April 25, 2018
In November I packed the new-for-2018 Orvis Ultralight Wading Jacket ($250, orvis.com) as part of my luggage for a trip to the Rio Marié—a tributary of a tributary of the Amazon River. I knew it would be wet in the rainforest, but we also had a 40-pound weight restriction on the float plane. Fly boxes were left behind, backup reels didn't make the cut list, and I brought only two sets of shirt/pants/underwear because I was counting on staff on the mothership doing daily laundry for us.
A good breathable jacket seemed critical, and this new jacket from Orvis packs down into a small footprint that weighs only a few ounces. On the water, you can bag it into a boat bag, a large sling, or the back pocket of a vest.
In Amazonia, we had afternoon heat of more than 100 F. followed by torrential downpours, so the potential of overheating and sweating inside the jacket was very real. At first, I was tempted to go without the jacket, but running in the skiff through the heavy rain resulted in a stinging barrage—I didn't need the jacket just to keep dry, but also to protect against a painful pelting that felt like I was losing a game of paintball.
The two-way stretch, three-layer shell fabric with a 20,000 mm waterproof rating and a 30,000 gram breathability rating kept me comfortable in the most humid conditions possible. A DWR finish repels water so the material doesn't get soaked and heavy. The seams are taped, and the Dolphin Skin Cuff system keeps water from running up inside the sleeves, even when holding a rod upright while casting.
The YKK AquaGuard water-resistant zippers are flexible, easy to slide, and keep the elements out. The three-way adjustable storm hood with a brim-catcher allowed me to wear a trucker hat inside the hood to improve my field of vision and keep drips off my face.
The surprising thing about this lightweight jacket is that it has all the comforts and features you'd expect in a regular wading jacket. In addition to the Dolphin Skin Cuffs, there are rubberized tabs for tool docking, two front storage pockets, and side zip mesh pockets for extra breathability.
There's also an internal mesh pocket for added storage and a rear yoke D-ring for a net.
I got the jacket as a lightweight alternative just for travel, but I was so impressed by all the features that I've been using it as my primary wading jacket—not just a lightweight travel alternative.
It has everything I need, and none of the extras that I've a carried around for years and never used.