15 Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking

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There are so many different types of rain jackets available in the stores today. The features vary quite a bit from one jacket to the next. Making a solid choice can feel overwhelming for many hikers. Don’t worry, we have done all the research for you. In this guide the choices have been narrowed down to the 15 newest and best rain jackets for men and women to take on day hikes, weekend hiking trips, or longer backpacking adventures.

This awesome collection showcases versatile jackets that will protect against the most extreme wet weather conditions. You will also find lightweight rain jackets that are super packable and perfect to use as an emergency shell. A waterproof hiking jacket is essential to keep you safe and comfortable for long stretches of wet weather.

This guide first covers the top rain jacket picks for 2021. The jackets are organized (roughly) from heaviest to lightest in weight.

Further down, we discuss all the most important features of rain jackets that will help you choose the best rain jacket for your needs.

Best rain jackets for hiking or backpacking

Here is a quick overview of our top picks. These are the best quality and best value rain jackets for hiking and backpacking that you can get right now.

Jacket / PriceWeightWaterproof TechPit ZippersSelf-Packing Stuff Sack
Arc’teryx Beta AR
(MEN | WOMEN)
460 grams (men), 410 grams (women)3-layer GORE-TEX ProYesNo
Marmot Minimalist
(MEN | WOMEN)
422 grams (men), 386 grams (women)2.5 layer GORE-TEX PacliteYesNo
Outdoor Research MicroGravity
(MEN | WOMEN)
414 grams (men), 338 grams (women)Ascentshell 3-layerNoYes
Outdoor Research Motive
(MEN | WOMEN)
413 grams (men)Ascentshell 3-layerNoYes
REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX
(MEN | WOMEN)
413 grams (men), 352 grams (women)3-layer GORE-TEXYesNo
Patagonia Calcite
(MEN | WOMEN)
411 grams (men), 371 grams (women)2.5-layer GORE-TEX Paclite PlusYesNo
Patagonia Rainshadow
(MEN | WOMEN)
397 grams (men), 346 grams (women)3-layer H2NoYesYes
Arc’teryx Beta LT
(MEN | WOMEN)
395 grams (men), 350 grams (women)3-layer GORE-TEXYesNo
Black Diamond Liquid Point
(MEN | WOMEN)
395 grams (men), 350 grams (women)2.5 layer GORE-TEX PacliteYesNo
Patagonia Torrentshell
(MEN | WOMEN)
394 grams (men), 354 grams (women)3-layer H2NoYesYes
Outdoor Research Interstellar
(MEN | WOMEN)
335 grams (men), 285 grams (women)3-layer AscentShellNoYes
Black Diamond StormLine
(MEN | WOMEN)
320 grams (men), 270 grams (women)BD.dry 2.5-layerYesYes
Arc’teryx Zeta SL
(MEN | WOMEN)
310 grams (men), 270 grams (women)2-layer GORE-TEX Paclite PlusNoNo
REI Co-op Drypoint GTX
(MEN | WOMEN)
298 grams (men), 244 grams (women)3-layer GORE-TEXNoNo
Outdoor Research Helium
(MEN | WOMEN)
179 grams (men), 159 grams (women)2.5-layer Pertex Shield NoYes

1) Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

This jacket is light, packable, durable and super versatile. You may use it in a wide range of weather conditions in all four seasons. The Arc’teryx Beta AR jacket offers a totally waterproof and windproof construction and is made using GORE-TEX Pro laminate. It is the most expensive jacket on this list because it can be worn all year round thus delivers extra value compared to other jackets. The Beta AR jacket stands up to heavy rain, torrential downpours, and harsh snow conditions. It is available in four different colors.

