The Best Men's Rain Jackets of 2017

Rain is not going to penetrate any of the fabrics that any of these jackets are constructed with; however  in a downpour  running water can seeks its way in through a pocket zipper  down your wrist when you reach overhead  or where the hood meets your neck and thus the features and design of each model is the most critical part of keeping you dry.
To find the best rain jackets for hiking, backpacking, and general outdoor use, we researched 50 models, bought 10 and sought out downpours in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you want a top-of-the-line, tricked-out model, or something under $100, we have a recommendation for you. While we declare an overall winner, but we also identify the best jacket for many applications such as commuting, climbing, and travel. Our team of testers performed both side-by-side weather resistance tests in a lab environment as well as extensive real-world application tests in pouring conditions. See our windbreaker review for light rain conditions and our rain pant fleet, where we found highest rated jackets don't always correspond with the best bottoms.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
Arc'Teryx Beta SL
Arc'teryx Beta SL
Outdoor Research Foray
Outdoor Research Foray
Marmot Minimalist
Marmot Minimalist
REI Rhyolite
REI Rhyolite
Outdoor Research Helium II
Outdoor Research Helium II
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $224.25 at Zappos
Compare at 3 sellers
$149.93 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$103.92 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$189.00 at REI$127.16 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Best mobility and range-of-motion in the review, awesome hood design, lightest Gore-Tex jacket we tested, long-lasting DWRExtremely versatile, durable, comfortable, exceptional ventilation, good breathabilityAwesome hood, fantastic fit, very durable, exceptionally versatile, good breathability and ventilation, waterproof pocketsOne of the best designed hoods out there, eVent most breathable fabric we tested, lightweight, great price, good quality constructionPerfect stuff pocket, super light, great mobility
Cons No ventilation options, expensive for a Gore-Tex Paclite jacketOn the heavier side, slightly more expensive than averageHeavy for a "minimalist" design, slightly more expensive than non-Gore-tex jacketsNot quite as abrasion resistant as other models, good, but not fantastic mobilityNo hand pockets, loose wrist cuffs
Ratings by Category Arc'teryx Beta SL Outdoor Research Foray Marmot Minimalist REI Rhyolite Outdoor Research Helium II
Water Resistance - 30%
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Breathability & Venting - 25%
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Comfort And Mobility - 20%
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Weight - 15%
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Durability - 5%
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Packed Size - 5%
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Specs Arc'teryx Beta SL Outdoor Research Foray Marmot Minimalist REI Rhyolite Outdoor Research Helium II
Measured Weight (ounces) 11 oz 16 oz 15 oz 12 oz 6.5 oz
Waterproof Fabric Material 2.5 layer Gore-tex with PacLite technology 2.5 layer Gore-tex with PacLite Technology 2.5 layer Gore-tex with PacLite Technology 3-Layer eVent 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+
Face Fabric and Layer Construction N40r w/ Gore-tex PacLite waterproof breathable membrane 50D w/ Gore-tex PackLite waterproof breathable membrane 50D 100% Polyester w / Gore-tex PacLite waterproof breathable membrane Nylon w/ eVent waterproof breathable membrane 30D 100 nylong ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+ waterproof breathable insert

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
October 18, 2017

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Updated October 2017
This fall, we perused our selection and analyzed new-comers, ensuring that we still have the latest and greatest contenders. We also added the new North Face Venture 2 to our fleet.

Best Overall Rain Jacket


Arc'teryx Beta SL


Arc'Teryx Beta SL Editors' Choice Award

$224.25
at Zappos
See It


Best mobility and range of motion in the review
Thoughtful hood design
Lightest Gore-Tex jacket we tested
Long-lasting DWR
No ventilation options
Expensive for a Gore-Tex Paclite model
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 whether that be for walking the dog or a week-long backpacking trip; this would be it. Our testing team loved its' best-in-review mobility, exceptional versatility, fantastic hood design, and top-notch storm worthiness - all while maintaining a below average weight. While some jackets offer advantages for specific applications, this is the do-everything rain jacket for a broad range of activities.

Read review: Arc'teryx Beta SL

Best Bang for the Buck


Marmot PreCip


Marmot PreCip Best Buy Award

$74.96
at Backcountry
See It

Better breathability than others in its price range
Above average ventilation
Rollaway hood
Nice pit zips
Affordable
No chest pocket
Not quite as breathable as membrane models
DWR lasts decently long
The Marmot PreCip has won Best Buy every year for six years straight. It pretty much invented the high-performance $100 category and still owns it. Updated last year with Marmot's NanoPro 2.5-layer coated technology, our testing team finds that it gets better each year. This fully featured jacket has hand pockets, pit zips for ventilation, and a rollaway hood. It's our favorite jacket for high-energy hiking and backpacking and featured enough for around town use for what is still a pretty reasonable price. 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.

