Looking for a light weight solution in rain equipment? Montbell’s Versalite rain gear is an ultra-compact and ultra-light solution for one bag travel. I tested the rain pants on a 5-1/2 week trip to South America, which included mountaineering, jungle treks, and cruises. I was delighted with the performance.
The best rain pants for one bag travel
Montbell is a Japanese corporation that sells a large line of outdoor equipment. They are known through the ultralight community for their light weight and high quality products. You may pay a premium for the equipment, but it performs very well.
I decided to purchase the Versalite rain pants for my November trip to South America. We were trekking to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay trail. This trail goes over a 15,190 foot (4630 m) pass in the Andes. November is on the edge of the rainy season which increases the chance of bad weather. I had recently lost weight so used the trip as an excuse to replace my rain gear. I had a 7 kg limit on my overseas flight and was looking to save weight any way possible. The Versalight kept coming up in ultralight backpacking forums as a reliable, breathable rain pant. I also had recommendations from some of my caving/mountaineering friends. I bought the pants.
The Versalite rain pant weighs in at 3.6 oz (102 g). This is one of the lightest rain pants around. It has fully taped seams and is breathable. The pants are unisex but I found them to have generous room in the hips (usually a problem for women). The pants have no zippers, even on the legs. The legs have a generous cut and I found that I could easily pull them over my hiking boots. At one point I wiped out on the trail and slid down a muddy hill. The pants never leaked, even when embedded with mud.
The pants have a simple design, which is why they are so light. There are no zippers, pull tabs, or toggles to add weight. I hiked for several hours in the rain but had little condensation in the pants. That attests to the breathability of the fabric.
The Versalite pants retail for $85 US. That price is competitive with other high end rain pants that weigh twice as much. Remember that you are paying for light weight, quality, and performance. The Versalite pants are a great one-bag solution for any trip that involves rain, camping, or snow sports. I strongly recommend them.
Montbell also sells a Versalite rain jacket. It weighs 6.7 oz. (189 g). I’m vain enough to want a stylish jacket. That said, if you are looking for a super light jacket you should consider Montbell.
In closing, I’d like to reference a post on “Stupid Light” by Andrew Skurka It’s a great discussion on how leaving things at home and going too light can cause major problems. Don’t leave your rain gear at home to save weight and bulk. Bring the right gear instead.
Nice review! You can’t beat rain pants for keeping you dry when hiking in bad weather. I’m also curious about your rain jacket (is it the REI Kyoto?). How do you find it in terms of being lightweight, waterproof and stylish enough for urban travel?
Cindy Heazlit said:
Yes, that is an REI Kyoto jacket. I was pleased with its performance. It rained every day the first 3 weeks of the trip. It was a downpour for the entire Salkantay trek. We wore plastic ponchos over our rain coats and the double protection was enough to stay bone dry even in heavy wind-driven rain.
The Kyoto isn’t the lightest or smallest jacket made but I feel that it is a good all-around choice. It packs reasonably small. It will easily roll up and fit in my purse. It is much more flattering than a regular rain parka. It is “good enough” for rainy camping. I wouldn’t wear it for a winter mountaineering expedition, but it works very well for 3 season light camping. It also works well as an outer shell for light winter activities (skiing, hiking). The coat and hood weigh 14.7 oz (417 g).
I was pleased with the style of the Kyoto. It is very feminine and flattering, and very appropriate for urban travel. The longer length keeps the thighs and buttocks warm and dry.
I would note that I have last year’s Kyoto coat. REI has modified the design for this year’s coat and I don’t like it as much. They removed the tulip hem and the double breasted snaps. The cut is looser (less A line) than last year’s coat.