  • 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro fabric is light, waterproof, windproof, and breathable
  • Durable 100% nylon 40D main body, 80D in high wear areas
  • Treated with durable water repellent (DWR) for extra protection
  • Helmet compatible DropHood and laminated brim
  • High pockets are backpack compatible
  • WaterTight (water-resistant) zippers in front and pockets
  • Pit zippers for easy and rapid ventilation
  • Taped seams for extra weatherproofing
  • Gusseted underarms
  • Regular fit, longer length for added coverage
  • 460 grams (men), 410 grams (women)

2) Marmot Minimalist Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Marmot Minimalist is an affordable and protective rain jacket that is packable, waterproof, windproof, and breathable. If you want to save some money and be protected in most wet weather conditions, this is a good pick.

  • 2.5 layer GORE-TEX Paclite 100% recycled polyester fabric is waterproof, wind-resistant, and breathable
  • PFC-free water-repellent finish for extra wet weather resistance
  • 100% fully taped seams adds extra waterproofing
  • Pit zips for ventilation
  • Chest pocket with water-resistant zippers
  • Two zippered hand pockets
  • Storm flap over front main zipper with velcro fastening
  • Angel-Wing Movement arm design provides extra mobility
  • 422 grams (men), 386 grams (women)

3) Outdoor Research MicroGravity AscentShell Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The MicroGravity AscentShell jacket is the most breathable and protective rain jacket that is made by Outdoor Research. It will fend off nasty weather for all seasons of the year.

Check REI price (MEN | WOMEN)

  • Ascentshell 3-layer 100% nylon fabric (20D and 45D) is durable, waterproof, windproof, breathable, and stretchy
  • 100% polyester 30D knit backer
  • Halo hood will fit over most helmets
  • Underarms made of DynamicReach material to increase ease of movement
  • Fully taped seams
  • YKK AquaGuard zippers
  • Internal storm flap for main center zipper
  • Zipper chest and hand pockets
  • Left hand pocket works as a stuff sack
  • 414 grams (men), 338 grams (women)

4) Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell jacket is the lightest 3-layer waterproof rain jacket of the AscentShell series. According to Outdoor Research, the AscentShell technology breathes faster, weighs less, and is stretchier (great for ease of movement) compared to other 3-layer fabric technologies.

  • Ascentshell 3-layer waterproof, windproof, breathable shell construction
  • 100% polyester 50D mechanical stretch plain weave
  • 100% polyester 30D knit backer
  • Streamlined fit
  • Internal chest pocket
  • Two front hand pockets (left is a stuff sack)
  • Stretchy material
  • Fully taped seams
  • YKK AquaGuard zippers
  • Adjustable hood
  • 413 grams (men), weight not available for women’s

5) REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX jacket is one of the most affordable 3-layer GORE-TEX fabric jackets that you can buy right now. It is a hardshell jacket that I carry in my pack and use as a rain jacket in Colorado during the summer. I also use it on winter hikes as an outer layer worn over an insulating layer such as a fleece jacket. I am super happy with the performance. So far, no complaints. Pro tip: When new colors of this jacket are introduced, the old color styles go on sale at a significant discount (30-50 percent off the full price).

  • 3-layer GORE-TEX waterproof, windproof, breathable laminate
  • 30D ripstop nylon body, 40D ripstop nylon shoulders
  • Fully taped seams for extra weather protection
  • Pit zips for quick ventilation
  • Hand pockets are set high to be backpack compatible
  • 3-way adjustable hood is helmet compatible
  • 413 grams (men), 352 grams (women)

6) Patagonia Calcite Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Patagonia Calcite jacket will protect you from sudden weather changes such as summer thunderstorms. Or, use this jacket for winter hikes in moderate conditions with an insulating layer underneath.

  • 2.5-layer GORE-TEX Paclite Plus waterproof and breathable fabric
    • 3.4-oz 75D 100% recycled polyester
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • DWR coated watertight zippers (center front zipper, pit zips, and pockets)
  • Pit zippers for ventilation
  • 411 grams (men), 371 grams (women)

7) Patagonia Rainshadow Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Patagonia Rainshadow jacket is a fantastic lightweight, comfortable, and stretchy rain jacket that will protect you for extended periods of wet weather.

