Marmot’s Minimalist jacket isn’t new, but its combination of price and performance keeps it among our favorite rain shells year after year. With proven Gore-Tex waterproofing, a thoughtful feature set, and premium build quality, the jacket is a great choice for everyday and occasional backcountry use. And a recent drop in price down to $189 makes it a solid value. Below we break down the Minimalist’s water and wind protection, breathability, weight and packability, durability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best rain jackets.
With a strong Gore-Tex Paclite construction, the Marmot Minimalist is an impressive performer in harsh conditions. Paclite is a 2.5-layer design, which is similar in concept to many budget-friendly and lightweight models, but its substantial exterior holds up markedly better in extended rain, snow, and wind. More, the DWR coating does a great job shedding moisture and has a long lifespan. The Minimalist’s hardshell-like protection truly is impressive considering the $189 price tag—you’ll need to spend quite a bit more on a 3-layer jacket to beat it.
For the most part, Marmot nailed the details in making this stormproof layer. To start, the hood is easy to tighten and includes a substantial bill. Combined with a tall collar, you get fantastic coverage from driving rain and it stays solidly in place even in high winds. More, the hand pockets are protected by storm flaps that secure with Velcro in the middle, and the cuffs use a similarly high quality hook and loop system to seal out the cold and wet. The only exposed zipper is for the exterior chest pocket, and that includes a water-resistant finish and a small fabric “garage” over the top of the zipper to prevent leaking.
One small change we would like to see is additional Velcro tabs to secure the storm flap over the center zipper. Currently, you can Velcro the top when the jacket is fully zipped up and there is a button closure at the hem. This means that if you don’t zip it all the way up, the stiff flap doesn’t sit flush against the shell and leaves a little bit of the non-waterproof zipper exposed to the elements. Again, this is a small issue—and there is a second storm flap on the underside of the zipper—but we’d prefer a way to truly batten down the hatches in unpredictable weather.
Unlike many of Gore-Tex’s premium designs, Paclite is not known for its breathability. The material will shed extended rainfall quite well, but the membrane is a somewhat dated design that can’t keep up when you’re working hard. As a result, the smooth interior turns somewhat plasticky and slippery as you sweat. Thankfully, Marmot includes pit zips for dumping heat, which make the jacket viable for cold weather hiking. But for backcountry skiers or other high-output activities, we think it’s worth spending up for a performance-oriented Gore-Tex Active or Pro shell. Jackets like the Outdoor Research Axiom and Arc’teryx Beta AR are more than double the price of the Minimalist, but they offer an all-in-one solution for skiing, climbing, and mountaineering.
We’ve always found it odd that Marmot chose the Minimalist name for this jacket. It’s certainly not ultralight: the strong exterior fabric and feature-rich design push the total weight of a men’s medium to 15.1 ounces. For reference, Marmot’s own PreCip is nearly 5 ounces lighter at 10.3 ounces. More, you can get a minimalist hardshell like the Arc’teryx Beta SL, which has the same Paclite construction, at a much lighter 11.1 ounces. But you do compromise on features with the Beta, which doesn’t include pit zips and a chest pocket. The Minimalist’s closest competitor is the Outdoor Research Foray, and the two jackets weigh exactly the same on our scale (down to the hundredth decimal point). Taking into consideration its impressive weather resistance and affordable price, the weight is perfectly reasonable. But lightweight hikers and cyclists shouldn’t take the jacket’s name to heart (maybe it’s instead a reference to the clean, simplistic styling).
Even if it’s not the lightest rain jacket around, we are surprised that Marmot chose to not include a stuff pocket with the Minimalist. While their own lightweight PreCip and competitors like Outdoor Research’s Foray stow in their hand pocket, the Minimalist lacks the two-sided zipper. If you’ll be using the shell for backpacking or travel, however, you can roll it into the hood and tighten with the rear cinch cord. When stowed, the Minimalist isn’t very compact—it’s about the size and shape of an American football—but it does the trick for daily wear and the occasional backcountry trip.
We like the Marmot Minimalist a lot—it’s been ranked at the top of our rain jacket review for multiples years—and one of the big factors is its build quality. Simply put, nothing we’ve worn can match it for the price. The exterior has a super clean, high-end look and feel, and Marmot nailed the details with Velcro that remains sticky over time and durable cinch cord and toggles. All the zippers are easy to operate and have worked seamlessly over the years, and we particularly like the strong main zip with its large teeth and substantial zipper pull that’s glove-friendly. It’s true that Paclite is among Gore-Tex’s lightest and most compressible designs, but outside of using the shell for activities it’s not designed for like skiing or rock climbing, we have very few concerns about durability.
Features: Hood and Pockets
As we covered above, the Minimalist’s hood is a great design. It’s large but plenty adjustable to fit just about any head size and shape, and the coverage is fantastic. You get a stiff brim to deflect water away from your forehead, and there is lots of protection along the sides and chin. Dialing in the fit also is very simple with a drawcord at the back and two adjusters on each side of the front to get a tight seal. The hood isn’t large enough to fit over a helmet, and technically Arc’teryx’s single pull StormHood is easier to use, but we give Marmot high marks all around with the Minimalist’s design.
