Marmot Essence Jacket ReviewMarch 1, 2014
- Possibly the best breathability we’ve tested in a hard shell
- Very lightweight
- Only one pocket
- Durability concerns
While we tend to shy away from definitives this may be the most breathable hard shell we’ve tested. It shone in wet, aerobic exercise environments. It is minimalist in design though, so don't expect a lot of features.
Making a jacket shed rain is not tough, but making it breath at the same time is and is usually highly tied to cost. Thus, we’re stoked on the ratio of breathability to cost of this jacket. You’re not paying for features here—there are noticeably few to speak of—but you are getting top of the line breathability and weight for a jacket that still keeps you dry. For that, $200 is a good deal.
In a pouring rain we slogged along on an epic mountain bike ride, but we never felt a chill. A great hood slid over our helmet and stayed in place, while the rest of the jacket kept us bone dry until the soaker moved along. Despite its superlight 12 denier weight, the fabric still cut a chilly breeze on a ridgetop hike.
Like Mountain Hardwear’s DryQElite and Polartec’s Neoshell, Marmot’s NanoPro membrane uses air permeability to increase breathability. Essentially, the membrane’s structure allows fresh air to enter the jacket and soak up some of the humidity without impacting water or wind resistance. While the details of each system are proprietary secrets, we can say Marmot seems to have done it best. In the rainy ride we mentioned above we expected to be a sweating mess in minutes, but instead we were comfortable for an hour of wet XC riding. Another tester remarked on how comfy he was on a humid trail run. A contributing factor are vents cut into the jacket in the pits that noticeably sucked warm air out.
Designed as an aerobic minimalist there are few bells and whistles to speak of. Only one chest pocket, elastic wrists and hem cord, reflective hits and an adjustable hood with a wire brim. Despite the minimalism it wears nicely, never slipping up even when reaching and with minimal flopping around when running.
We crashed into trees and bushwhacked with this shell. No issues were noticed, but the 12 Denier fabric needs to be treated nicely.
At 6 ounces and packing to the size of an orange the Essence disappeared in a pack, even our small hydration bag. Perfect for an emergency shell.