Read review: Marmot PreCip

Top Pick for Light Weight


Outdoor Research Helium II


Outdoor Research Helium II Top Pick Award

$127.16
at Backcountry
See It

Perfect stuff pocket
Super light
Great mobility
No hand pockets
Loose wrist cuffs
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 in at 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 but despite offering a pretty basic, though effective hood, and an overall minimal design it still did a pretty good job at its primary purpose: keeping its wearer dry. While weight doesn't seem like a big deal and all those extra features are sweet, keep in mind that most hikers, climbers, or backpackers will likely end up carrying their waterproof layer 90% or more of the time, making this functional but low-weight and low bulk rain shell an excellent choice.

Read review: Outdoor Research Helium II

Top Pick for Hiking and Backpacking


REI Rhyolite


REI Rhyolite Top Pick Award

$189.00
at REI
See It

Excellent hood design
eVent most breathable fabric we tested
Lightweight
Great price
Good quality construction
Not quite as abrasion-resistant as other models
Okay, but not fantastic mobility
The REI Rhyolite is easily one of our favorite rain jackets on the market. It features 3-layer eVent, and 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 with 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 contender that was only just barely edged out for this award.

Read review: REI Rhyolite

Top Pick for Ventilation & Features


Outdoor Research Foray


Outdoor Research Foray Top Pick Award


Extremely versatile
Durable
Comfortable
Exceptional ventilation
Good breathability
On the heavier side
Slightly more expensive than average
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 and dumping heat for highly aerobic actives or folks who run on the warm-side. 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 and highly value the ventilation features common to the best rain jackets, the Foray might be for you.

Read review: Outdoor Research Foray

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
90
$299
Editors' Choice Award
Featuring our favorite hood in the test, this model is relatively light while remaining bombproof.
89
$215
Top Pick Award
With awesome ventilation capabilities, this model is an awesome all-arounder.
87
$200
Just nearly missing out on an award, this is an awesome do-anything piece and one of our favorites.
86
$190
Top Pick Award
With a beloved proprietary fabric and functional pockets and hood, this model was a Top Pick.
84
$159
Top Pick Award
An awesome hood and superior mobility make this lightweight hoody stand out.
82
$199
With features that aren't as functional as other similar models, this jacket does at least keep you dry.
77
$129
Great for those on a budget, this model marries performance with thoughtful design.
75
$100
Best Buy Award
With better breathability than similar models, this jacket also has a nice price tag.
70
$99
A decent all-around jacket for under $100, it offers excellent water resistance, comfort, and mobility.
65
$90
This model boasts a good price and adequate protection, but it lacks outdoor features present in other contenders.

We tested 10 of the best rain jackets for men that were under $300 and 16 ounces. We made our selection among over 90 models considered before choosing the best 10 for various reasons. We sprayed them with hoses  wore them in the shower and spent countless hours and days  hiking  climbing  skiing  and backpacking with them and reported our findings below.
We tested 10 of the best rain jackets for men that were under $300 and 16 ounces. We made our selection among over 90 models considered before choosing the best 10 for various reasons. We sprayed them with hoses, wore them in the shower and spent countless hours and days, hiking, climbing, skiing, and backpacking with them and reported our findings below.

Analysis and Test Results


We researched the top 90 rain jackets, before narrowing down to the ten finalists. We bought those jackets and put them through an intensive testing process both in specific side-by-side tests but also taking each into the field for real-world use 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.

Nine of the top rain jackets  ready for our testing. There are three distinct types of jackets here  and one will meet your needs best.
Nine of the top rain jackets, ready for our testing. There are three distinct types of jackets here, and one will meet your needs best.

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 reviews, we detail each product's features, explain our scoring in each metric, and compare and contrast each jacket to its closest competitors. For more specific comparisons such as each models hood cinch performance or exact hem adjustments, see each product's review.

We weighted weather resistance of any of our metrics caragories in our review  beacuse I mean really a rain jackets primary job is to keep you dry; whether hiking  backpacking  or just out walking the dog. Photo Graham Zimmerman trying to keep it positive in yet another torrential down-pour in Torres del Paine  Chile.
We weighted weather resistance of any of our metrics caragories in our review, beacuse I mean really a rain jackets primary job is to keep you dry; whether hiking, backpacking, or just out walking the dog. Photo Graham Zimmerman trying to keep it positive in yet another torrential down-pour in Torres del Paine, Chile.

