Nobody likes getting caught in the rain but it’s almost a fact of life that it will happen at some point.
Being prepared is key and depending on where you are, be that up a mountain or trail running, it’s nice to know you’ll be kept dry. It’s easy to get lost in terms such as; Gore-tex, durable water repellent (DWR), membranes, and a storm flap.
However, this article will break down the terminology for you, laying out all the facts and looking at what the best rain jacket is, whatever the situation.
Below we have some well-known brands showing off their best technology. Names such as; Columbia, The North Face, and Helly Hansen all feature, as do some lesser-known brands. All offering something to the keep-dry-table.
The Top 10 Best Rain Jackets
1. Columbia Men’s Watertight II
Weight: 13.6 ounces | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: Omni-Tech waterproof
Aimed at being the staple jacket in your life offering that reassurance it will have your back on those rainy days. With a good price tag, this is one of the best rain jackets on the market offering value for money.
It has a stylish appearance so you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ll look good even in the rain. More appropriate for short hikes, wet days dog walking, and general use, this may be the best rain jacket for those dipping their toes into hiking.
The Watertight II is a strong performer in cooler weather. Simplicity is key with this jacket, there isn’t anything massively fancy about it but it gets the job it’s intended for, done.
The wrist cuffs are secured with velcro, which will help keep water and cool air out. Overall this is a very stylish, comfortable, and waterproof jacket.
2. The North Face Men’s Resolve Waterproof Jacket
Weight: 10.9 ounces | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: DryVent
A jacket great for hiking, it is lightweight and is a standard fit so you can wear it over sweaters. A great option for those fans of comfortable layering!
Finished with a durable water repellent (DWR), you can have peace of mind that this rain jacket will keep dry during those wetter times.
Not only does this jacket offer lots of layering options and nice face fabric, but it also is very versatile in the way it fits you. It features an adjustable hood, which can be stored in the hood when you get a break from the rain. Not only that, to keep your arms warmer, it comes with elasticated cuffs – perfect to stop the wind and rain from getting down your sleeves. Not forgetting the hem cinch-cord at the waist to keep the wind out from under you. All of this makes for a great waterproof breathable shell.
These days we like to option to carry various things, and we like to be safe in the knowledge that we can carry them safely, this is where this rain jacket shines, with secure-zip hand pockets to store your cell, wallet, or even that snack.
To maximize breathability, this shell features a mesh inner lining.
3. Helly-Hansen Women’s Crew Hooded Waterproof Sailing Jacket
Weight: 16 ounces | Shell Material: 2 layered. Face: 100% polyester. Back: 100% Polyurethane | Waterproofing: HELLY TECH
This rain jacket from Helly Hansen features HELLY TECH. To put it simply, HELLY TECH is the technology Helly Hansen uses in their outer layer to make the jacket waterproof and breathable. What makes it special is the unique membrane, which is designed to let sweat molecules out, at the same time as water vapors are being kept away. This 2 layer shell gives great to protect from the elements.
The aim of this is to keep you comfortable and dry, even in the harshest conditions.
Helly Hansen is a well-known name among and with good reason, they offer quality. This particular model of rain jacket is targeted at sailors, it offers perfect functionality for marine life. Knowing you have a jacket that can stand up to the job is always reassuring and with this one, you get the added bonus of the pockets being fleece lined so no more chilly fingers!
With lots of adjustabilities to get the right fit for all situations, it is easy to see why this is one of the best rain jacket offerings.
4. Outdoor Research Men’s MicroGravity AscentShell Jacket
Weight: 14.6 ounces | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: AscentShelles”
The AscentShell makes use of the fabric and to help create a waterproof breathable membrane. This is achieved using an electric charge and tiny polyurethane fibers, from this a membrane is made. Then comes the layer construction, the outer layer is the face fabric, then the newly created membrane, and finally on the inside, is the backing fabric. This creates a nice 3 layer of rain shell.
One of the stand out things is how the fabric is stretchy and soft and does not behave like DWR fabrics, which I’m sure people are familiar with. This 3 layer design is great for keeping really heavy rain out whatever situation.
