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Looking to stay dry in wet weather? Whether your plans include expected rain or a surprise sprinkle, we've spent years testing the top rain jackets for women and the best men's rain jackets to find out which ones offer top performance. We understand the desire to stay dry in the outdoors for comfort and continued fun or necessity, which is why we tested these jackets for waterproofness, comfort, breathability, durability, and more to find the absolute best options available today. After purchasing each option and hours of testing and rainy day play, we have the details and answers you need to find the best outer layer for your climate and activity.
Weight: 10.75 ounces | Pockets: Two raised hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Great storm protection
Good freedom of movement
REASONS TO AVOID
Hood may not go over helmet
Doesn't pocket stuff
The Arc'teryx Beta Jacket is an undisputed performer for men's rain jackets. In all tests, it offers top performance, and it is exceptionally versatile. We believe it is stormworthy to withstand a wet week-long backcountry trip and still light and compact enough to practically disappear in when not in use. The Beta uniquely offers equal or better protection from storms than many competing rain shells with a lower overall weight. In our tests, it also offers better breathability, durability, and movement than much of the test group.
This jacket has no ventilation, so warmer bodies won't have heat-dumping options outside of unzipping. Its comfortable hood doesn't pull over a helmet well, and it was one of the few that doesn't offer a stuff pocket. The real downside of the Beta is cost. However, despite being more expensive than much of the competition, we think the majority of passionate outdoor enthusiasts will be happy to spend a little more for better performance.
The best rain and incremental weather protection for women can be found in the Arc'teryx Beta LT. This jacket allows you to withstand the weather longer and extend your adventures further. We threw every test we had at the 3L Gore-tex, including serious tropical storms, and it performed impressively. The Beta LT has gusseted underarms and a somewhat tailored design with a drop hem for a good range of motion despite the thicker and stiffer fabric.
At 12.3 oz, this option is heavier than most we tested and one of the few without a stuff pocket. The Beta LX may not be the best if your goal is going ultralight. Plus, it is more expensive than much of the competition. However, we think this option is a great choice for those who want the best extended wet weather protection.
Weight: 11.4 oz | Material: Gore-Tex with Paclite, polyester 50D plain weave
REASONS TO BUY
Great for backcountry & urban use
REASONS TO AVOID
Somewhat short sleeves
The Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's continues to score impressive results across all metrics. With high marks from water resistance to breathability, it has all the features you want and need. This option sports soft fabric and a flattering shape. Its substantial Gore-Tex, Paclite fabric can withstand harsh storms, protecting you from severe downpours. It has reinforced, sealed seams, water-resistant zippers, an adjustable hood, hip cinches, and elastic and Velcro to seal wrists. Don't be worried about getting too hot in this well-sealed coat, as the pit vents extend the length and can be opened from the top or bottom quickly dissipate heat. The Aspire earns our highest scores for design, fit, and performance. It packs into its pocket with a clip for attaching to other gear.
The Aspire is one of the heavier options we tested, with a weight of 11.4 ounces. However, the full-length side vents and the waterproof, dual-direction main zipper make the added weight acceptable. If you seek impressive wind and water protection combined with breathability, this is the jacket for you.
The REI Co-Op XeroDry GTX is a well-designed Gore-Tex jacket for men at a budget-friendly price. Our tests show there are higher quality and lighter options that are more stormworthy, but for the price, this is a standout. The Xerodry outperforms cheaper options and offers comfort and performance comparable to more expensive jackets. It has above-average protection from the weather and better breathability with a lighter weight and smaller packed size.
The few downsides of this jacket only appear when compared to more expensive options. The XeroDry is slightly clammier and can wet out faster than spendier 3-layer products. These differences are small and for the price, its performance is hard to top.
Weight: 8.7 oz | Material: NanoPro Eco, 100% recycled nylon ripstop 24 oz/yd with DWR treatment
REASONS TO BUY
Simple, functional design
High pockets for a waistbelt
REASONS TO AVOID
The Marmot PreCip Eco - Women's is a top pick for weather protection without the sticker shock. It has impressive water-repelling features, with dual storm flaps on the main zipper, an adjustable hood with a brim, and fully taped seams. This jacket is recycled material and weighs a scant 8.7 ounces, making it friendly for the environment and your wallet. The PreCip Eco's larger hood can be swiftly rolled and stowed in the collar, which offers appreciated wind and cold temperature neck protection. This lightweight option also has a stuff pocket for easy transportation on adventures.
The PreCip Eco hood adjustment has a cord through the brim's edge that when tightened prevents the brim from being long enough to offer rain protection for your eyes. If you want an expedition jacket for torrential rain, this thinner jacket isn't as protective despite the adequate DWR coating. In a group full of intense competitors, the performance and price of the PreCip Eco make it a high-value choice.
