The Best Men's Rain Jackets of 2017 for Hiking and Travel
With so many rain jackets, it can be confusing to find the right one. We researched 90 of them, then bought the 10 top models for 105 wet hours of field testing. Today's jacket selection is daunting: we set out to help you find the best model for your needs and budget whether you have $50 or $300. While we declare an overall winner, we also identify the best jacket for many applications such as commuting, backpacking, and ultralight travel. Our team of five testers performed both side-by-side weather resistance tests in a lab environment as well as extensive real-world application tests in pouring conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Our side-by-side tests were drenching and exhausting, but they separated which products were over-hyped, overpriced, or just exactly what you need.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated March 2017
Our 2017 review update includes new award categories to help you find the exact right jacket for your activity. For example, we now have a Top Pick for ventilation if you need a model that excels at more aerobic activities. We bought and tested the most recent models of all the jackets. Many new award winners emerged, notably at the high-performance end of our selection. We also now have charts and graphs for each performance metric.
Best Overall Rain Jacket
Arc'teryx Beta SL
While Arc'teryx dominates our hardshell review awards, 2017 marks the year they pulled ahead for rain jackets. But just narrowly by one point. The do-everything Arc'teryx Beta SL scored the best, or nearly the best, in almost every category. If we could only own one jacket, this would be it. Our testing team loved its best-in-review mobility, exceptionally versatility, fantastic hood design, and great storm worthiness - all at a below average weight. While some jackets offer advantages for certain applications, this is the do-everything rain jacket for a broad range of activities.
Best mobility and range of motion in the review
Thoughtful hood design
Lightest Gore-Tex jacket we tested
No ventilation options
Expensive for a Gore-Tex Paclite jacket
Read full review: Arc'teryx Beta SL
Best Bang for the Buck
The PreCip has won Best Buy every year for six years straight. It invented the high-performance $100 category and still owns it. 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 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.
Better breathability than others in its price range
Above average ventilation
Roll away hood
Nice pit zips
No chest pocket
Not quite as breathable as membrane models
DWR lasts decently long
Read full review: Marmot PreCip
Top Pick for Light Weight
Outdoor Research Helium II
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 its own pocket.
Perfect stuff pocket
No hand pockets
Loose wrist cuffs
Read full review: Outdoor Research Helium II
Top Pick for Hiking and Backpacking
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 an intelligent 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 backcountry skiing, this is one of the best jackets out there (especially considering its $190 price). We also love the Marmot Minimalist, an excellent jacket and was only just barely edged out for this award.
Excellent hood design
eVent most breathable fabric we tested
Good quality construction
Not quite as abrasion-resistant as other models
Good, but not fantastic mobility
Read full review: REI Rhyolite
Top Pick for Ventilation & Features
Outdoor Research Foray
The Gore-Tex Paclite Outdoor Research Foray seals out rain, snow, and the wind and is more durable than products with proprietary fabrics. The Foray excels at ventilation. It goes beyond just pit zips and venting pockets and includes "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.
On the heavier side
Slightly more expensive than average
Read full review: Outdoor Research Foray
Analysis and Test Results
We researched the top 90 rain jackets, before narrowing down to the 10 finalists. We bought those jackets and put them through an intensive testing process to see how they performed. Our ratings as based on the most important factors we rely on when trying to decide which jacket to buy.
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. For hood cinch performance or exact hem adjustments, see each product's review.
A rain jacket should keep you dry, 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 types of waterproof fabrics and treatments in the jackets 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 tested are water-resistant to use as a rain shell. In all the models tested, shell fabric is seam-taped after sewing, making a 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 also differentiates performance.
Materials make a difference regarding breathability (which can make you feel wet from the inside), longevity, and durability. If one fabric is waterproof to 30 PSI and one to 40 PSI, it doesn't make a functional difference.
Rain is not going to penetrate any of these fabrics; however, in a downpour, running water seeks 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 four minutes in each jacket and got a spray down with the garden hose to help find weak spots. The Arc'teryx Beta SL and the Marmot Minimalist were the sturdiest 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 on the wrist with Velcro closures. All hoods sealed well around the face and chin.
All the products we tested should 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 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 hydrophobic, if they aren't treated with a DWR (or after the treatment wears off), they 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 Arc'Teryx Beta SL stands out, as does the The North Face Dryzzle. All the jackets 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.
Breathability & Ventilation
To a large degree, a garment's breathability is affected by the fabrics it's bonded to. 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 and waterproof membrane type.
A Note on Breathability
You can sweat walking up a hill while wearing only a shirt. We've overheard too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all or enough for their 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 layers or working hard at a high exertion rate (at warmer temperatures). Sometimes your lightweight t-shirt can't breathe and pass moisture quick enough, and the same goes for rain jackets. Set yourself up for success and 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.
