As rain shells get lighter and lighter, it seems that we’re going to reach peak lightness at some point. Between advances in face fabrics and innovations like Gore’s ShakeDry and Columbia’s Outdry Extreme, right now is the raingear renaissance. Entering the fray is the redesigned Patagonia Storm Racer shell. It’s light, it packs down to nothing, and it even has some stretch to it. Could it be the perfect rain shell?
Patagonia Storm Racer Features
Patagonia sells the Storm Racer as a trail running jacket. It also serves as a great shell for bikepacking or ultralight backpacking. The Storm Racer uses traditional, three-layer construction – face, membrane, liner.
Patagonia utilizes a 1.74 oz, 12d, ripstop nylon face fabric with their C6 DWR. The membrane is lightweight, but still meets Patagonia’s H2No standard, meaning it has at least a 20k rating when new. On the inside, there’s a 7d mesh, tricot liner against your skin or base layer.
There’s only one pocket on the Storm Racer, but, like on the Houdini, it doubles as a storage pouch for the jacket. Elastic holds the cuffs against your wrists (and is a little tight). The hem is held against your keyster by the addition of elastic instead of with a drawcord. There is a single drawcord on the hood to cinch things down. The hood isn’t listed as helmet compatible, but mostly fits over a bike or climbing helmet.
Review: Patagonia Storm Racer
To test the Storm Racer, I took it on a bikepacking trip on the Vapor Trail in Salida, Colorado, and used it as a general wind and rain shell. It rained prolifically on the bikepacking trip, which was good for testing rain gear, but bad for bikepacking.
Let’s break this down into a few categories: function, fit, and durability.
The Storm Racer does exactly what it’s designed to do. This is not your all day, every day rain shell. It’s the jacket you forget you stashed in your pack until the skies open. It packs down small, weighs close to nothing, and keeps the rain off of you. There is a lot to like about it. I really appreciated the simple adjustment on the hood and that the hood fits over most helmets. I also like the slight drop hem – the back of the jacket is long enough that it covers your belt-line when you’re bent over in a riding position, but doesn’t drop as much as a full-on cycling jacket, so it stays useful in non-cycling applications.
The cuffs are designed like Houdini cuffs – elastic on the bottom half to keep weather out and flat on the top. The flat part extends a bit over the back of your hand, which is nice. The cuffs are a bit tight on me. I only noticed because it was difficult to slide the cuff up over my watch to check the time. I have thick wrists and a Suunto Ambit, though, so it’s a real possibility that others won’t even notice.
Packing down the jacket is easy. Patagonia designed a small pleat into the chest pocket to give it a bit more space. This means that you’re not struggling to jam the Storm Racer into the pocket. It’s an easy fit.
The Storm Racer breaths as well as any other membrane-based jacket. It’s not air-permeable, so it won’t vent sweat vapor as well as a NeoShell- or eVent-based shell. But, because it’s so thin and light, it seems to breath better than some of the heavier shells I’ve tested.
Patagonia fit is hit or miss for me – I’m a pretty solid large according to their size chart and fit calculator. Their Nano Air series is too tight around the hips, which makes me very sad. Their Houdini shells are a close fit – room for a base layer, but not much more.
Storm Racer sizing is a bit more generous than the Houdini. The shell fits easily over base layers and will slide over lighter mid layers as well. I have room underneath for a standard-weight down jacket. It would be a perfect compliment to Patagonia’s new Micro Puff. If you’re planning on putting it over a Hyper Puff or Fitz Roy, consider sizing up.
The question with most ultralight fabrics is, “will it survive normal use?” The answer here is mostly. While I didn’t notice any abnormal wear from pack straps or just wearing it around, I did manage to wear a small hole in the jacket on the inside of the chest pocket. How in the world did that happen? I have a theory…
Patagonia uses a small, double-sided zipper slide on the chest pocket. I think that the slide was wedged directly under one of the straps on my handlebar harness on the bikepacking trip. In essence, I simulated a ton of wear on a spot that normally doesn’t see much abrasion. Regardless, it’s a tiny hole that didn’t spread and is easily repaired.
Do NOT let that turn you off. The Storm Racer brushed off branches and rocks without issue.
Should you Buy a Storm Racer?
If you’re trying to cut a few ounces from your pack and think your rain shell is holding you back, pull out that credit card. If you carry a wind shirt and a rain jacket, the Storm Racer can work as both. Ultra runners who want some hooded protection from the elements, bikepackers who need a jacket that can fit in a Feed Bag, and through-hikers who aren’t ready to pony up for one of the DCF options out there, step right up.
On the other hand, if you’re a regular joe hiker who hasn’t already lightened up the big three – sleeping bag, tent, pack – don’t spend your money here. If you need a rain jacket for tooling around town or going on day hikes, there a cheaper options that will serve you well. Folks who do crazy things where durability can be a life-or-death matter, get something with a heavier face fabric.
I can’t think of a jacket that can match the Patagonia Storm Racer for weight, function, and price. There are lighter options out there, but I worry about durability on some of them (which are more expensive than the Storm Racer) and the ones on which I don’t worry about the durability are $450+.