If I was looking for a waterproof jacket that performed exceptionally well all year round, was lightweight and packed down to a small enough size that would see it almost disappear into a pack, then the Foray jacket from Outdoor Research (or OR as they are labelled), would certainly be one I would seriously consider. It’s a hard shell in every sense. Leaving the wearer to choose what layering was needed, but with features that make it useable on a hike, a bike ride or just browsing the high street on a damp drizzly day.
The fit is generous which if you choose your regular sizing will allow you to layer up beneath without it being restrictive and has a good length that will cover your backside. It also has good sized hood with a stiffened peak to stop if falling over your eyes and all-round drawstring adjusters for a preferred fit. The shell is constructed from Gore-Tex Paclite fabric which is waterproof and breathable, however it has no stretch in the fabric so the generous sizing will have allow for unrestricted movement and as the fabric is on the stiff side it is noisy, so maybe not the best for creeping around trying to observe the local wildlife! The seams are taped to ensure that no water can penetrate this vulnerable area of its construction but there is no liner to keep the shell away from your under layer which may mean that a certain amount of condensation will get trapped in between.
Because there is no liner incorporated in the Foray, it means the weight of about 450g is significantly lower than one that is lined. Also it folds down smaller too and can easily stowed into a pocket of your pack.
OR has used a two-way YKK zip in the front which has storm flaps on both sides to prevent any water getting through. There is a soft touch fabric at the neck to reduce any chaffing.
A really good feature of the jacket is the hem to bicep side vents. These will allow for great ventilation but also means that the jacket can be worn poncho style with the front over the waist belt of a rucksack. The zips are the water resistant type and can be operated from either direction for flexibility. If more ventilation is required the cuffs are large enough to be rolled back for cooling and have elastic and Velcro tabs to seal them down over gloves if needed. The back panel of the jacket has a drawstring adjuster for an enhanced fit but the toggles are small and may be fiddly wearing gloves.
The side pockets are large enough to accommodate an O/S map and are set high which will not restrict their use if a pack with belt is being worn. They both have water resistant zips as does the smaller chest pocket so the contents will not get wet. There is a large inner pocket which again will hold a folded map.
This is just the jacket to use in a full range of activities from walking to scrambling or mountain biking to shopping. Lightweight and fully waterproof with great features.
In a Line: A hard shell that’s hard to beat.