The Best Rain Jacket for Men Review

Click to enlarge
What is the best all-around rain jacket? We put 10 of the most highly regarded jackets through months of testing, in an enormous range of conditions. The contenders range from state of the art ultralight rain protection to burly Gore-Tex pieces; we also compared our favorite, more budget-friendly general use options. The best of these jackets lock out the rain or snow, allowing your sweat to escape, moving with you whether you're scrambling to a mountain top or strolling through a rainy morning at the farmers' market.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 << Previous | View All | Next >>

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:

Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
November 21, 2016

Best Overall Rain Jacket


Arc'teryx Beta SL


Editors' Choice Award

Price:   Varies from $138 - $299 online
Compare at 6 sellers


Read the review


The do-everything Arc'teryx Beta SL narrowly claimed our Editors' Choice Award, while amongst stiff competition. The Beta SL scored the best, or nearly the best, in almost every category. In the end, if we could only own one rain jacket, this would be it. Our testing team loved its best-in-review mobility, exceptionally versatility, fantastic hood design, and excellent storm worthiness - all at a below average weight. While some jackets offer specific advantages for certain applications, if we could only have one jacket for a wide range of activities, this do-everything rain jacket would be it.

Top Pick for Light Weight


Outdoor Research Helium II


Top Pick Award

Price:   Varies from $119 - $159 online
Compare at 6 sellers


Read the review

The Outdoor Research Helium II is our Top Pick for weight-conscience hikers, backpackers, and climbers. It is by far the most compact and lightest jacket we tested, weighing 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, and offering a pretty basic (though effective) hood, and an overall minimal design. But for many hikers or backpackers who end up carrying their waterproof layer 90% or more of the time, this functional rain shell is an excellent choice. Our review team also loved how tightly it stowed away into it own pocket.

Top Pick for Hiking and Backpacking


REI Rhyolite


Top Pick Award

Price:   $140 at REI
Sale - 26% Off


Read the review

The REI Rhyolite is easily one of our favorite rain jackets on the market. It features 3-layer eVent; after a range of input from testers and side-by-side testing, it proved to be most breathable jacket we tested. The Rhyolite's design allowed for excellent mobility, a wonderfully designed hood, a cut that was big enough to fit over a few layers, but not overly loose, and a very functional pocket hip-belt friendly design. The lack of lower hand warmer-pockets means this is a so-so dog-walking jacket, but for anything outdoorsy from hiking, to climbing, to backcountry skiing, this is one of the best jackets out there (especially considering its $190 price). It's worth mentioning that we also really like the Marmot Minimalist; it remains an excellent jacket and was only just barely edged out for this award.

Best Bang for the Buck


Marmot PreCip


Best Buy Award

Price:   Varies from $60 - $100 online
Compare at 7 sellers


Read the review

The Marmot PreCip has been a popular and trusted contender in the rain protection market for a long time. Updated last year with Marmot's NanoPro 2.5-layer coated technology, it's even better. This fully featured jacket has hand pockets, pit-zips for ventilation, and a roll away hood. It's great for high-energy hiking and backpacking and featured enough for around town use. A few other models we tested are similarly affordable, 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.

Top Pick for Ventilation & Features


Outdoor Research Foray


Top Pick Award

Price:   $215 online
Compare at 7 sellers


Read the review

The Gore-Tex Paclite Outdoor Research Foray seals out rain, snow, and wind and is more durable than products with proprietary fabrics. What sets the Foray apart is its ventilation features. While it doesn't just have pit zips and venting pockets, the Foray has "torso flow pit-zips" that fully separate like 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, but highly value the ventilation features common to the best rain jackets, the Foray might be for you.


You might also like



Click to enlarge
We tested 10 of the best rain jackets for men that were under $250 and 16 ounces. We made our selection among over 80 models considered before choosing the best 10 for various reasons. Photo Graham Zimmerman trying to keep it positive in yet another torrential down-pour in Torres del Paine, Chile.

