The Best Rain Jacket for Men Review

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Brandon on the way back from the Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak. Our Editors' Choice is the best ultralight breathable protection available for high energy jaunts in the mountains.
Credit: Brandon Lampley
For our 2014 review, we selected nine of the best and most popular rain jackets and tested them side-by-side. The heyday of the yellow rubber rain slicker is long past and the waterproof/breathable models we tested include both the state of the art in lightweight rain protection and more budget-friendly models. The best of these jackets lock out the rain, let your sweat 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, and our three award winners distinguished themselves after our testing and evaluation. In addition to our Editors' Choice and Best Buy winner, we handed out a Top Pick for Around Town. Our review of Women's Rain Jackets compares the best products available for the ladies.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Rain Jackets - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Marmot Essence
Marmot Essence
Read the Review
Marmot PreCip
Marmot PreCip
Read the Review
Marmot Minimalist Jacket
Marmot Minimalist Jacket
Read the Review
Patagonia Torrentshell
Patagonia Torrentshell
Read the Review
Outdoor Research Helium 2
Outdoor Research Helium 2
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award       
Street Price $200
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $79 - $100
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $199 - $200
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $90 - $129
Compare at 8 sellers
$150
Compare at 7 sellers
Overall Score 
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78
Editors' Rating
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1 rating
Pros Light, exceptonally breathable, moves wellGreat breathability and ventilation, roll away hood, nice pit zips, affordableAwesome hood, very durable, good breathability and ventilation, waterproof pocketsWaterproof, good breathability, great hood, durablePerfect stuff pocket, super light, great mobility
Cons Not durable, no hand pocketsNo chest pocketHeavy for a minimalist design, expensiveSo-so ventilation, small zipper pulls and cord locksNo hand pockets, loose wrist cuffs
Best Uses Ultralight hiking, alpine climbing, backpacking, trail runningHiking, backpacking, general useBackpacking, hiking, biking, camping, alpine climbing, skiingBackpacking, mountaineering, climbing, all round useMultipitch climbing, fastpacking, running, just-in-case rain protection
Date Reviewed Nov 11, 2014Nov 07, 2014Nov 11, 2014Nov 11, 2014Nov 12, 2014
Weighted Scores Marmot Essence Marmot PreCip Marmot Minimalist Jacket Patagonia Torrentshell Outdoor Research Helium 2
Water Resistance - 30%
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9
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8
Breathability - 20%
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7
Comfort And Mobility - 20%
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Weight - 15%
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Durability - 10%
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Packed Size - 5%
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Product Specs Marmot Essence Marmot PreCip Marmot Minimalist Jacket Patagonia Torrentshell Outdoor Research Helium 2
Measured Weight (oz) 6.2 11.2 15.6 12.1 6.5
Material Nylon Ripstop 1.5 oz/ yd, Marmot NanoPro 2.5 Layer laminate, Dry Touch finish Nylon Ripstop 2.2 oz/ yd, Marmot NanoPro 2.5 Layer coating Polyester 3.6oz/ yd, GORE-TEX Paclite laminate Nylon Ripstop 50D, 2.6oz/yd, 2.5-layer H2No Performance laminate Nylon 30D ripstop, Pertex Shield+ coating 2.5L
# of Fabric Layers 2.5-layer 2.5-layer 2.5-layer 2.5-layer 2.5-layer
Pockets 1 chest 2 zippered hand 1 chest, 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand 1 chest, 1 inside stuff pocket
Pit Zips Vents Yes Yes Yes No
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Helmet Compatible Hood Good Good OK Great Good
Stows Into Pocket No Yes No Yes Yes
Color Options 4 19 5 9 6

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • All Reviewed Products
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Marmot Essence
$200
100
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86
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Marmot PreCip
$120
100
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84
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Columbia Watertight II
$90
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73
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Marmot Minimalist Jacket
$200
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82
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Montane Minimus Jacket
$240
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78
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Patagonia Torrentshell
$130
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North Face Venture
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The North Face Resolve
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Selecting the Right Product
A rain jacket, one that keeps you dry when the skies let loose, may be the first piece of performance outdoor clothing you purchase; it is certainly the most important for comfort and safety when the rain comes. The models we review here span affordable rain protection for around town and occasional hiking; to ultralight protection for backpacking, climbing and winter adventures. Whether you are searching for your first rain jacket, a replacement for a tired, old favorite, or an ultralight model to add to your quiver, you're in the right place.

