The Best Rain Jackets for Men of 2018

To find the best rain jackets for hiking, backpacking, and general outdoor use, our experts researched over 50 models. We then bought 12 and sought out downpours in the Pacific Northwest to put them to the test. Our team of testers performed both side-by-side weather resistance tests in a lab environment as well as extensive real-world application tests in pouring conditions. While we declare an overall winner, we also identify the best jacket for many applications such as commuting, climbing, and travel. Whether you want a top-of-the-line, tricked-out model, or something under $100, we have a recommendation for you. See our windbreaker review for light rain conditions and our rain pant fleet, where we found highest rated jackets don't always correspond with the best bottoms.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 12
≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
May 21, 2018

Share:
Updated May 2018
After considering dozens of new products for our latest 2018 review, our staff carefully selected three of the top new models, each offering a notable benefit or excellent all-around performance. We continued to take the products we included previously in our review to see how these new contenders fared directly against them. We brought these jackets on soggy trips to the Washington Coast and the West Coast of Vancouver Island and tested them while ice climbing in Banff National Park; we also ski toured and trekked hundreds of miles of trail in the Sierra and Cascades. We've now included 12 of the industry's top models within a range of budgets, which you'll find below.

Best Overall Model


Arc'teryx Beta SL


Editors' Choice Award

$299.00
at MooseJaw
See It


Weight: 11 ounces | Pockets: Two elevated pack-friendly hand pockets
Best mobility and range of motion in the review
Thoughtful hood design
Lightest Gore-Tex model we tested
Long-lasting DWR
No ventilation options
Expensive for a Gore-Tex Paclite model
While Arc'teryx dominates our hardshell review awards, this marks the first year they pulled ahead for rain jackets. Arc'teryx just narrowly won our Editors' Choice over the other across the board top-performer, the REI Drypoint GTC. However the do-everything Arc'teryx Beta SL managed to win our award again as it scored the best, or nearly the best, in almost every category.

If we could only own one jacket, whether for walking the dog or a week-long backpacking trip, this would be it. Our testing team loved its best-in-review mobility, exceptional versatility, fantastic hood design, and top-notch storm worthiness - all while maintaining a below average weight. While some jackets offer advantages for specific applications, this is the do-everything model that will work fantastically for a broad range of activities.

Read review: Arc'teryx Beta SL

Best Bang for the Buck


Marmot PreCip


Weight: 13.1 ounces | Pockets: Two hand pockets
Better breathability than others in its price range
Above average ventilation
Rollaway hood
Nice pit zips
Affordable
No chest pocket
Not quite as breathable as membrane models
DWR lasts decently long
The Marmot PreCip has won Best Buy every year for six years straight. It pretty much invented the high-performance $100 category and despite lots of growing competition, still owns it. Updated last year with Marmot's NanoPro 2.5-layer coated technology, our testing team finds that with its slight overhauls, it just keeps getting better. This fully featured jacket has hand pockets, pit zips for ventilation, and a rollaway hood.

It's our favorite jacket for high-energy hiking and backpacking and featured enough for around town use for what is still a pretty reasonable price. A few other models we tested are similar when it comes to the price point, but the PreCip delivers the most functionality and versatility for your money. The demanding budget-conscious buyer won't find a better deal than this jacket, ringing it at $100.

Read review: Marmot PreCip

Top Pick for Light Weight


Outdoor Research Helium II


Weight: 6.5 ounces | Pockets: One functional pocket chest pocket + one stuff-pouch
Perfect stuff pocket
Super light
Great mobility
No hand pockets
Loose wrist cuffs
The Outdoor Research Helium II is our Top Pick for weight-conscience hikers, backpackers, and climbers or as the best "Just-in-Case" layer. It is by a notable margin, the most compact and lightest jacket we tested, weighing in at a scant 6.5 ounces. This is roughly half to a third of the weight of most jackets we tested. It isn't feature-rich, lacking lower hand pockets. However, despite offering a pretty basic, though effective hood, and an overall minimal design, it still does a decent job of its primary purpose, which is keeping its wearer dry.

While a few extra ounces here or there may not seem like a big deal and more feature-rich jackets might seem more appealing in the store, remember that all those extra features add weight. Thus keep in mind that most hikers, climbers, and backpackers will likely end up carrying their waterproof layer 90% or more of the time. While those extra features might seem sweet, they won't do much living in the bottom of your pack. Each year, more and more superlight rain shells come out on the market, and this model is currently our favorite.

Read review: Outdoor Research Helium II

Top Pick for Hiking and Backpacking


REI Co-op Drypoint GTX


Top Pick Award

$148.93
at REI
See It

Weight: 10.5 ounces | Pockets: Two zip hand pockets
Top-tier hood design
Most breathable material in our review
Very lightweight
Small packed volume
Stretchy fabric
Extremely stormworthy
Good quality construction
Cut is slightly on the boxy side
Not quite as abrasion-resistant nor not as durable as other models
Okay, but not fantastic mobility
The REI Drypoint GTX is a superb all-around model. It remains one of our review teams' go-to favorites for backpacking and hiking and is our staffs' Top Pick for these types of applications. It earned this selection for a variety of reasons; most notably is its exceptionally breathable fabric, which ranked the best in our review.

