First Ascent Hurricane rain jacket

first ascent hurricane rainjacket lake mica ecuador deon braun 7004-950pixels

The tester using the Hurricane in windshield mode at a windy and icy cold Lake Mica, Ecuador, in October 2017.

My First Ascent Hurricane test jacket has seen some action. Not the Nam kind, but it has been around.
For this test, I used the Hurricane around 20 times in a variety of conditions. I hope this review gives you a good idea of what the Hurricane is good at, and where you might not want to use it. As with all gear, it has pros and cons, and waterproof rain jackets are more weather-dependent than most trail running or hiking gear.

So here goes… Zip up your Hurricane jacket and let’s dive into the storm and see how this puppy fares!

Four different conditions

1. Heavy rain hiking

First, I did short hikes around my suburb in Durban in pouring rain to see how the First Ascent Hurricane fares in warm wet temperatures. The answer: Its venting works well to keep you reasonably cool, considering the Hurricane’s main purpose is to keep you warm and alive in cold, wet conditions. If I was running in warm rain though, I’d opt for a thinner rain-resistant jacket instead of the full metal jacket of the Hurricane, because it does a good job of keeping your body warmth inside. In warmer weather (I’d guess above 15 degrees Celsius), it will start being too warm if you’re on the move like you will (hopefully) be in a trail running situation.

2. Rainstorm gardening

Second, I tried it out in a medium-exertion situation I call extreme gardening. You’ve heard about gardening at night (thank rock band REM for that), but how about gardening in a rainstorm? I did that, and it was fun. The Hurricane kept me snug and dry while digging holes to plant cassava and checking up on my banana forest in heavy rainfall on my property. The hood (and its cool attached peak) made all the difference by keeping rain off my face. No water down the back of your neck is something you only appreciate when it is running down the back of your neck… because you didn’t get a hooded rain jacket! Who still does something that silly anyway?!
You also don’t get the gradual seeping through you get from non-waterproof fabrics. The Hurricane is rated at an excellent 10,000mm waterproof rating, which means it was tested as waterproof to a 10m-high column of water over a 2.5cm sealed patch of its fabric. This Youtube video explains the concept simply and succinctly.

Rating Resistance Weather
 0 – 1,500mm Water resistant / Snowproof Very light  rain
 1,500mm – 5,000mm Waterproof Light to average rain
 5,000mm – 10,000mm Very Waterproof Moderate to heavy rain
 10,000mm- 20,000mm  Extremely Waterproof Heavy rain

Table from https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/expert-advice/waterproof-jacket-guide/

3. Amazonian exploring?!

Third, I took it on a three-week trip to Ecuador in October 2017, where it helped keep the Amazon rainforest’s ubiquitous water off me in my adventures in Cuyabeno National Park. The activities during my five days there were not strenuous: the Hurricane was ideal as a poncho substitute on several boat trips along the waterways, as well as keeping a test Thule Capstone 50 and a smaller Salomon trail running backpack with electronics in it dry.

There was also a hike into primary rainforest on a rainy day where I was grateful to have the jacket instead of the less breathable ponchos that were provided by the tour operator. The Hurricane was a welcome shield from the drops from above, without the heaviness of the ponchos. Temperatures here were similar to some of the spring weather I experienced in Durban, but the walking was at a leisurely pace and there was no chance of overheating.

First Ascent Hurricane Amazon Cuyabeno 6730 website 950pixels

The First Ascent Hurricane jacket just hanging out in the Ecuadorian Amazon (in Cuyabeno National Park). Photo: Deon Braun

