A lightweight, waterproof jacket can be your very best friend in the great outdoors. A good rain jacket needs exceptional waterproof performance with good breathability, reliable, full seam sealing, a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating to prevent the jacket from becoming waterlogged, clammy and sticking to your skin, and a secure hood to protect you from the elements and the harsh conditions the outdoors can present.
Some jackets feature hoods that fit helmets perfectly, making them ideal for biking, skiing, snowboarding, whereas others feature stretch and flexible designs – ideal for climbing and hiking in the rain. Jackets with high-set arm pockets are popular with backpackers, so it’s ultimately a matter of choosing the jacket that suits your needs.
We’ve reviewed a number of jackets from Marmot to Adidas to REI, but the one that made our Editor’s Pick is the Foray Jacket by Outdoor Research (Compare Prices at Outdoorresearch.com, Backcountry.com and Amazon.com). It’s versatile, packable, lightweight, and features an adjustable hood and nice long sleeves. Great for camping, running, and urban wear.
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Outdoor Research Foray Jacket
One of the bestsellers in Amazon’s ‘Raincoats & Jackets’ Category, the Foray jacket by Outdoor Research has earned its way as our Editor’s Pick for a number of reasons. It features a lightweight shell with all-season features – making it incredibly versatile, and boasts outstanding breathability thanks to its superior ventilation TorsoFlo technology, with hem-to-bicep zippers that allow for optimum temperature regulation.
It also features two zippered harness-compatible pockets and a zippered chest pocket. The jacket packs into its own pocket for easy storage and carry. Unfortunately, the brim of the hood does not have malleable wire and gets deformed when it’s packed, making it almost impossible to straighten it out.
This is the lightest, most breathable GORE-TEX jacket available. It comes with a Permanent Beading Surface, which is a fabric technology with no external face textile and a laminate that acts as a weather barrier. This makes the Arc’teryx Norvan significantly lighter than other jackets on the market. The Norvan rain jacket boasts unsurpassed breathability and comfort. The price is slightly high, but if that is no issue for you, we definitely recommend this jacket for everyone looking for a minimalist jacket.
Marmot Men’s Precip
The Precip jacket offers great value for the price. It is lightweight, packable, breathable, and the hood stashes into its collar. Ranked highly in both Amazon’s ‘Sports & Outdoors>Shells’ and ‘Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry>Shells’ categories, this 100% nylon jacket comes equipped with a DriClime lined chin guard, and has been described as a great lightweight shell but not intended to be used for insulation. Pit zippers allow the Precip jacket to be worn in both the rain and sun.
Outdoor Research Axiom
Bearing the title, “Gear of the Year” award, by Men’s Journal and Outdoor Magazine, the Axiom jacket is designed to protect you on all-day outdoor exploration and fast and light alpine climbs. Its lightweight and extremely breathable Gore-Tex Active 3-layer shell is incredibly waterproof and fully seam taped.
Movement-mirroring stretch and dynamic reach underarms make it great for reaching overhead – especially common in climbing. An adjustable wire-brimmed halo fits over most helmets and an internal media pocket keeps your cell phone or GoPro dry.
Adidas Wandertag AOP Camo
This camo jacket, by Adidas, is constructed of climaproof, breathable, water- and windproof material specifically designed for use in extreme conditions. An adjustable hood provides versatility, comfort., and protection, and zipped hand pockets and internal security pockets keep belongings dry and safe.
This 2.5-layer waterproof and breathable jacket is an H2No Performance Standard shell with a 100% recycled nylon face fabric. It keeps hikers, runners, and campers dry and satisfied on both rainy and sunny days. Although it doesn’t breathe as well as other jackets we’ve reviewed, it can get warm on 75ºF+ days, however, the underarm zippers can really get airflow going. It packs incredibly well, making it ideal for camping, hiking, and backpacking, it’s easy to clean, and it can be layered easily with other clothes.
This jacket features GORE-TEX with Paclite technology and 100% polyester fabric and pit zips for ventilation. The Minimalist is a lightweight and durable shell ideal for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. An attached adjustable hood offers additional protection along with its 100% seam taped design. The Minimalist boasts a comfortable fit, living up to its name, with minimal weight and an outer layer that can get you through winter months.
Carhartt Men’s Shoreline
The shorter version of the Carhartt waterproof breathable coat, the Shoreline jacket is made of durable nylon with a special water-repellent finish. A breathable membrane allows for body heat to escape while keeping you dry. It’s great for most conditions especially rain in moderate temperatures (45ºF – 65ºF), but anything colder would require an under layer.
The majority of reviewers described this jacket as being 100% watertight with minor complaints that the hood drawstring locks don’t actually lock properly. However, overall a great jacket for most outdoor activities.
Outdoor Research Helium II
The Outdoor Research Helium II jacket was built for flash-storm protection. Its lightweight design makes it ideal for backpacking and multi-sport outdoor activities especially due to the fact that it can compress and pack to the size of a chocolate bar. Pertex Shield ripstop nylon fabric gives this jacket the comfort and water resistance you need in the great outdoors, and doubled with its reflective hood trim for low-level visibility, this jacket is definitely an asset to your outdoor kit.