Water Resistance


A rain jacket should keep you dry, whether hiking, backpacking, or just out walking the dog, that's (obviously) this piece of equipment job, Period. In our scoring metrics, this was the most heavily weighted category, at 30 percent.


Manufacturers use many types of waterproof fabrics and treatments in the jackets we tested. Lots of laboratory testing has been done to quantify precisely how waterproof each of these specific coated or laminated fabrics are. However, the critical bit to understand is that all of the products tested are water-resistant to use as a rain shell. In all the models tested feature a waterproof fabric (more on what makes a material impervious in our buying advice), shell fabric that is seam-taped after sewing creating a completely sealed envelope. What differentiates each model's performance is the design of the hood, cuffs, pocket and front-zip closures, and pit zips, or other vents, as well as the longevity of DWR.

Obviously the waterproof material itself is important  but with nearly all manufacturers offering a material that is more than adequate  those jackets that had features that helped keep the rain out and move moisture scored the best at keeping us dry. Ian Nicholson climbing "Pretty Nuts" near Kicking Horse Pass in extremely wet conditions.
Obviously the waterproof material itself is important, but with nearly all manufacturers offering a material that is more than adequate, those jackets that had features that helped keep the rain out and move moisture scored the best at keeping us dry. Ian Nicholson climbing "Pretty Nuts" near Kicking Horse Pass in extremely wet conditions.

While all the models we tested sport a waterproof fabric, they are constructed with different materials and that can make a huge difference regarding breathability (which can make you feel wet from the inside), longevity, and durability. But for weather resistance from only a fabric point of view: if one fabric is waterproof to 30 PSI and one to 50 PSI, it doesn't make a functional difference.

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.
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 can seek its 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 the 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.

Ian Nicholson testing waterproof Jackets in Torres Del Paine Chile.
Ian Nicholson testing waterproof Jackets in Torres Del Paine Chile.

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.

A well designed hood is one of the most important factors influencing how dry a rain jacket is going to keep you. The REI Rhyolite's hood shown here.
A well designed hood is one of the most important factors influencing how dry a rain jacket is going to keep you. The REI Rhyolite's hood shown here.

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 with reduced breathability. The DWR used on the Marmot PreCip, Minimalist, and Arc'teryx Beta SL stands out, as does the The North Face Dryzzleand The North Face Venture 2. With that said, it's worth noting that all the jackets we tested beaded water quite well to start, and DWR treatment can be reapplied to your jacket if needed. Check out DWR maintenance in our Care & Cleaning section.

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 it's really raining or snowing hard opening your vents can make you wetter....
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 it's really raining or snowing hard opening your vents can make you wetter....


Breathability & Ventilation


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.


It is possible to sweat-out even a t-shirt if working hard enough. We've overheard far too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all or well enough for their needs  but in many of those cases they were wearing too many layers for the task at hand.
It is possible to sweat-out even a t-shirt if working hard enough. We've overheard far too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all or well enough for their needs, but in many of those cases they were wearing too many layers for the task at hand.

Breathability Comparisons
We considered two main factors when awarding scores for this metric (which is weighted at 25% of our overall ratings). First, we thought about the fabric's breathability, and this is undoubtedly where waterproof technologies distinguish themselves between each-other. These multi-layered fabrics allow water vapor to be wicked through the material to the outside where it can evaporate. We also studied how well the features of a jacket allow for ventilation.

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
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 sweat-out a cotton or synthetic t-shirt while working hard or quickly walking up a hill. We've overheard too many people saying that their jacket didn't breathe at all, or enough for their needs, but in many of those cases, they were wearing too many layers underneath their rain shell for the activity. All of the jackets reviewed here allow moisture to pass through them; however, none of them allow all the moisture you'd want to escape all-the-time, especially if you're working hard at high exertion rate particularly in warmer temperatures. Again remember that 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.

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.
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.

To a large degree, a garment's breathability is affected by the waterproof fabric itself, as well as the material it's constructed with or bonded to. However, in our review, the difference in face fabrics (the outer fabric you can see, and no that is not the waterproof part) or the interior material didn't vary significantly in thickness and material and thus didn't affect breathability as much as construction style and the waterproof membrane itself.

