REI Co-op has assembled an impressive in-house lineup of high-quality gear and clothing that doesn’t break the bank, and their XeroDry GTX rain jacket carries the torch. Constructed with Gore-Tex Paclite, we brought REI’s lightweight shell along on an ambitious trek through the Grand Canyon, where it faced everything from strong winds and rain to hail and snow. All told, it performed well for its weight, but sustained, heavy moisture overwhelmed the jacket’s DWR coating and face fabric. Below we outline our experiences with the XeroDry GTX. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our articles on the best rain jackets and best women's rain jackets.
Table of Contents
- Water and Wind Protection
- Weight and Packability
- Build Quality and Durability
- Features: Pockets and Hood
- Fit and Sizing
- What We Like/What We Don't
- Comparison Table
- The Competition
Using a Gore-Tex Paclite waterproof membrane, durable water repellant (DWR) finish, and full seam taping, REI packed solid wet-weather and wind protection into the XeroDry GTX. During our four-day trek through the Grand Canyon, the jacket easily shed light to moderate rainfall. But on our final day, we were hit with an unrelenting storm and exceptionally strong gusts: the perfect testing conditions. At the onset, the jacket effectively sealed out rain and kept me dry for most of the day, and I barely felt any drafts through the outer shell.
However, once the rain really picked up, the XeroDry GTX’s face fabric quickly wetted out and my midlayer became soaked. While I typically feel confident in any Gore-Tex garment for waterproofing, the budget-oriented REI shell falls a bit short. It’s hard to pinpoint the problem, but the XeroDry’s face fabric appears to be made with a cheaper material and the DWR coating is certainly not a strong performer (although the DWR doesn’t play a role in moisture soaking through the jacket). Moreover, the two upgraded Gore-Tex Paclite Plus shells that we also were testing on the trip—Arc’teryx’s Zeta SL and Patagonia’s Calcite—both worked flawlessly in the same conditions. In the end, I concluded that the XeroDry’s performance matches its $159 price. It’s a step up from cheap designs like the $99 The North Face Venture 2 but falls short of higher-end options like the aforementioned Zeta, Calcite, or even Marmot’s popular Minimalist.
As with most rain jackets, I found the REI Co-op XeroDry was quick to overheat when hiking in moderate temperatures. On the final, strenuous ascent out of the Grand Canyon, the shell kept me comfortable and trapped my body heat during the cool morning. However, a couple hours into the hike, I caught myself repeatedly reaching for non-existent pit zips in an attempt to cool off. The shell got noticeably damp on the inside from my own sweat, and even opening the jacket’s mesh-lined hand pockets—which double as core vents—couldn’t stop me from overheating. Given the choice, I would gladly take the slight weight penalty of adding true pit zips to be able to quickly dump heat. Not only do the core vents disappoint in terms of ventilation, but opening them compromises their ability to store personal items (more on this in “Features” below).
At 10.6 ounces for a women’s medium, the REI XeroDry is plenty light for hauling in a pack on hiking and backpacking trips. Comparable Gore-Tex Paclite rain jackets like the Marmot Minimalist (13.8 oz.) and Outdoor Research Aspire (13.7 oz.) come in a bit heavier, although they do offer a step up in weather protection, features, and ventilation. On the other end of the spectrum is a minimalist shell like Outdoor Research’s Motive (9.8 oz.). That jacket’s 3-layer construction gives it a boost in durability and breathability, but it comes with a higher $199 price tag.
As far as packability goes, the XeroDry doesn’t include a dedicated stuff sack or a two-sided zipper for storing in one of its own pockets. But it is easy to roll the jacket into its own hood, and the thin and relatively supple fabric made the jacket easy to stuff into an already-full pack. For my purposes, a stuff sack would be a nice addition for further compression or hanging onto a harness, but considering its price and intended use, the jacket is sufficiently light and packable.
Where the XeroDry stands out in the competitive sub-$200 rain jacket market is its sleek, simple design and solid build. To start, the XeroDry has a softer interior than many crinkly hardshells and rain jackets, allowing me to wear it comfortably over just a t-shirt. Moreover, the flap inside the main zipper has a felt-like coating that was cozy against my face, and the asymmetric arm hem provided great coverage over the top of my hands without restricting movement. As far as durability is concerned, the XeroDry’s shoulders, back, and arms are reinforced with a slightly burlier fabric (75-denier) than the rest of the jacket (50-denier), which help protect high-wear areas that consistently rub against a pack.
The XeroDry GTX is fairly bereft of features compared to many other premium shells, with the most noticeable sacrifice being pit zips. However, it does include two hipbelt-compatible hand pockets that are backed with mesh to double as core vents. As I mentioned above, I didn’t love the design—I prefer to use this space for storing small valuables, and even when the pockets were open, they didn’t ventilate nearly as well as traditional pit zips. Instead, I used the small chest pocket to stow my phone (although it’s safest to keep electronics in your midlayer or in a pack during rain).
Aside from storage, the XeroDry has a two-way adjustable hood that provides excellent coverage. REI doesn’t list the hood as helmet-compatible, but I suspect its large, accommodating shape could fit over my climbing helmet with relative ease. On the trip, it was plenty spacious for layering over a hat, provided full protection for the back and side of the head, and its two drawcords near the collar were easy to toggle and tighten without restricting visibility.