This, coupled with one of the most stormworthy designs, while still being lighter and more packable than the majority of the competition, make this model perfect for backpackers, mountaineers, and hikers. Its stretchy fabric allowed great freedom of movement, which helps this model adapt to a wide range of users, adding to its exceptional versatility.

Read review: REI Drypoint GTX

Top Pick for Ventilation & Features


Outdoor Research Foray


Weight: 16 ounces | Pockets: One chest pocket and two hand pockets
Extremely versatile
Durable
Comfortable
Exceptional ventilation
Good breathability
On the heavier side
Slightly more expensive than average
The Gore-Tex Paclite Outdoor Research Foray is a bomber rain jacket that seals out rain, snow, wind and proved to be one of the most durable products we tested. The Foray has excellent ventilation and excels at dumping heat during highly aerobic actives or folks who simply run on the warm-side.

It goes far beyond just pit zips and venting pockets and includes "torso flow pit-zips" that fully separate the sides of the jacket more attuned to a poncho, unzipping from the hem to your triceps down the sides of the jacket. If you seek a product that could cross over into the durable hardshell category and highly value ventilation features, then the Foray might be for you.

Read review: Outdoor Research Foray

Top Pick for Range-of-Motion and Technical Endeavors


Black Diamond Fineline


Top Pick Award

$128.95
at MooseJaw
See It

Weight: 7.5 ounces | Pockets: One chest
Superlight
Extremely packable
Stretchy fabric
Best freedom of movement and range-of-motion in our review
More breathable than average
Well-designed hood
No closure on the cuffs, only elastic
No ventilation options
not as tear resistant as other models
The Black Diamond Fineline offers better overall functionality than a majority of superlight rain shells and sports some of the best freedom of movement we have ever seen. It is among the lightest and most compressible models to be constructed with as stretchy a fabric as this model offers and its cut is very activity focused. This made it a favorite for our testers for alpine or ice climbing, trail running, ski touring, or any other outdoor activity where its top-tier mobility will be appreciated.

The Fineline also offers better weather resistance and breathability than most other superlight or similarly priced models including our Award Winner for Light Weight, the Outdoor Research Helium II, which was only 1.5 ounces lighter.

Read review: Black Diamond Fineline

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
85
$299
Editors' Choice Award
Featuring our favorite hood in the test, this model is relatively light while remaining bombproof.
84
$249
Top Pick Award
The Drypoint GTX's top-tier weather resistance and breathability, coupled with low weight and minimal packed volume, proved it to be one of the most versatile jackets we tested.
82
$215
Top Pick Award
With awesome ventilation capabilities, this model is a great all-rounder.
79
$189
Just nearly missing out on an award, this is an awesome do-anything piece and one of our favorites.
77
$129
Top Pick Award
One of the lightest waterproof models that strikes a near-perfect balance between low weight and functionality, while still offering fantastic mobility.
77
$199
With features that aren't as functional as other similar models, this jacket does at least keep you dry.
76
$159
Top Pick Award
An awesome hood and superior mobility make this lightweight hoody stand out.
71
$175
A tough and versatile model that will preform well at a wide range of activities though isn't the best at anything.
68
$129
Great for those on a budget, this model marries performance with thoughtful design.
67
$100
Best Buy Award
With better breathability than similar models, this jacket also has a nice price tag.
65
$99
A decent all-around jacket for under $100, it offers excellent water resistance, comfort, and mobility.
57
$60
This model boasts a good price and adequate protection, but it lacks outdoor features present in other contenders.

We considered over 90 different rain jackets before choosing the best 10 under $300 and 16 ounces. We tested each jacket by spraying them with hoses  wearing them in the shower  and spending countless hours hiking  climbing  skiing  and backpacking in them. Our findings are reported below.
We considered over 90 different rain jackets before choosing the best 10 under $300 and 16 ounces. We tested each jacket by spraying them with hoses, wearing them in the shower, and spending countless hours hiking, climbing, skiing, and backpacking in them. Our findings are reported below.

Analysis and Test Results


We researched the top 50 contenders, before narrowing it down to a dozen finalists. We bought each model and put each of them through an intensive testing process, taking each into the field for real-world use to see how they performed, as well as with specific side-by-side testing. Our ratings are based on the most important factors we rely on when trying to decide which jacket to buy.

Nine of the top rain jackets  ready for our testing. There are three distinct types of jackets here  and one will meet your needs best.
Nine of the top rain jackets, ready for our testing. There are three distinct types of jackets here, and one will meet your needs best.

Below you'll find descriptions of our evaluation metrics, as well as information about the top performers in each metric and how they compare to other models. In our reviews, we detail each product's features, explain our scoring in each metric, and compare and contrast each jacket to its closest competitors. For more specific comparisons such as each models hood cinch performance or exact hem adjustments, see each product's review.

