An ultralight rain jacket is pretty much required gear for anyone who spends any significant amount of time outdoors. It used to be that sub-pound waterproof breathable jackets were as rare as unicorns who identified as jackalopes, but there's a lot more to choose from these days. To get a good benchmark, check out the BeWild jacket from Trew. It sets the standard in a lot of small but important ways, and is perfect enough that it's been our go-to shell for over a year. It doesn't hurt that it gets a curiously high amount of compliments based just on its looks.
First up, and obviously most critical, does it keep you dry? Oh hell yes. A recent weekend of fun stuff (camping on the Kenai river!) and not-so-fun but still necessary stuff (memorial service for a relative on a beach in Alaska) involved the common denominator of a lot of rain. The BeWild not only kept my delicate, pasty skin dry, it also was dry itself and ready to go again in a very short amount of time. And it does all this with no sacrifice of breathability. Although there is no standard test for breathability (see this excellent overview at REI) we engaged in moderate aerobic activity (biking) and found the BeWild to easily vent our nasty BO as fast as we could heat it up. We didn't even have to release the pit zips, but it was nice knowing we could.
But what about weight? No worries here at 13 ounces for a size medium, thank you polyurethane films. The BeWild takes full advantage of one of the major benefits of PU, the ability to stretch, and this feature alone makes it a great jacket for hard use on rock and ice.
Features don't get left behind either: there's a two-way zipper (another huge plus for climbers, yes!), full-length zipper flap, helmet compatible hood, pit zips, ginormous zipped hand pockets, and a zipped left chest pocket with cord port inside. Adjustability via drawcords is perfectly minimal: two on the hem and one on the hood, plus rip-and-stick cuffs.
The fit is perfect, just loose enough that you can layer it over insulation, but not so much that you feel like you're swimming in it in just a t-shirt. The long hem is most welcome, as we've always been annoyed at so-called rain jackets that end at the belt line. None of that here. Overall we can't think of any shell jacket we've tested that exceeds the performance, fit and livability of the BeWild, and only a few that equal it. And that's not even considering the price, which is seriously reasonably and puts the BeWild at the top of our shell list. OK, you want a gripe? Here's one: where are the matching pants?