Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Like a gift from the Rain Shell Gods - REI Shuksan II

I have been obsessing over what to do about a rain shell. Several times I came close to just ordering an expensive Arc Teryx out of necessity. But I really didn't want one.  For me, there is really no more important piece of gear than a rain shell. I carry it all year, regardless of season or class I am teaching. And having one that wasn't really working was not only inconvenient but a little dangerous.  Just before ordering an expensive jacket I didn't really want, I took one last look at REI offerings. I looked at mens rain jackets, and then narrowed my search to something on the expensive size. As I was scrolling through the options, not really expecting something new, I saw this.

That's right, the Jacket the I loved, and that died, was the REI Shuksan. The Jacket on the bottom left? The Shuksan II. An update, and just in time. I know this jacket wasn't on REI's website a month ago. As a friend of mine said, procrastination pays off.

If you were watching my instagram, you know it arrived yesterday, and because it was an updated jacket I felt comfortable ordering one sight unseen.  I knew if I hated it I could return it to REI so I went ahead and pulled the trigger, and with the southern US on its fifth straight day of rain, and a tropical storm off the coast, it couldn't have come at a better time. I immediately noticed that the fabric was very different. It has a grid pattern to it now, and a different hand feel - though that could be compared to an old jacket which has softened up. According to it now uses a rip stop fabric - I have heard people complain that the older shuksan can tear when bushwacking, to which my response is don't bushwhack.

the new ripstop fabric.

I decided today to spend some time comparing the two jackets side by side. The first thing I look for in a jacket is the number of panels that make up the back, and then a total number. As a refresher, the number of panels means a better fit, but it also means more stitching and seam sealing which means more labor intensive and more expensive. The back of the the Shuksan has three panels, the back of the the Shuksan II has 1. The sides of the Shuksan has three panels. The sides of the Shuksan II has one. This tells me that REI decided to produce this jacket a bit less expensively than its predecessor.

The hood assembly is very similar, with a similar amount of panels, the drawcord assembly is almost identical. The front panel assembly is very similar between both jackets, and the new Shuksan II keeps the two napolean pockets, one on either side of the main zipper. The zippers on the first Shuksan, were waterproof, and on the new Shuksan II they are "highly Water resistant". I am okay with this, particularly as they are much easier to use.

Old on top, and new on bottom.

The sleeves are still on the longer side, and I am pleased to see they didn't change the cuff closures which are velcro and can be operated with gloves.

Under the sleeves I found a surprise, pit zips. The original Shuksan has no pit zips. The pit zips on the shuksan two are huge, which makes me concerned that the new ripstop Fabric isn't as breathable as the old fabric. Time and usage will tell.

My biggest complaint is that the front hand pockets have been lowered, and become useless as soon as you put a backpack with a waist belt on. That is a shame.

Notice the height difference of the pockets
In general what I am seeing is a jacket that was built for outdoor professionals, and the highly active converted to a jacket for everyone. This isn't surprising, as that is really who REI is targeting as their customer.

Despite these changes, I am excited to try out this jacket and see how it performs. I still like the cut, even though it isn't as many panels. I like the attention to detail in the hood, and that the jacket has water resistant zippers and zipper flaps. I am excited that the zipper garages stuck around for Shuksan II and that it is still a long cut jacket - meaning no cold back when you bend over. It still layers well, and feels good.

I will be spending a lot of time in this jacket, maybe even a lot of time in the next week. So expect updates on how it is performing. I am excited to get this wet!


  1. I await your field test as I need a rain shell for sailing. I would be looking for a coastal cruising type of use and not a bluewater 599 dollar "take me out in a typhoon" jacket that looks and feels like a crossing guards coated rubber meets fashionable firefighters jacket. Please let me know - xox

  2. Thanks for the summary. I too own both versions and immediately noticed some of the differences you pointed out. I will be putting the 2 to the test soon.

  3. Thanks for the summary. I too own both versions and immediately noticed some of the differences you pointed out. I will be putting the 2 to the test soon.

  4. Thanks for your comment Ian, I have been enjoying my Shuksan two, but I noticed recently REI released another eVent jacket with the missing features.... just something to think about .