To find the best rain jackets for hiking, backpacking, and general outdoor use, our experts researched over 50 models. We then bought 12 and sought out downpours in the Pacific Northwest to put them to the test. 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. While we declare an overall winner, we also identify the best jacket for many applications such as commuting, climbing, and travel. Whether you want a top-of-the-line, tricked-out model, or something under $100, we have a recommendation for you. 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.
The Best Rain Jackets for Men of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
After considering dozens of new products for our latest 2018 review, our staff carefully selected three of the top new models, each offering a notable benefit or excellent all-around performance. We continued to take the products we included previously in our review to see how these new contenders fared directly against them. We brought these jackets on soggy trips to the Washington Coast and the West Coast of Vancouver Island and tested them while ice climbing in Banff National Park; we also ski toured and trekked hundreds of miles of trail in the Sierra and Cascades. We've now included 12 of the industry's top models within a range of budgets, which you'll find below.
Best Overall Model
Arc'teryx Beta SL
Weight: 11 ounces | Pockets: Two elevated pack-friendly hand pockets
While Arc'teryx dominates our hardshell review awards, this marks the first year they pulled ahead for rain jackets. Arc'teryx just narrowly won our Editors' Choice over the other across the board top-performer, the REI Drypoint GTC. However the do-everything Arc'teryx Beta SL managed to win our award again as it scored the best, or nearly the best, in almost every category.
If we could only own one jacket, whether 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 model that will work fantastically for a broad range of activities.
Read review: Arc'teryx Beta SL
Best Bang for the Buck
The Marmot PreCip has won Best Buy every year for six years straight. It pretty much invented the high-performance $100 category and despite lots of growing competition, still owns it. Updated last year with Marmot's NanoPro 2.5-layer coated technology, our testing team finds that with its slight overhauls, it just keeps getting better. 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 similar when it comes to the price point, 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
The Outdoor Research Helium II is our Top Pick for weight-conscience hikers, backpackers, and climbers or as the best "Just-in-Case" layer. It is by a notable margin, 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. However, despite offering a pretty basic, though effective hood, and an overall minimal design, it still does a decent job of its primary purpose, which is keeping its wearer dry.
While a few extra ounces here or there may not seem like a big deal and more feature-rich jackets might seem more appealing in the store, remember that all those extra features add weight. Thus keep in mind that most hikers, climbers, and backpackers will likely end up carrying their waterproof layer 90% or more of the time. While those extra features might seem sweet, they won't do much living in the bottom of your pack. Each year, more and more superlight rain shells come out on the market, and this model is currently our favorite.
Read review: Outdoor Research Helium II
Top Pick for Hiking and Backpacking
REI Co-op Drypoint GTX
The REI Drypoint GTX is a superb all-around model. It remains one of our review teams' go-to favorites for backpacking and hiking and is our staffs' Top Pick for these types of applications. It earned this selection for a variety of reasons; most notably is its exceptionally breathable fabric, which ranked the best in our review.
This, coupled with one of the most stormworthy designs, while still being lighter and more packable than the majority of the competition, make this model perfect for backpackers, mountaineers, and hikers. Its stretchy fabric allowed great freedom of movement, which helps this model adapt to a wide range of users, adding to its exceptional versatility.
Read review: REI Drypoint GTX
Top Pick for Ventilation & Features
Outdoor Research Foray
The Gore-Tex Paclite Outdoor Research Foray is a bomber rain jacket that seals out rain, snow, wind and proved to be one of the most durable products we tested. The Foray has excellent ventilation and excels at dumping heat during highly aerobic actives or folks who simply run on the warm-side.
It goes far beyond just pit zips and venting pockets and includes "torso flow pit-zips" that fully separate the sides of the jacket more attuned to 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 ventilation features, then the Foray might be for you.
Read review: Outdoor Research Foray
Top Pick for Range-of-Motion and Technical Endeavors
Black Diamond Fineline
The Black Diamond Fineline offers better overall functionality than a majority of superlight rain shells and sports some of the best freedom of movement we have ever seen. It is among the lightest and most compressible models to be constructed with as stretchy a fabric as this model offers and its cut is very activity focused. This made it a favorite for our testers for alpine or ice climbing, trail running, ski touring, or any other outdoor activity where its top-tier mobility will be appreciated.
The Fineline also offers better weather resistance and breathability than most other superlight or similarly priced models including our Award Winner for Light Weight, the Outdoor Research Helium II, which was only 1.5 ounces lighter.
Read review: Black Diamond Fineline
Analysis and Test Results
We researched the top 50 contenders, before narrowing it down to a dozen finalists. We bought each model and put each of them through an intensive testing process, taking each into the field for real-world use to see how they performed, as well as with specific side-by-side testing. Our ratings are 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 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.
One of the most common concerns we hear from our friends and readers is, is that expensive piece of outdoor gear worth it? There's no denying that prices have been rising in the outdoor apparel market, and when there's such a price discrepancy between some of the budget picks and the higher-end options, it does beg the question. Are you getting more for your money, or is it all marketing and hype?