4. Racing the Otter Trail

As mentioned, the Hurricane is best in cool weather (think of cold and wet Western Cape winters below 10 degree Celsius), so you’ll want to use its pit zips to open the cooling vents on the Hurricane on warmer days.
My final adventure was at the 2017 Otter African Trail Run on the Garden Route in South Africa, a day after returning from Ecuador.
I opted to run the 11-hour cutoff Challenge, one of the two races on offer, so I could witness the finish of the eight-hour cutoff Race two days later. Traditionally, by fluke, the Challenge gets the nasty, cold, wet weather, and the Race is blessed (or cursed, depending on your bent) with perfect sunny weather.
This year was no different, although conditions were mild for the first half of the Challenge, and sometimes even balmy. The day had been declared a Level 3, which meant we had to be prepared for stormy weather. That compelled us to carry compulsory safety gear which included a true waterproof jacket (enter the Hurricane), a cellphone, a waterproof bag or ziploc bag, and a baselayer.
I ran with a thin Helly Hansen top which I’ve had for years, as a baselayer, and which shows no signs of deterioration. It was perfect until the cold front hit. A bracing headwind dropped the temperature, and raindrops came down from the grey sky like World War 2 dive bombers. Normally I’d get into my rain jacket immediately, but Otter’s terrain constantly switches from exposed beaches to warm embryo-like forest sections. So I held off a little longer than I should have. Silly decision! It wasn’t long and my baselayer was soaked and I was feeling the first bites of cold on the exposed seaside sections.
I found a sheltered spot in the forest, and on went the Hurricane. At the next exposed ocean section, I rewarded myself with a mental pat on the back for the decision. Warmth started flooding back to my torso and arms. When I pulled the hood over my head, it was as if I was in a bomb-proof room, with the cold world out there observed impassively. The right gear used at the right time in the right way makes a world of difference. I finished Otter still wearing the Hurricane, dropping onto the iconic yellow finish platform to kiss the end of a memorably rewarding day. It was a team effort, and my gear had helped me get there.
Although conditions were grim, they were still not a real blizzard. But based on my experience at other races, I know that the Hurricane will be more than capable to handle much fiercer conditions. It’s a jacket you can comfortably use at races with histories of cold and wet such as Salomon Skyrun, and Ultra-trail Cape Town.

Summary

The fit and comfort of the First Ascent Hurricane was topnotch. That’s going to vary from person to person of course. If you don’t get the correct size, you will have a different opinion, for sure.

For me, the corded hood fit was especially impressive. I felt cocooned once the hood’s drawstring was tightened and the peak pulled out horizontally. I compared this jacket with one of the imported American brands I’ve tested (admittedly that test was done on a model they brought in around four years ago). The Hurricane is as good or better, at around half the price of the import.
My experience with the other brand’s rain jacket at The SkyRun that everyone will talk about for many years (the 2013 storm edition), taught me one paramount lesson. If you’re going to run in the mountains, you need a proper rain jacket with a snug-fitting hood. At SkyRun I got to see firsthand the difference between proper rainproof gear, and how important it is to put it on before you get wet. I also discovered the huge benefit of having a hood to prevent water sliding down the back of your neck. That’s just brrrr, and totally avoidable! Just buy a rain jacket with a hood. End of story.
I found that the sleeves were long enough to pull your hands up into should you not be wearing waterproof gloves.

What I didn’t like

The First Ascent Hurricane does sacrifice lightness and volume for its bulletproof-like protection, but that’s to be expected from a real waterproof jacket. You can’t really have the one without the other when it comes to rain jackets. Choose durability over lightness when it comes to a proper waterproof rain jacket.

Key features: First Ascent Hurricane

  • 10000/10000mm waterproof and breathable fabric for topnotch protection
  • Waterproof zippers to keep the rain out for extended periods
  • Pit zips for ventilation while you’re expending big energy on the trails
  • Volume control hood to keep your head protected against the elements
  • Hand warmer pockets for when you need to keep them toasty
  • Adjustable hem draw cord to keep the jacket snug and limit unwanted movement
  • Mass 489g (men’s Medium)
  • Pockets Two 290mm external hand warmer pockets and one 195mm zipped digital device interior pocket with one audio cable outlet (threads through internally to allow usage totally within the jacket).

More info

Buy the Hurricane on the First Ascent website:

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