driving rain the jacket can resist, and the rating is fairly standard for highly waterproof, lightweight rain gear. Typically anything over 10,000 mm is considered waterproof. By comparison, the Outdoor Research Helium II is rated to 15,000 mm, while the MontBell Versalite is rated to 30,000 mm.
The moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) is fancy-talk for how breathable a garment is. Because there isn’t an industry standard for this measurement, it can be hard to compare this rating. However, the Outdoor Research Helium II is rated at 20,000 g/m²/24h, the MontBell Versalite is rated to 43,000 g/m²/24h, and the Visp is rated at 75,000 g/m²/24h. The takeaway here is that this is a very breathable waterproof fabric.
More awesome gear from Enlightened Equipment: read our review of the EE Enigma quilt.
EE Visp Pros
Both the jacket and pants are super lightweight, together weighing only about 9 ounces. Compare that to the Marmot Precip, which weighs 11 ounces for the jacket alone. Even the Outdoor Research Helium II jacket, which is less breathable and less waterproof, weighs an ounce more than the Visp jacket. This is certainly the lightest rain jacket I’ve ever owned.
I’ve mentioned above that I was able to get a custom pair of pants with a longer than standard inseam. It’s rare to find gear companies that will make custom gear, and it’s one of the things that sets Enlightened Equipment apart. Aside from measurements, the pit zips are also an optional feature.
Extra Long Sleeves
Perhaps the most noticeable thing when I first put on the jacket was how long the sleeves were. This turned out to be a great feature. They are long enough that you I properly protect my long sleeves beneath the jacket. The Velcro made it easy cinch the wrist tight wherever I wanted.
I started wearing the Visp before I investigated the specs too closely, and I was surprised at how breathable it felt. I wondered if I was imagining it, but it really felt like the most breathable rain jacket I’ve ever worn. Once I looked at the numbers my suspicions were confirmed. The pit zips are quite helpful as well.
EE Visp Cons
Like all ultralight gear, the fabric is thin and needs to be treated with care. I probably wouldn’t wear these glissading or bushwhacking through dense brush if I didn’t want them to get shredded.
Elastic Waistband Size
While the elastic waistband fits great around my waist, it is a little snug to get it over my hips. This is likely an issue that will affect female users much more than male users. My hips and butt are not particularly big, so if yours are, you might need to size up in order to get these on comfortably.
This is probably a “pro” for a person with shorter legs, and not really a “con” since the inseams are customizable. But for the standard sizes, the inseams, particularly the women’s inseams, are definitely on the short side. If you’re tall or your legs are long, you’ll want to customize your sizing.
This is typical for an ultralight rain jacket, but worth noting. No chest or internal pocket.
Overall / Value
This is one of the lightest rain gear sets you can buy, and it’s not even the most expensive. At $200, the price of the jacket falls firmly in the middle of the road when compared to similar products. At $160, the pants tend toward the expensive side. Together, $360 for a rain suit is a pretty hefty price tag. However, it is still quite comparable to similar products. At full price, the full Helium suit from Outdoor Research comes to about $280, the MontBell Versalite comes to $340, while a full set from ZPacks will likely top $400. Did I mention that Enlightened Equipment is made in the USA?
Comparable Rain Gear
The Visp is included in our 2020 rain jacket round up:
**Disclosure: This product was donated for purpose of review
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