When you’re out hiking in the woods or up a mountain, the weather is always going to be a concern. Depending on where you’re hiking, you might experience frequent precipitation. Not only that, you might come across high winds that can exacerbate the rain, snow, or cold weather.
For lovers of the outdoors, some rain is never going to deter them from hiking their favorite trail. However, staying warm and dry in these conditions is important if you want a good hiking experience.
Safety is always paramount when it comes to outdoor activities, and investing in the right rain jacket will keep hikers protected from the elements. In this article, we’ll be looking at the best rain jackets on the market, and everything you need to know to find the best rain jackets for your needs.
The Best Rain Jacket Picks | How To Choose The Best For You
The Best Rain Jackets For Hiking
But with so many rain jackets to choose from, where do you even start?
In this section, we’ll be highlighting the 8 best rain jackets on the market, and how they can elevate your hiking experience.
Patagonia Torrentshell 3L
The latest rain jacket from the Patagonia brand sports a 3-layer construction, giving it a big boost in performance. This jacket is more protective and durable than previous versions of the Torrentshell. Its interior is more comfortable and less prone clamminess thanks to a thicker lining.
- Protective and durable
- Sleek design
- Wide variety of colors
- More breathable
- Can feel crinkly and stiff
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Marmot PreCip Eco
For those looking for affordable rain jackets that don’t skimp on the quality, Marmot is a great place to go. Their PreCip line is their leading offering that’s become incredibly popular among hikers, backpackers, and casual wearers. The PreCip Eco is study, lightweight, and uses waterproof materials. In terms of pure value, there are few other products that match that of Marmot’s PreCip Eco.
- Proven 2.5-layer waterproof construction
- Seam taping
- Sturdy materials
- Reasonable weight
- Incredible value
- Interior can feel clammy during more strenuous trails
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Black Diamond StormLine Stretch
The StormLine Stretch is perfect for those that like to move around while hiking. Its 2.5-layer construction offers greater comfort than most other rain jackets. The interior is soft and gives a smooth texture even while you’re doing more strenuous activities. It’s lightweight, has all the features you need, and is relatively affordable.
- Stretchy and limber, perfect for more strenuous hikes
- Shell fabric has lots of give, meaning you won’t feel tight
- Comfortable hood and stuff pocket
- Lightweight design
- If you get a larger fit, it won’t be as worthwhile
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Outdoor Research Helium
Just because you need an emergency rain jacket, doesn’t mean you should buy ones that are practically worthless in even moderate rainfall. The Outdoor Research Helium boasts Pertex’s new Diamond Fuse fabric, increasing durability and tear resistance without compromising weight. It also sports a trimmer fit, that can handle light to moderate rainfall. Its adjustable hood offers great coverage, and because of its small packaged size, it’s perfect to pack as a backup for any hiking trip.
- High tear resistance
- Small enough to fit into its exterior chest pocket
- Weather resistant despite its size
- Breathability is slightly compromised
- Not optimal for heavy rainfall
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Arc’teryx Zeta SL
The Arc’Teryx Zeta brand is known for its high quality, and the SL is no exception. Weighing in at around 10.9 ounces, the SL is extremely comfortable and easily fits in most backpacks. Its shell can withstand a lot of use and abuse. Furthermore, it has a sleek design that makes it appropriate to wear even in a casual setting. Whether you’re winter backpacking in the desert or traversing the Pacific Northwest, the SL has you covered.
- Reasonably light
- Extremely durable
- Versatile in both a natural and casual setting
- Expensive for a rain jacket
- Doesn’t breath well compared to other products
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REI Co-op Rainier
On the other side of the price spectrum, the REI Co-op Rainier accommodates those a little more light on the wallet. That doesn’t mean that the Rainier is lacking in quality, however, as its layer construction holds up well against long drizzles and the pit zips keep you cool throughout the day. REI also has an excellent warranty and wide range of colors for their products. Regardless of whether you’re on a hiking trip or a city stroll, the Rainier is suitable for all applications.
- Incredibly affordable
- Holds up well against light to moderate rain
- Fits a little bigger than you’d expect
Depending on the color you choose, the Rainier is available on REI’s site for as low as $44.85 and up to $89.
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Going back to the ever-reliable Patagonia brand, the Rainshadow is a great alternative to the Torrentshell mentioned above. It sports a stretchier 3-layer build and improves the jacket’s protection and durability. With a smaller hood the Rainshadow has a cleaner look that serves best in casual settings while being perfectly viable for hiking trips.
- Added pit zips add greater breathability
- More stretchable and less stiff than the Torrentshell
- Otherwise has similar performance to the Torrentshell
- Little more expensive
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Marmot continues to provide affordable yet versatile products with the Minimalist. Despite its affordability, the shell is made of durable material, and its lining allows the wearer to feel comfortable during hikes. The hood is thick and comes with a bill that can withstand heavy rain and wind. Its Gore-Tex’s Paclite waterproof laminate also includes a 100-percent-recycled face fabric.
- Premium shell and quality despite its price
- Remains breathable and comfortable even as you get warmer
- Useful face fabric on top of its waterproof laminate
- Heavier than some rain jackets and has no stuff sack
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Best Winter Hiking & Skiing Waterproof Rain Jacket
Cortazu Hard Shell Jacket
We have tested a lot of jackets in our adventures. One of our favorites is the Cortazu Hard Shell Jacket. This jacket is great looking, features tons of vents for airflow, is extremely waterproof, has some of the best pocket designs out there, and has tons of great features for backcountry skiing, resort skiing, or winter hiking.
- Ski helmet compatible hood
- Phone pockets
- Ski pass pockets
- Great breathability
- Extremely waterproof
- Reinforced seams for longevity
Read our full review of this jacket here.
