I think we’ve all had days on the trail where the rain will just not let up.  Everything about you is wet: the DWR on your gear is starting to slack, there are soggy lines of moisture under your pack straps and you’re questioning the wisdom of bringing that down sleeping bag when the synthetic would have been such a better choice.  Thankfully, Patagonia has us wet-weather backpackers covered with their new Torrentshell Plus rain jacket – this thing is defined by absolutely bomber waterproofing and durability, no holds barred.

Patagonia Torrentshell Plus Features:

  • 2-way-adjustable hood with laminated visor rolls down and stows
  • Microfleece-lined neck provides comfort and protects waterproof/breathable barrier
  • Watertight, coated center-front zipper with internal storm flap
  • Venting pit zippers with welted exterior storm flap and DWR-treated zips
  • Self-fabric hook-and-loop cuff closures and adjustable drawcord hem seal out moisture
  • H2No® Performance Standard shell: 2.5-layer, 2.6-oz 50-denier 100% nylon ripstop
  • Weight: 337 g (11.9 oz)
  • MSRP: $169.00
Pockets are decidedly low for practical use.

Pockets are decidedly low for practical use.

Torrentshell vs. PNW rain

Patagonia has released a three jackets in the Torrentshell series – the Torrentshell Plus, which is the subject of this review, is the middle jacket in the lineup.  It has reinforced panels in strategic locations to hold up to backpack straps, making it perfect for my needs.  The jacket is really designed for one thing: backpacking trips in the pouring rain.

The Torrentshell is built around a 2.5 layer H2No shell which places a greater emphasis on weather resistivity than breathability.  That’s not a judgement call on the jacket because it’s important to have products on each end of the spectrum (the Rab Myriad we covered earlier is not a jacket I’d choose for substantial rain).  Recognizing this, Patagonia built pit zips into the design to help control the jacket’s climate.  Patagonia chose to use unsealed zips on the pits, then bolstered them with a DWR treatment and a welted storm flap. I really like this compromise because sealed zippers can often be hard to pull – on a location as awkward as your armpits, that can be a real hassle with a backpack.  Patagonia’s solution keeps out the moisture but the zips pull easily.  It goes without saying that the sealed main zipper keeps water out of the jacket very well.

The Torrentshell Plus shines when paired with a Gregory Contour 60, which we'll be covering later this season.

The Torrentshell Plus shines when paired with a Gregory Contour 60, which we’ll be covering later this season.

Beyond sheer waterproofing, I love this fabric’s uncompromising scuff resistance.  We put the gear that we test through serious abuse, but the Torrentshell is one of the few products that washes up to look as good as new after our testing.  The H2No laminate has that slightly rubbery feel inside and out, but I’d bet you could take a belt sander to the jacket and still stay dry in a storm.  Absolutely nothing can touch this jacket – not rocks, not twigs, and not years of use under a pack.  This really plays into Patagonia’s sustainability ethic, and I appreciate seeing a product that’s built for the long haul.

Moving into the smaller details, Patagonia hit all of the points we look for.  The jacket stows away into its own pocket, so its light 11.9 oz packs small for travel.  The hem adjustment is easy to use and doesn’t creep, and the pull tabs on all of the elastic bands are big and fat for easy pulling.  The hood adjustment does the job just fine, keeping the hood in place during high winds.  The Torrentshell has a laminated visor, and the hood almost feels like a hat when cinched up.  The hood is supposed to roll down and pack away, but I found Patagonia’s single-button closure both awkward to use and strange in appearance.  The Torrentshell also has a patch of microfleece on the neck to protect the DWR from your sweat; we were disappointed that the Torrentshell lacks a fleece chin-guard, and the collar’s comfort definitely suffers from the lack of one.  The jacket’s cut is rather generous, which underlines the utilitarian bend of the design.  Lots of room for layering, and you’ll look more outdoorsy than svelte while wearing it.

Torrentshell with backpack, front

As you can see, the front pockets are difficult to use while backpacking.

In practice, I thoroughly enjoyed the Torrentshell as a companion to some rather damp days in the Northwest.  Spokane has had a dry spring, but mother nature’s tendency of sending rain down on weekend backpacking trips held strong for this test.  The jacket sits well under a pack and its thoughtful design make adjusting the hem and cuffs a cinch.  As temps have grown warmer I’ve definitely been taking notice of the H2No layer’s lack of breathability but that simply comes with the turf for this jacket.  Patagonia chose to use sealed pockets rather than mesh; the upshot is that no water works in through the pockets, but there’s no doubting that mesh pockets would have added another breathability option.  My only other performance quibble is the pocket position – for a backpacking rain jacket, the Torrentshell’s pockets should be a solid three inches higher to accommodate backpack waistbands.

Honking big plastic pull on the main hood adjustment.

Honking big plastic pull on the main hood adjustment.

If you read my review of the Rab Myriad, you know I'm a fan of well-designed cuff closures.

If you read my review of the Rab Myriad, you know I’m a fan of well-designed cuff closures.

The Good

  • No-nonsense fabric durability – this stuff keeps water out and shrugs off abuse
  • Pit zips pull easily, DWR and flap keep water out
  • Reinforced patches (specific to the Plus model) enhance longevity
  • Hem adjustments and thoughtful design help help the jacket play nice with a backpack
  • Jacket stows into its own pocket

The Bad

  • Collar is uncomfortable due to lack of chin guard
  • Stowable hood design is questionable and looks awkward
  • Pockets set too low for a backpacking jacket

The Bottom Line: Patagonia Torrentshell Plus

As usual, Patagonia makes a product that is easy to love.  I love the Torrentshell’s uncompromising durability and waterproofing, and Patagonia’s high construction quality is an inherent plus.  I wish Patagonia had seen fit to raise the pockets to accommodate backpack belts, but that’s the only major gripe.  Within the rain jacket realm, the Torrentshell Plus gets bonus points for its backpacking-specific reinforcements and easy-to-pull pit zips.  It’s a solid choice for backpackers looking for durability in a mid-priced rain jacket.

Buy now: Available from REI.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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