I cringe when I see the phrase “waterproof and breathable” in the description of rainwear. It’s marketing speak at its finest. The degree to which a rain jacket will keep rainwater out is inversely proportional to its ability to let water vapor (sweat) out. In other words, a jacket can only be so impermeable to water before becoming an organic sauna. So, you must ask yourself: would I rather get wet from within or without? That said, fabric technology is better than ever, and companies specializing in techy textiles are getting closer and closer to creating some truth to the aforementioned trick.
From its home base in Portland, OR–where rainfall averages 44 inches per year–Showers Pass is a company with a vested interest in creating the highest-performing fabrics for the most formidable conditions. While they do offer heavier, more durable, and more waterproof outerwear, the new IMBA Jacket from Showers Pass strikes a solid balance between many characteristics desirable for mountain bikers, with a slightly lower price point in mind than some of their other jackets.
IMBA Jacket Features
- 2.5-layer, waterproof, breathable hard shell
- Two long mesh vent ports
- Fully-taped seams
- Reinforced shoulders
- 3M Scotchlite reflective trim
- Removable, adjustable hood
- Hem cinch for adjustability
- Soft, moisture-wicking collar lining
- Inner pocket with audio port
- Microfiber lens wipe
- Colors: green, gray
- Sizes: S-XXL (medium reviewed)
- Also available in women’s cut and sizes
- Weight: 435g
- MSRP: $199
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For reference, I am 5’8″ tall, I weigh 175 pounds, and I reviewed a size-medium IMBA jacket. I would categorize the fit as classic, or regular, with room enough to layer up if needed. The shell is softer and quieter than other hard shell fabrics that crackle with every move. The tail dips ever so slightly, with an equally gentle rise in the front. To fine-tune the fit, the hem and hood provide toggle cinch cords, and the cuffs have hook-and-loop fasteners. The hood easily cleared my half shell helmet, or it can be zipped off, revealing a lined collar for additional warmth and protection. Overall, the IMBA Jacket is a look that worked for me just as much on the mountain as it did running errands around town.
Waterproof vs. Breathability
Showers Pass employs a 2.5-layer Artex shell to maximize the breathability to waterproofness ratio while maintaining a compact, lightweight structure. The durable face fabric is bonded to a waterproof membrane that’s impermeable to droplets of water, yet semi-permeable to sweat. The innermost “half layer” is Artex’s double charcoal print, which is said to lift the waterproof membrane from the skin and wick sweat.
For reference, a 2.5-layer design isn’t quite as breathable, waterproof, or durable as a 3-layer shell, but is less bulky than a 2-layer that uses a hanging liner. What’s more, the IMBA Jacket is about $80 less than a 3-layer shell from Showers Pass.
I received the IMBA Jacket just in time for an onslaught of Northwest wetting and did not hesitate to put it to the test. I found this jacket as impenetrable under the darkest deluge as you could hope for. There’s not a seam on the IMBA Jacket that isn’t taped for water, and the hood hung like an umbrella, keeping me dry from top to bottom. Interestingly, while the extra-long vent ports have sealed zippers, the main zipper and pockets do not. The pockets are shielded by external storm flaps while the main zipper has only an interior flap. Nevertheless, it worked to keep all water out.
Despite a “dry-touch” moisture-wicking interior print, the Showers Pass IMBA shell still felt on the clammy side when the showers did pass, there was a bump in temperature, or my exertion exceeded the jacket’s sweat-wicking capability. This only confirmed what we know about the phrase “waterproof and breathable”: they don’t co-exist in perfect harmony. That said, the extra-long core vents and buttery-smooth YKK zippers make it easy to open the jacket to air out on-the-fly, and the charcoal print dried out quicker than other less-robust liners. A better method of managing body heat and sweat is to pair a hard shell like the IMBA Jacket with a long-sleeve, moisture-wicking base layer.
The IMBA Jacket is also loaded with features important for durability, convenience, and fun. In addition to the two zippered external pockets, inside there are two deep mesh compartments and a zippered breast pocket. Without a closure, the long mesh pockets are great for stuffing lightweight, bulky items like gloves, a hand towel, or a map. The smaller breast pocket was likely designed for a phone, as it features an audio port for headphones. Fastened to the inside of the right external pocket is a microfiber wipe which can be removed if you need full carrying capacity.
Other features include reinforced shoulders where the straps of a backpack would otherwise accelerate wear, reflective trim, and an external cable guide for a helmet-mounted light.
What’s in it for IMBA?
Naming their jacket after the largest mountain bike advocacy organization wasn’t just an afterthought for advocacy. Rather, it’s a win-win-win scenario between IMBA, Showers Pass, and you. Five percent of the net proceeds from the sales of the IMBA Jacket will benefit the International Mountain Bicycling Association, whose mission is to create, enhance, and protect the places we ride.
In regards to a rain jacket’s ability to keep you dry from within and without while maintaining durability and affordability, there’s good, better, and best. Although the IMBA Jacket is better at keeping you dry from outside moisture than from moisture within, the inner print is better at recovering from built-up sweat than other hard shells I’ve used. A couple months is hardly enough time to opine on durability, but with taped seams, reinforced shoulders, and quality zippers, I have every bit of confidence I’ll be using this jacket for many a Northwest winter.
Thanks to Showers Pass for providing the IMBA Jacket for review.