Our water resistance metric measured how well each rain jacket keeps 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 fabric's breathability; this is where waterproof technologies distinguish themselves. These multi-layered fabrics allow water vapor to be wicked through the fabric to the outside where it can evaporate. We also studied how well the features of a jacket allow for ventilation.
Due to its construction, eVent is the most breathable waterproof fabric tested. Gore-Tex PacLite and some PU laminates like Marmot's NanoPro 2.5 layer laminate are close, but can't pass as much moisture. We didn't find eVent FAR more breathable, but after side-by-side testing and real-world use, it won our review team over. 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.
A fabric's breathability is most important when it is raining hard and you want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinching the hood. The more active your endeavors, the greater importance of breathability. In the time between cloud bursts when you want to continue wearing your jacket for wind protection or as part of your layering system, ventilation becomes nearly as important as breathability. Pit zips and mesh-lined pockets that allow airflow can be valuable features depending on your activity. To a lesser extent, cuffs that adjust to allow for air circulation from the wrist give you some, though more limited, ventilation options.
Side-by-Side Hiking Test
We tested the breathability of these jackets in both real-world use while hiking and backpacking but also in a series of side-by-side rain tests. (The Pacific Northwest Fall served up plenty of rainy days to help us out.) We also performed a 10-minute stair master test.
The REI Rhyolite, which is constructed with eVent, breathes 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 others, and we noticed 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 reviewed; while they were comparable to the Rhyolite, they did not stand out as much.
The Outdoor Research Foray also earned our highest score. 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 triceps and allow the jacket to be opened like a poncho. Among coated jackets, the Marmot PreCip and the The North Face Venture 2 received respectable scores for breathability. While their fabrics weren't as breathable, they featured larger than average pit zips and lower hand pockets (lined with mesh) that dumped a noticeable amount of heat when open.
Comfort & Mobility
We tested these jackets in drizzles and downpours while hiking, climbing, playing disc golf, backcountry skiing, ice climbing and backpacking. We also used them for everyday chores, like carrying groceries and firewood. Whatever activities you have planned, you want a jacket that moves comfortably with you. How well does the hood move with your head? 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.
The above chart shows where each rain jacket landed on our Comfort and Mobility scale.
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 Arc'teryx Beta SL featured the best range of motion and mobility of any jacket reviewed. The Beta SL has well-designed and articulated shoulders and sleeves, with an arm length that was above average but not too long. Other jackets that were decent, but when it came to climbing and mobility demanding activities, this was our favorite option. The Marmot Minimalist, Outdoor Research Foray, and Outdoor Research Helium II also had good mobility and received the next highest rating in this metric.
The effectiveness varied wildly among hoods. While all were waterproof, their ability to stay on our heads and not blind our peripheral vision ranged considerably. 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 range of headwear, from beanies to baseball caps, and minimized the amount of peripheral vision lost. We like the Marmot Minimalist, Patagonia Torrentshell and The North Face Dryzzle's hoods, but they didn't fit over a helmet as nicely.
For some users, light is right. We value lightweight clothing and equipment, but not at the expense of function. If you're thru-hiking 2,000 miles, climbing technical terrain, or riding your bicycle from coast to coast, weight is your primary concern. Around town, weight is less significant.
Many jacket users have several priorities above weight, including breathability, comfort, and the right combination of features. Let weight be the final deciding factor if you're torn between two products that meet your needs.
The Outdoor Research Helium II is the lightest model tested, weighing in at 6.5 ounces. That's half the weight (or even less) of most of the jackets reviewed. If weight is your primary concern, this jacket is hard to beat and is one of the lightest waterproof breathable models currently 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 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.
Weather changes quickly. At some point, we've all been caught in a storm, getting 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 is 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. Our rating for packed size considers not only the 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 2 coming in as the next most compressible.
As we've described above, the products tested range from bare-bones designs to fully featured models. For some adventures, super light is right, but more often a few pockets and pit zips contribute enough utility for the 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 nice. Some folks like to use a rain hat; a hood that rolls away and stows can be appreciated.
In each product 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!
Having a few pockets on your jacket is useful. Besides the use of storing small items and having a convenient place to keep your hands warm, their location can have an 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 harness or heavy pack.
When a majority of the pocket is under a weighted hip-belt, whether out for the day or an extended trip, the zipper can dig into your hips, making your rainy-day adventure even more miserable. We love pockets that are higher, out of the way of a pack's hip-belt or a harness, so we can still access items and, more importantly, so the zipper doesn't cause us pain under heavy loads.
A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands you place on it. The chart below shows each jacket's durability score in our review.
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 tears. Most of the jackets 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 the 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 more durable than nylon. If you plan to use your jacket off trail or bushwhacking, choose a model with ripstop face fabric or choose polyester. Lastly, jackets with fewer seams in the shoulders hold up better if you plan to carry a pack on a regular basis.
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 need maintenance and reapplication to match the lifespan of the jacket. We reflected each jacket's DWR longevity in their durability and water resistance scores.
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.
— Ian Nicholson
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