The Best Rain Jacket for Men Review
What is the best rain jacket? We put 13 of the most highly regarded waterproof/breathable jackets through months of testing to find out. The jackets we tested range from state-of-the-art ultralight rain protection to burly Gore-Tex pieces and more budget-friendly general use products. The best of these jackets lock out the rain, allow your sweat to escape, and move with you whether you're scrambling to a mountain top or strolling through a rainy morning at the farmers' market. As always, a few jackets stood out from the field, and our award winners distinguished themselves after our testing and evaluation. In addition to our Editors' Choice and Best Buy winners, we handed out a Top Pick for Versatility.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
|Displaying 6 - 10 of 13||<< Previous | View All | Next >>|
Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Rain Jacket
The ultralight Marmot Essence ran away with our Editors' Choice Award. It's the lightest and most breathable jacket we tested, and we loved it for everything from fast trips up big mountains to trail running and leisurely strolls around the disc golf course. Marmot's NanoPro 2.5-layer Membrain technology, which is dynamically air permeable, is a game changer for high energy activities. This fabric breathes better than any other that we tested, and the mesh-lined pit vents add even more ventilation. If you are looking for a super light, do-everything rain jacket, the Essence can't be beat.
Best Bang for the Buck
Top Pick for Ventilation & Features
Outdoor Research Foray
You may also like:
Analysis and Test Results
A rain jacket that keeps you dry when the skies let loose, may be the first piece of performance outdoor clothing you purchase – a waterproof shell is certainly the most important for comfort and safety when the rain comes. The models we review here span affordable rain protection for hiking and general around town use - to ultralight rain protection for climbing and trail running. Whether you are searching for your first jacket, a modern replacement for an old favorite, or an ultralight model to add to your quiver, you're in the right place.
Below you'll find descriptions of our evaluation metrics, as well as information about the top performers in each metric. In our individual reviews, we detail each product's features, explain our scoring in each metric, and compare and contrast each jacket to its closest competitors. If you want to know how the details of how each hood cinches down, or exactly where the adjustments for the hem are, you'll find those details in each product's review.
Types of Waterproof Jackets
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we divide waterproof/breathable shell jackets into two categories: Rain Jackets and Hardshells. At the most basic level, price and fabric type distinguish these categories from one another. Jackets generally cost about $90-$250, while hardshells will set you back $300-$800. Rain jackets are the affordable option for general use, but the advanced hardshell fabrics are usually more durable and their features are more technically focused for alpine climbing and skiing.
The jackets we evaluated in this review span decades of fabric technology. Some use a time-tested two-layer fabric with a mesh liner, and others leverage a more modern 2.5-layer fabric. Additionally, some utilize a polyurethane coated fabric; in these products, the waterproofing treatment is sprayed onto the fabric like paint. Others use a laminated fabric; you can think of this as the treatment being glued onto the outer fabric like wallpaper. The half layer that some products feature is an additional patterned application over the waterproof layer to protect it. You can read far more about fabric construction in our Buying Advice article.
The pieces we review here easily break into two types by weight and features: ultralight and standard. We segment the standard weight products further segmented by fabric construction type.
The ultralight products we tested, the Marmot Essence, Outdoor Research Helium II, and Montane Minimus do away with hand pockets and use very light fabrics to achieve their feather-like weight (6-8 ounces). The layered fabrics used - Marmot NanoPro 2.5-layer laminate and Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer coating applied to very light nylon ripstops - represent the cutting edge in 2.5-layer waterproof/breathable technology. Minimizing features creates very light, very compressible, form fitting jackets. Moreover, the fabrics used are very breathable, hence these jackets don't include pit zips for ventilation. These three rain jackets are the only ones we tested that have reflective logos and patches, making them excellent cold weather running jackets. The reflective parts are a nice safety addition for visibility whether running or biking. These models pack so small they can easily travel in your hydration pack for running or your seat bag for biking. You might even fit one in your oversize chalk bag for multi-pitch rock climbing! The Essence won our Editors' Choice award again this year.
All the ultralight models we tested (including our Editors' Choice winner, the Marmot Essence) lack hand pockets. If this is an amenity you must have we recommend checking out the "standard" rain jackets we tested.
The "standard" weight models have come a long way in the past decade. The 10 that we tested range in weight from 11 to 19 ounces, which is pretty darn light. They all have zippered hand pockets and their prices range from $90 to $215, reflecting the diversity of waterproof/breathable fabrics used in their construction.
Standard 2-Layer Construction
The Columbia Watertight II, The North Face Resolve, and Helly Hansen Seven J use an old-school two-layer fabric shell and incorporate a mesh and taffeta lining to protect the waterproof coating and help wick away sweat. These three jackets do not have pit zips for ventilation, and are affordable entry-level models with basic construction. They are most appropriate for everyday around-town use and the occasional hiking trip. While none of the models we tested are insulated, these three are warmer than all the rest for cold season rainy days thanks to their additional free-hanging linings.