When it comes to this category, prices range between $60 and $300! That's a pretty significant jump. Part of that is due to the advanced materials that some of the "fancier" brands use. There is a lot of engineering going into Gore-Tex and eVent fabrics, and those drive up the overall cost. Those fabrics make a world of difference though from a waterproof/breathability perspective. As you can see from the graph below, there is almost a direct correlation between price and performance for these items. (This is not always the case by the way!)
If you are specifically looking for a budget pick that still performs well overall, look for items that run on the bottom of the Y-axis (price) but still far along the X-axis (score). In this case, the best value picks are the Patagonia Torrentshell ($129) and the Marmot Precip ($100), which was our Best Buy winner. While not as high-performing as some models, they still worked well and cost a fraction of some of the other options.
A rain jacket should keep you dry, whether hiking, backpacking, or just out walking the dog, that's (obviously) this piece of equipment's 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. Loads of laboratory testing has been done to quantify precisely how waterproof each of these specific coated or laminated materials are. However, the critical bit to understand is that all of the products tested are water-resistant to use as a rain shell.
All of the models tested feature a waterproof fabric (more on what makes a material impervious in our buying advice), which is a 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.
While all the models we tested sport a waterproof fabric, they are constructed with different materials, which can make a huge difference when it comes to breathability (which can make you feel wet from the inside), longevity, and durability. For weather resistance strictly from 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.
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 Drypoint GTX, 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.
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, Marmot Phoenix, Marmot Minimalist, and Arc'teryx Beta SL stands out, as does the The North Face Dryzzle, REI Drypoint GTX, and 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 & Ventilation
Our water resistance metric measured how well each model 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 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 from 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.
A Note on Breathability
Remember you can sweat-out while wearing a cotton or synthetic t-shirt when 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, primarily if you're working hard at high exertion rate in warmer temperatures. 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.
To a significant 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.
Due to its construction, Gore-tex Active and eVent were the most breathable waterproof fabrics tested. Gore-Tex PacLite and some PU laminates like Marmot's NanoPro or Black Diamond's BD.dry laminates proved to be pretty close, but in our testing, we found they couldn't entirely pass as much moisture as Gore-Tex Active.
We didn't find eVent or Gore-Tex Active to be FAR more breathable, but after side-by-side testing and real-world use, it won our review team over. A fabric's breathability is more important than ventilation when it is raining buckets. Why? We want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinch the hood to keep the water out. In stormy weather, the more active your endeavors, the more significant breathability becomes.
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 backseat to breathability for practical, real-world use.
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).
The REI Drypoint GTX, which is constructed with Gore-Tex Active, breathes better than other model but offers little in the way of ventilation. The Drypoint was far less steamy inside during high-energy activities than any others, and we noticed ourselves getting colder during breaks when wearing the REI Drypoint GTX (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 Black Diamond Fineline, the REI Drypoint GTX was just barely edged out.
The Outdoor Research Foray also earned our highest possible score. Its Paclite fabric had excellent breathability that was among the very best in our fleet. Its TorsoFlo" design sets the Foray apart from others. 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 & 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 comfortably with you. Our review team compared things like how efficiently does the hood move with your head and 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.
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.
The Arc'teryx Beta SL, REI Drypoint GTX, and Black Diamond Fineline all featured the best range of motion and mobility of any jacket reviewed, but each for slightly different reasons. The Beta SL has well-designed and articulated shoulders and sleeves, with an arm length that was above average, but not too long. Despite not being constructed with a stretchy fabric we could easily put our hands above our heads with almost no pull-back. The REI Drypoint GTX, and the Black Diamond Fineline are constructed with the stretchiest materials in our review, with the Fineline being slightly more stretchy; this, coupled with the model's top-tier ergonomics, give them the best overall mobility in our review. Other jackets 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 Marmot Phoenix also sported above average movement and The North Face Venture 2, while baggy, didn't limit our mobility much at all.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 Drypoint GPX, while the Outdoor Research Foray, Black Diamond Fineline 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.
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.
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, 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 Black Diamond Fineline (eight ounces) which for being only 1.5 ounces heavier, was built with a stretchier material and offered better breathability overall. The REI Drypoint GPX (10 ounces) which was the lightest of Gore-Tex or eVent contenders was also impressively light, and all tipped the scales less than our Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Beta SL (11 ounces).
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 the most compact jacket, with the Black Diamond Fineline, REI Drypoint and the Patagonia Torrentshell all coming in at very close seconds as the next most compressible. Among the price-pointed models, the Marmot Precip offered the most compact size.
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 always nice. Some folks like to use a rain hat; a hood that rolls away and stows can be appreciated.
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.
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 and 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. 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 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.
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.
The Marmot Minimalist and the Outdoor Research Foray both pair 50D polyester ripstop face fabrics and with Gore-Tex Paclite, and the Marmot Phoenix, all earned the highest durability scores. Other jackets, such as the 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 on 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. We hope 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 having a look at our buying advice article.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.