We weighted weather resistance as the most important metric in our review  since a rain jacket's primary function is to keep you dry  whether you are hiking  backpacking  or just out walking the dog. Here  Graham Zimmerman is trying to keep it positive in yet another torrential downpour in Torres del Paine  Chile.
We weighted weather resistance as the most important metric in our review, since a rain jacket's primary function is to keep you dry, whether you are hiking, backpacking, or just out walking the dog. Here, Graham Zimmerman is trying to keep it positive in yet another torrential downpour in Torres del Paine, Chile.

Value


One of the most common concerns we hear from our friends and readers is, is that expensive piece of outdoor gear worth it? There's no denying that prices have been rising in the outdoor apparel market, and when there's such a price discrepancy between some of the budget picks and the higher-end options, it does beg the question. Are you getting more for your money, or is it all marketing and hype?

When it comes to this category, prices range between $60 and $300! That's a pretty significant jump. Part of that is due to the advanced materials that some of the "fancier" brands use. There is a lot of engineering going into Gore-Tex and eVent fabrics, and those drive up the overall cost. Those fabrics make a world of difference though from a waterproof/breathability perspective. As you can see from the graph below, there is almost a direct correlation between price and performance for these items. (This is not always the case by the way!)

If you are specifically looking for a budget pick that still performs well overall, look for items that run on the bottom of the Y-axis (price) but still far along the X-axis (score). In this case, the best value picks are the Patagonia Torrentshell ($129) and the Marmot Precip ($100), which was our Best Buy winner. While not as high-performing as some models, they still worked well and cost a fraction of some of the other options.


Water Resistance


A rain jacket should keep you dry, whether hiking, backpacking, or just out walking the dog, that's (obviously) this piece of equipment's job. Period. In our scoring metrics, this was the most heavily weighted category, at 30 percent.


Manufacturers use many types of waterproof fabrics and treatments in the jackets we tested. Loads of laboratory testing has been done to quantify precisely how waterproof each of these specific coated or laminated materials are. However, the critical bit to understand is that all of the products tested are water-resistant to use as a rain shell.

Rain is not going to penetrate any of the fabrics that any of these jackets are constructed with; however  in a downpour  running water can seeks its way in through a pocket zipper  down your wrist when you reach overhead  or where the hood meets your neck and thus the features and design of each model is the most critical part of keeping you dry.
Rain is not going to penetrate any of the fabrics that any of these jackets are constructed with; however, in a downpour, running water can seeks its way in through a pocket zipper, down your wrist when you reach overhead, or where the hood meets your neck and thus the features and design of each model is the most critical part of keeping you dry.

All of the models tested feature a waterproof fabric (more on what makes a material impervious in our buying advice), which is a shell fabric that is seam-taped after sewing, creating a completely sealed envelope. What differentiates each model's performance is the design of the hood, cuffs, pocket and front-zip closures, and pit zips, or other vents, as well as the longevity of DWR.

Obviously  the waterproof material itself is important  but with nearly all manufacturers offering a material that is more than adequate  those jackets which had features that helped keep the rain out and move moisture scored the best. Ian Nicholson climbing "Pretty Nuts" near Kicking Horse Pass in extremely wet conditions.
Obviously, the waterproof material itself is important, but with nearly all manufacturers offering a material that is more than adequate, those jackets which had features that helped keep the rain out and move moisture scored the best. Ian Nicholson climbing "Pretty Nuts" near Kicking Horse Pass in extremely wet conditions.

While all the models we tested sport a waterproof fabric, they are constructed with different materials, which can make a huge difference when it comes to breathability (which can make you feel wet from the inside), longevity, and durability. For weather resistance strictly from a fabric point of view - if one fabric is waterproof to 30 PSI and one to 50 PSI, it doesn't make a functional difference.

Garden hose to the face and wrists? Check. The Foray can handle it. All of these jackets do a good job keeping you dry in your average rainstorm. But models with adjustable cuffs and well-designed hood adjustments are superior in howling rainstorms or when working with your hands overhead in the rain.
Garden hose to the face and wrists? Check. The Foray can handle it. All of these jackets do a good job keeping you dry in your average rainstorm. But models with adjustable cuffs and well-designed hood adjustments are superior in howling rainstorms or when working with your hands overhead in the rain.

Rain is not going to penetrate any of these fabrics; however, in a downpour, running water can seek its way in through a pocket zipper, down your wrist when you reach overhead, or where the hood meets your neck. We stood in the shower for four minutes in each jacket and got a spray down with the garden hose to help find weak spots. The Arc'teryx Beta SL and the Marmot Minimalist were the sturdiest of the bunch. The REI Drypoint GTX, Outdoor Research Foray, and The North Face Dryzzle all performed well, doing an excellent job of sealing out the rain. All contenders have wrist cuffs that can be cinched down on the wrist with Velcro closures. All hoods sealed well around the face and chin.

Ian Nicholson testing waterproof Jackets in Torres Del Paine  Chile.
Ian Nicholson testing waterproof Jackets in Torres Del Paine, Chile.

