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Over the last 10 years, we've tested over 50 of the best men's rain jackets. This review features 16 of the market's top contenders. Pitted against each other in rigorous side-by-side and real-world tests, we've identified the pros and cons of each model, what applications they are best suited for, and the best overall. In addition to wearing each under heavy downpours, snow, and sleet, we've soaked them with garden hoses and in showers to assess their performance. We've taken them skiing, backpacking, and even mountaineering. After almost a decade of hands-on testing, we offer unbiased and honest recommendations to help you get the best possible option for your needs.
Weight: 10.75 ounces | Pockets: Two raised hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Maintains very good freedom of movement
REASONS TO AVOID
Harness and pack-friendly pockets
Hood not helmet-compatible
No venting options
Does not stuff into its pocket
The Arc'teryx Beta Jacket is our tests' undisputed top performer. In all of our comparison metrics, it scores the best or very near the best and is overall exceptionally versatile. We found it stormworthy enough for a soggy week-long backpacking trip but light and compact enough that it practically disappears in the bottom of your pack when not in use. What is so unique about the Beta is it offers equal or better storm protection than most heavy-duty rain shells but at far less weight. It also provided some of the better breathability, durability, and freedom of movement of any model we tested.
It doesn't offer any ventilation options, so the folks who may run on the warmer side won't have as many options to "dump" heat. Its hood, while comfortable, doesn't fit well over a helmet, and it was one of the few jackets that doesn't stuff into a reversible pocket. The biggest downside of the Beta is the price. Still, despite being one of the more expensive jackets in its category, for most demanding or passionate outdoor users willing to spend a little extra money, this jacket will surely be worth the upgrade for the performance gained.
The REI Co-Op XeroDry GTX is a nicely-designed model featuring Gore-Tex at an unbelievable price. While you can buy a nicer, lighter, or more stormworthy rain shell, it will be tough to buy one for less money. The Xerodry outperforms all less expensive options while offering comparable performance to many more expensive ones. The Xerodry offered above-average weather protection and breathability at a good weight and packed size — for a far lower price than its competitors.
This model has a few downsides, though these downsides are only when directly compared to more expensive models. For example, we found the XeroDry had a slightly clammier interior and a tendency to wet out faster than spendier 3-layer models. However, these are minor differences, and this model's price is hard to beat for its performance; it blows away the competition in a similar price range.
Weight: 10.5 ounces | Pockets: One chest, two low hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Super stretchy material
Stows into a hidden mesh pocket
Nice interior feel
Very good breathability
REASONS TO AVOID
Average storm protection
Shoulders and hood "wet out" faster than other models
Hood overtightens to the point where it bothers our ears
Constructed with an extremely stretchy material and a well-designed cut, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic helps demanding users in demanding conditions. Most activities that demand a high degree of mobility also require some elevated aerobic threshold will appreciate its pleasant interior "feel" and some of the better breathability in our review.
While we loved almost every aspect of this jacket, it offered average storm protection and weather resistance. It wasn't that it was bad, and it would certainly keep us dry in light rain or a short-duration downpour, but it tended to wet out slightly faster than some of the premium models and wouldn't be our first choice if we knew we were going to be logging a lot of time in the rain.
Wets out slightly faster than others in prolonged downpours
The insanely light and compact The North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight practically disappears in your pack. It's a versatile, excellent option. As one of the lightest and most compact models in our review, it provides adequate storm protection while conveniently stowing away into its reversible chest pocket and packing down to roughly the size of your fist. Our review team loves its athletic cut and stretchy material, providing good movement freedom. Its air-permeable design is also decently breathable.
While minimal weight and respectable storm protection are why you buy this model, many shells we tested offer better storm protection. Not surprisingly, this is one of the least durable jackets in our review, as it uses the thinnest fabrics and the tiniest zippers, meaning you need to exercise a little more care with it — depending on the terrain you are traveling in. If you know you're going to have a week of bad weather on a backcountry trip and are likely to wear your rain jacket over large portions of most days, you'll want to consider something different. However, for people who are likely to stow their shell in the bottom of their pack and only break it out for a few hours every other trip, it's hard to beat.
