Enjoying the great outdoors means braving whatever the weather conditions happen to be. Many hikers opt to avoid the trail when the skies open, though when armed with the appropriate gear, contending with a little precipitation isn’t a problem. Fortunately, today’s most reputable outdoor brands not only produce waterproof, rain-ready versions of just about every category of garment and gear, but in recent years have managed to deliver increasingly high-performance items that afford better comfort, range of motion, weatherproofing, and breathability.
Just as important as keeping water out of your hiking boots, is keeping your upper body dry, as your core and arms lose ample amounts of heat under a soaked jacket, not to mention the discomfort and general unpleasantness of the bitter cold. A proper hiking-specific rain jacket can be an utter game-changer when hoofing it amidst showers and there have never been more truly stellar options available than there are now. With the enormous range of available options, it can be difficult to hone in on the few standouts that comprise the cream of the crop in the space, so in addition to counting down our picks for the best rain jackets on the market, we’ll also be delving into what makes today’s jackets markedly superior to previous offerings.
Precipitation Protection Perfected
Unpacking Rain Jacket Constructions And Treatments
The high-performance offered by today’s hiking rain jackets is owed to numerous areas, though none more than materials, construction techniques, and supplementary treatments and/or coatings. Below we’ll be exploring these three key areas, and how and why the latest and greatest jackets benefit from them.
Primary Constructions: Traditionally, waterproofing a jacket meant utilizing a material that simply prevented liquid or moisture from passing through it. And while this stopped water from seeping in, it would also trap body heat and vapor inside the jacket, resulting in excessive sweating when out on the trail, and ultimately leaving you wet underneath the coat. The rise in popularity of advanced proprietary membranes like GORE-TEX, Schoeller, eVent Fabric, and Polartec’s NeoShell has ushered in an era of immensely weatherproof jackets that still afford the wearer airflow and breathability. When paired with other materials and layers, this allows for the best of both worlds in terms of unrivaled water protections and stellar ventilation.
Coatings: The better-than-ever waterproofing offered by the latest hiking jackets is also owed to the supplementary coatings and/pr treatments given to the outermost layer of the shell. Elements like waxing, polyurethane coatings, and DWR treatments add extra fortification from the rain via the addition of a thin flexible layer that helps water roll off of the garment rather than seep in. DWR — or Durable Water Repellent — coatings are the most common on premium hiking jackets, working on a microscopic level and taking a shape on the jacket’s surface with sharp peaks and valleys that force water to form into beads that even more efficiently roll off the jacket instead of penetrating the material.
Construction Technique: How a jacket is pieced together will ultimately have an impact on its range of mobility, comfort, and weatherproofing, which is why the manufacturers behind today’s best-hiking jackets often employ cutting-edge lasered, taped, or welded seams in lieu of traditional methods. On top of bolstering comfort and waterproofing, the use of advanced construction techniques can also make for vastly more durable jackets that will serve you season after season and year after year.
Other Factors To Consider When Purchasing A Hiking Rain Jacket
Though admittedly not as crucial as the construction and treatment, there are a handful of additional areas that are well worth factoring into the equation when shopping for a hiking-specific rain jacket. Below we’ll briefly touch on some supplementary aspects to think about before pulling the trigger on your purchase.
Mobility: Today’s most cutting-edge constructions really can do it all. Alongside affording incredible ventilation, comfort, and protection from the elements — all while doing so in incredibly lightweight packages –these materials allow for a completely unrestricted range of motion thanks to being bestowed with four-way stretch properties. This, coupled with athletic cuts, ultimately allows for unrivaled mobility, allowing for natural movements while out on the trail.
Style: Every rain jacket engineered specifically for hiking will serve the same inherent purpose and generally take the same form, though there are numerous noteworthy variations in terms of aesthetics, style, and color options. Hiking rain jackets come in several genres including anoraks, pull-overs, dual and three-layer items, and full-zip jackets, and can be technically focused and modern looking, or borrowing aesthetic elements from vintage offerings. There’s also an enormous range of color options, from muted earth tones to vibrant ‘80s- and ‘90s-inspired neon hues and practically everything in-between.