The North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight is so lightweight and small that it could disappear in your pack. Even with its smaller size, it offers adequate storm protection and stows in its reversible chest pocket. Our testers love the athletic design and stretchy fabric that provide freedom of movement. The air-permeable design is breathable enough, and we found it to be more versatile than we thought it was going to be. This product is good for those who carry their jacket more than they use it.
This jacket isn't as durable or versatile as some of the competition. Many competitors we tested provide better protection. This jacket is also one of the least durable options we tested, as it has the thinnest materials and zippers. If you need a coat for bad weather or known storms, this is not the best choice for long days of wear. However, if you'll primarily stow your shell and only use it occasionally, it's tough to top.
Weight: 9.4 oz | Material: Dry.Q Active Stretch 40D 2.5L 100% nylon
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Hood isn't the most protective
Minor durability issues
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic redefines what it means to be a rain shell. This jacket is thin, super soft, and unbelievably comfortable. It offers impressive protection in a flexible jacket that is highly versatile. If you have a long torso or longer arms, this one is a shoo-in for you. It can be adjusted to your personal size, and it moves when you move, protecting you from exposure to the elements. The Ozonic has stretchy, breathable material with large pit vents to dump heat. It also sports a large-toothed zipper that is easy to use and packs in its own pocket.
Sadly, this option is not wind resistant. Anything over a stiff breeze is gonna be felt. Also, because it lacks ripstop fabric, it might not be the best option for scraping rocks or bumping cactus. For full waterproof properties, you'll also need to perform regular treatments to the stretchy fabric with extra layers of DWR. This option is seriously versatile for several activities and actions, making it a tester favorite.
Weight: 10.5 ounces | Pockets: One chest, 2 lower hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Stows in a disguised mesh pocket
REASONS TO AVOID
Average storm protection
Shoulders/ hood "wet out" faster
Easy to over-tighten the hood
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is a well-cut and stretchy jacket that works well in demanding conditions. Activities that require high mobility also require higher aerobic thresholds, and participants will love this jacket's interior feeling and the impressive breathability we experienced during testing.
We loved most attributes of the Stretch Ozonic, but in our tests, it only showed average protection in storms. It isn't bad, keeping testers dry in light rain or short-duration storms, but it wets out faster than competing jackets in our tests. It wouldn't be our first choice for significant rain adventures.
If you want something ultra-light for travel, the Outdoor Research Helium is hands-down the best for weight and packability. This jacket is the perfect choice for backpacking and adventures where size and weight are top priorities. The Helium is also very breathable thanks to a thin design that keeps you dry. The latest technology also makes it impressively rain-resistant repelling rain from the fabric and zippers.
Thanks to the thin design, this option is not the best for cold-weather adventures. The fabric is also not our favorite for direct skin contact. It lacks hand pockets and has a shorter torso that would make it more comfortable. However, as an emergency layer that is very packable, it is hard to beat this ultralight jacket.
Weight: 14.5 ounces | Pockets: One chest, two lower
REASONS TO BUY
Good storm protection
REASONS TO AVOID
Pockets aren't the best
Average weight & volume
The stretchiest of the stretchy Rab Kinetic 2.0 is a true stand-out in a folded market of stretchy raincoats. No other jacket we tested in our men's group can match its durability, comfort, or freedom of movement. It has impressive breathability and adequate storm protection. The Kinetic offers excellent articulation, has an athletic cut, and has some of the stretchiest material on the market.
The Kinetic "wets out" somewhat more than the competition but wasn't that different than the top air-permeable competition. While it might work well for a few hours of activity, it wouldn't be our go-to for sitting in camp on a rainy day. This option keeps breathing even if you aren't moving, which can lead to a net heat loss and feeling cold. The Kinectic offers solid weather resistance, but there are burlier models for hanging out in a downpour. This jacket is best for aerobic activities where non-stop breathability and awesome mobility have higher priority than total storm protection.
The Norrona Trollveggen Gore-Tex Pro Light offers impressive weather resistance compared to the competition. With a damn near perfect fit and light Gore-Tex Pro fabric, this jacket keeps the cruddy weather out. It features waterproof zippers and a longer seat hem to keep water from reaching your body. The Pro Light offers soft materials on the bulk of the jacket with more durable patches where you need more durability, like the hood, shoulders, and forearms. We think this is hands down one of the most comfortable and versatile hardshells we've tested.
This jacket is somewhat heavier than the closest competitor and has a style some wearers might not like. However, these slight concerns are combated by an athletic fit we loved wearing. If you want the best hardshell for various activities, the Trollveggen Pro Light might be the one for you.