Weight: 14.5 ounces | Pockets: One chest, two lower hand
REASONS TO BUY
Good storm protection
Well designed hood
REASONS TO AVOID
Pockets aren't the best with a pack on
Average weight and packed volume
A new wave of stretchy air-permeable models has flooded the market, and it can be hard to keep track. However, even in this newly crowded market sector, the stretchiest of the stretchy Rab Kinetic 2.0 still stands out. No model could match its blend of durability, comfort, and freedom of movement while maintaining top-tier breathability and respectable storm protection. The advantage of the Kinetic and other air-permeable materials is the relatively high and steady level of breathability, regardless of user temperature or external environmental factors. They breathe better in warmer conditions or after their user cools off. The other advantage of most air-permeable models is how stretchy they are, and the Kinetic offers excellent articulation, an athletic cut, and the stretchiest fabric we have ever seen.
A downside of many of the new air-permeable models is that they can't match the weather protection of the top-performing jackets for extended, low-activity days, and they tend to wet out much faster. the Kinetic 2.0 is acceptable for a few hours of wet hiking or ice climbing, snowshoeing, or ski touring in the snow, but if we're hanging out in camp on a rainy day, we'd rather have something else. It's so breathable it isn't as comfortable for those "soggy days in camp," as it keeps breathing even when you aren't moving, usually resulting in a net heat loss and the user feeling colder than if they were not wearing an air-permeable model. It's not that the Kinectic doesn't offer solid weather resistance; there are just a handful of burlier models that perform even better for straight-up hanging out in the rain. This model is best suited for aerobic activities (hiking, backpacking, ski touring, etc.). Other benefits of non-stop breathability and incredible mobility are more important than absolute storm protection.
This review results from over 350 field hours hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, and just plain hanging out in wet conditions around the Pacific Northwest. We loaned these jackets out to our friends to get more opinions on less objective tests like comfort and fit. Our lead tester wore each jacket in our review in the Cascade Mountains and temperate rainforests of Western Washington while milling around Seattle with a coffee in hand. When the rain wasn't pouring from the sky, it was pouring from our garden hoses, where we had timed spray tests with each product to figure out the limits of each jacket in a focused, side-by-side setting. As you can see, we take testing seriously in the field and in our home labs to help produce the best reviews possible.
Our rain jacket testing is divided across five different metrics:
Water Resistance (30% of total weighted score)
Breathability & Venting (25% weighting)
Comfort & Mobility (20% weighting)
Weight & Packability (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
Author Ian Nicholson is a professional internationally licensed IFMGA/UIAGM mountain guide who has spent over 2,000 days guiding in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Andes, European Alps, and beyond. Ian estimates he has worn a rain jacket over 800 days over the last two decades because he guides and lives in the rainy and wet Pacific Northwest. He has guided nearly 1,000 clients and helped them select gear for climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, and ski trips. In addition to staying up to date on the latest and greatest innovations in weather protection, Ian spent over 20 hours meticulously inspecting and considering over 80 contenders before selecting the best products for our review. OutdoorGearLab then bought these products at the same retail outlets available to you and sent them to Ian's house, where he immediately got to work putting each product through its paces.
Analysis and Test Results
Our selection involves a wide range of products, from the most stormworthy to the most budget-friendly. We also select some of the best models geared for specific applications or with particular attributes, like being the most lightweight and packable or facilitating the greatest freedom of movement. Each is evaluated across several important metrics to determine which models are the best overall and which are best for specific applications or specific user types.
You've likely asked yourself something along the lines of "is this piece of gear worth the extra money over that piece of gear?" The answer is rarely straightforward, as so much depends on the user and their intended product use. We quantify the differences (if any) by spending more with the end goal of helping you decide if you'll get the most out of the best product, or if you'll be happy with a decent-scoring model that will keep your wallet happy.
There is an enormous price range of rain jacket options on the market today. The most expensive options represent those built with the best materials and have years of engineering behind them. Nine times out of ten, these jackets will keep you dry (or at least drier) all day, from a drizzle to a downpour. More price-pointed models use proprietary fabrics, often with coated waterproof membranes that'll do the trick but most frequently won't perform as well as a higher-end option.
Of the highest value options on the market today, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L and REI Co-op XeroDry GTX are two of the best. Both offer great functionality and will keep you dry in most rainy conditions. Neither are as high quality as our top-scoring models, but both are roughly half the price of higher-end products without a massive drop in performance. They are a little more expensive than the lowest-priced models in our review but provide a significant step up in performance.
Why Are Higher-End Products More Expensive?