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 ever purchase; as a result, a waterproof shell is among the most important pieces of gear for comfort and safety when a storm rolls in. The models we reviewed here span affordable rain protection for short day hikes 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.

Click to enlarge
Several of our test model rain jackets and insulated jackets drying out after a long night of trail running at the RunRabbitRun 100 ultra in Steamboat, CO.

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 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.

Click to enlarge
We offer a much-more in-depth explanation of considerations that should be made when buying a waterproof jacket. Below is some basics that will help you make a much more informative decision on what is the best jacket for you. Photo: Andy Dahlen on a forced down day in Yosemite Valley, CA.

Waterproof Breathable Fabrics 101


First some basics: there is a lot of fancy jargon regarding waterproof and breathable fabrics and it can be hard to figure out what construction methods are best for you. The following are some important basics that can be critical to understand in order to make the best possible purchase regarding rain jackets. We offer a far more in-depth explanation in our Buying Advice article.

Construction 101: 2, 2.5, and 3-layer Fabrics


Nearly every manufacturer boasts about how many layers their jacket features, but what does that even mean and how should this affect what products you consider?

Click to enlarge
Probably the aspect of waterproof breathable fabrics that understood the least by consumers is construction-type and how if might effect a garment performance. Below we break down 3-layer, 2.5-layer, and 2-layer construction and some basic advantages and disadvantages each one offers

Most rain shell fabrics use a 2, 2.5, and 3-layer designs, even if they might only look like a single layer when you hold them at the store; that's because these layers are tightly sandwiched together. Whether 2, 2.5, or 3-layer fabrics, these designs actually share most of their construction qualities; there is generally only a small difference on the inside facing-side of the garment. All three construction styles feature an outer shell fabric, commonly referred to as a face fabric which is coated with a chemical Durable Water Repellent (AKA: DWR, more on this below) finish to help keep the outer layer from absorbing water. The second, or middle layer is the actual waterproof layer, whether that be eVent, Gore-Tex, another membrane, or coated fabric. Universally, these nearly get placed beneath the outer most face fabric layer; so yes, you can't actually see the waterproof layer from the outside. The third and inner most layer is where all of the differences lie.

Click to enlarge
A 3-layer consturcion has an outer most "face fabric" treated with DWR, a waterproof material in the middle (an ePTFE like Gore-Tex or other) and then a internal fabric whose primary purpose is to protect the waterproof layer.

3-Layer Fabrics
As we mentioned above, 3-layer fabrics feature an external DWR treated face-fabric - a waterproof breathable membrane in the middle and a polyurethane (PU) film or other similar backing. This third layer's goal is to keep sweat and oils from clogging the microscopic holes in waterproof-breathable layer, which would reduce breathability and make the user feel wet from sweat that they might think is coming from the outside.

Click to enlarge

The advantage of three layer fabrics is they are typically more durable overall because of the inner-most piece of fabric, which protects the pores in the waterproof membrane from clogging (longer), thus maintaining better breathability between washings. That said, 3 layer pieces are not always as breathable and are often heavier than many of their 2.5 layer counterparts.

Click to enlarge
You can see the pattern that's part of the .5 layer, it almost looks as if its been painted or printed on. The goal of this layer is to protect the waterproof-breathable layer from getting clogged with dirt and oils while being as light and as breathable as possible. To not inhibit the other layers over-all performance

2.5 Layer Fabrics
Outer garments that feature a 2.5 layer construction look extremely similar to those that feature a 3 layer design (with the exception that they may feel slightly lighter and more subtle). Jackets that feature a 2.5 layer construction have the same outermost layer that has been treated with DWR, protecting the waterproof layer. Then, an exceptionally thin polyurethane laminate or other coating is placed on the inside to help protect this layer from sweat, grime, or other oils that could clog the pores. This layer is often "painted on", which is why its considered a half layer, even if it covers all of the inside surface area.

Jackets that feature a 2.5 layer construction offer similar breathability to 3 layer jackets, though they sometimes feel marginally clammier. Why? Because the inner most layer doesn't do quite as good of a job at "absorbing" and transferring sweat that has been created by the wearer. 2.5 layer jackets are typically slightly lighter and more subtle, but often not quite as durable (and must be cleaned more frequently to maintain breathability).