Intended Climate: Where and when you plan on using your hiking jacket should play an important role, not just in what model you end up opting for, but also in what size to select. If you’re going to be hiking in particularly chilly climates, you may want to consider going a size up in order to fit an insulated base or mid-layer jacket underneath.
Adjustability: Not unlike a motorcycle jacket, in order for a hiking-specific rain jacket to properly do its job, it needs to fit its wearer correctly. And while the regular sizing system (Small, Medium, Large, XL, etc) does afford a general fit, most modern hiking jackets are equipped with a myriad of adjustment points to tweak the fit of the torso, hem, wrists, and hood. This is also one key area that helps to distinguish hiking jackets from regular everyday rain jackets.
Best Rain Jackets for Hiking
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX
In typical REI Co-op fashion, the sub-brand’s XeroDRY GTX Jacket offers ample performance and quality in an accessibly-priced package. Manufactured in a Fair Trade Certified factory from bluesign-approved polyester and a dual-layer GORE-TEX Paclite fabric membrane, this DWR-treated jacket is 100% wind and waterproof, yet manages to tip the scales at just 12.5oz (or 0.78lbs). Produced in five solid and color-combo options, XeroDRY GTX Jacket also gets core ventilation ports, a multi-way adjustable hood, hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs and hem, and zippered hip-belt compatible hand pockets that are mesh-lined.
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell
Despite coming in at under $150, Black Diamond’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is an excellent hiking-specific jacket, backed by Black Diamond’s own in-house-developed proprietary BD.Dry membrane. Produced in ten different color options, the Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is crafted from Black Diamond’s 2.5-layer membrane, which is pieced together using fully-sealed seams and packs a 10,000mm waterproof rating and a 10,000g/m2 breathability rating. The jacket’s adjustable cuffs and hem afford a snug and precise fit while the placement of its underarm gussets allows for unrestricted mobility. The whole thing also conveniently stows away in one of its own pockets when not in use.
Patagonia’s Storm10 is the perfect backup shell to keep at the ready when on the trail. Weighing just 8.3oz (or 0.51lbs), the jacket boasts Patagonia’s H2No Performance Standard shell three-layer construction comprised of a 2.2oz 20D recycled ripstop nylon face with a 7D tricot backer, and a breathable, waterproof membrane reinforced via a DWR finish. Compatible with helmets and featuring an easy-adjust hood, this item also sports a full-length zipper with a storm flap and draw-cord-adjustable hem and cuffs — the latter of which also boasts a low-profile, tapered hook-and-loop closure while the former has a dual-adjust draw-cord. The Storm10 is also equipped with a built-in RECCO Reflector with an integrated antenna that can relay signals to a RECCO detector during a search.
The North Face 1994 Retro Mountain Light FUTURELIGHT
As its name implies, The North Face’s 1994 Retro Mountain FUTURELIGHT Jacket is a contemporary take on an iconic piece of outerwear from 27-years ago, maintaining its distinctive cut and silhouette while bestowing the TNF classic with modern materials. The jacket’s body and yoke are crafted from FUTURELIGHT — TNF’s new proprietary construction that’s it is now using in place of GORE-TEX and is said to be the most waterproof and breathable membrane ever — and fitted with a polyester lining that, like the nylon that composes the membrane, is composed entirely of recycled content. This item is admittedly on the heavy side at 27.65oz (or 1.7lbs), though it offers more robust protection than the vast majority of jackets on this list (and on the market in general).
On Waterproof Anorak
Designed specifically for trail-running applications with a loose athletic fit, streamlined cut, and ultra-lightweight construction, this anorak-style jacket from On provides solid protection from the wind and rain while tipping the scales at a feather-weight 7.62oz (or 0.45lbs). Capable of breaking down and stuffing inside its own pocket, the “Onorak” (as we like to call it) is manufactured in five colors and is completely devoid of any PTFE. Its three-layer membrane also boasts a wildly impressive 20,000mm water column and still affords excellent breathability — an area bolstered by the use of ventilation ports strategically located around the torso.