All the products we tested should keep you dry in a storm. The primary differences in our water resistance metric come from the design of the hood, cuffs, pocket closures, and pit zips.

A well designed hood is one of the most important factors influencing how dry a rain jacket is going to keep you. The REI Rhyolite's hood shown here.
A well designed hood is one of the most important factors influencing how dry a rain jacket is going to keep you. The REI Rhyolite's hood shown here.

The other important component of a jacket's water resistance is its durable water repellent (DWR) treatment. This treatment is factory applied to the fabric's exterior and allows it to bead and shed water. Even though nylon and polyester are hydrophobic, if they aren't treated with a DWR (or after the treatment wears off), they "wet out", or become covered with a continuous film of water. This results in a heavier jacket with reduced breathability. The DWR used on the Marmot PreCip, Marmot Phoenix, Marmot Minimalist, and Arc'teryx Beta SL stands out, as does the The North Face Dryzzle, REI Drypoint GTX, and The North Face Venture 2. With that said, it's worth noting that all the jackets we tested beaded water quite well to start, and DWR treatment can be reapplied to your jacket if needed. Check out DWR maintenance in our Care & Cleaning section.

Breathability and ventilation are both significant factors in keeping the wearer dry  minimizing how wet they get from their own sweat. We weighted breathability slightly higher than ventilation because sometimes when it's really raining or snowing hard  opening your vents can make you wetter.
Breathability and ventilation are both significant factors in keeping the wearer dry, minimizing how wet they get from their own sweat. We weighted breathability slightly higher than ventilation because sometimes when it's really raining or snowing hard, opening your vents can make you wetter.


Breathability & Ventilation


Our water resistance metric measured how well each model keeps you dry from the outside, while our breathability and ventilation metric quantifies how well each keeps you dry from the inside by allowing sweat to escape.


Breathability Comparisons
We considered two main factors when awarding scores for this metric (which is weighted at 25% of our overall ratings). First, we thought about the fabric's breathability, and this is undoubtedly where waterproof technologies distinguish themselves from each other.

It is possible to sweat-out even a t-shirt if working hard enough. We've overheard far too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all or well enough for their needs  but in many of those cases they were wearing too many layers for the task at hand.
It is possible to sweat-out even a t-shirt if working hard enough. We've overheard far too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all or well enough for their needs, but in many of those cases they were wearing too many layers for the task at hand.

These multi-layered fabrics allow water vapor to be wicked through the material to the outside where it can evaporate. We also studied how well the features of a jacket allow for ventilation.

We compared each jacket's overall breathability as well as their ability to ventilate  allowing moisture and heat to escape. Here  wet skinning with intermediate sun-breaks and heavy snow flurries up the Southwest Face of Lichtenberg Mountain near Stevens Pass  WA.
We compared each jacket's overall breathability as well as their ability to ventilate, allowing moisture and heat to escape. Here, wet skinning with intermediate sun-breaks and heavy snow flurries up the Southwest Face of Lichtenberg Mountain near Stevens Pass, WA.

A Note on Breathability
Remember you can sweat-out while wearing a cotton or synthetic t-shirt when working hard or quickly walking up a hill. We've overheard too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all, or enough for their needs, but in many of those cases, they were wearing too many layers underneath their rain shell for the activity. All of the jackets reviewed here allow moisture to pass through them; however, none of them allow all the moisture you'd want to escape all the time, primarily if you're working hard at high exertion rate in warmer temperatures. Remember that sometimes your lightweight t-shirt can't breathe and pass moisture quick enough, and the same goes for rain jackets. Set yourself up for success and wear the minimum layers you can get away with while using the vents to maximize the air exchange and allow moisture and heat to escape.

Stripping off the warm Rab Xenon X after break time  with the Marmot Essence ready to continue the action. Blue Lake along the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies.
Stripping off the warm Rab Xenon X after break time, with the Marmot Essence ready to continue the action. Blue Lake along the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies.

To a significant degree, a garment's breathability is affected by the waterproof fabric itself, as well as the material it's constructed with or bonded to. However, in our review, the difference in face fabrics (the outer fabric you can see, and no that is not the waterproof part) or the interior material didn't vary significantly in thickness and material and thus didn't affect breathability as much as construction style and the waterproof membrane itself.

Breathability is an important factor when considering shells. At some point  you can't shed any more layers under your rain shell while hiking with a heavy pack uphill and you're going to sweat no matter the outside temperature. Here  Mark M pushes the breathability to the max on a Marmot PreCip Jacket on a wet approach to Mt. Baker  North Cascades  WA.
Breathability is an important factor when considering shells. At some point, you can't shed any more layers under your rain shell while hiking with a heavy pack uphill and you're going to sweat no matter the outside temperature. Here, Mark M pushes the breathability to the max on a Marmot PreCip Jacket on a wet approach to Mt. Baker, North Cascades, WA.