Many less expensive jackets use coated membrane fabrics that aren't as long-lasting or breathable as laminated membranes. These higher-end laminates are more costly to produce, and when looking at name-brand materials (like Gore-Tex), you are paying for the "name" and the years of engineering that went into it. It isn't that more basic coated materials don't have any engineering behind them; they are just generally less expensive and easier to produce.
After extensive testing, we found that there is a good reason that most companies use more expensive materials like Gore-Tex made by a third party on their more performance-focused pieces — rather than proprietary fabrics. While it may be a slight downer to hear that these more expensive fabrics work better and last longer, quality fabrics make a difference from a waterproof/breathability perspective. With rain jackets, there is often a direct relationship between price and performance.
A rain jacket's most important job is to keep its wearer dry, whether hiking, backpacking, ski-touring, or simply taking the dog out for a walk on a rainy day. You can have all the best features in the world and the most packable product, but if your rain jacket doesn't adequately keep you dry, not much else matters.
We extensively tested each model in the real world using these models in the rain, wind, sleet, and snow. We conducted side-by-side tests to quantify performance. Some of our tests include a four-minute shower and a spray down with the garden hose. We did this to help find weak or potentially problematic spots and to get a feel for how long it took them to wet out.
All tested products are water-resistant enough to use in a rain shell, and all meet the technical requirements to be waterproof. This doesn't mean they all perform at the same level, but they are all weather-resistant enough to be called waterproof.
All of the models tested feature a waterproof fabric that is subsequently seam-taped after sewing, creating a completely sealed envelope. What differentiates each model's performance is how well each keeps the water out and how long they keep the water out and the fabric from wetting out. This is a culmination of several factors but generally refers to several design aspects of the jacket, particularly each model's hood, cuffs, pocket(s), front/primary zipper, pit zips, or other vents, and how well they keep water out. A jacket's ability to keep its wearer dry also has a lot to do with the make-up and construction of its waterproof insert (more frequently called a membrane). Consider also the longevity of DWR coating and its ability to resist wetting out after extended periods.
The Arc'teryx Beta and the Marmot Minimalist offer some of our group's most robust weather resistance. These models all do an excellent job of sealing out precipitation in all forms and have well-designed wrist cuffs and hoods that cinch down to help seal out the elements, keeping us dry.
All the tested products will keep you dry in a storm. The primary differences in our water resistance metric come from individual fabric characteristics and, to a lesser extent, each model's respective hood design, cuffs, pocket closures, and the longevity of a model's DWR.
Another essential component of a jacket's water resistance is its Durable Water Repellent or DWR treatment. This treatment is factory applied to the fabric's exterior and makes the water bead when it lands on the surface of the jacket, allowing it to shed the precipitation. Even though both nylon and polyester are hydrophobic, if they aren't treated with a DWR (or after the treatment wears off), they will "wet out", or become covered with a thin but continuous film of water and will frequently appear wet, hence the term wetting out. Besides the models we mentioned above, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L, Patagonia Storm10, and the REI XeroDry GTX offer good DWR and resist wetting out — both over time and during a single day out in heavy weather.
A jacket wetting out reduces breathability in that wet area. Water may or may not be making it through the fabric. Still, in nearly all cases, the continuous film of water eliminates all breathability. The wet-looking area will feel cold and wet, or clammy, from the inside and look as if the liquid is getting through. A jacket that is wetting out will also be heavier due to water weight and feel cold or damp — which no one appreciates.
Breathability and Venting
Our water resistance metric measures and compares how well each jacket kept its wearer dry from the outside. In contrast, our breathability and ventilation metric quantifies how well each model kept its wearer dry from the inside by allowing sweat, moisture, and heat to escape.
First and foremost, we researched and tested each fabric's breathability. This is where waterproof-breathable fabric technologies distinguish themselves the greatest from one another — even more so than weather protection. While some may not always feel like it, all of these multi-layered fabrics are all breathable (to varying extents), meaning they all allow water vapor to be wicked through the material from the inside to the outside, where it can subsequently evaporate.
Secondly, we examined and studied how well each model's ventilation features performed. Besides examining how effectively each model's ventilation options could dump heat and moisture, we also evaluated how much the vents could be left open in a downpour. We measured if we could use them to dump heat while it was raining when hiking, trail running, backpacking, or actively enjoying the outdoors. A vent might be well-designed at dumping heat, but it isn't doing its user much good if it lets more rain in than moisture out. By prioritizing real-world venting functionality, our review team noticed some of the more significant differences between models and ventilation designs. Some models offered ventilation designs far better than others at allowing sweat to escape or keeping rain from getting in.