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Our 2014 selection of top rain jackets, ready for the abuse we're about to put them through.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

You'll find a thorough description of the evaluation metrics below, and the top performers in each. The individual review of each product details its features, explains our scoring in each metric, and compares and contrasts each model to similar products.

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. Rain jackets generally cost about $100-$200, while hardshells will set you back $250-$500.

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Brandon Lampley using the Montane Minimus as a wind jacket for fall hiking. The ultralight models we tested are super breathable and do double duty as cool weather wind layers.
Credit: Natasha Halevi

Rain Jackets
The jackets we selected span decades of fabric technology. Some of them 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: ultralight and standard.

Ultralight
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The ultralight products we tested, the Marmot Essence, Outdoor Research Helium 2, 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 - 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 need pit zips for ventilation. These three 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 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 chalk bag for multipitch rock climbing!

Standard
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The "standard" models have come a long way in the past decade. The six that we tested range in weight from 11 to 16 ounces, which is pretty darn light. They all have zippered hand pockets and their prices range from $90 to $200, reflecting the diversity of waterproof/breathable fabrics used in their construction.

The North Face Resolve and Columbia Watertight II use a two-layer fabric shell and incorporate a mesh and taffeta lining. These two jackets do not have pitzips for ventilation, and are affordable entry level models. They are most appropriate for everyday around-town use and the occasional hiking trip.

The Marmot PreCip, Patagonia Torrentshell, Marmot Minimalist, and The North Face Venture are constructed with a more advanced 2.5-layer fabric. These four models all have pit zips for ventilation and they are the most versatile models for most folks. The more breathable fabrics and ventilation options make these great multipurpose jackets for hiking, backpacking, and around-town use.

Hardshell Jackets
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Hardshells generally use a heavier, more durable, waterproof/breathable fabric, and usually have more pockets and features. These three-layer fabrics are known to be more durable and often more breathable than 2- or 2.5-layer fabrics. Hardshells are well suited for rugged use: alpine climbing, ski mountaineering, outdoor winter work and professional use.

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 a brief summary of the various coating and laminate technologies used in the layered fabric of these jackets.

Criteria For Evaluation
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The Marmot Minimalist is unique in our rain jacket selection. The only model we tested that uses a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable fabric. This 2.5 layer Gore-Tex Paclite jacket is very well built and durable.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Water Resistance
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 seven 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. But, the important bit to understand, is all 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 wiggled around to see if and where water can enter the jacket. The Marmot PreCip and the Patagonia Torrentshell both seal out driving rain very well. Both have wrist cuffs that can be cinched down right on the wrist with Velcro closures, and the hoods seal well around the face and chin.

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, causes it to bead and shed water. Its importance is two-fold. 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. The consequences are 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.

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A DWR treatment is important for a jacket's water resistance. The DWR causes the jacket to bead water, allowing the high-tech fabric to breathe. All the jackets we tested have a good DWR treatment.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Breathability
A rain jacket will keep you dry from the outside, and breathability and ventilation quantify how well each keeps you dry from the inside, allowing sweat to escape. We took two main things into consideration when awarding scores for metric, which was weighted at 20% of our overall ratings. First, we thought about the ability of the jacket's fabric itself 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's actually raining, and you want to batten down the hatches, 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, and when you want to continue wearing your jacket for wind protection or as part of your warmth layering system, ventilation becomes more important than breathablity. Pit zips, 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, constructed with the new NanoPro Membrain laminate, breathes better than other jackets, hands down. This jacket was less steamy inside during high energy activities than any other. The Patagonia Torrentshell and the Marmot PreCip also received high scores for breathability, reflecting a good combination of fabric that breathes well and features that allow for great ventilation.

