As New Zealand is notorious for its heavy and consistent rainfall we thought that not even the sturdiest of rain gear would keep us dry. Nonetheless, with the promise of excellent waterproofness, breathability combined with its low weight and small pack size we went for the Norrøna Bitihorn dri1 jackets.
The Bitihorn dri1 is the lightest rain jacket with a hood produced by Norrøna. The jacket is made by a 2,5 layer of their own technical fabric, the dri1. This fabric is constructed by laminating a fabric onto a printed membrane which uses a hydrophilic system to transport moisture instead of the traditional microsporic holes. The membrane is fluorocarbon-free and is coated with DWR.
Waterproof: min. 20,000 mm
Breathability: Very Good min. 20,000g/m2
Weight: 214grams (men’s M)
Velcro adjustable cuffs
Soft chin protection
Elastic at the cuffs
X-open ventilation pit zips
YKK™ water resistant zipper
Norrøna rates the jacket in the following manner on a scale of 1-6:
I think it is fair to say that we used both jacket and pants extensively in the past year. All in all they have withstood a good 4300km, of which Eef’s Bitihorn pants has truly walked almost every single kilometer. They are still in use, though the jacket is now showing signs of being worn out. Fair enough, we forgive it.
When we bought the jackets we were on the lookout for the lightest alternative possible. We did not at that time, in summer 2014, find a lighter and comparable alternative. Any lighter ones currently on the market come without pit zips and sometimes even without a hood. So, we carefully say it is the lightest rain jacket you can get your hands on, and a very practical and comfortable one too!
When we decided on it we actually never expected it to even last all the way through New Zealand, hence our great satisfaction with it. We read a few reviews saying that they rip easily, especially when used with heavy packs resting on the shoulders. Now, we did not carry a very light set-up yet while walking through New Zealand and the jacket usually rested under a 15-16kg pack while being dragged through dense bush with many branches available to rip it. Yet it held, there is not a single rip in them. The only thing that has happened it that somewhere towards the end of our Bibbulmun hike in Australia, the inner lining that was glued to the jacket has started to come off and in the process, rip. This is mostly happening on the shoulders, where the backpack straps rest, but again, it took over 4000km for it to start falling apart.
The waterproofness of them has been going down, however we have never really re-impregnated them on our journeys. For some reason Eef’s jacket has always been less waterproof than PJ’s. The first trouble spot is again around the shoulders, where the backpack rests, and the arms are the second ones to give in. For such a light jacket though it can take a lot of downpour before giving in to the wet.
The lightness of the jacket means that it offers no insulation whatsoever and for Eef this proved a problem in the cold, damp conditions of New Zealand. When it rained for a long time and the jacket gave in body heat is lost rapidly through the fabric. She solved it by combining the rain jacket with a light softshell, a system that kept her both dry and warm in many tough conditions. And even with the softshell, the whole system was still lighter than any of our former rain jackets plus she could skip carrying a fleece.
Besides of water it is also an excellent windbreaker and we have repeatedly used it for this purpose. The hood has a storm function and with the easy adjustment in the back it offers great shelter from the wind and will stay in place even with full on headwind. The ventilation pits are good on warm but wet days. Practically the only downside is that there is only one pocket parallel to the zipper. Then again, you cannot have everything for 180(W’s M) grams. This pocket also functions as a compression bag, making the jacket take very little space in your backpack.
As for the pants, they are still in use right now and are Eef’s absolute favourite hiking pants. They have a few scars from a few nasty falls and they got a bit baggy but we are really impressed that this lightweight fabric has lived through so much. They are highly breathable and have a comfortable, spacious cut, making them a great pants to walk in warm weather. Yet, they also break the wind and provided some protection when temperatures started dropping. Though they are said to be a summer pants, Eef used them in 3 seasons without walking with a woolen base layer underneath. They dry extremely fast (so does the jacket, FYI) which is great when you are walking through that occasional shower after sunshine after shower type of weather.
The Norrøna Bitihorn lightweight series offers great quality, durable and very comfortable gear for weight conscious hikers. We will be sure to stick with this line for a while to come!