Columbia Men’s Evapouration
Ranked highly in Amazon’s ‘Sports & Outdoors Jackets’ category the Columbia Men’s Evapouration Jacket features an Omni-Tech, breathable, waterproof, fully seam-sealed construct. Underarm venting and Omni-Wick EVAP advanced evaporation contribute significantly to this waterproof jacket’s temperature regulation and releasing excess heat and moisture. Ideal for backpacking, the Evapouration packs compactly into the hand pocket.
The North Face Men’s Resolve
The North Face Men’s Resolve features a seam-sealed DryVent 2L shell with mesh drop lining for ultimate water- and windproofing. As good as this jacket’s waterproof qualities are, they still allow for free airflow and prevent overheating. It’s a very versatile jacket and in rainy, cold conditions the adjustable hood protects against the elements, and in sunny, warmer conditions, the hood stows in the collar. Covered zip pockets keep hands and gear dry and warm.
REI Co-Op Talusphere
Designed for the trail, the Talusphere, by REI, keeps backpackers dry with this 2.5 layer, stretch polyester shell. It allows full range of motion – a much-needed quality in the outdoors and protects you from winds of 60+mph. Pit zips allow for airflow and temperature control and a seam-free shoulder design ensures comfort under backpack straps.
Helly Hansen Dubliner
This Helly Hansen jacket is great for different types of conditions. It’s a great-fitting jacket that is waterproof, breathable, and windproof, and its fully sealed seams protect against the elements.
A packable hood is perfect for sudden and unexpected inclement weather, quick-dry 100% polyester mesh lining contributes to comfort, and interior pockets and zipped hand pockets keep both hands and gear dry under any conditions. It’s a jacket perfectly suitable for hiking, biking, and anything in between.
Patagonia Men’s Refugitive
The Men’s Refugitive has been described as “a shelter for the high-country escape artist.” No words could be any truer. Its hybrid design provides the optimal balance of stretch, flexibility and light weight. Durable waterproof and windproof 3-layer GORE-TEX with GORE C-KNIT, as compared to regular 3-layer GORE-TEX fabrics, provide a softer, lighter, and more breathable experience.
A specially designed Optimal Visibility Hood fits perfectly- including all helmet types and watertight pit zips provide ventilation and temperature relief. It’s a great all-round jacket for anyone exploring the outdoors.
Are you a passionate runner? Click here to see our list of the Best Waterproof Running Jackets
Buyer’s Guide – How to choose a Rain Jacket
Currently, there are a plethora of waterproof jackets saturating the market, so to save you the painstaking process of having to siphon through the good, the bad, and the ugly, we’ve put together a detailed Buyer’s Guide consisting of a few key points to keep in mind when searching for the perfect rain jacket.
Waterproof vs Water Resistant
A common mistake often made is assuming that waterproof and water resistant mean the same thing, but that’s not the case. Essentially, waterproof means that it’s water tight or impervious to water, whereas, water resistant means it’s able to resist the penetration of water to some degree but not entirely.
The same applies to the wonderful world of waterproof jackets. A jacket that is said to be waterproof can be submerged in water or exposed to large volumes of water for extended periods of time and should be able to keep your body and its contents underneath bone dry. Gore-Tex materials and other waterproof materials and fully seam-sealed designs and construction all contribute to a jacket’s waterproof qualities.
On the other hand, a water resistant jacket may be constructed out of non-waterproof materials. In a case like this, it’s not recommended you subject your jacket to large volumes of water for extended periods. Generally speaking, once you stumble across “waterproof/breathable” you can almost guarantee to keep the rain out while moving sweat out as well. “Waterproof/non-breathable” tends to be cheaper and simply keeps the rain out, while “water resistant” can handle light rain and not-so-extended periods of water.
Types of Weather Shells
Another point to keep in mind is the types of weather shells your jacket features. In a case like this, it depends on what you’ll be mostly using your jacket for. Let’s take a look at the types of shells.
Soft Shell – Usually has an insulating layer with a water resistant shell, offering greater breathability but less protection from the elements. These are great for high-exertion activities where sweating and perspiration are of concern.
Hard Shell – Hard shells, as the name suggests, usually tend to be of a stiffer construct. They provide exceptional protection from the elements but aren’t insulated.
Hybrid Shell – The term “Hybrid Shell” varies and can refer to anything from soft/hard shell combinations to hard or soft shell designs with more durable fabrics on the outer face or other areas.
Insulated Shell – These are usually filled with down or synthetic fill for optimal warmth and insulation. Doubled with waterproof/ breathable fabric, the user can enjoy an exceptional level of protection while maintaining warmth.
The coating or membrane incorporated into your jacket is the key factor in keeping you protected. Laminates tend to offer better performance in waterproof performance, durability, and breathability as compared to coatings. Coatings range from ultra-lightweight to lightweight and are more affordable than laminate incorporated designs.
