The Best Rain Jacket Review

"Weather shouldn't change your plans, just what you're wearing." And if you are wearing the right clothing, your outdoor experience can be just as enjoyable. This is especially important when it comes to rain shells, since this article of clothing can be one of the most protective layers you will bring into the backcountry with you.

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Review by: , Robert Beno, and McKenzie Long

Top Ranked Rain Jackets - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #5 #1 #6 #4 #7
Product Name
Marmot Minimalist Jacket
Marmot Minimalist Jacket
Read the Review
Marmot Aegis Jacket
Marmot Aegis Jacket
Read the Review
Video video review
REI Kimtah Jacket
REI Kimtah Jacket
Read the Review
Marmot Oracle
Marmot Oracle
Read the Review
Patagonia Torrentshell
Patagonia Torrentshell
Read the Review
Editors' Awards    Editors' Choice Award       
Street Price Varies $193 - $200
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $131 - $137
Compare at 3 sellers
$167
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $120 - $165
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $74 - $140
Compare at 9 sellers
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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67% recommend it (2/3)
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50% recommend it (1/2)
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67% recommend it (2/3)
Pros Awesome Hood, Durable, Good Pit-ZipsWell-featured, comfortable, lightweightGood rain protection, comfortable, durable, made with 3-layer eVentHighly featured, super comfy, breathable/well-ventilated, versatileGreat waterproofing, somewhat affordable, packable
Cons Heavy for a minimalist design, ExpensiveVelcro hood adjustment instead of elasticExpensive, not heavily featuredHeavy, fairly expensiveNot the best fit or most comfortable, hood cinches are tough to use, not very breathable
Best Uses backpacking, hiking, biking, camping, alpine climbing, skiingHiking, Backpacking, Biking, Around Town, KayakingBackpacking, hiking, lifestyleRecreational backpacking, hiking, climbing, around townEveryday rain jacket or any application where you want something light and waterproof
Date Reviewed Dec 03, 2013Dec 02, 2013Dec 03, 2013Dec 02, 2013Dec 03, 2013
Weighted Scores Marmot Minimalist Jacket Marmot Aegis Jacket REI Kimtah Jacket Marmot Oracle Patagonia Torrentshell
Water Resistance - 30%  
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9
Breathability - 20%
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Comfort - 15%
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Weight - 20%
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Mobility - 10%
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Packed Size - 5%
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Product Specs Marmot Minimalist Jacket Marmot Aegis Jacket REI Kimtah Jacket Marmot Oracle Patagonia Torrentshell
Measured Weight (oz) 15 oz 13.4 oz 14.55 oz 17.9 oz 13.7 oz
Material GORE-TEXï¾® Products with Pacliteï¾® Technology 100% Polyester 3.6 oz/yd 2.5 layer Membrain Strata 100% Nylon Ripstop 3.0 oz/yd Rip stop nylon with eVent 3-layer waterproof breathable laminate 2.5 layer Membrain Strata 100% Nylon Ripstop 3.0 oz/yd 2.5-layer, 2.6-oz 50-denier 100% nylon ripstop with a waterproof/breathable barrier with Delugeï¾® DWR (durable water repellent) finish
Pockets 3 3 3 5 2
Color Options 5 9
Pit Zips Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Helmet compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stuffs Into Pocket No No No Yes Yes

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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So what is the best rain jacket? To answer this question we took a selection of the top selling men's rain shells and put them to the test, judging each on an array of factors and comparing them side by side. We chose a range of jackets from the most expensive to the most budget oriented; jackets with the most features to the most bare-bones. We ran in them, walked in them, ran errands in them, biked in them, gardened in them, even rode a motor scooter in them…all in the rain. What became clear to us is that each of the jackets we evaluated is a fairly decent product, but some of the jackets had it just right, while others just missed the mark. In the end, after splitting hairs and scrutinizing the hell out of these jackets, we found one that we liked best.

Review Update Coming Soon
Updating reviews is one of our favorite things and we are stoked to be in the process of re-vamping this one right now! Look for more info about your favorite products and some fresh reviews of exciting new jackets in mid-October. Want to know the new product we're testing? Here's what's on our list: The North Face Resolve, Columbia Watertight II, and the Marmot Essence. We're also giving some of the most popular models from the current review a spin just to make sure nothing's changed. These include: the Montane Minimus, Outdoor Research Helium 2, Patagonia Torrentshell, Marmot PreCip, Marmot Minimalist, and The North Face Venture.