Standard 2.5-Layer Construction
The Marmot PreCip, Patagonia Torrentshell, REI Crestrail, Columbia Evapouration, and The North Face Venture are constructed with a more advanced 2.5-layer fabric. Each uses a proprietary waterproof membrane protected by an additional "half" layer on the inside. These five models all have pit zips for ventilation, and they are the most versatile models relative to price for most folks. The more breathable fabrics and ventilation options make these great multi-purpose jackets for hiking, backpacking, and around-town use. The Marmot PreCip easily won our Best Buy Award, and is the second highest scoring model overall.
Standard Gore-Tex Construction
The Outdoor Research Foray and Marmot Minimalist are also 2.5-layer jackets, and the only two products we tested built with a Gore-Tex fabric - the Gore-Tex Paclite laminate used in these jackets is one of the lighter and more affordable flavors of Gore-Tex. While these jackets weigh in at the heavier end of this field, and are relatively pricey as well, they are a great step up if you want a jacket that is more durable than most standard rain jackets, but don't need the all technical features and price tag that accompany burly hardshells. The Outdoor Research Foray earned a Top Pick Award for Versatility thanks to its ventilation, features, and durability.
Hardshells generally use heavier, more durable waterproof/breathable fabrics, and usually have more pockets and features. These 3-layer fabrics (a complete layer of mesh is laminated on the inside as the third, protective layer) are known to be more durable and often more breathable than 2- or 2.5-layer fabrics. Hardshells are well-suited for rugged use while alpine and ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and guiding or ski patrolling through the winter.
You will find a more thorough comparison of the features and performance characteristics of rain jackets and hardshells in our Buying Advice article that accompanies this review. For those technically inclined, we also have there a brief summary of the various coating and laminate technologies used in the layered fabrics of these jackets.
Criteria For Evaluation
A rain jacket should keep you dry in a rain storm. Period. In our scoring metrics, this was the most heavily weighted category at 30 percent. Manufacturers used many different types of waterproof treatment in the jackets we tested and lots of laboratory testing has been done to quantify how waterproof each of these coated or laminated fabrics are. However, the important bit to understand is that all the products we tested are plenty water resistant to use as a rain shell. In all the models we tested, the seams in the shell fabric are seam-taped after sewing, making a completely sealed envelope. What differentiates performance when the rain pours down is the design of the hood, cuffs, pocket closures, and pit zips.
Rain is not going to penetrate any of these fabrics, but in a downpour running water will seek a 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 a few minutes in each jacket, and also got a spray down with the garden hose to help us seek out any weak spots where water can get in. We found the Marmot Minimalist the most bombproof of the bunch, but the Marmot PreCip, Outdoor Research Foray, and the Patagonia Torrentshell also seal out driving rain very well. All have wrist cuffs that can be cinched down tightly on the wrist with Velcro closures, and the hoods seal well around the face and chin.
All the products we tested will 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.
The other important component of a jacket's water resistance is its durable water resistant (DWR) treatment. This treatment, factory applied to the fabric's exterior, allows it to bead and shed water. Even though nylon and polyester are both hydrophobic, if they aren't treated with a DWR (or after the treatment wears off), they will wet out, or become covered with a continuous film of water. This results in a heavier jacket and reduced breathability. The DWR used on the Marmot jackets really stands out, as does the Torrentshell's. All the jackets we tested beaded water well, and DWR treatment can be reapplied to your jacket if needed. Check out DWR maintenance in our Care & Feeding section.
Breathability & Ventilation
Our water resistance metric measures how well each rain jacket will keep you dry from the outside, but our breathability and ventilation metric quantifies how well each keeps you dry from the inside by allowing sweat to escape. We took two main things into consideration when awarding scores for this metric (which is weighted at 25% of our overall ratings). First, we thought about the ability of the jacket's fabric to breathe; this is where waterproof technologies really distinguish themselves. These multi-layered fabrics allow water vapor to be wicked through the fabric to the outside, where it can evaporate. And second, we studied how well the features of the jacket allow for ventilation.
The fabric's breathability is most important when it is actually raining hard, and you want to batten down the hatches by closing pit zips and cinching up the hood. The more active your endeavors, the greater importance you should assign to breathability. In the time between cloud bursts when you want to continue wearing your jacket for wind protection or as part of your warmth layering system, ventilation becomes as important as breathability. Pit zips, mesh-lined pockets that allow air flow when open, and cuffs that can adjust to allow for air circulation from the wrist give you ventilation options.