  • 3-layer H2No Performance Standard long term waterproof and breathable shell
  • DWR coated watertight zippers (center front zipper, pit zips, and pockets)
  • Pit zippers for ventilation
  • 1 chest pocket and two hand pockets
  • Chest pocket is a stuff sack
  • Adjustable hood with laminated visor
  • Adjustable hem
  • 397 grams (men), 346 grams (women)

8) Arc’teryx Beta LT Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

This is a brand new jacket for 2021 and the newest on this list. The Arc’teryx Beta LT is a versatile, lightweight, full protection, and super comfortable GORE-TEX rain shell. This rain jacket is available in 5 different colors for both men and women. It is a solid choice if it fits your budget. Arc’teryx make premium products and you can tell that this company puts a lot of thought into the details of their designs.

  • 3-layer GORE-TEX fabric is waterproof, windproof, and breathable
  • Helmet compatible StormHood
  • Easy access hand pockets
  • WaterTight (water-resistant) zippers in front and pockets
  • Pit zips for fast ventilation on the go
  • Articulated design increases ease of movement
  • Trim fit with drop hem
  • 395 grams (men), 350 grams (women)

9) Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell (MEN | WOMEN)

The Liquid Point Shell by Black Diamond is a lightweight, packable, high performance hardshell jacket that can also be used as a rain jacket. Personally, I am a fan of these types of jackets because of the wide range of potential usage. If you live in a relatively dry climate you may use it in all 4 seasons as a protective outer layer.

  • 2.5 layer GORE-TEX Paclite 100% polyester (75D) is waterproof and breathable
  • DWR finish for extra weatherproofing
  • Helmet compatible adjustable hood
  • Two hand pockets
  • 2-way pit zips for rapid ventilation and body temperature regulation
  • 395 grams (men), 350 grams (women)

10) Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Patagonia Torrentshell jacket is the most affordable 3-layer waterproof fabric rain jacket on this list.

  • 3-layer H2No provides exceptional waterproof and breathable performance
  • DWR finish for extra weather resistance
  • Microfleece-lined neck is super comfortable
  • Pit zippers for quick ventilation
  • Two zippered pockets with storm flaps
  • Center zipper has internal and external storm flaps
  • Adjustable hood
  • Jacket stuffs into the left pocket that has a carabiner clip
  • 394 grams (men), 354 grams (women)

Check REI price: MEN | WOMEN

11) Outdoor Research Interstellar AscentShell Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Interstellar AscentShell jacket falls into a category of high performance hardshell jacket but totally works (and then some) as a rain jacket.

  • 3-layer AscentShell waterproof, windproof, breathable fabric
  • 100% nylon (20D) durable face
  • 100% polyester 12D backer
  • Fully taped seams for extra weatherproofness
  • YKK AquaGuard zippers for pockets
  • YKK AquaGuard Vislon center zipper provides enhanced weather resistance
  • Internal front storm flap increases weatherproofness
  • Hand pockets are higher up for backpack compatibility (left pocket is a stuff sack)
  • DynamicReach stretchy underarm panels improve mobility
  • Helmet compatible, adjustable hood
  • Wire brimmed Halo hood
  • 335 grams (men), 285 grams (women)

12) Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell (MEN | WOMEN)

The Stormline rain shell is a very good combination of being protective, lightweight, and affordable.

  • BD.dry 2.5-layer, two-way stretch woven face is waterproof, windproof, and breathable
  • Underarm gussets and stretchy fabric increases mobility
  • Right hand pocket is a stuff sack with a clip
  • DWR finish for extra wet weather resistance
  • DWR sealed pit zips
  • Waterproof main front zipper
  • Two zippered hand pockets
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • 320 grams (men), 270 grams (women)

13) Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Arc’eryx Zeta SL jacket is made for summer hikes and backpacking trips. It is designed to work as an emergency shell to protect you against sudden changes in weather. This is a great option for climates like here in Colorado. For the most part it is dry and warm. However, in the summer, in the high country, afternoon storms are common. This super lightweight rain jacket packs up small, and is a perfect jacket to stuff in your backpack and leave it there until the moment you need it. This jacket works for passing rain and storms but won’t stand up to persistent or heavy wet weather. Ventilation may be an issue with this jacket due to the absence of pit zips.