Due to its construction, Gore-tex Active and eVent were the most breathable waterproof fabrics tested. Gore-Tex PacLite and some PU laminates like Marmot's NanoPro or Black Diamond's BD.dry laminates proved to be pretty close, but in our testing, we found they couldn't entirely pass as much moisture as Gore-Tex Active.

There are a lot of pretty breathable fabrics out there  but in our side-by-side 10-minute stair master tests (and in real-world use) we found eVent to be the most breathable. Not by lots  but enough to notice. We even found that it was breathable enough that we would get cold faster during breaks.
There are a lot of pretty breathable fabrics out there, but in our side-by-side 10-minute stair master tests (and in real-world use) we found eVent to be the most breathable. Not by lots, but enough to notice. We even found that it was breathable enough that we would get cold faster during breaks.

We didn't find eVent or Gore-Tex Active to be FAR more breathable, but after side-by-side testing and real-world use, it won our review team over. A fabric's breathability is more important than ventilation when it is raining buckets. Why? We want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinch the hood to keep the water out. In stormy weather, the more active your endeavors, the more significant breathability becomes.

As useful as many ventilation features are  a fabric's breathability is more important than ventilation. When it is storming hard and you want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinching the hood  a breathable fabric is paramount.
As useful as many ventilation features are, a fabric's breathability is more important than ventilation. When it is storming hard and you want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinching the hood, a breathable fabric is paramount.

In the time between cloudbursts when you want to continue wearing your jacket for wind protection or as part of your layering system, ventilation can be nearly as crucial as breathability. Pit zips and mesh-lined pockets that allow airflow can be valuable features, depending on your activity. To a lesser extent, cuffs that adjust to allow for air circulation from the wrist give you some, though more limited, ventilation options. Indeed, ventilation, while undoubtedly important, takes a backseat to breathability for practical, real-world use.

We love the Foray. If you want a durable rain jacket with class-leading ventilation features  it's a great option.
We love the Foray. If you want a durable rain jacket with class-leading ventilation features, it's a great option.

Side-by-Side Hiking Test
We tested the breathability of these jackets in both real-world use while hiking and backpacking but also in a series of side-by-side rain tests. (The Pacific Northwest Fall served up plenty of rainy days to help us out.) We also performed a 10-minute stair master test (thanks, Vertical World Seattle).

After extensive testing  we thought the Rhyolite with eVent offered the most breathable fabric  but the Outdoor Research Foray with its huge poncho-style vents was the best at managing moisture and heat. Photo: Slayin' some pow on Tye Peak in an Arc'teryx Beta SL.
After extensive testing, we thought the Rhyolite with eVent offered the most breathable fabric, but the Outdoor Research Foray with its huge poncho-style vents was the best at managing moisture and heat. Photo: Slayin' some pow on Tye Peak in an Arc'teryx Beta SL.

The REI Drypoint GTX, which is constructed with Gore-Tex Active, breathes better than other model but offers little in the way of ventilation. The Drypoint was far less steamy inside during high-energy activities than any others, and we noticed ourselves getting colder during breaks when wearing the REI Drypoint GTX (faster than when wearing other contenders). During testing and in our all-zipped-up breathability comparison, other stand out performers include the Arc'teryx Beta SL and the Marmot Minimalist. While their performance was indeed a touch better than the Black Diamond Fineline, the REI Drypoint GTX was just barely edged out.

The Patagonia Torrentshell has large pit zips with easy-to-use pull strings on the zippers. Pit zips let the wearer ventilate the jacket for high energy activities. Other models  like the award-winning Marmot Precip  have mesh-lined pockets for additional ventilation. The Torrentshell's hand pockets are lined with waterproof fabric.
The Patagonia Torrentshell has large pit zips with easy-to-use pull strings on the zippers. Pit zips let the wearer ventilate the jacket for high energy activities. Other models, like the award-winning Marmot Precip, have mesh-lined pockets for additional ventilation. The Torrentshell's hand pockets are lined with waterproof fabric.

The Outdoor Research Foray also earned our highest possible score. Its Paclite fabric had excellent breathability that was among the very best in our fleet. Its TorsoFlo" design sets the Foray apart from others. What's that, you ask? Two lengthy zippers that extend from the hem of the jacket to the wearer's triceps (mid-upper arm), which allows the jacket to be opened, and to have a similar feeling to a poncho. Among coated jackets, the Marmot PreCip and the The North Face Venture 2 received respectable scores for breathability. While their fabrics weren't as breathable as the previously mentioned models, they featured larger than average pit zips and lower hand pockets that dumped more heat than you'd think when left open.

Comfort and mobility are extremely important factors that are often under-considered when purchasing a jacket. This is likely because there is less quantifiable metrics to go along with a given jackets mobility. Or some people might simply think "I am just hiking  I'm not climbing." However  whether crawling over a downed tree  setting up a tarp at camp  or climbing the most epic peak of your life  you'll repeatedly utilize the maximum mobility of your jacket. Josh Brewer (in a green Patagonia Torrentshell) and Alex Chew enjoy the fruits of their labor in camp  Jones Island State Park  WA.
Comfort and mobility are extremely important factors that are often under-considered when purchasing a jacket. This is likely because there is less quantifiable metrics to go along with a given jackets mobility. Or some people might simply think "I am just hiking, I'm not climbing." However, whether crawling over a downed tree, setting up a tarp at camp, or climbing the most epic peak of your life, you'll repeatedly utilize the maximum mobility of your jacket. Josh Brewer (in a green Patagonia Torrentshell) and Alex Chew enjoy the fruits of their labor in camp, Jones Island State Park, WA.