Click to enlarge
Here is a comparison of a 2-layer construction with the loose-mesh liner on the left and a 2.5-layer Patagonia Torrentshell on the right.

2 Layer Fabrics
These fabrics have the same DWR face fabric bonded to a waterproof-breathable layer with a loose liner hanging on the inside that is typically mesh; this works to help protect the membrane or coated fabric. These jackets are typically less expensive and more moderately priced. They do breathe very well, but are heavier, bulkier, and not ideal for active outdoor users.

Click to enlarge
This is an example of two-layer construction. Like the other construction types this jacket features an outer-most layer treated with DWR, a coated waterproof-breathable fabric is adhered to that and a mesh-liner hangs loosely on the inside to protect the waterproof-breathable layer.

Click to enlarge
There are a lot of waterproof breathable fabrics and a lot of terms to describe them, below we talk about some popular ones and how they compare to each other while also talking about what "Waterproof" really means.

Criteria For Evaluation


Water Resistance


A rain jacket should keep you dry in a rain storm, whether hiking, backpacking, or just out walking the dog. Period. In our scoring metrics, this was the most heavily weighted category at 30 percent. Manufacturers used many different types of waterproof fabrics and treatments in the jackets we tested. Lots of laboratory testing has been done to quantify how waterproof each of these coated or laminated fabrics are. The important bit to understand is that all of the products we tested are extremely 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; to a lesser extent, the longevity of its DWR will also differentiate performance.

Click to enlarge
Obviously the waterproof material itself is important, but with nearly all manufacturers offering a material than is more than adequate features that help keep the rain out and move moisture scored the best at keeping us dry.

Material makes a pretty incredible difference regarding breathability (which can make you feel wet from the inside), longevity, and durability. The fact that one fabric is waterproof to 30 PSI and one to 40 PSI does not make a functional difference to the wearer.

Click to enlarge
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 rain storm. But models with adjustable cuffs and well-designed hood adjustments are superior in howling rain storms 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 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 four minutes in each jacket, and also got a spray down with the garden hose to help us seek out any weak spots. We found the Arc'teryx Beta SL and the Marmot Minimalist were the most bombproof of the bunch. The REI Rhyolite, Outdoor Research Foray, and The North Face Dryzzle all performed well, doing an excellent job of sealing out rain. All contenders have wrist cuffs that can be cinched down tightly on the wrist with Velcro closures. We found that all hoods will 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.

Click to enlarge
A well designed hood is one of the most important factors influencing how dry a rain jacket is going to keep you.

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 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 PreCip, Minimalist and Beta SL really stands out, as does the The North Face Dryzzle. All the jackets we tested beaded water well to start, and DWR treatment can be reapplied to your jacket if needed. Check out DWR maintenance in our Care & Cleaning section.

Click to enlarge
Breathability and ventilation are both important factors to help keep the wearer dry by minimizing how wet they get from their own sweat. We weighted breathability slightly higher than ventilation because sometimes when its really raining or snowing hard opening your vents can make you wetter....


Breathability & Ventilation


To a large degree, a garment's breathability is affected by the fabrics it's bonded too. However, in our review, the difference in face fabrics (because they didn't vary greatly in thickness and materials) didn't affect breathability as much as construction type and the type of waterproof membrane used.

Click to enlarge
We compared each jackets over-all 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 get hot and sweaty walking up a steep hill while wearing only a tee shirt. We've overheard far too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all or quite enough for their specific needs. All of these jackets allow moisture to pass through them; however, none of them allow all the moisture you'd want to escape if you're working hard while wearing too many layers, or just plain working hard at a high exertion rate (at warmer temperatures). If there is a point when your lightweight t-shirt can't breathe and pass moisture quick enough, know the same is true for your rain jacket. Set yourself up for success and do your best to 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.

Click to enlarge
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.