Gore-Tex is a popular waterproof, breathable fabric that repels liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through. It’s commonly found in brands such as Marmot, Outdoor Research, and Patagonia.
eVent, although similar to Gore-Tex, works differently to remove sweat while protecting you against the elements. Sweat is easily removed in just one step, unlike Gore-Tex which is two steps, however, for this reason, you lose body heat quicker in cold conditions. Gore-Tex features a solid PU layer, whereas eVent does not – this means you may need to wash and re-waterproof your eVent jacket every 4-6 months. Seeing as both eVent and Gore-Tex are 100% waterproof, neither are perfect in terms of breathability.
Omni-Tech is quite similar to Gore-Tex and eVent in that it is a multi-layered weather protection system that is designed to keep you protected from outside elements while allowing perspiration and moisture to escape. It’s built with an exterior waterproof layer and an air-permeable membrane.
Waterproof jackets usually feature additional layers that sandwich a jacket’s membrane or coating. The outer layer is usually the first form of defense – protecting against the elements and abrasion, and the inner layer protects against body oils and inner wear-and-tear.
As you would’ve seen in this review, there are 3 types of construction used in weatherproof jackets – 2-layer, 2.5-layer, and 3-layer.
2-layer – Usually the quietest, the laminate or coating layer is applied inside an outer fabric layer to form a single piece of material. It’s ideal for urban and travel use due to its quiet qualities.
2.5-layer – With 2.5-layer, a lightweight, but durable, fabric is used as the first layer, followed by a polyurethane laminate or coating applied to the first layer, and finished with a protective sheen (or 1/2 layer) over that second layer. Jackets with this design tend to be lighter and more affordable.
3-layer – The most robust of the 3 types of layers, the 3-layer does not incorporate any coatings. A membrane is tightly sandwiched between a solid face fabric and a liner. They can be expensive but are guaranteed to keep you protected in the harshest conditions.
Seam Taping is essential in waterproof performance of any jacket. Fully seam taped jackets are the only way to guarantee optimum waterproof performance. Seam taping is usually found in all waterproof jackets but the lack thereof does not necessarily mean the jacket is of poor quality. Some jackets may also feature seam taping in only the hood and shoulders so pay close attention to that.
Jacket Hood Design
Hood Design can usually dictate a jackets intended use. Most hoods have brims and adjustments, however, jackets without adjustments are usually designed for casual use. Other designs feature hoods that can zip off or stow in the collar making for a more versatile jacket.
Zippers are the most commonly found item on a jacket. Some jackets feature storm flaps or rubberized coatings which prevent water from seeping through the zipper. Zippers can have a cover that shields the small opening at the end of the track or incorporate a coating or laminate.
Vents are essential in keeping you, well, ventilated. Jackets without exceptional breathability can become stuffy and uncomfortable in particularly high-strenuous activities and so, pit zips and torso pockets act as additional ventilation and assist in temperature regulation.
Pockets can be just as important as zippers when it comes to jackets. Hand pockets above the hip belt are ideal for backpacking because they’re usually easier to access when your pack is on. Interior pockets can also keep your devices dry and if you choose wisely, you may even find jackets with a pocket cord port allowing you to listen to your music player.
Adjustment Features are of importance when choosing a jacket. Some may feature a drawstring on the bottom hem, longer jackets have waist adjustments, and the majority will have adjustable wrist closures. Regardless of where, these adjustments are designed to keep the elements out, and your comfort and warmth in. Alternatively, they can be loosened to increase ventilation in warmer conditions.
Packability is always great. Some jackets feature a pocket that doubles as a storage pouch – great for the minimalists, while other jackets feature lightweight designs that will go unnoticed in our backpack. If you stumble across the term “packable” it means the jacket doubles as its own storage pouch or comes with a stuff sack.
Complete your gear with the Best Waterproof Hiking Pants and keep your feet dry with waterproof hiking boots or trail running shoes.
Care Instructions for Your Jacket
- Always try to treat stains as quickly as possible. Avoid rubbing stains as this can lead to fabric abrasion and further spreading of the stain.
- Hang dry your jacket after washing to avoid mildew and mold. A crumpled, folded, wet jacket is a recipe for mildew. If you want to use the dryer, be sure to set it to a low heat tumble dry to avoid excessive heat exposure.
- Use mild detergents and avoid bleach when washing.
- DO NOT iron. Inner coating and seam sealing will melt if it comes in contact with an iron.
- All jackets feature durable water repellent (DWR) finishes that can be diminished by dirt and other debris. Hand washing with warm water and mild detergent, followed by a tumble dry on low heat proves quite effective in removing dirt and debris. Maintaining the integrity of the DWR of your jacket is imperative because this is what truly prevents liquid from saturating the exterior of your jacket.
- Generally, if you splash a few drops of water on your jacket and it beads and rolls off then your DWR is in good shape.
- Companies such as Granger’s, Nikwax, or Penguin, offer products that can be reapplied to jackets that require re-application of DWR.
So, it turns out that choosing the best jacket for your needs isn’t rocket science after all.
When choosing your waterproof jacket, keep in mind the main activities and environments you’ll be using your jacket for, choose the one with the features that best suit your needs, and follow our detailed care instructions to ensure that your jacket remains an essential part of your trip kit.
Remember, a good jacket is not only meant to serve as a means of comfort but also as a means of safety and protection in the great outdoors.
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