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. Here Mark M pushes the breathability to the max on a Marmot PreCip Jacket on a wet approach to Mt. Baker  North Cascades  WA
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. Here Mark M pushes the breathability to the max on a Marmot PreCip Jacket on a wet approach to Mt. Baker, North Cascades, WA

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 proved to be pretty close, but in our testing, we found they couldn't entirely pass as much moisture as eVent.

There are a lot of pretty breathable fabrics out there but in our side-by-side 10 minute stair master tests and in real world use we found eVent to be the most breathable. Not by lots  but enough to notice and we even found that it was breathable enough that we would get cold faster at breaks.
There are a lot of pretty breathable fabrics out there but in our side-by-side 10 minute stair master tests and in real world use we found eVent to be the most breathable. Not by lots, but enough to notice and we even found that it was breathable enough that we would get cold faster at breaks.

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 more important than ventilation when it is raining hard because want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinch the hood to keep the water out. In rainier weather, the more active your endeavors, the more significant importance of breathability.

As cool as many ventalation features are (and they are useful); a fabric's breathability is more important than ventalation beacuse when it is storming hard and want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinching the hood to keep the water out you don't really want to open any vents  because you might get wet...
As cool as many ventalation features are (and they are useful); a fabric's breathability is more important than ventalation beacuse when it is storming hard and want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinching the hood to keep the water out you don't really want to open any vents, because you might get wet...

In the time between cloudbursts when you want to continue wearing your jacket for wind protection or as part of your layering system, ventilation can be nearly as crucial 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. Indeed, ventilation, while undoubtedly important, takes a back-seat to breathability for practical, real-world use.

We love the Outdoor Research Foray: if you want a durable rain jacket with class-leading ventilation features  it's a rad option.
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 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 (thanks, Vertical World Seattle).

After extensive testing  we thought the Rhyolite with eVent offered the most breathable fabric  but the Outdoor Research Foray with its huge poncho-style vents was the best at managing moisture and heat. Photo: Slay'n some pow on Tye Peak  near Stevens Pass in an Arc'teryx Beta SL.
After extensive testing, we thought the Rhyolite with eVent offered the most breathable fabric, but the Outdoor Research Foray with its huge poncho-style vents was the best at managing moisture and heat. Photo: Slay'n some pow on Tye Peak, near Stevens Pass in an Arc'teryx Beta SL.

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 model was less steamy inside during high-energy activities than any others, and we noticed ourselves getting colder quicker at breaks when wearing the Rhyolite (faster than when wearing other contenders). During testing and in our all-zipped-up breathability comparison, other stand out performers include the Arc'teryx Beta SL and the Marmot Minimalist. While their performance was indeed a touch better than the Rhyolite, the Rhyolite was just barely edged out.

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 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 possible highest score. Its Paclite fabric had excellent breathability that was among the very best in our fleet. What really sets the Foray apart is its "TorsoFlo" design. What's that, you ask? Two lengthy zippers that extend from the hem of the jacket to the wearer's triceps (mid-upper arm), which allows the jacket to be opened, and to have a similar feeling to 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 as the previously mentioned models, they featured larger than average pit zips and lower hand pockets that dumped more heat than you'd think when left open.

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 (In a green Patagonia Torrentshell) and Alex Chew enjoy the fruits of their labor in camp  Jones Island State Park  WA.
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 (In a green Patagonia Torrentshell) 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. We also used them for everyday chores, like carrying groceries, helping a friend move in the pouring rain and chop some firewood.

Whatever activities you have planned  you want a jacket that moves with you  sealing out the elements without being restrictive. Our review team compared things like how effectively does the hood move with your head  does the jacket ride up — leaving your waist exposed — when you raise your arms above your head? Photo Peter Webb maxing the range of motion of his Arc'teryx Beta SL as begins the rappels off the Canadian Rockies Mega Classic The "Professor Falls" (named after a falling professor rather than the name of a summertime waterfall).
Whatever activities you have planned, you want a jacket that moves with you, sealing out the elements without being restrictive. Our review team compared things like how effectively does the hood move with your head, does the jacket ride up — leaving your waist exposed — when you raise your arms above your head? Photo Peter Webb maxing the range of motion of his Arc'teryx Beta SL as begins the rappels off the Canadian Rockies Mega Classic The "Professor Falls" (named after a falling professor rather than the name of a summertime waterfall).

Whatever activities you have planned, you want a jacket that moves comfortably with you. Our review team compared things like how efficiently does the hood move with your head, does it block your peripheral vision? 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 review.