Breathability Comparisons
Our water resistance metric measured how well each rain jacket will keep 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. We took two main factors 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 a given jacket allow for ventilation.

Click to enlarge
Breathability is an obviously important factor when considering shells. At some point you can't wear less layers under your rain shell while hiking with a heavy pack uphill and you'll sweat no matter the outside temperature.

Due to its' construction, eVent is the most breathable waterproof fabric we tested. Gore-Tex PacLite and some PU laminates like Marmot's NanoPro 2.5 layer laminate are close, but can't quite pass as much moisture. We didn't think eVent was FAR more breathable, but after extensive side-by-side testing and real world use, we think it narrowly won our review team over. As a note, in this review we didn't test any jackets that used Gore-Tex Active Shell which WL Gore claims is the most breathable of their current three types of Gore-Tex.

Click to enlarge

A 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 nearly as important as breathability. Pit zips and mesh-lined pockets that allow air flow when open can be valuable features depending on your activiey. To a lesser extent, cuffs that can adjust to allow for air circulation from the wrist give you some, though much more limited ventilation options.

Click to enlarge
We love the Outdoor Research Foray: if you want a durable rain jacket with class-leading ventilation features, it's a rad option.

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

Click to enlarge
After extensive testing we thought the Rhyolite with eVent offered the most breathable fabric but the Outdoor research Foray was with its huge poncho-style vents that was the best at managing moisture and heat. Photo: Slay'n some pow on Tye Peak WA

The REI Rhyolite, which is constructed with eVent, breathes marginally better than other jackets, but offers only a little ventilation (so we are comparing all-zipped-up to all-zipped-up). This jacket was less steamy inside during high energy activities than any other and we could notice ourselves getting colder quicker at breaks when wearing the Rhyolite. Comparing all-zipped-up jackets, we thought the Arc'teryx Beta SL and the Marmot Minimalist breathability was among the best in the review; while they were comparable to the Rhyolite, they did not stand out as much.

Click to enlarge
The Patagonia Torrentshell has large pitzips with easy to use pull strings on the zippers. Pitzips 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 score. We found its' Paclite fabric had excellent breathability; what sets the Foray apart is its "TorsoFlo" design which is basically two lengthy zippers. The zippers extend from the hem of the jacket to the wearer's tricep and allow the jacket to be opened up like a poncho. Among coated jackets, the Marmot PreCip and the The North Face Venture received respectable scores for breathability. While their fabrics weren't quite as breathable, the featured slightly larger than average pit zips and lower hand pockets (lined with mesh) that dumped a noticeable amount of heat when open.

Click to enlarge
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". Well at many points 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 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 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.

Click to enlarge
Range of motion is important wheather 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.

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.

Click to enlarge
We tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket, how well we stay covered while reaching straight out infront 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 Snow Storm.

The Arc'teryx Beta SL featured the best range of motion and mobility of any jacket in our review. The Beta SL featured well-designed and articulated shoulders and sleeves, with an arm length that was just above average, but not too long. There were other jackets that were decent, but when it came to climbing or other mobility demanding activities, this was our absolute favorite option. The Marmot Minimalist, Outdoor Research Foray, and Outdoor Research Helium II also had very good mobility and received the next highest rating in this metric.

Click to enlarge
Hood designs and their ability to both keep the water out, but still to some extent move with you to keep as much as your peripheral vision varied greatly between jackets. Here Tester Ian Nicholson tends a backcountry breakfast on a stormy morning.

Hood Design
The effectiveness varied wildly among the hoods. While all while waterproof, their ability to stay on our heads and not blind our peripheral vision ranged greatly among models tested. Our favorite hoods were the Arc'teryx Beta SL and the REI Rhyolite; the Outdoor Research Foray scored right behind them. All three of these jackets featured hoods that cinched down over a wide range of headwear, from beanies to baseball caps, and minimized the amount of peripheral vision that was lost. We like the Marmot Minimalist, Patagonia Torrentshell and North Face Drizzles hoods, but they didn't fit over a helmet as nicely.

Click to enlarge
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. 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, climbing technical terrain, 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.

