Designed to be a wearable fortress for all weather conditions, the new TEK 02 Three Layer rain jacket from L.L.Bean brings new technology that promises significantly better breathability while providing excellent weather protection. How does this industry first tech hold up?
Exclusive to L.L.Bean, The TEK 02 technology is a three layer fabric designed to provide rain/snow protection while allowing the garment to breath more easily than previous materials. It has a full nylon shell, a waterproof breathable middle membrane, and a layer designed to wick and protect the inner membrane from abrasion. The jacket comes with two zippered hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket, an interior pocket, and a fully adjustable hood, hip and cuffs. It also includes two pit zips for extra ventilation when it gets warm, taped seams and waterproof zipper runs extra resistance. It’s slightly fitted in shape to reduce bulk, but still open enough to accommodate a light layer underneath. It comes in both men’s and women’s variants, weights about 16 oz. and retails for $199.00.
What I liked
The Tek O2 3L Storm Jacket has impressed me with it’s stoutness when it comes to weather proofing. It’s designed to withstand any condition, be that rain, sleet or snow, and it does so with no issues. Being a three layer jacket means the jacket isn’t just relying on a fragile sprayed on coating to prevent water from coming through (which stops working when it’s sweaty, dirty, or even exposed to enough sun). Instead, the jacket has a full, dedicated waterproof membrane that does not fold when conditions get rough or grimy. Constant downpours, sleet, snow, it all sheds effortlessly with no leaks or wettin gout. It does include a DWR coating as a second line of defense, which only adds to the waterproofing and also helps keep the jacket clean and dry. It’s a solid performer that is prepared to handle days of abuse.
When it comes to breathability, the jacket performs very well. The Tek 02 technology works in a similar way to Goretex, using a membrane that has tiny pores in it, large enough to allow water vapor to escape, while also being small enough to prevent larger water drops from getting in. In my experience, it works, helping alleviate any heat or moisture build up inside the jacket while hiking or camping. Of course, like with any jacket, if you’re working up a real sweat, you’re going to get wet from the inside as the drops of sweat don’t have much of a place to go, but the inclusion of pit zips and the overall breathability of the jacket goes a long way to mediate this issue. I’ve found that it dumps hot water vapor and heat more quickly than most other materials on the market, handily competing with (and perhaps out performing) Goretex and eVent, two of my favorite waterproof technologies. It’s also worth noting that inner material has a unique texture and interesting wicking properties, greatly reducing that clammy feel that many jackets get once perspiration starts to set in, which is greatly appreciated.
Durability is a selling point here as well. The jacket is constructed from a durable ripstop nylon, allowing it to resist scuffs and pricks from bushes, briers, rock and the like. It’s a bit thicker than what you will see in most 2.5 layer jackets, and this is a good thing. The last thing I want in a rain jacket is an extra vent that isn’t supposed to be there, letting in water. The seams are all double stitched and seam sealed, resulting in an overall impressive build quality. Packing it away with bike pumps, tent poles and stakes has had no effect, and the jacket cleans up nicely with a machine wash also. This is convenient as a clean jacket always out lasts a dirty one.
At about 16 oz, The jacket is light and packable enough that I’ll carry it on any trip that I expect prolonged foul weather. It packs down to about the size of a Nalgene bottle, perhaps with a bit more girth, and is easily stashable in the outer pockets of most of my backpacks. Knowing that I’ll be dry, even after days of onslaught imbues a certain sense of strength and security that is easily worth the extra weight that a high performance jacket might bring.
Zippers and adjustments are, for the most part, effortless. The Velcro along the wrists is easily pulled apart when needed, without coming undone while in use, and the zippers hook and and slide with no hangs in my testing. The hood and hip adjustments are as simple as tugging on a string, making the jacket easily adjustable on the fly, great for adjusting ventilation or battening down open wrist cuffs when a wall of water is rolling your way.
What I didn’t like
The material, while comfortable, seems to have a bit of a stiffness to it. While it’s softening with time, it doesn’t feel as much like a garment as it does a piece of equipment. Aside from occasionally fighting with a stiff, vertically ambitious collar, It doesn’t bother me while I’m moving, but when sitting around camp it tends to bunch up and create large folds due to this stiffness. Thankfully, it seems to be improving with time so this is perhaps a sign of long term longevity and durability. Check back and I’ll update this as appropriate.
I had some trouble with the zipper near the neck of the jacket. I was only able to get it to within about one inch of a full zip, and I gave it some real effort. Luckily, it’s close enough that it still provided full rain protection, and the padded chin kept me from feeling the zipper. From what I can tell, this has so far only appeared on my particular sample, but it’s worth mentioning. Again, this is something I might be able to iron out with a little time.
The Tek 02 technology used here is stout. It provides rain protection as good as anything else I’ve tested, powering through extended showers without failing due to sweat or grime build up. It’s built to last for years, looks great, and provides ample ventilation and adjustments, easily adapting to match changing weather conditions. It’s light, packable, and has yet to leave me desiring. Despite a couple of minor complaints, it’s a solid jacket that will provide years of use, backed by the excellent L.L.Bean warranty.
For more information on L.L.Bean and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, http://www.llbean.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks L.L.Bean for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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