  • 2-layer Waterproof GORE-TEX fabric with Paclite Plus technology
  • Articulated patterning and design for ease of movement
  • Taped seams for added weatherproofness
  • Gusseted underarms
  • StormHood (not helmet compatible) with halo adjuster
  • Minimalist design is lightweight (therefore less durable)
  • WaterTight front zipper and hand pockets
  • Trim fit and drop hem
  • 310 grams (men), 270 grams (women)

14) REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Drypoint GTX jacket by REI Co-op is the lightest weight 3-layer GORE-TEX jacket on this list. This makes it the ultimate emergency rain jacket that is super packable and very effective for protection against sudden storms. The one feature that is missing that I feel is mandatory on any jacket is pit zips. However, it does offer some ventilation if you open the mesh lined hand pockets.

  • 3-layer GORE-TEX Active waterproof, windproof, breathable laminate (20D nylon)
  • Fully taped seams for extra water-resistance
  • Mesh lined hand pockets double as a core ventilation system (no pit zips)
  • Hand pockets are set high for backpack compatibility
  • 298 grams (men), 244 grams (women)

15) Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket (MEN | WOMEN)

The Helium rain jacket by Outdoor Research is truly the most minimalist rain jacket on this list. It offers an incredible combination of being durable and super lightweight. This jacket really defines what is an emergency rain jacket for protection against sudden and short-lived storms. It is not a jacket that you would want to use in persistent and heavy wet weather that one encounters in the Pacific North West. No pit zips are found in this jacket which is a drawback in warm weather or climates.

  • 2.5-layer Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse is waterproof, windproof and breathable
  • 100% nylon, 30D ripstop fabric is durable
  • Fully seam taped
  • Chest pocket is a convenient stuff sack
  • YKK AquaGuard zippers provide extra water resistance
  • Elastic cuffs (not adjustable velcro)
  • 179 grams (men), 159 grams (women)

Rain jacket buying advice for hikers + backpackers

The best rain jackets for hiking and backpacking should be packable, waterproof, windproof, breathable and offer a means of rapid ventilation in order to remain safe and comfortable on your hikes. The rain jackets that we featured above do check all of these boxes according to the brands. However, some offer additional features, or much perform better over longer periods of wet weather. Think about all the different weather conditions (and the severity) that you will face where you hike. This will determine which features you will need in your rain jacket.

Value considerations

The price range of the jackets we featured in this guide is $149 at the low end and $599 at the high end.

In most cases, you get what you pay for in a rain jacket.

Cheaper jackets offer fewer features, are generally lighter in weight, are often less durable, and are going to have a shorter lifespan.

The more expensive jackets offer more features and greater protection against persistent and severe wet weather conditions. 3-layer GORE-TEX (or equivalent fabric) jackets are typically the most expensive and perform the best in heavy rain. Some of these jackets may also be used in winter as a protective outer hardshell worn over an insulating layer. The materials used are heavier (higher denier numbers, 20D/40D/80D etc.) in weight and are more durable, so the jackets will last longer.

Types of rain jackets: Hardshells vs softshells

A hardshell jacket is one that is made of waterproof, windproof, and breathable fabric. You can wear it for protection over a base layer or an insulating layer. This is what you want to wear in persistent wet weather to ensure that you stay dry and warm.

A softshell jacket offers a combination of insulation and water resistance from durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the jacket exterior. These jackets are okay for a short periods of time in lighter precipitation, whether that be rain or snow.

Categories of rain jackets

You will find hundreds of rain jackets at REI. They can be divided into different usage categories. Some are not appropriate for hiking and backpacking.