The Marmot Essence, which is constructed with the NanoPro Membrain laminate, breathes better than other jackets, hands down. This jacket was less steamy inside during high energy activities than any other, and you can actually feel the wind blow through this fabric. The Outdoor Research Foray earned the next highest score. We find the Paclite fabric has good breathability, but the Foray knocks it out of the park for ventilation thanks to its fully separating pit zips that can open it up like a poncho and its mesh-lined pockets. The Marmot PreCip and the Patagonia Torrentshell also received high scores for breathability, reflecting a good combination of fabric that breathes well and features that allow for great ventilation. Like the Essence, the PreCip has fabric that is air permeable, a major plus.
Comfort & Mobility
We tested these jackets in drizzles and downpours while hiking, climbing, playing disc golf, and backpacking in the mountains. We also used them for everyday chores like carrying groceries and firewood to the house. Whatever activities you have planned, you want to find a jacket that moves comfortably with you. How well does the hood move with your head as you look around? 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 individual review.
Within this metric, we also noted small features like a micro fleece patch at the chin or soft fabric where the hood rests on your brow – both nice touches. We also 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.
The PreCip earned the highest score in this metric with good comfort features and excellent mobility. The Essence, Foray, and Patagonia Torrentshell received the next highest scores for comfort and mobility. Notable is the Torrentshell's hood, which was more helmet-compatible than its competitors. Also notable is the REI Crestrail since the stretchy fabric moves well with the body. Our rating for comfort and mobility contributes 20% to each jacket's overall score.
For some users, light is right. When you are reading reviews here at OutdoorGearLab, this is emphasized over and over. We highly value lightweight clothing and equipment, but not at the expense of function. If you are thru-hiking 2,000 miles, or riding your bicycle from coast to coast, weight will be your primary concern. When we head out for a huge day in the mountains, weight is of primary importance as well.
Many jacket users will have several priorities above weight, including breathability, comfort, and the right combination of features. Let weight be the final deciding factor if you are torn between two products that will meet your needs.
The Outdoor Research Helium II and Marmot Essence are the lightest two models we tested; our size large test jackets weighed in at 6.5 and 6.8 ounces. The Montane Minimus was close behind at 8.0 ounces. These jackets all minimize features to stay outrageously light – note that none has hand pockets. The lightest two jackets we tested with hand pockets were the Marmot PreCip and Columbia Evapouration, both 11 ounces and change. The Helly Hansen Seven J weighed in heaviest, at 19.2 ounces. Not bad at all for a jacket with lots of features, burly fabric, and a comfortable mesh lining. The measured weights of our size large test models contribute 15 percent to the overall score.
A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands you place on it. The face fabric of most of these jackets is nylon, and the lighter jackets use a lighter weight nylon face fabric. Nylon fabrics are known to tear easily, however, the more expensive jackets we tested use a ripstop nylon fabric. The ripstop weave doubles up on thread at intervals, providing a grid of strong fibers to stop tears from growing. Other models use a polyester shell fabric, known to be stretchier and more durable than nylon. If you plan to use your jacket off trail or bushwhacking through the wilderness, choose a model with ripstop face fabric at the minimum or opt for polyester.
The Marmot Minimalist and Outdoor Research Foray both pair polyester face fabrics with Gore-Tex Paclite and they earned the two highest durability scores. The polyester fabric is very durable and because it's a little stretchier than nylon, plays well with the Gore-Tex Paclite membrane. We focused mostly on each jacket's face fabric and construction when judging durability. We consider the REI Crestrail, Patagonia Torrentshell, and Marmot Essence the next most durable products after the two Gore-Tex models. While some DWR treatments are longer lasting than others, all will need maintenance and perhaps reapplication to match the lifespan of the jacket. Durability ratings contribute 10 percent of the overall score.
Weather can change quickly and we've all been caught out in storms, getting soaked when we left our jacket at the then-sunny trailhead. These just-in-case packing scenarios are when having a compact rain shell that easily fits in your pack is super 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 the Montane Minimus comes with a small stuff sack. The others can be rolled and stuffed into their hoods for quick stowing. Our rating for packed size considers not only the actual compressed size, but the ease of using the integrated stuff pocket. Some of these jackets compress quite small, but it's like wrestling to get them stowed. Others easily fit into their stuff pocket. A clip-in loop after the jacket is stuffed is a nice feature; check the individual reviews for this detail, as well as a photo of each beside a 12-ounce soda can. Packed size ratings contribute five percent of each jacket's overall score.
As we've just described above, the products we tested range from bare bones, ultralight designs to more featured, standard models. For some adventures, super light is right, but more often pockets and pit zips contribute enough utility for the handful of extra ounces to not matter. If you are using 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, our lead tester is one, like to use a rain hat, and a hood that rolls away and stows is appreciated.
In each individual review, 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. If you want to know exactly where the hem cord locks are, we'll let you know!
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. Our hope is 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 taking a look at our buying advice article.
— Brandon Lampley
Table of Contents
Helpful Buying Tips