Comfort & Mobility


We tested these jackets in drizzles and downpours while hiking, climbing, playing disc golf, backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and backpacking. We also used them for everyday chores, like carrying groceries, helping a friend move in the pouring rain and chop some firewood.

Whatever activities you have planned  you want a jacket that moves with you  sealing out the elements without being restrictive. Our review team compared things like how effectively the hood moves with your head  and whether the jacket rides up  leaving your waist exposed when you raise your arms above your head. Photo: Peter Webb maxing the range of motion of his Arc'teryx Beta SL as he begins the rappels off the Canadian Rockies Mega Classic "The Professor Falls" (named after a falling professor rather than the name of a summertime waterfall).
Whatever activities you have planned, you want a jacket that moves with you, sealing out the elements without being restrictive. Our review team compared things like how effectively the hood moves with your head, and whether the jacket rides up, leaving your waist exposed when you raise your arms above your head. Photo: Peter Webb maxing the range of motion of his Arc'teryx Beta SL as he begins the rappels off the Canadian Rockies Mega Classic "The Professor Falls" (named after a falling professor rather than the name of a summertime waterfall).

Whatever activities you have planned, you want a jacket that moves comfortably with you. Our review team compared things like how efficiently does the hood move with your head and does it block your peripheral vision? Does the jacket ride up, leaving your waist exposed when you raise your arms above your head? We answer these questions in each jacket's review.


The above chart shows where each rain jacket landed on our comfort and mobility scale.

Range of motion is essential whether day hiking  on a moderate scramble  or on a technical route. Looking down on the second crux pitch of the mega-classic Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak  Central Cascades  WA. We opted to take the Outdoor Research Foray and Arc'teryx Beta SL for their exceptional freedom of movement for this climb.
Range of motion is essential whether day hiking, on a moderate scramble, or on a technical route. Looking down on the second crux pitch of the mega-classic Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak, Central Cascades, WA. We opted to take the Outdoor Research Foray and Arc'teryx Beta SL for their exceptional freedom of movement for this climb.

Within this metric, we also noted small features like a microfleece patch at the chin or soft fabric where the hood rests on your brow - both nice touches. We even considered ease of use. Are the cinch cords for the hood easy to access and adjust? Some jackets add small string or fabric pull tabs to the zipper pulls for ease of use with cold fingers or gloves.

We tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket by seeing how well we stayed covered while reaching straight out in front of us  as well as above our heads. This is where stretchy fabrics and specific designs really stood out. Here Graham McDowell tests the range of motion of the Patagonia Torrentshell while climbing the Southwest Rib of South Early Winter Spire near Washington Pass in an early season snowstorm.
We tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket by seeing how well we stayed covered while reaching straight out in front of us, as well as above our heads. This is where stretchy fabrics and specific designs really stood out. Here Graham McDowell tests the range of motion of the Patagonia Torrentshell while climbing the Southwest Rib of South Early Winter Spire near Washington Pass in an early season snowstorm.

The Arc'teryx Beta SL, REI Drypoint GTX, and Black Diamond Fineline all featured the best range of motion and mobility of any jacket reviewed, but each for slightly different reasons. The Beta SL has well-designed and articulated shoulders and sleeves, with an arm length that was above average, but not too long. Despite not being constructed with a stretchy fabric we could easily put our hands above our heads with almost no pull-back. The REI Drypoint GTX, and the Black Diamond Fineline are constructed with the stretchiest materials in our review, with the Fineline being slightly more stretchy; this, coupled with the model's top-tier ergonomics, give them the best overall mobility in our review. Other jackets were decent, but when it came to climbing and mobility-demanding activities, this was our favorite option.

Hood designs varied considerably between jackets. We appreciate a hood with the ability to keep the water out while still moving with you and allowing you to hang on to a good amount of your peripheral vision. Here  Tester Ian Nicholson tends a backcountry breakfast on a stormy morning.
Hood designs varied considerably between jackets. We appreciate a hood with the ability to keep the water out while still moving with you and allowing you to hang on to a good amount of your peripheral vision. Here, Tester Ian Nicholson tends a backcountry breakfast on a stormy morning.


The Marmot Minimalist, Outdoor Research Foray, and Outdoor Research Helium II also had good mobility and received the next highest rating in this metric. The Marmot Phoenix also sported above average movement and The North Face Venture 2, while baggy, didn't limit our mobility much at all.