The Norrona Trollveggen Gore-Tex Light Pro shell is an excellent women's hardshell jacket that might be capable of rain jacket status in the right conditions. This jacket is easy to layer but is slim fitting, so the material doesn't hinder mobility. This design makes it versatile for different activity types and levels.
The Trollveggen is good for mountain adventures, hiking and backpacking, and urban living. It has a loose fit and is very versatile; plus, it is a surprisingly light jacket. Given its versatility, we think it is an excellent investment for most adventures and climates, including some rain.
Our women's and men's test teams spent hours wearing jackets in various activities and climates love months. Ian Nicholson, our men's rain jacket review lead, is an internationally licensed IFMGA/UIAGM mountain guide with over 2,000 days of guiding in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Andes, European Alps, and more. Ian has worn a rain jacket for over 800 days in the last 20 years as he lives in the Pacific Northwest. He's had about 1,000 clients and helped them choose gear for outdoor adventures. Our women's rain jacket review lead is Jessica Albery. Jessica is no stranger to drenching rains, having worked outdoor jobs in New Zealand, Australia, and Oregon. Jessica is currently based out of Truckee, California, which has been repeatedly deluged with "atmospheric river" storms, bringing massive rain and floods to California. Jessica's gear philosophy is that having the right gear means you can stay out longer. Jessica has a degree in journalism and values scientific, unbiased hands-on research to inform her gear reviews and ratings. Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg has been part of our rain jacket testing team since 2017. Maggie is a long-time avid outdoorswoman with over 15 years of guiding others through the backcountry in rainforests and mountain ranges.
Rain Jackets were tested across 5 test metrics:
Breathability and Ventilation
Comfort and Mobility
Weight and Packability
Test leads spent more than 20 hours inspecting and researching more than 80 jackets to determine the potential contenders to purchase for real-world testing. We purchase all products from retailers just like you do to ensure an unbiased testing process and final results. Testers wore these jackets for more than 350 field hours of hiking, biking, camping, mountaineering, and more to assess breathability, mobility, water resistance, etc. Testers keep detailed notes and observations about performance across metrics and award winners were chosen after much consideration and hours of use. We tested women's jackets and men's ranging from ultra-lightweight to three-layered jackets for colder climates.
Breaking Down the Options
When it comes to rain jackets there is more to consider than just finding something to keep you dry. Things to consider before making your final selection should include waterproofing level, layers, size (weight), and the climate and activity you plan to use it for. For many, this can mean multiple activities and climates that could necessitate purchasing multiple jackets or making concessions in what you want to meet the varying needs of each activity or area with a single product.
Care and Cleaning
Every jacket no matter what company or style you choose will require care and maintenance. If you ignore your jacket and fail to clean it or reapply water repellent coatings, it will eventually fail you in the field leaving you wet when you don't want to be. Each jacket comes with its own care and cleaning guide and we recommend following these recommendations and tips to the letter to keep your gear in top condition. After spending over a hundred dollars or more, it is a small price to pay to keep the outdoor wet weather fun going.
Waterproof or Water Resistance
The goal of any great rain jacket is to keep you dry. However, to what degree and which products it uses to meet this goal varies from jacket to jacket. Some jackets are made to withstand the worst storms, while others are meant more for the occasional light rain in warmer weather. Finding the right option to meet your needs can save you money if it helps you avoid getting "more" jacket than you need or if it means finding the right jacket on the first purchase so you don't need to purchase more than one. Some products use waterproof and breathable materials, while others rely on surface treatment with more water "resistant" fabrics. Knowing the waterproofing elements and properties of each garment can help you find the one right for your goals and needs.
ePTFE Fabrics: Materials like Gore-Tex (the oldest) are stretched membranes with a specific dimension designed to allow the escape of water vapor but prevent liquid from entering. This sweet spot is a result of the pore size (20,000 smaller than a water drop), and the low surface tension (that prevents the absorption of liquid water without significant pressure).
Polyester, Polyurethane, or PU Films: PU is a laminate that performs the function of a waterproof layer between the outer material and the inside layer. This is often paired with an ePTFE layer as the PU layer will be exceptionally thin when laminated to an ePTFE layer. With the PU laminate, the ePTFE needs to be thicker to reach the desired waterproofness. Products that use PU tend to be lighter weight. They also tend to be more stretchy than those that use only ePTFE fabric.
Coated Fabrics: Coated fabrics are typically used in budget-friendly jackets and are usually less breathable with lower durability over time. A coated waterproof and breathable material is sandwiched between the outer fabric and interior layer. The plus of coated fabrics is they can often be used with stretchier materials offering a superior range of motion.