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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.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Comfort and Mobility
We tested these jackets in the drizzle and downpour 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 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.

The Marmot Minimalist and Patagonia Torrentshell received high scores for comfort and mobility. Notable is the Torrentshell's hood, which was more helmet compatible that its competitors. Our rating for comfort and mobility contributes 20% to each jacket's overall score.

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The Helium 2 is super light and very compact. Brandon Lampley getting ready for the afternoon showers at Lumpy Ridge. This is an excellent jacket to carry along on multi-pitch rock climbs.
Credit: Amanda Fenn

Weight
For some users, light is right. When you are reading reviews here at OutdoorGearLab, this is emphasized over and over. We highly value light weight clothing and equipment, but not at the expense of function. If you are thruhiking 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. Most rain jacket users will have several priorities above weight, including breathability, comfort and the right combination of features. Let weight be the final deciding factor is you are torn between two products that will meet your needs.

The Marmot Essence is the lightest model we tested; our size large test jacket weighed in at 6.2 ounces. The Outdoor Research Helium 2 and Montane Minimus were a close second and third. These jackets all minimize features to stay outrageously light – note that none has hand pockets. The North Face Resolve weighed in heaviest, at 16.2 ounces. Not bad at all for a jacket with lots of features and a comfortable mesh lining. The measured weights of our size large test models contribute 15 percent to the overall score.

Durability
A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands you place on it. The face fabric of all these jackets save one is nylon and the lighter jackets use a lighter weight nylon face fabric. Nylon fabrics are known to tear easily and the more expensive jackets we tested use a ripstop nylon fabric. The ripstop weave doubles up on a thread at intervals, providing a grid of strong fibers to stop tears from growing. If you plan to use your jacket off trail or bushwhacking through the wilderness, choose a model with ripstop face fabric. And remember that generally speaking, heavier models like the Columbia Watertight II are more durable.

The Marmot Minimalist is the only model we tested that does not use a nylon face fabric. Its polyester fabric is very durable and because it's a little stretchier than nylon, plays well with the GORE-TEX Paclite membrane. We focused solely on the jacket's face fabric and construction when judging durability. 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.

Packed Size
Weather can change quickly and we've all been caught out, 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 til you need it. Five 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 fully 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. Packed size ratings contribute five percent of each jacket's overall score.

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Jackets stuffed and ready to travel. The three 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
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Features
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 pitzips contribute enough utility for the handful of extra ounces to not matter.

If you are using your rain jacket around town, room in the pockets for a pair of gloves and a warm hat, plus phone and keys, is 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!

Editors' Choice Award: Marmot Essence
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This rain jacket, with the new NanoPro laminate technology, moves and breathes like no other we tested.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The 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 to leisurely strolls around the disc golf course. Marmot's new 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 Buy Award: Marmot PreCip
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The PreCip is the most versatile jacket we tested, and a great value. It breathes and is ventilated well enough for high energy fun, and the pockets can easily hold a hat and gloves for around town.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The Marmot PreCip has been a popular and trusted contender in the rain jacket market for a long time. Updated with Marmot's new NanoPro 2.5-layer coating 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. Several other models are less expensive, but the PreCip delivers the most function and versatility for your money. For the demanding budget-conscious buyer, it's hard to find a better deal than the PreCip at $120.

Top Pick Award for Around Town: Columbia Watertight II
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The Watertight II is perfect for around town use, and the occasional trip to the woods. It also has one of the more stylish cuts in this tester's opinion.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

The Columbia Watertight II - one of the two jackets we evaluated that uses traditional two-layer fabric technology with a mesh liner - is a great entry-level rain jacket. Not everyone goes running or climbs mountains in their rain jacket, and breathability and ventilation are less important for these folks than comfort and ease of use. There's nothing too special about this model, but it will keep you dry and provides plenty of storage in the pockets. This very affordable model is perfect for those that want an everyday jacket that can handle occasional hikes and trips away from town.

Brandon Lampley
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