The above chart shows where each rain jacket landed on our Comfort and Mobility scale.

Range of motion is important whether 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. We opted to take the Outdoor Research Foray and Arc'teryx Beta SL for their exceptional freedom of movement for this climb.
Range of motion is important whether 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. We opted to take the Outdoor Research Foray and Arc'teryx Beta SL for their exceptional freedom of movement for this climb.

Within this metric, we also noted small features like a microfleece patch at the chin or soft fabric where the hood rests on your brow — both nice touches. We even 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.

We tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket by seeing how well we stay covered while reaching straight out in front 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 snowstorm.
We tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket by seeing how well we stay covered while reaching straight out in front 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 snowstorm.

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 REI Rhyolite also sported above average movement and **The North Face Venture 2, while baggy; didn't limit our mobility much at all.

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 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 of each model's hood at keeping our heads dry while not chaffing our chins or cutting off our peripheral vision varied wildly among models. 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 loss. We like the Marmot Minimalist, Patagonia Torrentshell and The North Face Dryzzle's hoods, but they didn't fit over a helmet as nicely.

Graham Zimmerman in the lightest and most compressable jacket in our review  the Outdoor Research Helium II  while climbing in the North Cascades.
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. We value lightweight clothing and equipment, but not at the expense of the functionality of a given piece of equipment for its required tasks. 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 and keeping your hands cozy may take priority.


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.

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 and a REI Rhyolite jacket in the foreground. On extended trips like this weight and comprehensibility balanced with durability become bigger considerations.
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 and a REI Rhyolite jacket in the foreground. On extended trips like this weight and comprehensibility balanced with durability become bigger considerations.

The Outdoor Research Helium II is the straight-up 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 contender is pretty 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 features many people find most important, 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.

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
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 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 comfortably fit into their stuff pocket. A clip-in loop (for use after the jacket has been stuffed) is a nice feature that many climbers will appreciate and use at some point; check the individual reviews for this detail, as well as a photo of each beside a 1-liter Nalgene bottle. As for weight, the Outdoor Research Helium II was by far the most compact jacket, with the Marmot PreCip and Patagonia Torrentshell coming in as the next most compressible.

Peter Webb puts his Arc'teryx Beta SL jacket to the test during some wetter than ideal conditions while alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies.
Peter Webb puts his Arc'teryx Beta SL jacket to the test during some wetter than ideal conditions while alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies.

Features


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.

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.
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 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!

Nice features include a micro fleece lined zipper and good fitting cuffs. Here tester Ian Nicholson with The North Face Dryzzle's under-the-helmet fitting hood on a very wet day.
Nice features include a micro fleece lined zipper and good fitting cuffs. Here tester Ian Nicholson with The North Face Dryzzle's under-the-helmet fitting hood on a very wet day.

Pockets
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 affect 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.

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 without a zipper digging into our hips.
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 without a zipper digging into our hips.

When out on adventures that require wearing a pack, when a majority of the jacket's pocket is under a weighted hip-belt, whether out for the day or an extended trip, the pocket's zipper can dig into your hips, making your rainy-day outing 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. Though for less technical applications low pockets are slightly more helpful and more comfortable for keeping your hands warm.

A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands of your activies  otherwise it it becomes ripped or shreaded no amount of features or special designs can keep you dry. Chris Simrell crossing the upper Elwah River in the Olympic Mountains  WA. This Patagonia Torrentshell jacket withstood quite a bit of bushwhacking use and abuse particularly considering its weight and price.
A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands of your activies, otherwise it it becomes ripped or shreaded no amount of features or special designs can keep you dry. Chris Simrell crossing the upper Elwah River in the Olympic Mountains, WA. This Patagonia Torrentshell jacket withstood quite a bit of bushwhacking use and abuse particularly considering its weight and price.

Durability


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 more robust 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 once a rip has occurred.

Nothing like starting a trip on a very  very  very rainy day in Washington's North Cascades to learn a lot about different modelsand how they compare to one-another.
Nothing like starting a trip on a very, very, very rainy day in Washington's North Cascades to learn a lot about different modelsand how they compare to one-another.

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 while bushwhacking, choose a model with ripstop face fabric, and do consider a polyester model. Lastly, jackets with fewer seams in the shoulders hold up better if you plan to carry a pack on a regular basis.

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.
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 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.

We hope you enjoyed the review and that it helped you make your selection  until next time..........
We hope you enjoyed the review and that it helped you make your selection, until next time..........

Conclusion


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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