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How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket
When you’re buying a rain jacket for your next hiking trip, you shouldn’t just go to your nearest retailer and find the first one you see. There are various elements of a great rain jacket that you should consider to make sure you’re getting the best one to suit your specific needs.
What exactly are those elements? That’s what we’re taking a look at in this section, as we’ll be outlining 12 things to consider when choosing the optimal rain jacket.
The first thing that most people pay attention to is cost. If you want a rain jacket that’s been properly tested in the field and has many, if not all of the qualities we’re going to outline in this section, then understand that you’ll likely be paying a higher price.
The cheaper rain jackets are going to be less sturdy and probably have less features, but there are still quality products you can find within a lower price range. Just know that you’re effectively paying for all the testing, research, and development that went into the rain jacket of your choice.
Brand And Company Values
Certain brands might be known for specific parts of their products. For example, Marmot is known for providing affordable, entry-level jackets that are more accessible to casual hikers.
Many companies value things like sustainability, which you might also consider when purchasing products that are environmentally conscious. You’ll also come across brands that offer warranties. These warranties can help ensure you get a quality product for your purchase. We don’t necessarily recommend going for expensive items, but you should definitely check for a warranty because often times it can be worth spending a touch more for a reputable brand and warranty.
Materials & Durability
How well your jacket holds up to the elements depends on what it’s made out of. You’ll often hear the word “shell” used to describe rain jacket materials.
Shells basically describe the fabric makeup of your jacket. Hard shells are usually waterproof and sport a thicker exterior. Soft shells are similarly water resistant, and have insulating layers.
Hybrid shells combine aspects of the two, mixing in elements of hard and soft shells for optimal performance. Insulated shells are focused on keeping the wearer warm while also not compromising on being waterproof.
It is often a great idea to check reviews of the jackets you are considering. You can find if others have had this jacket for a long time. You’ll often find negative reviews if any jackets are not made with durable materials or zippers.
Rain jackets come with waterproof ratings, and the higher the rating is, the longer you can remain dry from precipitation. You can read all about waterproof ratings here.
We’ve written an article on this in greater detail, so we encourage you to check that one out for more insight on what constitutes a waterproof jacket. For this article, it’s important to know the basic ratings.
0 to 15,000 millimeters provides light to zero resistance to moisture, while 10,001 to 15,000 millimeters are seem as extremely waterproof, able to withstand medium to high pressure.
Buying a rain jacket that’s breathable is important, unless you want to hike around in a sauna. Breathability is basically a simpler way of describing moisture vapor transfer. The more efficient your jacket is at facilitating that transfer, the less clammy and moist you’ll feel underneath your jacket.
In addition to the materials, many jackets are made with zippers or velcro that can allow for more airflow. See if the jacket you are considering has airflow features.
You also don’t want your jacket to weigh you down as soon as the rain picks up or the wind starts blowing during your hike. Not only will that jacket feel heavy once you’ve worn it, you have to carry it around in your bag the entire trip. Sometimes a jacket that keeps you warm is heavier by design, so it’s important to find one with the optimal weight relative to your needs.
Always remember that you have to keep your rain jacket somewhere whenever you’re not using it. This is something that people tend to forget, as they end up buying jackets that don’t fold well and have to cram it into their bags before hiking.
Many quality rain jackets come with external pockets that lets you fit the entire jacket inside, allowing you to neatly put it in your backpack before leaving.
Looks & Fit
Whether you prioritize how you look in a jacket or how the jacket actually fits you is entirely arbitrary. While it’s not advised that you choose a jacket simply based on its looks, you don’t want to look completely silly in case you end up wearing the jacket in a more casual setting.
Windproof Vs. Wind Resistant
Any jacket that’s waterproof is also windproof, as it’s usually made out of shells that are thick enough to withstand harsh winds. Similarly, water resistant jackets are also wind resistant, and won’t offer much protection against heavy winds but will be perfectly fine during shorter trips.
Just know the level of protection you need, and determine what is best for your needs. Trail runners often go with thinner jackets, while you’ll likely want something thicker for winter months, heavy rains, or high elevation.
Layering of Jacket
A jacket’s coating is sandwiched between what’s called layers. The outer layer protects against exterior abrasion, while the inner layer protects against wear-and-tear from the inside.
A 2-layer provides good breathability and are generally pretty waterproof. They often have midweight designs, and are moderately priced. The somewhat confusingly labeled 2.5-layer jackets are lighter than the 2-layer, and are more lightweight but still waterproof.
3-layer designs provide the maximum amount of protection and durability, and are the most expensive out of the three.
Choosing layering comes down to your specific needs and budget.
Rain jacket hoods usually have brims and adjustments on the sides and in back to adjust the size of the opening. Some jackets also have hoods that zip off or roll and can be stuffed in the collar.
Other jackets will be designed for ski helmets, or are designed to cover a portion of your face for protection. Simply consider your use case for the type of hood design that fits you best.
Most jackets are loaded with zippers. Rubberized coating or a storm flap prevents water from damaging your zippers. Coated zippers can be harder to zip up and down and require a cover to shield the tiny opening at the end of the zipper track. Whatever the style may be, zipper designs carry their own unique functionality that you should be aware of.
Though often overlooked, pockets are extremely valuable elements of your rain jacket. Some, if not most, have a sufficient amount of pockets to keep your phone, compass, and other belongings.
Some jackets have optimally placed pockets that let you access them with a backpack on. Just know that extra pockets usually add up to extra costs.
Some features that are common are ski pass pockets, phone pockets with headphone pathways, airflow pockets, pockets to attache gloves to, and many others.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about