Hood Design
The effectiveness of each model's hood at keeping our heads dry while not chaffing our chins or cutting off our peripheral vision varied wildly among models. Our favorite hoods were the Arc'teryx Beta SL and the REI Drypoint GPX, while the Outdoor Research Foray, Black Diamond Fineline scored right behind them. All three of these jackets featured hoods that cinched down over a range of headwear, from beanies to baseball caps, and minimized the amount of peripheral vision loss. We like the Marmot Minimalist, Patagonia Torrentshell, and The North Face Dryzzle's hoods, but they didn't fit over a helmet as nicely.

Graham Zimmerman in the lightest and most compressable jacket in our review  the Outdoor Research Helium II  while climbing in the North Cascades.
Graham Zimmerman in the lightest and most compressable jacket in our review, the Outdoor Research Helium II, while climbing in the North Cascades.

Weight


For some users, light is right. We value lightweight clothing and equipment, but not at the expense of the functionality of a given piece of equipment for its required tasks. If you're thru-hiking 2,000 miles, climbing technical terrain, or riding your bicycle from coast to coast, weight is your primary concern. Around town, weight is less significant and keeping your hands cozy may take priority.


Many jacket users have several priorities above weight, including breathability, comfort, and the right combination of features. Let weight be the final deciding factor if you're torn between two products that meet your needs.

A small break in the storm as the sun pops out on day 6 of the Isolation Traverse. Snow Field Peak and the Neve Glacier in the background and an REI Rhyolite jacket in the foreground. On extended trips like this  weight and comprehensibility balanced with durability become greater considerations.
A small break in the storm as the sun pops out on day 6 of the Isolation Traverse. Snow Field Peak and the Neve Glacier in the background and an REI Rhyolite jacket in the foreground. On extended trips like this, weight and comprehensibility balanced with durability become greater considerations.

The Outdoor Research Helium II is the straight-up lightest model tested, weighing in at 6.5 ounces. That's half the weight (or even less) of most of the jackets reviewed. If weight is your primary concern, this contender is pretty hard to beat and is one of the lightest waterproof breathable models currently available. We were impressed that while the Helium isn't feature-rich, it has most of the features many people find most important, such as above-average mobility, a well-designed hood, and a tiny stuff pocket with a clip-in loop.

The next lightest jackets tested were the Black Diamond Fineline (eight ounces) which for being only 1.5 ounces heavier, was built with a stretchier material and offered better breathability overall. The REI Drypoint GPX (10 ounces) which was the lightest of Gore-Tex or eVent contenders was also impressively light, and all tipped the scales less than our Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Beta SL (11 ounces).

Jackets stuffed and ready to travel. The jackets we evaluated that do not stuff into one of their pockets can be rolled into their hood as shown here. L-R top row: Helium and Minimus  Essence  Resolve  Minimalist. Bottom row: Torrentshell  Venture  PreCip  Watertight.
Jackets stuffed and ready to travel. The jackets we evaluated that do not stuff into one of their pockets can be rolled into their hood as shown here. L-R top row: Helium and Minimus, Essence, Resolve, Minimalist. Bottom row: Torrentshell, Venture, PreCip, Watertight.

Packed Size


Weather changes quickly. At some point, we've all been caught in a storm, getting soaked when we left our jacket at the then-sunny trailhead. These just-in-case packing scenarios are when having a super light, and compact rain shell is useful. Grab it from the car, throw it in, and forget it until you need it. Seven of these jackets stuff into one of their own pockets and others can be rolled and stuffed into their hoods. Our rating for packed size considers not only the compressed size, but the ease of using the integrated stuff pocket.


Some of these jackets compress quite small, but it requires wrestling to get them stowed; others comfortably fit into their stuff pocket. A clip-in loop (for use after the jacket has been stuffed) is a nice feature that many climbers will appreciate and use at some point; check the individual reviews for this detail, as well as a photo of each beside a 1-liter Nalgene bottle. As for weight, the Outdoor Research Helium II was by the most compact jacket, with the Black Diamond Fineline, REI Drypoint and the Patagonia Torrentshell all coming in at very close seconds as the next most compressible. Among the price-pointed models, the Marmot Precip offered the most compact size.

Peter Webb puts his Arc'teryx Beta SL jacket to the test during some wetter than ideal conditions while alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies.
Peter Webb puts his Arc'teryx Beta SL jacket to the test during some wetter than ideal conditions while alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies.

Features


As we've described above, the products tested range from bare-bones designs to fully featured models. For some adventures, super light is right, but more often a few pockets and pit zips contribute enough utility for the extra 2-4 ounces not to matter. If you are wearing your jacket around town, room in the pockets for a pair of gloves and a warm hat, plus phone and keys is always nice. Some folks like to use a rain hat; a hood that rolls away and stows can be appreciated.

The Helium II is super light and very compact  making it an excellent jacket to carry along on multi-pitch rock climbs. The Marmot Essence is a far more breathable ultralight jacket for high energy use  but the Helium blocks the wind much better. Brandon Lampley getting ready for the afternoon showers at Lumpy Ridge near Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Helium II is super light and very compact, making it an excellent jacket to carry along on multi-pitch rock climbs. The Marmot Essence is a far more breathable ultralight jacket for high energy use, but the Helium blocks the wind much better. Brandon Lampley getting ready for the afternoon showers at Lumpy Ridge near Rocky Mountain National Park.