Selecting the Right Product
Do you need a hard shell or a rain shell? Both types of jackets serve essentially the same purpose, but they are categorically different pieces of gear. We go more in depth on the differences between a rain shell and a hard shell in our How to Choose the Best Hardshell Jacket article, but the primary differences you need to be aware of are price and breathability. The average price of a hard shell is $500, while a typical rain shell runs around $150. But with this extra cost comes some advantages: hard shells will have more advanced waterproof/breathable technologies, usually using a three-layer membrane, where a rain shell will use a two-layer membrane that will feel less breathable. This also means a rain shell will probably not last as long as a hard shell. If you want an investment quality jacket for weather protection that will be durable and noticeably breathable, check out The Best Hard Shell Jacket Review. However, most people will be happy with a rain shell. These jackets are equally as waterproof and wind resistant, often weigh less since the materials from which they are constructed are less complicated, and they are much more affordable. A third alternative is a soft shell, which is more breathable than both a hard shell or rain jacket, not waterproof, and less wind resistant. These pieces are designed for use mainly during high output activities. Prices for soft shells usually fall in between hard shells and rain shells. For more information on these types of protection layers, read The Best Soft Shell Jacket Review. If you are looking for wallet-friendly waterproof protection from the elements, read on about the best rain shells on the market.

Types of Rain Jackets
The rain jackets in our test group generally fall into two categories: typical rain shells and minimalist rain shells. Typical rain shells are usually a little more affordable, have plenty of pockets, pit-zips, and comfort features such as micro-fleece around the collar. Minimalist rain shells try their hardest to shed weight, so they usually use as few zippers as possible. This means they skip the air-flow creating pit-zips and have less pockets and luxurious features. This light weight usually also means they are less bulky, and can more easily be stuffed into a stow pocket or stuff sack. Minimalist shells are perfect for hikers looking to shed as much weight as possible but still need a layer to protect them from inclement weather. A typical rain shell is the better choice for a person who values comfort and livability over weight savings.

The minimalist shells we tested are the Sierra Designs Microlight Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Men's, Mountain Hardwear Epic, Montane Minimus Jacket, and Patagonia Rain Shadow. All the others fall more into the category of a typical rain jacket and weigh a little more but have more comfort features.

Criteria For Evaluation
In addition to the metrics below, we also assessed each jacket for durability, checking each piece for wear throughout our tests. We also evaluated the style. Does it look good? As much as we all like to deny it, the majority of consumers buy articles of clothing largely based on the way it looks. The color, the cut, the stitching, the accent features are all important. Of course, this is all a matter of personal opinion. The style we find attractive might be hideous to you, but we tried to judge the jackets with a broad sense of what looks good.

Below are the categories we used to score and rate each of the tested shells:

Water Resistance
How dry did the jackets keep us? This is obviously an important factor when buying a rain jacket. We tested for waterproofness by standing in the shower while wearing each shell. Each one was sufficiently waterproof, which is confidence inspiring when first spending money on this product, and then taking it with you into the backcountry, where your safety and comfort will depend on it.

Breathability
Gone are the days of wrapping yourself in that oversized, heavy, rubber rain slicker to venture out into inclimate weather. Today's selection of rain jackets boast multi-layered high-tech "waterproof breathable" fabrics that are designed to allow air circulation within the jacket, while still maintaining complete waterproofing. The idea is that the rain will stay out and the air heavy with your vaporized sweat will be able to circulate out of the coat. That's the idea at least. Since rain shells are usually constructed with a two-layer material, such as a ripstop nylon coated with polyurethane, they are noticeably more breathable than the old rubber slickers but still less breathable than a jacket made from a three-layer material. However, with the addition of ventilation features, most of the rain shells we evaluated can keep you dry and not let you suffocate.
Click to enlarge
Large Pit zips on the Torrentshell help the jacket ventilate
Credit: Erisa Coppenoll

Some of the jackets had materials that were more advanced and more breathable than others. Notably, the REI Kimtah Jacket is made of three-layer eVent and the Marmot Minimalist Jacket is made from 2.5 layer Gore-Tex Paclite, both of which which are far more breathable than some of the other two-layer materials found in rain shells. These two jackets bridge the gap between hard shell and rain shell, making an inexpensive, lightweight hard shell or a breathable, durable yet heavy rain shell. Other jackets such as the Marmot Aegis and Oracle are decently ventilated with mesh pockets and pit-zips, so wearing the jackets are not unbearable during high output activities.

Comfort & Mobility
To asses mobility we evaluated how the jackets felt while running, moving, and generally living in them. We noted the length of the sleeves and if the jacket rose up when the arms were lifted. Here the outliers were both the Montane Minimus and the Marmot Minimalist jackets.

For comfort, we realized that while some jackets are nothing more than a waterproof skin, others have cozy features like micro fleece lined collars and sleeve cuffs that made us actually want to wear them for extended periods of time. The notable models in the comfort category are the Marmot Aegis and Oracle.