Two hand pockets and an exterior chest pocket round out the features. The hand pockets are a nice size and sit at a standard height, so they’re comfortable for everyday use but will be covered up by a backpack hipbelt or climbing harness. And the chest pocket is a nice addition for travelers or those that like to keep items close at hand. We wouldn’t risk storing electronics in the chest pocket in a downpour, however, as the zipper is only water resistant so it isn’t a completely secure space. This is a fairly standard recommendation for most hardshells, and we find it safer to keep valuables in our midlayer completely protected by the waterproof shell.
Overall, we think the Minimalist’s regular fit is a nice match for everyday use. Our men’s medium is a little roomy in the torso and arms, but it’s not excessively bulky and doesn’t have any impact on freedom of movement. That extra space also works well for layering: we’ve been able to comfortably wear various thicknesses of down, synthetic, and fleece jackets underneath while walking around town, backpacking, and spring skiing. Length-wise, there’s a slight drop hem at the back for great coverage. And it’s simple to get a nice, even fit by cinching the hem adjusters at each side. Those looking for a dedicated performance shell will want to look Arc’teryx’s way with the Beta SL, but we think the looser cut of the Minimalist is the more versatile option.
Editor’s Note: Old Reviews of Minimalist Jackets Leaking
A search of old online user reviews may turn up some reported issues with the Minimalist leaking in heavy rain. It’s important to know that this was a short-term issue with the Gore-Tex Paclite membrane that was resolved a few years ago. And to their credit, we own Minimalist jackets that were made before and after the manufacturing issue and have not had any problems with leaking. On the off chance old, defective models are still lingering on discount or outlet sites, it would be a good idea to give those models a quick shower test after you purchase. But new versions should not be affected.
What We Like
- Fantastic price for a high-quality rain jacket.
- Excellent wet and windy weather performance.
- Well-rounded design: clean styling, secure and easy to adjust hood, comfortable fit, and plenty of pockets.
What We Don’t
- “Minimalist” name is a bit of a misnomer: the jacket is feature rich and a little heavy for hauling around in a pack.
- Doesn’t come with a stuff pocket for stowing away.
- Gore-Tex Paclite shell is not a great ventilator.
|Marmot Minimalist||$189||15.1 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2.5L Gore-Tex||Yes||No|
|Outdoor Research Foray||$215||15.1 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2.5L Gore-Tex||Yes||Yes|
|Arc'teryx Beta SL||$299||11.1 oz.||Performance/hiking||2.5L Gore-Tex||No||No|
|Black Diamond Liquid Point||$249||14.6 oz.||Performance/hiking||2.5L Gore-Tex||Yes||No|
|Marmot PreCip||$100||10.3 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2.5L NanoPro||Yes||Yes|
The Minimalist’s premium build and wallet-friendly price makes it a standout in the rain jacket market. Another excellent option is the Outdoor Research Foray. The jackets share Gore-Tex Paclite constructions, weigh exactly the same (our men’s mediums are both 15.13 ounces), and are very well made. Where they differ is in features: the Foray has a multi-sport slant with a water-resistant front zipper that gives it a more technical look, long pit zips that continue all the way to the hem and open like a poncho, and built-in stuff pocket. The Minimalist is more of an all-rounder with a clean aesthetic that works great for daily use, but it has similar levels of weather resistance and packability (when stuffed into its own hood) as the Foray. If the jackets were the same price, it’d be a really tough decision, but the Minimalist’s $26 savings gives it the edge in our book.
Arc’teryx is best known for their premium hardshells, but they also dip into the mid-range Gore-Tex Paclite market with the Beta SL. While the Minimalist and Beta share a basic design with the 2.5-layer construction, the differences quickly become apparent. The Arc’teryx is built for the backcountry with a trimmed down athletic shape, simplistic feature set, and very light 11.1-ounce weight. This gives it a 4-ounce advantage over the Minimalist and it packs down much smaller, too. If you’re needing excellent emergency weather protection at minimal weight, the Beta SL is the clear choice. However, the Arc’teryx piece costs an additional $110, doesn’t include pit zips so it isn’t as versatile, and the high, hipbelt-compatible pockets hurt its everyday usability. It’s a great specialized piece, but the Minimalist is the superior overall rain jacket.
A final option to consider is Marmot’s own PreCip. To start, the two are built very differently: whereas the Minimalist has high quality and substantial Gore-Tex, the PreCip is made with a thin 2.5-layer NanoPro. The PreCip is also $89 cheaper and 5 ounces lighter, but is a clear step down in weather protection and long-term durability (for more, see our in-depth PreCip review). A choice between the two should come down to priorities: if you want a lightweight jacket that excels around town and for stuffing away in a suitcase or backpack, go with the PreCip. If you want stronger weather resistance, classier looks, and a premium build, the Minimalist is the ticket.