To assess whether a jacket is environmentally friendly, I took several factors into account. Preferably, the waterproofing materials of the jacket are PFC free; I recommended Keb Eco Shell by Fjällraven in the past, but it is exceptionally expensive and must be treated with a PFC-free spray every season. I also tried Black Diamond TreeLine Case, which uses a proprietary PFC-free DWR made primarily from palm oil, but it wasn’t as effective. I didn’t get wet, but definitely got a little sweaty.
In addition to being effective, the jacket must also be durable. This is why many sustainable companies like Patagonia continue to use a fluorinated DWR, although in slightly less toxic compounds. In their calculation, it is better to own a jacket that you will wear and meet again, rather than buying a less effective PFC-free jacket that you replace each season.
Taking all this into account, I think the Eclipse (7/10, WIRED review) is still the most eco-friendly rain jacket I have tried. In Portland, I can wear the DWR of a rain jacket in under a year, but the Eclipse still performs well after several years. Marmot uses a technology called AquaVent, which uses high pressure gas to squeeze water repellents directly into the fibers of the jacket, where it is thermally cured in place. Besides being more durable, it doesn’t produce a lot of toxic wastewater as a by-product and it’s much easier to clean up.
Best rain jacket for hiking
Even though most of us want to wear 100% bomb proof gear, we probably don’t need it. It’s okay to wear a breathable and perhaps slightly permeable jacket like the Cloudburst if you’re running around your neighborhood and coming home in an hour or two.
But if you’re at risk of exposure or being outdoors for 24 hours or more, it’s hard to recommend a jacket without the best possible DWR. For this reason, I generally recommend a variety of alpine shells. I still like MicroGravity from Outdoor Research, which uses OR’s exclusive AscentShell fabric. You make Ascentshell by spraying nanoscale polyurethane fibers onto an electric charge, which creates a thin, stretchy, breathable membrane that is then sandwiched between a durable face fabric and a comfortable inner support fabric.
But it’s hard to make a more efficient and comfortable jacket than Arc’teryx. This winter, I went for the Beta LT more than any other jacket. Unfortunately, there’s a reason we’ve been using fluoridated DWR for so long: it really works. The Beta LT is a three-layer Gore-Tex jacket that would suit everything from day hikes to spring skiing.