Features
Rain jackets are loaded with little adjustable pieces: zippers, pit-zips, snaps, buttons, waist cinching devices, and moldable wire-brims. These help us adjust the jacket for maximum comfort, perfect fit, and maximum ability to keep the weather out. Some, such as the Marmot Aegis, have roll-away hoods that can be stashed when not in use.
Click to enlarge
The Montane Minimus Jacket has a roll-away hood that can be stashed when not in use.
Credit: Erisa Coppernoll

What are the pockets like? Can you fit all the necessities, such as phone, wallet, and keys? Will the pockets keep my stuff dry? How many are there? Are they cozy? Easy to get to? Some jackets, like the Marmot Oracle, have an awesome array of functional pockets; pocket functionality on some others was a little off. Pockets can serve the dual purpose of being a vent as well as a storage space. Many jackets have mesh-lined pockets, and when left unzipped allow air to flow in the jacket.
Click to enlarge
Montane Minimus Jacket
Credit: Erisa Coppernoll


Weight & Bulk
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Outdoor Research Helium 2 packs down into a pocket with a handy clip loop.
Credit: Erisa Coppernoll
This is both an objective and subjective measure based on the manufacturer's stated weight of the jacket, and how easy each one is to pack and lug around. We factored in whether the jacket packs into one of its own pockets, has a separate stuff sack, or leaves the packing method up to you. Jackets such as the Marmot PreCip and the Patagonia Torrentshell that pack into their own pockets have a distinct advantage in portability. Strangely, two of the lightest jackets we tested, the Patagonia Rain Shadow (11.4 ounces) and the Mountain Hardwear Epic (12 ounces) could not pack into one of their own pockets.

The lightest weight rain shells we evaluated are the Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Men's at only 6.3 ounces and the Montane Minimus Jacket at 8.45 ounces.

Editor's Choice Award: Marmot Aegis
The Marmot Aegis is one of the coziest rain jackets we tested, and comes complete with convenient, protective features. Similar to our other favorite, the Marmot Oracle, it feels like a real jacket as opposed to just a simple barrier between you and the rain, but it manages to be much lighter than the Oracle. Weighing 13.4 ounces to the Oracle's 17.9 ounces, the Aegis is functional but not overdone. It is highly waterproof, fits well, has cozy microfleece on the collar and sleeve cuffs, ventilates well, and packs down fairly small. The Aegis strikes a perfect balance between protection, comfort, and weight.

Best Buy Award: Marmot PreCip
The Marmot PreCip, our Best Buy winning rain jacket on a rainy, misty ...
The Marmot PreCip, our Best Buy winning rain jacket on a rainy, misty day on the coast.
At $100, the Marmot PreCip is one of the least expensive jackets we tested, and it performs noticeably better than the other budget option: the North Face Venture. We like the fit of the PreCip, it keeps the weather out, has two large pockets that help with storage and ventilation, and it packs down into one of the pockets with a loop for clipping. It weighs almost the exact same as our Editor's Choice winner, 13.5 ounces, so the less expensive jacket does not mean it is extremely heavy or bulky. We found the style, comfort, and breathability of the PreCip to be far superior to the Venture, plus the PreCip is available at an outstanding price.

Top Pick Award for Best Lightweight Rain Jacket: Montane Minimus
Click to enlarge
Chris McNamara above the Moke with the Montane Minimus. It is normally considered a rain jacket but we use it as an ultra-light backcountry skiing/snowboarding jacket as well.
Credit: Corey Rich
We'd like to recognize the Montane Minimus Jacket as an awesome minimalist rain jacket. This jacket is the second lightest in our test group at only 8.45 ounces, and still manages to retain some thoughtful design features to increase comfort, versatility, and protection. We love the details such as the asymmetrical cuffs, moldable brim, and reflective strips on the back of the jacket. Since this jacket is minimal, it skimps on ventilation features and does not have pit-zips, but in the name of saving weight, we find this to be tolerable. It comes with its own separate stuff sack to make packing easier. If going on a lightweight backcountry mission, this is your jacket.

Top Pick Award for Best Ultralight Rain Shell: OR Helium 2
Click to enlarge
Rain coming in on El Cap. Scared and smiling. (And wearing the Black Diamond Vapor.)
Credit: Chris Ewing
The Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Men's, at only 5.8 oz, is by far the lightest rain jacket tested. You don't get pit-zips or hand pockets, but you get total rain protection in shell that packs down to the size of an orange. This jacket is so light that we lost interest in a lot of Wind Breaker Jackets which are only a tiny bit lighter but not waterproof. At only $150, it is also $90 less than the Minimus.

Chris McNamara , Robert Beno, and McKenzie Long
Buying Advice
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 How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket

by Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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