If you’ve ever spent a day plodding along in a North Cascades drizzle, you know how intimate you can become with your rain jacket. A number of rain jackets built specifically for backpacking have the look and feel of industrial polyurethane, the sort of thing that you’d put around the tomatoes growing in your garden. Mountain Hardwear tossed this out of the window with their new Ozonic rain jacket.

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Features:

  • Dry.Q® Active’s waterproof, breathable technology banishes moisture
  • 40D face fabric is light and durable
  • Center-front AquaGuard® VISLON® zipper seals out moisture
  • Pit zips provide ventilation where you need it most
  • 2-way adjustable hood features a bonded, structured brim to hold its shape
  • Single covered, zippered chest pocket for extra storage
  • Two zippered handwarmer pockets are harness- and pack-compatible
  • Velcro® cuffs seal away the elements
  • Dual PU zippered pockets keep hands warm and valuables secure
  • Body Fabric: Dry.Q™ Active 40D 2.5L Stretch
  • Weight: 9.7 oz / 276 g
  • MSRP: $200
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Photograph by Cheyne Shiroma

 

A jacket that fits your needs… and you

As I said, a number of rain jackets that are built specifically for backpacking have a rather plasticy, heavy feel. This is fine for short stints but if you’re spending a week in, say, the Olympic Peninsula you may well want something a trifle more refined. This is where the Stretch Ozonic comes in.

The most distinguishing feature of the Ozonic is its four-way stretch fabric. You can pinch it between your fingers and stretch it every which way. Under a backpack, this translates into a very comfortable layer that virtually disappears as the day wears on. This is aided by the jacket’s scanty weight – just over nine ounces of wet-weather guarantee. These traits, coupled with a gently tailored overall fit, make the jacket a wonderful companion for long hours under a pack.

Photo Apr 05, 4 34 02 PM

Mountain Hardwear chose to include two zippered handpockets which are set up and above where a backpack’s hip belt will sit. The zips are sealed but the pockets are mesh-lined, meaning that any water that gets in while the zippers are open will quickly get into the jacket. However, this is probably worth it since that mesh will provide handy added ventilation. Additionally, the Ozonic features fairly short pit zips that are made of a non-waterproof zipper so that they’re easier to pull. In practice I still had to curse gently to get them open, but they’re on par with most pit zips in terms of ease of opening.

Photo Apr 05, 4 34 10 PM

Topping things off is a an adjustable hood that I was quite pleased with. The toggles are hidden away within fabric flaps on the front of the jacket — the laser-cut edges on these looks very sharp. The hood provides good peripheral vision, always a plus. On rainy days, two little droplets continually accumulated on the visor which were my constant companions on long days. It made me chuckle, since the visor is specifically designed to hold a round, drop-defying shape.

The Stretch Ozonic uses Mountain Hardwear’s Dry.Q fabric, which tells us quite a bit about what the jacket is designed for. It’s ultralight and could be used for aerobic activities such as running – a hydrophilic treatment on the inside helps wick moisture away from your skin and to the outer surface where it can be evaporated. I was happy with the jacket’s breathability — it’s certainly a strength. However, like other ultra-breathable jackets I’ve tested, the soft handle of the face fabric is subject to pilling, which is a bummer.

Note the pilling on the fabric.

Note the pilling on the fabric.

The jacket’s waterproofing, while adequate, is not a class-leader. Nor is it intended to be – this jacket is meant to be a minimalist shelter from the wet. On long rainy days under the packet the Ozonic becomes unapologetically wet – but, thanks to the light fabric, it dries very quickly. I think Mountain Hardwear could have stood to ship the jackets from the factory with a slightly better DWR coating; even when my Ozonic was brand new, droplets penetrated the fabric on the shoulders fairly easily. I have yet to re-treat it, but after roughly six weeks of use I’ll need to before I use it again.

The Good:

  • Very light, comfortable stretch fabric
  • Breathability is good
  • Plenty of ventilation options
  • Hood provides good peripheral vision

The Bad:

  • The jacket is overwhelmed by moderate to heavy rains
  • Face fabric is showing some pilling

The Bottom Line: Mountain Hardwear Ozonic

The Stretch Ozonic is a backpacker’s best friend – light and comfortable under a pack. However, don’t expect this jacket to be able to fend off a full day of moderate to heavy rain. You’ll get soaked, but the jacket will win your favor back by drying very quickly once the rain stops. I’m happy with the jacket’s breathability and, especially, it’s scanty weight.

Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com

 

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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