Click to enlarge
Whether out for a day hike or on a midsummer climb having a shell that's more packable might trump other factors like durability and ventilation.

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.

Click to enlarge
A small break in the storm and the sun pops out on day 6 of the Isolation Traverse with Snow Field Peak and the Neve Glacier in the background.

The Outdoor Research Helium II is the absolute lightest model we tested, weighing in at 6.5. That's half the weight (or even less) of most of the jackets in this review. If weight is your primary concern, this jacket is truly hard to beat, and is one of the lightest waterproof breathable models current available. We were impressed that while the Helium isn't feature rich, we feel like it has most of the things you'd want, such as above-average mobility, a well designed hood, and a tiny stuff pocket with a clip-in loop. The next lightest jackets we tested were the Arc'teryx Beta SL (11 ounces), which was the lightest of Gore-tex or eVent contenders, as well as the Patagonia Torrentshell.

Click to enlarge
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 can change quickly. At some point, we've all been caught out in a storm, having gotten 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 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 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 requires 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 32-ounce Nalgene bottle. As for weight, the Outdoor Research Helium II was by far the most compact jacket, with the Marmot PreCip and The North Face Venture Jacket coming in as the next most compressible.

Click to enlarge
Peter Webb puts his jacket to the test during some wetter than ideal conditions while alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies.

Features


As we've just described above, the products we tested range from bare bones ultralight designs to more fully featured standard models. For some adventures, super light is right, but more often a few pockets and pit zips contribute enough utility for the handful of 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.

Click to enlarge
The Helium II is super light and very compact. Brandon Lampley getting ready for the afternoon showers at Lumpy Ridge near Rocky Mountain National Park. This is 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.

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!

Click to enlarge
Nice features include a micro fleece lined zipper and good fitting cuffs. Here tester Ian Nicholson with a poor fitting hood on a very wet day.

Pockets
Having a few pockets on your jacket is incredibly useful. Besides the use of storing small items and having a convenient place to keep your hands warm, their location can have a great deal of effect on the comfort of the jacket. Having low hand warmer pockets are great for around town but can be a nuisance while wearing a hip-belt and a heavily-weighted pack.

Click to enlarge
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 but those things don't cause a zipper to dig into our hips.

When a majority of the pocket is under a weighted hip-belt, whether out for the day or on an extended trip, the zipper can dig into your hips, quickly making your rainy-day adventure even more miserable. We love pockets that are slightly higher, out of the way of a pack's hip-belt or a climbing harness, so we can still access items and more importantly, so the zipper doesn't cause us pain under heavy loads.

Click to enlarge
Chris Simrell crossing the upper Elwah River in the Olympic Mountains, WA. This jacket withstood quite a bit of bushwhacking use and abuse.

Durability


A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands you place on it. 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 is to tear. Most of the jackets we tested use between a 30-50 Denier face fabric with the 50D shells being tougher than the 30Ds. All but the Columbia Watertight II feature ripstop material. 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 exterior which is known to be stretchier and slightly 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 or opt for polyester. Lastly, jackets with less seams in the shoulders will certainly hold up better over time if you plan to carry a pack on a regular basis.

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

The Marmot Minimalist and Outdoor Research Foray both pair 50D polyester ripstop face fabrics and with Gore-Tex Paclite, enabling them to earn the two highest durability scores. Other jackets, such as the Marmot Essence, 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 will need maintenance and perhaps reapplication to match the lifespan of the jacket. We did reflect each jackets DWR longevity in their durability and water resistance scores.

Click to enlarge

Conclusion


Click to enlarge
Nine of our test jackets lined up and ready to go. From the summits of Colorado 14ers, to chores around the homestead, we abused our test models...and ourselves...to find the best. From ultralight models to budget 2-layer pieces, we tested 'em all.

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.

Click to enlarge
We work hard to create the best gear reviews possible to help you make a better buying decision. Hope you enjoyed.
Ian Nicholson
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket

by Ian Nicholson and Brandon Lampley

Unbiased.