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Hands-on Gear Review
REI Rhyolite Review
Cons: Not quite as abrasion resistant as other models, good, but not fantastic mobility
Bottom line: We loved the breathable eVent fabric & its very funcationally focused pockets & hood. While it isn't as durable as other options we tested it was plenty tough enough for most applications
The REI Rhyolite is a high-end jacket at a very reasonable price. It features an excellent athletic fit with high mobility and range of motion that easily proves to be one of the most versatile jackets we tested. Our review team thought the Rhyolite performed fantastically at a wide range of activities from simple day hikes, to a week-long backpacking trip, to use while backcountry skiing and ice climbing. The jacket's eVent fabric offered the best overall breathability of any material we tested. For the most aerobic or sweaty users, it's worth noting that other jackets provided superior ventilation features that somewhat negated this difference.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Rhyolite is constructed with eVent waterproof breathable fabric for its' storm protection features. It performed fantastically in both our real world and side-by-side shower and garden hose tests. This is technically the only "3 layer" jacket in our review, with nearly all the other models we tested offering a 2.5 layer construction (which is a similar two-layer with an internal chemical coating to protect the waterproof layer). As a whole, we were super impressed with the eVent fabric, both for its overall storm worthiness and how well it has held up thus far.
The hood was among the best in the review and did an excellent job at keeping our test team from getting wetted out by the elements. This contender featured sweet but straightforward low-profile laminated velcro cuffs and a watertight zipper. An internal storm flap behind the main zipper revealed no water on our base layer after spraying the jacket down with a hose. After several weeks of intense testing, we think the DWR has held up pretty well, though average among similarly priced jackets.
Breathability and Ventilation
After both real-world testing and our side-by-side treadmill test, we think the Rhyolite, with its eVent fabric, offers the most breathable fabric in the review, even more than Gore-tex Paclite. While we didn't think there was a major difference between these two materials, all of our testers agreed that discounting differences in ventilation, the Rhyolite's eVent fabric appeared to be more breathable than any of the Paclite models.
The Rhyolite doesn't feature traditional pit-zips, but it does sport two longer than usual mesh-lined pockets that are slightly higher on the jacket than usual. These pockets do a decent job of allowing for a fair amount of ventilation; after a fair amount of real-world use, we found that this feature worked better than we initially expected. In the end, most of our testers thought the combination of the eVent fabric with the zip-to-vent pockets allowed enough moisture to pass through. This allowed the jacket to be reasonably competitive with nearly any jacket out there for breathability and moisture management.
Comfort and Mobility
This Top Pick award winner featured above average mobility and range of motion among jackets tested in our review. It was easily comparable to all the other top contenders, like the Patagonia Torrentshell and Marmot Minimalist. For overhead tasks and activities that required a wide range of movement, this contender did not perform as well as the Arc'teryx Beta SL, Outdoor Research Foray, or Outdoor Research Helium II. We liked the micro-fleece near the chin, as well as the large zipper pulls that facilitate use with gloves. These small (but nice) features show excellent attention to detail and are pleasant nods to comfort.
The Rhyolite features one of the best overall hood designs in our review. It does a great job of staying on the wearer's head and kept us dry even when the wind picked up. The sleek single toggle design cinched around our head snugly, regardless of headwear. The hood did a great job of maintaining decent peripheral vision and was above average when compared to other models. This rain jacket fits over a bike or climbing helmet wonderfully; unlike several other jackets we tested, the user didn't lose much in their field of vision, nor did it detract any considerable amount from the wearer's comfort.
Our testers loved the functionally designed pockets; while slightly on the higher side for classic hand-warmer pockets, none of our testers minded. Our entire review team liked that you could access these pockets while wearing a pack or a harness and appreciated that the zippers didn't press into the wearers' hips under a waist belt while backpacking with heavier loads.
At 12 ounces, this award winner is one of the lighter membrane-constructed jackets in our review. It's lighter than all but one Gore-Tex Paclite model, the Arc'teryx Beta SL. If you're after a truly super light jacket, we suggest checking out the Outdoor Research Helium II, which is nearly half the weight at 6.5 ounces.
The Rhyolite is pretty average in regards to durability; it is comparable to many similarly-priced jackets in our review. This contender features a pretty minimal amount of seams, with absolutely no seams on the shoulders. We think minimal seams will help with the overall longevity of the jacket, increasing its durability over time, as there is minimal seam tape to wear or peel off in the most common high-abrasion shoulder areas.
As it relates slightly to durability, it's worth noting that eVent jackets will need to be cleaned somewhat more frequently because of the nature of the construction. This contender compares similarly (in the durability metric) to many jackets in our review; we think it's plenty durable enough for hiking, backpacking, wearing around town, and even for backcountry or downhill skiing. If you are going to climb with this jacket, you should be aware that its abrasion resistance is slightly less than average.
The Rhyolite packs down smaller than nearly all 3 layer construction jackets; however, it was average or just barely smaller than average among jackets we tested. As a whole, it compressed to a similar size as the Arc'teryx Beta SL and was very comparable, though maybe slightly smaller than the Outdoor Research Foray, The North Face Dryzzle, and the Marmot Minimalist.
The Rhyolite is a fantastic do-everything jacket. Its' high pockets work well with a backpack hip-belt or a harness for climbing. We found that it's light enough to be tucked away in the bottom of your pack as a "just-in-case layer" on any day hike. The Rhyolite's freedom of movement makes it great for climbing or backcountry skiing; however, for rock climbing applications, we don't think the face fabric is quite as durable as other models we tested (a little more care should be taken to avoid tearing the sleeves).
At $190, this award winner is a fantastic jacket at an awesome price. It offers better breathability (even if it's a subtle difference) than the Gore-Tex Paclite models we tested, which ranged from $200-$300 and offers a similar level of weather protection. It does need to be cleaned more frequently to keep its pores clear and help keep its face fabric from absorbing water.
The Rhyolite is a top-tier jacket that's nearly any user can appreciate. This performance-oriented jacket offers superior breathability, with enough venting that allows for as much moisture movement as you could hope for from a rain shell. Its hood design is among the best and is helmet friendly. Its only real downside is it offers good, but not the best durability and range of motion.
— Ian Nicholson
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