The fit is such that you can layer up underneath and it will still be comfortable – which really adds to the versatility.
5. Arc’teryx Sawyer Coat
Weight: 14 ounces | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: Gore-tex
Designed for urban environments, this coat was designed in the alpines and refined for city life making it a perfect choice for those wanting versatility and a little bit of city style to an outdoor jacket.
The Arc teryx is a break away from the traditional rain shells we immediately think about when we think about rain jacket manufacturers. It has more of a parker coat look to it which may appeal to a lot of people.
There is no denying the Arc teryx is windproof, waterproof, and generally weatherproof with its 3 layer gore-tex protection. You can be reassured that it is going to keep you dry even down to the zip, which is full length and waterproof. The face fabric is nice and comfortable, whilst the outer layer offers a strong waterproof breathable factor to it.
Due to the nature of the design, you are getting a much larger rain jacket and with that, you get additional features like a water-resistant chest pocket. For things you need quick and easy access to, this can be the sweet spot.
6. Black Diamond Women’s W Stormline Stretch
Weight: 8.8 ounces| Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: B.D Dry
The black diamond stormline rain jacket is designed with durability and comfort in mind. With increased mobility by fitting underarm gussets is a great little feature, this will also help keep things breathable. These are kitted out with durable water repellant zips so should you not wish to use this feature, you don’t have to. Great flexibility!
For those who love an adventure among us, this may be the jacket for you. It has been designed to be used in the mountains. If you fancying scaling that mountain, it has your back, even down to accommodating to being helmet-compatible, while still using the hood has been thought about.
7. Mountain Hardwear Men’s Exposure 2
Weight: 2.3 ounces | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: Gore-tex
Offering great layer construction, it uses 2 5 layer GORE-TEX paclite plus fabric, Mountain Hairwear is giving you a rain jacket that will offer next to skin comfort with great face fabric, while being very lightweight.
The materials used are really making it a great option for when you don’t want to get caught out by the rain but don’t want to feel encumbered by a heavyweight jacket – ideal for cycling and other outdoor pursuits.
When you are wearing this, you will find there to be amble pocket space as there are both hand pockets and chest pockets. Not only that these pockets are stretch-mesh lined which will help protect the contents.
To help keep out moisture, which is arguably the main purpose of rain jackets, Mountain Hardwear has added a few things to assist with this. They have fitted adjustable hooks and loops to the cuffs, this allows you to block out water and cold air coming through the to your wrists. To help with cold air coming through the center zip, Mountain Hardwear has lined the draft flap.
When it raining and you need to make quick adjustments, that is more than doable with the zipper which is textured on one side.
8. Patagonia Alpine Houdini Jacket
Weight: 6.9 ounces | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: laminate membrane
This rain jacket is designed with climbers in mind and has plenty of features to make it a great option.
It comes with a 2 5 layer membrane as well as a DWR coating, which helps with water resistance and breathability. Due to this enhancement in protection, it is one of the more wind and water repellant rain jackets out there.
If one of your key factors when buying a rain jacket is the protection offered in the cold wind, then this is one of the best rain jackets to consider. The 2 5 layer waterproof breathable membrane materials really go a long way in providing that weather protection is required.
In keeping with its desire to be a great choice for climbers, the Patagonia Alpine Houdini has a hood that is large enough for use with a helmet, a really valuable consideration. With nice features like elastic cuffs – perfect for keeping out the unsavory weather. Also built into the design was the ability to stow the hood away into the top of the neck.
There is no doubt that this jacket will provide top quality rain resistance, DWR coating is fantastic and can withstand plenty of abuse without faltering.
The design is such that the jacket will fold into itself and packaged within the chest pocket. It is impressive how little this can be compressed down to and is a real consideration when space and heaviness is something you want to minimize.
9. Columbia Titanium Outdry Ex Reign Jacket
Weight: 380g | Shell Material: Nylon | Waterproofing: OutDry Technology
Columbia is offering a great hiking rain jacket with its Titanium Outdry. It is fully water-resistant and will help keep you dry when out in heavy rain. This is achieved by Columbia’s OutDry EXTREME technology, which they have fully sealed the whole rain jacket with.
