I tested the Orvis Pro Wading Jacket on a wet river trip. Not fishing, but camping and packrafting the upper Owyhee River in eastern Oregon, perhaps the most remote river in America. I wore the jacket for four days as a “splash jacket” and found it to be a fine, multi-purpose, breathable rain shell.
Orvis Pro 20K Waterproofness
My favorite thing about the jacket was the material. It was soft and flexible, yet it had a harder, slightly textured exterior finish that not only looked good (more below) but felt like it was designed to repel tree branches. I did a bit of rolling around in the dirt and bushwhacking and the jacket showed no wear. I wouldn’t say that it felt like a second skin, but the jacket had great maneuverability and required no getting used to.
In addition to getting splashed while paddling, on the first day we were slammed with thunderstorms, replete with pounding rain, lightning and hail. The shell not only kept me dry, but it felt like a suit of armor that could conquer anything. Indeed, this jacket was loaded with features to keep out water: woven three-layer material (20K waterproofness, 15K breathability); YKK AquaGuard water-resistant zippers; taped seams; a stormproof hood with three adjustments, plus a microsuede collar; gaskets at the wrists (Integrated Dolphin Skin cuff system) for when you dunk your arm into the water; adjustable velcro cuff closures, also at the wrists; and a drawstring at the bottom hem to cinch it around your waist or butt.
There’s one feature that I initially questioned but came to appreciate. There are no pockets down low on the jacket. There are generous hand-warmer pockets, but they’re at chest level. This is designed for waders, whether the jacket is inside the waders so you can access the pockets up high; or whether the jacket is outside the waders and you inadvertently step into deep water and soak the bottom of your coat. By the end of my trip, after stepping out of my inflatable packraft numerous times into water of dubious depths, I began to see the wisdom of these pockets with an extra eight inches of elevation. It made me recall how I once drenched a pair of small binoculars in a waist-level pocket while crossing the Shoshone River (in the Absarokas, east of Yellowstone).
Speaking of pockets, let’s take an inventory: there were two hand-warmer pockets (discussed above) at chest level, both left and right, which are lined in microsuede for comfort and warmth. Stacked on the outside of those pockets were two more chest pockets, both left and right, with vertical side-entry zippers. These zippers had a really nice action: they were both easy to zip and unzip, yet they had just enough drag to let you know you’re getting a good water seal. The other thing I loved about these pockets was that the bottom of the pocket goes about three inches below the bottom of the vertical zipper. So when you put stuff in, it sinks below the zipper. Then, when you forget to zip the pockets, stuff won’t fall out. These two outer chest pockets were also slightly gusseted so you can stuff them without stressing the way the jacket fits. Finally, there were two inner chest pockets attached to the lining. On the left, the pocket had a vertical side-entry zipper. And on the right, the pocket was mesh with access from an open top (no zipper but the opening was elastic).
I liked the look of this jacket. Mine was black and gray, which is called “black/ash” (it also comes in a brown and gray, which is called “grain/ash”). The two-color combo gave it a contemporary look. The material had an attractive matt-like finish, which also felt nice to the touch. Plus, the softness and flexibility of the material helped it to drape well. The “Orvis” logo was a bit large for my taste, but it was positioned vertically (i.e., rotated 90 degrees) on the left, next to the chest pocket zipper, which added to the contemporary look that I liked. I’m sensitive to displaying brands on my clothing—I prefer none—so when I have to do it, I like when it’s a worthy brand, like Orvis.
A few other features: pit zips under your arms (where else would you find pit zips?) for ventilation and access to waders; a fly patch above the left chest pocket; rubber tabs on the upper chest seams, both left and right, for fishing tools; a ring attached to the back for a net. The only thing I like that was missing was a two-way front zipper.
The Orvis Men’s Pro Wading Jacket ($349) is a comfortable, good-looking, high-performance shell jacket, designed for waders and keeping water out.