Fit-wise, the XeroDry falls on the roomy end of the spectrum, which allowed ample freedom of movement and layering options. This also caused the jacket to feel a bit drafty, but that was easily fixed by cinching the hem drawcord. That said, the XeroDry was noticeably short in the torso—the bottom hem ended at my tail bone, whereas I’m used to performance-oriented shells running longer to provide more coverage in the back. This was especially apparent anytime I lifted my hands over my head (mostly while setting up camp), causing the jacket to rise almost to my belly button. Compared to the more performance-focused, slim fit on the Arc’teryx Zeta SL, for example, the XeroDry fell notably short (both literally and figuratively). The good news is that I enjoyed layering however I wanted and was able to seal out rain and wind easily—two major considerations for a shell.
Other Versions of the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX
For this review, we tested the standard women's version of the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX, which is also offered in dedicated plus sizes for the same price. This jacket is also made in a men's model, which weighs slightly more (12.5 oz.) and comes in different colorways, but with the same design overall. Additionally, REI offers XeroDry rain pants for both women and men with the same 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite design of the jacket reviewed here. These pants are black in color, available in a variety of sizes (including petite, short, and tall variations), and retail for $139.
- The XeroDry is a great value: for $159, you get a sturdy Gore-Tex shell that’s lightweight and packable.
- High-wear areas are reinforced with more durable fabric than the rest of the shell, lending great durability.
- Unlike some crinkly hardshells and rain jackets, the XeroDry’s interior felt reasonably soft against bare skin.
What We Don’t
- The XeroDry wetted out and soaked through surprisingly quickly during heavy rain.
- Gore’s entry-level Paclite construction doesn’t breathe very well.
- The mesh-lined hand pockets that double as core vents don’t dump heat as effectively as pit zips. Plus, opening the vents means that you can’t store anything in the pockets.
- The jacket is a little baggy and short and I would have liked extra coverage, especially in the back.
|REI Co-op XeroDry GTX||$159||10.6 oz.||2L Gore-Tex Paclite||50D & 75D||No||No|
|Marmot Minimalist||$189||13.8 oz.||2.5L Gore-Tex Paclite||Unavail.||Yes||No|
|Outdoor Research Aspire||$215||13.7 oz.||2L Gore-Tex Paclite||50D||Yes||Yes|
|Arc'teryx Zeta SL||$299||9.5 oz.||2L GTX w/ Paclite Plus||40D||No||No|
|Black Diamond StormLine Stretch||$149||9.5 oz.||2.5L BD.dry||Unavail.||Yes||Yes|
|REI Co-op Rainier||$90||11.4 oz.||2.5L Peak||Unavail.||Yes||Yes|
REI Co-op’s XeroDry GTX Jacket sits in a crowded landscape of lightweight rain shells, and one of our favorites this season is the Marmot Minimalist. The Minimalist also uses Gore-Tex Paclite but with a higher-quality and burlier face fabric, which translates to a bump in water protection. However, “minimalist” is a bit of a misnomer with the Marmot: at 13.8 ounces, it’s over 3 ounces heavier than the XeroDry and doesn’t pack down as small for backcountry trips. On the other hand, the Minimalist includes pit zips and features a cleaner look that translates better to everyday wear. Value-wise, you do save $30 with the REI, but we think the Marmot’s superior weather protection and around-town versatility is worth the extra cost in the long run.
Next up is Outdoor Research’s Aspire (the men’s version is the Foray), which is another lightweight Gore-Tex Paclite design. Like the Minimalist, the Aspire is heavier than the XeroDry at 13.7 ounces but adds in one unique feature that sets it apart from the competition: full-length side zippers. These extend all the way to the bottom hem of the jacket, creating a poncho-like opening for unmatched airflow on the trail. In testing the men’s Foray, we also found it to be a noticeable step up in all-out protection compared to the XeroDry despite the similar 2-layer build. The Aspire is around $55 pricier than the REI at $215, but we consider it the more complete and capable design.
Swinging to the ultra-premium end of the market, Arc’teryx’s Zeta SL is our favorite performance rain jacket this season. Simply put, it checks all the boxes we look for in a high-quality shell: it’s light at 9.5 ounces for the women’s version, comfortable against the skin, and has the premium look and feel that Arc’teryx is known for. We also found the Zeta’s 2-layer Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus construction to be a better match against heavy wind and rain, although the 40D shell is thinner than the XeroDry’s 50D & 75D fabrics. And for the price, we wish the Zeta came with pit zips or core vents to dump heat, but for hiking and everyday use, the top-notch build quality and flattering fit and styling are hard to beat.
Moving back toward the more affordable end of the spectrum, Black Diamond’s $149 StormLine Stretch Rain Shell is a light yet fully featured rain jacket. At 9.5 ounces, it undercuts the XeroDry by around an ounce but includes additions like pit zips and a stretchy face fabric for added elasticity and comfort (although it lacks a chest pocket). Further, unlike the XeroDry’s 2-layer Gore-Tex build, the StormLine features a 2.5-layer, in-house BD.dry construction, which we found to be surprisingly capable in wet weather. All things considered, we prefer the StormLine’s more performance-oriented build, and it doesn’t hurt that it saves you $10.
Last but not least is REI Co-op’s own Rainier, which is a step down in price from the XeroDry at $90. What do you sacrifice by saving with the Rainier? Namely, we found the fit to be decidedly on the large side, and we ended up sizing down. Weight also goes up slightly (the women’s Rainier clocks in at 11.4 oz.), and the in-house waterproofing can’t match Gore-Tex in both protection and breathability. That said, we appreciate that the Rainier comes with pit zips, and it gets the clear advantage in price by $69. Added up, the Rainier is our favorite budget design this year and is a perfectly suitable everyday choice.
Editor’s note: We usually provide a live price comparison table below our outdoor gear reviews, but the XeroDry is sold exclusively by REI Co-op. You can see the XeroDry GTX page here and support us in the process. Thanks!