For those unfamiliar with this technology, it is a 2 layer jacket and it comes with wicking fabric on the inside, which is soft and complete with a waterproof layer on the outside. What this does is bring the most vital part of the rain jacket to the forefront by bringing out the waterproof membrane to the external part.
The shell fabric is nylon and comes with an adjustable storm hood which is attached. The sleeve cuffs and hem are also adjustable which aids in keeping the elements out.
Columbia has really gone to town when it comes to waterproofing, not stopping with OutDry technology, they have ensured any essentials carried in your pockets are kept dry with mesh zippered pockets.
To keep you cool there is underarm venting and that is one of the best things about this jacket. Where rain jacket manufacturers are able to make rain jackets that are incredibly solid at keeping the elements out but this can often be at the expense of making the jacket less breathable. Columbia tick both boxes.
10. Marmot Eclipse Jacket
Weight: 374g | Shell Material: Recycled Nylon | Waterproofing: MemBrain Eco
The best rain jacket around when it comes to offering protection against the elements in an eco-friendly manner. The rain shell is made using 100% recycled nylon, reducing the environmental impact but still offers super performance.
You will find the fabric on the outside to be durable and would be suitable for mountains. However, Marmot does feel this rain jacket is best suited to climbing and long distance trekking. Though it would be equally as great for use around town.
In regards to rain and how the Eclipse performs up against it, it provides good protection as it has a Membrane Eco 2 5 layer. Also kitted with an adjustable hood to help batten down the hatches.
To help with breathability this rain jacket comes with pit zips. On either side there is one zip, opening towards the torso from the arm end.
Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Rain Jacket
Types of Rain Jacket
There are lots of things to consider when buying a rain proof jacket and one of the key points is what type of protection you will be getting.
Of course, with this being an important factor, this does influence many things such as how waterproof the jacket is, the weight, price, and how breathable it is.
- Daily use – depending on where you live, a rain jacket may be your best friend. If that is the case then how it fits may be the main thing to consider as you may be wanting to layer differently depending on the time of year. Extras such as waterproof zippers most likely won’t be needs and there probably won’t be much focus on how packable the jacket is as it is unlikely to be a factor. Considering how many layers you’d like is something worth thinking about and a layer shell could be recommended if intended to be used for anything other than ultralight rain.
- Ultralight – Sitting in between daily use and hiking for a good reason as this is roughly where their performance is. Weighing in at under 6 ounces more often than not, they somehow manage to pack a lot of technology in there. The lighterweight can affect how durable the fabric is and you may lose out on the number of pockets. But for those who are more concerned about having something light to simply use when the going gets tough – this could be the perfect solution.
- Hiking – When considering something suitable for hiking, a factor that usually comes into play is the weight of it. You don’t necessarily always want to be wearing it and therefore it is handy to have something that is lightweight. Consider how well the rain jackets will perform in heavy rain and also strong winds. Generally speaking, anything made for hiking tends to be middle of the road when it comes to price and performance.
- Trail Running – When you think you couldn’t get any lighter than ultralight, along comes this category. Usually rain jackets with a 3 layer membrane and totally waterproof. The cost can be an issue as can durability with these jackets. However, if you go running on the trails in all weathers, this is probably the ideal package.
- Performance Shells – Designed to withstand more extreme conditions, performance shells are for those who are seriously focused on the outdoors. The membranes are better and will hold up against harsher weather, as will the shell fabrics as they are tougher. With this, the price does naturally go up but it is a worthy investment if it fits your needs.
There are lots of different materials that can be used in rain shells. A lot will depend on the budget and intended use.
Some of the most frequently used materials are:
- Laminated cotton
- Polyester (often paired up with nylon)
- Polyurethane laminate
Depending on how the rain jackets are listed will help determined how waterproof they are.
You will often see terms such as “water-resistant” or “waterproof”. The difference in this is one with water resistance will prevent water from getting through anything up to moderate conditions. Waterproof rain jackets will have additional layers or technology such as gore-tex which helps prevent any water from coming through. The seams will generally be sealed off and these will withstand tougher conditions.