Daily use rain jackets

These are the cheapest rain jackets you will find. They are not intended to be used on the trails. Rather for casual use around town in locations such as the Pacific North West, British Columbia, the maritimes on the East coast, or in countries such as the United Kingdom where wet weather is more frequent. This type of rain jacket is not designed for high performance or packability. The focus is more on affordability and style.

Hiking and backpacking rain jackets

This category of rain jackets has hiking and backpacking in mind when it comes to features. Hiking rain jackets are designed to be lightweight, packable, and also offer a high level of weather resistance by offering solid protection against heavy rain and high winds. Jackets that use GORE-TEX Paclite technology (or equivalent) fall into this category. Hiking and backpacking rain jackets are perfect for stashing in your daypack to use as an emergency shell on your Spring, Summer, or Fall hikes.

High-performance rain jackets

High-performance rain jackets are more robust like the most protective hardshell jackets. They are intended to protect you from very extreme weather in all four seasons of the year. Jackets that are made using 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro fabric fall into this category. The fabric is more durable, more breathable, stretchy, and provides full waterproof and windproof protection. Pockets are typically set high so that they are compatible with a backpack that has a hip belt or a climbing harness. Hoods are more robust and are often compatible with helmets. Common features include pit zips for ventilation, taped seams, and DWR coated zippers. The fit is typically more streamlined and less boxy.

Ultralight rain jackets

Ultralight or super lightweight rain jackets are similar to hiking rain jackets but are made of thinner fabric and have fewer features such as zippered pockets, pit zips, helmet compatible hoods, adjustable velcro wrist cuffs, or any feature that will add substantial weight. These rain jackets weigh 6 ounces or less and are intended to be used as an emergency shell.

Multi-sport + trail running rain jackets

This category of rain jackets is even lighter in weight than ultralight rain jackets. They are extremely breathable and super lightweight (under 4 ounces), stretchy, and are designed for fast and aggressive movement on the trails. They are completely waterproof and are often made of 3-layer GORE-TEX Active fabric. The primary sacrifice is durability (13-30 denier fabrics).

Types of weather protection

Not all jackets are equal. Be sure that you get what you require for adequate weather protection on the trails.

Waterproof vs water-resistant

A jacket that is waterproof will keep out heavy persistent rain for extended periods of time.

A water-resistant jacket can handle light rain for short periods of time. Eventually, water will soak through if rain is heavy or long lasting.

Windproof

A windproof jacket will hold up in strong winds greater than 60 MPH. A wind-resistant jacket will not.

Breathability

Breathability is an important feature. A waterproof, windproof and breathable rain jacket is highly recommended for both you safety and comfort.

Fabric layers

Rain jackets and hardshell jackets are available in 2-layer, 2.5 layer, and 3-layer designs. In each, there is an outer layer that is meant to add durability and stand up to abrasion, while also repelling rain. Additionally, on the inside, there will be a waterproof breathable membrane, a laminate, or coating. With a 3-layer construction, the membrane is sandwiched between the outer layer and a comfortable lining.

For most hikers, a 3-layer jacket is going to be the best choice. The majority of our top picks are 3-layer GORE-TEX (or equivalent) jackets. These jackets offer the best level of waterproofness, breathability, durability and are lightweight. They do cost more, but they also offer better features, have a longer lifespan, and therefore provide more value.

When comparing 2-layer jackets and 2.5 layer jackets they both provide comparable waterproofness and breathability. However, 2-layer jackets are slightly more durable, are midweight, and cost a bit more than 2.5 layer jackets. On the other hand, if you want a very lightweight jacket, a 2.5 layer rain jacket is the way to go. Keep in mind, 3-layer jackets are getting lighter and lighter!

Durable Water Repellent Finish (DWR)

Durable water repellent or DWR for short is a coating that is applied to the exterior of rain jackets. DWR prevents the absorption of moisture into the outer surface of the fabric. Precipitation will bead and run off your garment. Thus, DWR increases the overall resistance to water.