After detailing the jacket's performance in each metric, we provide an additional rundown of the jacket's features, from the hood all the way down to the waist hem, which can be found in the product's individual review. If you want to know exactly where the hem cord locks are, we'll let you know!

Nice features include a microfleece lined zipper and good fitting cuffs. Here tester Ian Nicholson with The North Face Dryzzle's under-the-helmet fitting hood on a very wet day.
Nice features include a microfleece lined zipper and good fitting cuffs. Here tester Ian Nicholson with The North Face Dryzzle's under-the-helmet fitting hood on a very wet day.

Pockets
Having a few pockets on your jacket is useful. Besides the use of storing small items and having a convenient place to keep your hands warm, their location can affect the comfort of the jacket. Having low hand warmer pockets are great for around town but can be a nuisance while wearing a harness or heavy pack.

We love when the pockets are slightly elevated like the ones shown here on the Arc'teryx Beta SL. Not only do they still provide a nice place to put your hands  but we can we access them while wearing a backpacking hip-belt or harness without a zipper digging into our hips.
We love when the pockets are slightly elevated like the ones shown here on the Arc'teryx Beta SL. Not only do they still provide a nice place to put your hands, but we can we access them while wearing a backpacking hip-belt or harness without a zipper digging into our hips.

When out on adventures that require wearing a pack, when a majority of the jacket's pocket is under a weighted hip-belt, whether out for the day or an extended trip, the pocket's zipper can dig into your hips, making your rainy-day outing even more miserable. We love pockets that are higher and out of the way of a pack's hip-belt or a harness, so we can still access items and, more importantly, so the zipper doesn't cause us pain under heavy loads. For less technical applications, low pockets are slightly more helpful and more comfortable for keeping your hands warm.

A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands of your activities - if it becomes ripped or shredded  no amount of features or special designs will keep you dry. Chris Simrell crossing the upper Elwah River in the Olympic Mountains  WA. This Patagonia Torrentshell jacket withstood quite a bit of bushwhacking use and abuse  particularly considering its weight and price.
A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands of your activities - if it becomes ripped or shredded, no amount of features or special designs will keep you dry. Chris Simrell crossing the upper Elwah River in the Olympic Mountains, WA. This Patagonia Torrentshell jacket withstood quite a bit of bushwhacking use and abuse, particularly considering its weight and price.

Durability


A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands you place on it. The chart below shows each jacket's durability score in our review.


The face fabric of most of these jackets is nylon or polyester. For the most part, the lighter the face fabric is, the easier it tears. Most of the jackets tested use between a 30-50 Denier face fabric with the 50D shells being more robust than the 30Ds. All but the Columbia Watertight II feature ripstop material. The ripstop weave doubles up on the thread at intervals, providing a grid of strong fibers to stop tears from growing once a rip has occurred.

Nothing like starting a trip on a very  very rainy day in Washington's North Cascades to learn a lot about different models and how they compare to one another.
Nothing like starting a trip on a very, very rainy day in Washington's North Cascades to learn a lot about different models and how they compare to one another.

Other models use a polyester exterior, which is known to be stretchier and more durable than nylon. If you plan to use your jacket off trail or while bushwhacking, choose a model with ripstop face fabric, and do consider a polyester model. Lastly, jackets with fewer seams in the shoulders hold up better if you plan to carry a pack on a regular basis.

Dan Whitmore testing a North Face Venture jacket during an extremely wet trip to Washington's North Cascades National Park. The Venture  with its 50D external face fabric  was on the tougher end of jackets we tested.
Dan Whitmore testing a North Face Venture jacket during an extremely wet trip to Washington's North Cascades National Park. The Venture, with its 50D external face fabric, was on the tougher end of jackets we tested.

The Marmot Minimalist and the Outdoor Research Foray both pair 50D polyester ripstop face fabrics and with Gore-Tex Paclite, and the Marmot Phoenix, all earned the highest durability scores. Other jackets, such as the Patagonia Torrentshell, and REI Crestrail pulled in a 7 out of 10. We focused mostly on each jacket's face fabric and construction when judging durability longevity and tear-resistance. While some DWR treatments are longer lasting than others, all need maintenance and reapplication to match the lifespan of the jacket. We reflected on each jacket's DWR longevity in their durability and water resistance scores.

We hope you enjoyed the review and that it helped you make your selection  until next time...
We hope you enjoyed the review and that it helped you make your selection, until next time...

Conclusion


Figuring out which rain jacket is right for you is more complicated than it might seem at first glance. While keeping you dry is the goal, features like ventilation can make a big difference in day to day use. We hope that our review and test results have helped you narrow down to one or two jackets that fit your situation. If you are still not sure, consider having a look at our buying advice article.
Ian Nicholson

  • Share this article:

Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.

You Might Also Like