Staying dry is an important factor but nobody wants to end up sweaty and clammy as a result, this is why know-how breathable rain jackets are is important.
You may find those that are less expensive will not be very breathable. However, they all will have some element of breathability built-in.
Anything marketed as “active” will be looking to maximize breathability features as it is expected that you will be moving around and perspiring a lot while doing so.
As a general rule, the higher the price, the more breathable the jacket will be.
- Pockets – Most users have an appreciation for pockets. They provide places to things you need access to quickly or frequently. Depending on the type and style you opt for, will determine how many pockets you end up with. If ultralight weight is where you’re headed, forget about pockets. That’s extra. However, with hiking shells, you’ll nab yourself some pocket real estate. Sometimes even inside pockets.
Where the pocket goes is also another consideration that could easily be overlooked. The more serious shells will place the pockets closer to the torso. This isn’t a natural spot for your hands but is handy when using a hipbelt.
- Hoods – Hoods are an important feature, they keep your head dry and warm after all. However, there are other things to think about such as where you plan on using it. If you are a climber, it is worth thinking about if you need a hood to be helmet-compatible. This will give you greater weather protection. Although this is something you might want to avoid if you often wear a backpack as the fabric can get in the way.
How portable a shell is can be really important to some and completely irrelevant to others.
There are some out there that will pack into themselves, this is quite a common design for those designed for hiking as it makes them light to carry and throw in a backpack. It can be easy to think that this will make the pack itself small, this isn’t always true and can vary greatly.
Another way to consider it is how much a shell actually compresses. This may be rolling it into itself if it doesn’t pack into its pocket – this is fine and doesn’t always correlate to being any less packable.
A good way to narrow the search for an easy to pack shell is to assess the weights, this is a good guide to how much it will compress.
Who Makes the Best Rain Jackets?
There are lots of different things that make up rain jackets and to some extent what is considered the best is subjective. However, there are brands out there that have a great reputation and offer some great choice.
Columbia is steeped in history and passion for great quality. Their founder, Gert Boyle, was serious about quality and was known for saying, “It’s perfect. Now make it better”. This ethos has stayed with the company and has resulted in them producing some of what is now the best rain jacket technology.
The North Face also has a great name when it comes to rain jackets. Dating back to 1966, their mission to create the best gear for athletes, while supporting preservation.
Though named after the side of a mountain that is known to be the most unforgiving and coldest, The North Face started on San Franciso’s North Beach. They aim to push the limits and they do it well!
What is the Best Lightweight Waterproof Jacket?
Mountain Warehouse Exposure 2 offers a great option for those wanting to avoid the extra baggage of a heavy shell.
It comes equipped with gore-tex paclite technology and is environmentally friendly due to its lack of PFC coating. With pockets that can double up as vents due to the longer than average zippers, this goes a long way to increasing breathability.
A feature not often seen on lightweight shells is a stiff cap, this helps against wind and makes it easier to truly batten down the hatches when the weather turns.
A pocket has been installed onto the chest so that those who are fans of climbing can still have access to a pocket, albeit a smaller sized one.
Overall the Exposure 2 offers a great balance of features whilst still keeping the weight very light and that’s the sweet spot to go for.
What are the Different Types of Materials Used in Waterproof Jackets?
When it comes to the material used for waterproofing, there are two main types. These are membrane and coated.
More commonly than not, both will be on the inside of the jacket. A common misconception is that the DWR makes the shell waterproof – this is not the case. This is in fact applied to the outside and is a coating that acts as a first response designed to repel bad weather.
Let’s look at the two in a bit more detail.
A membrane has holes across its surface, these are microscopic and in their thousands. What these holes do is prevent water from setting in because the holes are simply too small to get through. They are cleverly designed that even though water cannot get it, vapor can get out.
You may find that jackets with membrane material are more expensive however they do tend to hold up better than coated shells.
As far as coated is concerned, this is simply a layer of rubber-like consistency and is painted or sometimes sprayed onto the inside of the fabric. By doing this, a layer is created which is waterproof. Those who are are interested in doing the medium-level activity will find these shells great value for money.