Durable Water Repellent
Durable Water Repellent (DWR) is the chemical treatment applied to the exterior fabric (not the membrane or coated waterproof fabric in the middle). Its job is to resist and bead water on the surface to prevent the fabric from becoming saturated. Saturation is the bane of breathability and can create a feeling of dampness as a result. All waterproof fabrics use some kind of DWR; it is also common to some degree in water-resistant textiles.
Considering the Layers
You might not have noticed the layer inside a rain jacket. There is a good reason for this. Unlike other kinds of jackets they are not separate layers and you can not take off a layer if you need to. These layers are sandwiched together and often laminated together or cannot be "seen."
Two layers are the simplest rain jack you can buy. This type includes an outer fabric layer treated with a water repellent (most likely DWR) and an inner waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex for waterproofing and breathability. Some don't think this is the best design as the waterproof layer typically isn't super skin-friendly.
Two-point five (2.5) layers include the two layers already mentioned and an added half layer. Wait… what the heck is a half layer?? The half-layer here is a lightly sprayed or painted-on protective coating on the inner membrane. It isn't an actual layer of fabric, but it creates another layer, thus, the .5/half layer status. These designs tend to be less expensive, but are also less durable.
Three layers is a 2-layer jacket with a liner fused inside (some are textured). The third layer helps prevent skin oils and dirt from reaching the breathable membrane. This means less laundering to keep it breathable. The third layer lowers overall breathability, making the design more suitable for colder climates. Three-layer jackets offer the best rain protection, but the triple-layer means it is thicker and stiffer. However, 3-layer jackets offer the best most consistent protection and performance in the worst storm conditions.
Use and Climate
Choosing the right rain jacket for your needs is largely dependent on three factors, your budget, your activity plans, and the climate you'll be playing in. These factors can influence the number of layers you decide to look for and the type of waterproofing the jacket has. The colder the climate, you'll likely need more layers. The more heated the activity, the more you might consider pit vents. The more activities, the more versatility you'll need. Paying attention to features (does the hood fit a helmet) and the metrics that matter the most for your goals will give you the details you need to find the right jacket to meet your goals.
Depending on your activity, exertion level, and ambient air temperature or humidity, venting will be more or less important to you. While any jacket can use its main front zipper to dump the build-up of internal body heat, some offer the additional feature of "pit vent" zippers to better regulate the release of excess heat without creating a cold or clammy feel. If you plan to exert yourself a lot through activities like mountaineering or hiking and your wet weather climate will be relatively warm, then pit vents will feel more like a must-have. If your needs lean more toward camp sitting in colder climates, then vents might not be a mandatory feature for you. Alternatively, some folks feel it's better to have them and not need them than to need them and be without. If you plan to indulge in multiple types of outdoor adventures or your climate will vary, the lack of pit vents could be a deal-breaker.
Hoods might seem like a nice to have but in the rain and a storm, they are a must-have. These must-have features have different designs and features you should consider as they apply to your chosen activity. If you need to wear a helmet for your outdoor fun, then a hood that is large enough for a helmet is a necessity. You also want to consider if the hood has some level of adjustability and a brim to protect your eyes and face while maintaining your peripheral vision. No one hood is perfect for everyone, but there are definitely hood designs that are better and more versatile than others.
Hardshell or Rain Jacket?
If your wet weather plans are going to be super wet or sloppy, then a hardshell might be the way to go over a rain-specific jacket. However, hardshells are typically more durable and have fancier fabric that stays weatherproof longer. Many testers and outdoor guides prefer a hardshell over other rain jackets when the weather is going to be wetter or the snow heavy and wet. Rain jackets are typically lighter weight and great at offering protection against the wet, and they are traditionally more breathable with thinner fabric. They pack small, and they have fewer features. A rain jacket can also save you some money over hardshells. However, if you want a double-use jacket or a more durable option that will last longer than the typical rain jacket, then a hardshell might save you money and frustration. If your overall adventure plans will find you in wetter weather or places where the weather changes on a dime, then purchasing a hardshell could be the better choice over a rain jacket. But if you don't plan on severe wet weather and value breathability and lighter weight over durable, or your budget is tight, the rain jacket could be your go-to. We've included a men's and women's hardshell option as notable selections in this review to help you decide.
No matter which jacket you choose, a great rain jacket can extend outdoor fun and keep you comfortable for longer. Our experts have spent hours compiling the information you need to find a great option for your activity and climate. Whether you need a women's jacket or a men's style, we have you covered. For more information on gender-specific testing or consideration and other products we tested, please take a moment to read more about rain jackets for women and men's rain jackets.
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