Best Rain Jackets

Best Rain Jackets

Learn about our top picks for rain gear for your next hiking or backpacking adventure!

Having the right outer layer (also referred to as “rain gear,” “shells,” or “hard shells”) is arguably one of the most important pieces of clothing for safe and enjoyable hiking and backpacking adventures. Below we provide our recommendations for the best rain jackets on the market today. We’ve evaluated these jackets based on their weight, bulk, waterproofing, breathability, and extra features. Because weight is critical for backcountry hiking trips, we’ve skipped over heavier options such as winter jackets or ski jackets and focused 100% on lightweight, waterproof, breathable shells. So let’s dive in with important buying considerations and then review our top recommendations for the best rain jackets for hiking!

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QUICK LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Overall Best Rain Jacket for Hiking – Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Shell

Runner Up Best Rain Jacket for HikingPatagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

Best Rain Jacket for Budget Minded HikersREI Groundbreaker Rain Jacket 2.0

Best Rain Jacket for a Durable, Bombproof ShellArc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket

Best Rain Jacket for Lightweight Protection – Outdoor Research Helium

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Weight

Weight is a critically important factor for all clothing and gear on hiking and backpacking trips. None of our recommendations are heavy by any means, but there is still a range of options to consider.

If you’re aiming to find the most lightweight rain jacket, keep in mind that durability and performance often trend downward with lower weights while the price often goes up. However, heavier rain jackets often take up more space in your pack and feel bulkier when wearing them on the trail. Therefore, consider your priorities between weight, price, durability, and performance to pick out the best rain jacket for you.

Packability

Backpacks don’t expand, at least not very much. This fact is what makes packability such a crucial consideration for all hikers. Whether your hike is for a day, a week, a month, or several months, you need your gear to fit into a backpack with an ever-changing load of other supplies.

When you need it, your rain gear is important – we’re talking “life and death” important. But the rest of the time, it’s probably not something you want to be wearing or have occupying an exorbitant amount of space in your pack. Therefore, the best rain jackets will perform phenomenally when needed and be easy to pack up when they’re not. Finding the perfect balance between these two characteristics is a constant challenge for manufacturers, so keep an eye on your potential range jacket’s packability rating to gauge how easy it is to store in your backpack.

Comfort

Sadly, rain jackets are often not among our “comfy” layers. They have a very narrow field of use, and comfort just isn’t a high priority for these garments. So perhaps the name of this category should be Level of Discomfort, but alas, we’ve already named it, so we’re going with it.

We’ve rated the comfort of our recommendations as Poor, Good, or Excellent. However, please keep in mind that we’re talking about your rainproof, windproof outer layers here, and it’s a very different standard than down jackets or wool socks, for example. So season our comfort recommendations with the knowledge that rain jackets have a low bar for comfort in the traditional sense. The best rain jackets will be comfortable enough to wear during hiking and adventuring, but you certainly won’t want to snuggle up with them at night.

Breathability

Like our comfort category, rain gear breathability needs context. Rain jackets marketed as breathable simply mean that they allow slightly more airflow than a truly non-breathable fabric – like a plastic garbage bag. The latter is unbearable and perhaps dangerous for physical activities, whereas the former is manageable. So at times, a waterproof and breathable rain jacket doesn’t feel that much better, but – and here’s the important point – it does feel somewhat better.

We’ve rated the breathability of our recommendations below in the context that these are waterproof outer layers, and you’re going to get condensation inside your jacket no matter what. But small amounts of improvement in the Breathability department can pay large dividends on long days of hiking in unrelenting rain, wind, or snow.

Pit Zips

Pit zips can be very helpful. There’s no doubt about it, so let’s talk about them. If you don’t know what a pit zip is, it is a zippered opening under your armpit. Because it’s under your arm, and rain comes from the sky, water will not easily get inside your shell. Additionally, your armpit is also where a lot of warmth is generated and stored by the body, so venting it out can help cool you down and cut down on condensation inside your jacket.

Not all the best rain jackets have pit zips, as some hikers love this feature and others prefer not to have it. Therefore, we’ve noted whether our recommendations include them, so you can use this as another factor in making your decision.

Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell

Overall Best Rain Jacket for hiking

MSRP: $149.00

WEIGHT: 10-11 oz

PACKABILITY: Excellent

BREATHABILITY: Good

PIT ZIPS: Yes

PROS: Comfort – Warmth – Breathability (pit zips) – Durability – Helmet-sized hood – Stretchy for easy movement

CONS: Helmet-sized hood not for everyone – Fit may run slightly large

STRAIGHT TALK: We love Black Diamond’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell. It is a lightweight, bomber rain jacket that will keep the rain and wind out and the warmth in. Its stretchy fabric also increases comfort, durability, and mobility – which is perfect for hiking – while its cut is such that most people won’t have any trouble adding layers beneath it. However, this cut may also give this rain jacket a slightly baggy feel if you’re only wearing a thin layer underneath.

The Stormline Stretch is also an affordable option compared to the highest-end rain gear ($500-$800). Additionally, it features pit zips to increase breathability, and the outer coating is – from our experience – one of the most long-lasting. Put all these fantastic features together, and Black Diamond has developed one of the best rain jackets for hiking.

