Today I tried a cheap nylon jacket for rain protection. Like, “ten dollars” cheap. The jacket I wore is from Eastbay, and is discounted from $40 to $10.
It kept me completely dry for a 10 minute bike commute through the pouring rain. Ten minutes is enough time for cotton clothing to get drenched. It’s also enough time for me to get from home to grocery or from the office back home. It’s enough time for a $150 Marmot Oracle rain jacket to begin to leak through the pockets.
That’s precisely why I’m trying the backup jacket– I’m sending in the Marmot jacket for what I believe is a design flaw and which I expect they’ll take care of through the warranty process.
I was so surprised by the performance of the Eastbay jacket, I went online to check to see if it made any claims to be waterproofing. The jacket does not even classify itself as a rain jacket, but simply “water repellent”.
From what I’ve learned about what “water repellent” means, a chemical was probably applied to the nylon, which causes the water to bead-up and roll off, rather than soaking through. Over time, this feature will work less and less well. They are spray-on solutions than can be applied to later to rejuvinate the effect, but from what I’ve read they often don’t work as good as the original repellency.
This also means that had I taken a longer ride, I’m sure the jacket would have eventually soaked through, which a waterproof jacket should not do. Further, waterproof jackets have taped seams, and sometimes have special waterproof zippers, while this jacket does not.
What I’m saying is that the Eastbay jacket is not a magic alternative to the quality of a waterproof/breathable jacket. However, it may just be “good enough” for some around town trips, despite perhaps being less durable. At $10, or even $40, it’s certainly worth a shot for staying comfortable in the rain.