Review: Simms Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants

Compact, lightweight rain gear for rains that come fast and hot, linger and steep
simms vapor elite jacket and pants
Photo: Shane Townsend

We get two rainy seasons in Kenya each year, but we never know when they’ll come – or how long they’ll stay. Sometimes the rain blasts in hard and fast. Other times it crawls in, lingers, and leaves everything living to steep in the brew. So whether I’m fishing or walking to work, I need rain gear. Most won’t do because it’s heavy and it’s hot. Neither is acceptable.

Over the past few months, I’ve run the Simms’ Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants. I carried the kit around in my backpack for several weeks waiting for the rainy season to kickoff. Since the storms have come I’ve relied on it everyday on my 3-mile round trip walking commutes. I’ve also fished it in an equatorial deluge and in a London downpour and hailstorm. And, more than once, I’ve sported the jacket at the office – just because. Here’s what I’ve sorted out.

What Works

It keeps the rain out
Job one of a slicker is to keep the rain away. And, the Elite pants and jacket are as waterproof as any rain gear I’ve owned. This is largely thanks to the Toray® fabric, which was developed specifically for fishing waders and does a hell of a job in this kit. The customizable hood and the adjustable cuffs on the pants and jacket pair with the waterproof zippers to make the most of the fabric’s potential.

No doubt: It’s dry.

It helps keep the sweat away
If wet from rain or wet from sweat are the options – I’ll take the clean one every time. I grew up south of Interstate 10 back when outdoor gear came from the Army-Navy surplus store; so one-man-sauna slicker suits didn’t make much sense from April to November. And that was a long time to stay wet.

simms vapor elite jacket and pants
Images: Simms

Fortunately, Simm’s has provided a better option for hot air anglers. Thanks to the venting system and the microporous waterproof fabric, the Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants breathe better than other raingear I’ve tried. I walk a mile and a half to work every day, and I’m dry when I get there. This was a surprise on the first day. And, it’s been welcome each day since.

It packs up light and tight
A tool is only worth a damn if you can get to it when you need it. This kit is light and it packs up nice and tight. So, I’m able to keep it in my backpack each day and on every trip into the bush or to the water. This is also now my go-to raingear for domestic and international travel.

It’s slick enough for the office
On more than one occasion, I’ve stepped out of the rain and into the office, popped off the slicker pants, and rocked the jacket for the rest of the morning. Why? It’s comfortable, it looks good, and it reminds me and everyone else that we should all go back outside where we all belong.

Some other thoughtful design elements
The jacket’s two big external pockets and an internal pocket come in handy for wallets, phones, and whatever else needs to be tucked away.

simms vapor elite jacket and pants
Photo: Shane Townsend

As for the pants, a number of small features bring big conveniences. The gusseted crotch is roomy, so the pants are comfortable and allow a more natural range of motion when walking and climbing. The fly unsnaps and zips, which is a relief. The side zips are big enough to give easy access to the pant pockets underneath.

What Doesn't

These are not complaints, but nothing is perfect.

A cinch at the waist
The elastic waist does a good job in normal circumstances and light use, but on long walks you really need a belt. The pants also have a belt loop, which it helpful. But, if I had my druthers, the pants would incorporate a cinching mechanism to tighten the waist without a belt.

Fatter ankles please
Even though the slicker is breathable, it’s still a slicker and I only wear it when it rains. The legs are plenty fat to get over most footwear quickly, but it takes a little work to slide the pants legs over my duck boots. To be fair, only flared bell-bottoms would be able to slide over those boots without coercion – and the demand probably doesn’t warrant such a change.

Final Word

This is as good a set of rain gear as I’ve owned. And, it’s the best I’ve seen for warm weather. So, if you fish warm days or hot places, the Simms’ Vapor Elite Jacket and Pants are worth a look. Likewise, if you either travel to fish or try to sneak in a little fishing on your business trips, the Vapor kit is a good, packable option. The jacket comes in at $280 and the pants at $200 – below many comps on the market.