Prometheus Design Werx Defiant Hoodie
A technically-focused, tactical interruption of a hooded sweatshirt, Prometheus Design Werx’s is an over-engineered item that’s made from a combination of ultra-cutting-edge Schoeller fabrics and materials. This includes Schoeller c_change, Schoeller 3XDRY and Schoeller Cold Black, the first of which is an advanced two-in-one membrane, while the second is a material that reacts in real-time to weather conditions, and the third is a textile that offers UVA- and UVB-protection and hugely mitigates heat buildup. PDW’s Defiant Hoodie also features four-way stretch properties, fully-taped seams, YKK AquaGuard zippers, laser-cut Hypalon) cuff tabs, Cohaesive Hardware, and the Cohaesive Embedded Component Management System containing an enormous slew of zippered body and sleeve pockets.
Arc’teryx Beta LT
One of the latest offerings from one of the most esteemed names in the outdoor gear space, the Arc’teryx Beta LT is a lightweight full-protection rain shell that’s been engineered to be as versatile as possible. The bluesign-approved, breathable, wind and waterproof, triple-layer GORE-TEX shell that the jacket is constructed around afford robust protection from the elements and cold while armpit speed ventilation ports, a helmet-compatible StormHood, and hand pockets with WaterTight zippers allow the jacket to lend itself to a wide range of outdoor activity, from skiing to climbing to cycling to, of course, hiking.
Mountain Hardware Exposure/2 GORE-TEX Pro Lite
Whether it’s backpacks, alpine-grade sleeping bags, or jackets, Mountain Hardwear produces some of the world’s finest GORE-TEX outdoor gear, as demonstrated by the California-based company’s Exposure/2 GORE-TEX Pro Lite shell. Weighing less than a pound, the jacket uses a 3L GORE-TEX Pro membrane that provides ample protection from the cold and rain without adding much bulk or weight. Equally conducive to skiing or ice-climbing as it is hiking, the Exposure/2 GORE-TEX Pro Lite features membrane and shell fabrics that are both bluesign-approved and the jacket’s trio of color options is achieved through the use of solution-dyed fabrics.
Snow Peak 2.5 Layer Rain Jacket
If money is no object and you’re simply after the jacket with the most robust weatherproofing in the most lightweight possible package, there’s a very high likelihood that Snow Peak’s 2.5 Layer Rain Jacket is the item for you. This recent addition to the Japanese brand’s catalog is produced in a trio of color options (gray, black, and the brownish slate seen above), and is outfitted with a pair of slanted waist pockets supplemented via two zippered waterproof chest pockets, adjustable hook-and-loop closures at the cuffs, and an adjustable hood with a mini beak brim.
Triple Aught Design Raptor Hoodie SE
After Triple Aught Design’s San Francisco-based team uncovered several extra rolls of the advanced fabric uses to create TAD’s previous Stealth Hoodie LT, they opted to utilize the proprietary Schoeller construction to deliver a special edition version of its Raptor Hoodie. Like the above item from PDW, the Raptor is a highly technical and tactically focused interpretation of a traditional hoodie, albeit with a less understated outward aesthetic. Sold in three colors, the special edition Raptor features suede-lined polyester across the collar, beard guard, and wind-flap guard, as well as premium hardware and YKK AQUAGUARD zippers throughout.
Engineered to handle just about anything you can throw at it, Fjällräven’s Bergtagen Eco-Shell is a heavy-duty three-layer advanced mountaineering jacket with tremendously robust protection from the elements without compromising on comfort or mobility. This sustainably-minded jacket is made from Fjällräven’s Eco-Shell material which has been DWR-treated and uses a fluorocarbon-free impregnation process. Made from durable yet pliant ripstop Eco-Shell in polyester (partly recycled) with fluorocarbon-free DWR treatment. Weighing just 19.4oz (or 1.2lbs), the Bergtagen Eco-Shell — which is fully packable — is also equipped with a built-in RECCO reflector, a three-way adjustable helmet-compatible hood, and seams strategically located to mitigate the risk of chafing from a hiking or trail backpack.
The Best Rain Jackets For Any Occassion
Want to check out a wider selection of rain jackets that aren’t just limited to items built for the trails? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best rain jackets for men for a diverse array of premium shells, anoraks, technical jackets, and classic raincoats.