The performance of DWR degrades over time and product usage. Periodically, you will have to restore its effectiveness using a product such as Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In.

Weight

Desired weight is often a personal preference. Or, it is determined by climate, weather, and type of activity.

The weight of a jacket is mostly determined by the amount and durability of fabric used and features offered. A higher denier number of the fabric used will be heavier than a lower denier number. A 3-layer rain jacket is typically heavier in weight, but not always. More zippers (pit zips, pockets) will add weight. Additional performance features such as taped seams, key hooks, helmet compatible hoods, can also add weight. Decide what level of durability and features are important to you and go from there.

Durability

The overall durability of your rain jacket is a very important feature to consider before you buy.

Durability is mostly determined by the denier (number) of the fabric used. Denier refers to the thickness of the fibers used in the fabric of the jacket. The higher the denier number, the more durable the fabric. A lower denier number means that the fabric is lighter, more packable, and less durable.

Some jackets will use a lower or mid range denier fabric for the face, and a higher denier fabric in high wear areas for extra durability.

For most hikers, a denier that falls into the range of 30-80 is good.

Seam taping

Water leaks through regular seams. If you want a truly waterproof jacket buy one that has fully taped seams.

Zippers

Rain jackets have many zippers. The front zip, zippered pockets, and pit zips. Heavy rain leaks through regular zippers. Get a jacket that has coated zippers, also known as laminated zippers. You can tell they are coated zippers because they are much more difficult to zip open and closed.

To further increase the weather-resistance of zippers get a rain jacket that has zipper covers also known as a zipper flaps. This is simply extra fabric that covers up the zippers.

Pro tip: Do not wrench or rip at these zippers like regular zippers. Take your time to gently slide them open and closed.

Pockets

Ultra-lightweight, and lightweight rain jackets have less pockets, sometimes none. Mid-weight rain jackets usually have two hand pockets, one or two chest pockets, and possibly one internal pocket.

If you carry a daypack with a hip belt, or are also a climber that wears a harness, consider a rain jacket that has the hand pockets positioned higher up the front of your jacket. Then you can easily access the contents of your pockets at all times.

Some hand pockets double as a stuff sack with clip which is a handy feature.

Vents

Vents help to reduce perspiration and any potential build-up of moisture on the inside of your jacket. The most common vents in rain jackets are pit zips. All but three of the jackets featured in this guide have pit zips. I will not buy a jacket (or hardshell pants) without them. I run generally hot, and so when I am working hard, sometimes I need rapid ventilation. Especially, on winter hikes in Colorado.

Lightweight jackets will sometimes offer ventilation via mesh lined hand pockets. Just open up the zippers for some quick ventilation.

Hood design

The most important factors of hood design are brims, helmet compatibility, and adjustability using drawcords. Having an adjustable brim is important to keep your head warm when weather takes a turn for the worst, and to prevent flapping in stronger winds.

Packability

Packable rain jackets are ideal for hikers that do long day hikes, or backpacking trips when carrying more gear in your backpack is required. Jackets that pack small and light are ideal when backpack space is scarce. Lightweight more packable jackets are best for climates where sudden short-term rain storms occur, but not as great for climates that have a chance of all-day persistent heavy rain. If packability is important to you check out lightweight rain jackets constructed with 2-layer or 2.5 layer GORE-TEX Paclite laminate technology. Some of the jackets in this guide self-stuff or pack down into a pocket which is a useful feature.

Stretch

Sometimes a little stretch is a good thing for those that want additional mobility or for hikers that move fast on the trails. Outdoor Research Ascentshell jackets or any jacket that uses 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro will provide a little stretch. The other jackets are noticeably different in that the fabric is stiffer and noisier with movement.

This conclude our guide to the best rain jackets for hiking and backpacking.

Be sure to also check out our guide to hiking in the rain for more wet weather gear. And our complete guide to the best hardshell jackets for hiking. Stay protected and comfy when the weather changes!