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Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

Runner Up Best Rain JackeT for Hiking

MSRP: $149.00

WEIGHT: 12.5-13.9 oz

PACKABILITY: Excellent

BREATHABILITY: Good

PIT ZIPS: Yes

PROS: Durability – Breathability – Packability – Active fit – Environmentally ethical production

CONS: Slim fit not for everyone – Stiff at first

STRAIGHT TALK: Patagonia’s Torrentshell 3L Jacket features 3-layers of waterproof/breathable polyester (hence the “3L” in the name). These layers significantly increase this jacket’s durability while still maintaining excellent weight and packability. This jacket also has a water-resistant coating on the outer layer, increasing its protection from rain and snow, along with pit zips for improved breathability. The fit is, for some, the biggest downside. It has a sleek, active cut, making it an awkward fit for people who are between sizes.

It packs snugly into a side pocket with a handy carabiner loop to connect to the side or back of your backpack. Finally, at an MSRP of $149.00, this jacket provides a tremendous amount of value for its price to make it one of the best rain jackets on the market today.

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REI Co-op Groundbreaker Rain Jacket 2.0

Best Rain Jacket For the Budget-Minded Hiker

MSRP: $59.95

WEIGHT: 13-15 oz

PACKABILITY: Good

BREATHABILITY: Average

PIT ZIPS: No

PROS: Affordability – Waterproof/breathable – Windproof

CONS: Durability – Breathability (no pit zips)

STRAIGHT TALK: REI’s Groundbreaker 2.0 rain jacket provides tremendous value relative to its budget-friendly price. This jacket does its job well with two waterproof/breathable layers and an outer coating to increase water resistance. Without pit zips, its breathability is good but not excellent, and the 2-layer design is a slight step down in durability from 3-layer rain jackets. Still, REI’s Groundbreaker is one of the best rain jackets for someone who needs a rain jacket only occasionally or for a special occasion – like a guided backpacking trip.

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Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket

Best rain jacket for a Durable, bombproof shell

MSRP: $799.00

WEIGHT: 16-18 oz

PACKABILITY: Good

BREATHABILITY: Excellent

PIT ZIPS: Yes

PROS: Durability – High level of protection – Long-lasting –Breathability – Convenient pockets – Fit and comfort

CONS: Cost – Weight

STRAIGHT TALK: The bottom line is if cost is not a concern and you want the very best rain jacket you can find, Arc’teryx’s Alpha SV Jacket is our top choice. Built for harsh alpine conditions, this shell provides superior protection from the elements. With patented GORE-TEX technology, it does not rely on a coating to create its waterproofness. GORE-TEX is a high-tech, waterproof, breathable fabric that out-performs coated synthetic layers – which many less expensive options use.

This jacket is also more durable and more breathable than its less expensive counterparts. Additionally, its cut is masterful and will accommodate mobility and comfort while wearing many layers beneath it. The downsides are its weight (part of the price to pay for its durability and protection) and cost. However, if you’ll be using your rain/wind layer often for hiking or other adventures, then the cost may well be worth it to get one of the best rain jackets for long-term reliability and durability.

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Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket

Best Rain Jacket For lightweight protection

MSRP: $159.00

WEIGHT: 5.6-6.3 oz

PACKABILITY: Excellent

BREATHABILITY: Good

PIT ZIPS: No

PROS: Shockingly light – Very packable

CONS: Durability – Breathability – Performance

STRAIGHT TALK: Outdoor Research’s Helium Rain Jacket is a phenomenally lightweight outer shell. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of saving weight on hiking and backpacking trips, but it’s also imperative that you stay dry on your trips. This option checks both these boxes and is certainly one of the best rain jackets available in this regard. The price, however, is durability. Do not expect this shell to stand up to repeated abuse, and be prepared to take good care of it. All in all, if saving weight is your top priority, this rain jacket offers a great option for a reasonable price.

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WHY TRUST US?

Choosing the right outdoor gear and apparel can be difficult. But at Wildland Trekking, we live and work with hiking gear every single day. It’s an integral part of what we do, and we understand better than anyone how important it is to have the right equipment. In addition to our vast knowledge of backpacking gear, we also offer:

  • Independence – our recommendations are not influenced by partnerships or sponsorships with outdoor gear and apparel manufacturers.
  • Experience – as one of America’s top guide companies, we take 8,000-10,000 people on hiking and backpacking tours annually. Since our inception in 2005, we have guided more than 75,000 people into the wilderness.
  • Cutting Edge Knowledge – we regularly attend trade shows and pay close attention to the leading edge of new developments.
  • Up To Date Recommendations – we update our recommendations regularly as new products are developed and released.
  • Dedication to our Readers – we know that the gear we select as our top picks will end up in the field with our readers, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We view our readers as guests on our guided trips, just without the guides. We are committed to helping you be as well-outfitted and prepared as possible for your adventures.

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. At no cost to you, we earn a commission on any products purchased through these links. Any proceeds go to supporting our blog and operations. These affiliate links do not influence the products that we include in our gear round-ups. We only recommend products that we 100% support and that we have used in the field.