Breathability vs. Ventilation
When comparing different ventilation options compared to a given model's overall breathability, it is essential to remember that these two design aspects, while related, are not equally important. Between the two, a fabric's breathability is far more important than ventilation. If it's raining, and particularly if it's raining hard, you'll likely batten down the hatches by closing the pit zips and cinching up the hood to keep the rain out, even if it means trapping some of your body's own moisture in. No ventilation designs proved to keep more water out than they let in during heavy rain or even walking up bushy trails after a storm.
A Note on Breathability
As we mentioned, all models we reviewed here allow moisture to pass through them; however, none allow an infinite amount of moisture to pass, and even the most breathable models have their limitations. Remember, most people can drench a lightweight t-shirt if they work hard enough. Even the most basic lightweight synthetic t-shirt is significantly more breathable than any waterproof jacket we tested. Set yourself up for success and wear the lowest layers you can get away with to minimize overheating unnecessarily.
People are often more worried about being too cold, but in our experience, we see more people wearing too much clothing; they end up too hot even when it's "cold out." We recommend the be bold and start cold start or at least cool to the point where it takes you 5-10 minutes once you get moving to get comfortable. If you're warm before you start and participating in any aerobic activity, you'll likely produce far more sweat than your jacket can handle and soak yourself.
Air-permeable is a new buzzword (and a technical term) in the outdoor world that is a design characteristic of a number of the new stretchy, mostly proprietary waterproof-breathable jackets that have recently surged onto the market. We feature several air-permeable models in our review, the Rab Kinetic 2.0 and Outdoor Research MicroGravity being two of our favorites.
What is air-permeable fabric? Well, it's nearly exactly what it sounds like — a fabric where air can pass through the material at all times. This is in contrast to most waterproof-breathable garments, which rely on a disparity in heat and/or pressure to get moisture to pass through the material. This means that air-permeable jackets, on a micro-level, aren't technically windproof. With that said, all these models feel windproof, but also feel cooler than most folks are used to once they have stopped exercising or are just hanging out in the rain.
One common misconception is that because a given model might be air-permeable, people assume it must be more breathable than a non-air permeable jacket (such as Gore-Tex or eVent, or other proprietary waterproof fabrics), but this isn't always the case. Air-permeable fabrics offer a much more static level of breathability, meaning they always let the same amount of moisture pass through the material, regardless of user excursion or external temperature.
Sounds great, right? Several high-end materials like Gore-Tex Paclite, normal Gore-Tex, or eVent all have a fluctuating level of breathability. These fabrics breathe when there is a temperature difference (and temperature differences inherently create a pressure difference) between the inside of the jacket and the outside environment. They will perform, for example, if you are hiking uphill and it's cold and rainy outside because there will be a significant temperature difference. In these ideal conditions and scenarios, these materials, like Gore-Tex, will likely breathe better than most air-permeable models, as they have a higher ceiling of potential breathability that is likely reached with some excursion in a cold environment.
Conversely, the pressure difference will be lower because they don't breathe as well once the user has stopped and cooled down. These fabrics don't perform as well if the environment is hot and humid and the user is working hard and warm (which will likely be the case if the user is exercising in a warm, moist environment).
Ventilation Features and Comparison
For users who run warmer in lighter drizzle or in the time between cloudbursts when they want to continue wearing their jacket for wind protection, or as you suspect the next storm is just minutes away, venting your jacket can prove incredibly useful.
Pit zips, side zips, core vents, or other zippered ventilation designs have their place. Besides a model's front primary zipper, pit zips are the next most effective ventilation tool for dumping heat and moving moisture, with the advantage of not letting much moisture in. Pit zips generally allow more moisture to escape than core vents, a fairly generic term for mesh-lined pockets that you can leave open to let a little moisture out.
Side-by-Side Hiking Test
We tested the breathability of these jackets while hiking, backpacking, climbing, and ski touring. We looked at the technical states of the volume of water each fabric can pass and performed a series of side-by-side stationary bike and 10-minute Stairmaster tests (thanks, Vertical World Seattle) to compare better and analyze breathability. When looking at the numbers, more than half the jackets in this review don't have a static level of breathability. The amount of moisture you will pass will depend on your activity and the environmental conditions. Our review team conducted our tests several times, comparing models with many ventilation options; we compared and contrasted performance, keeping vents completely closed, partially open, and completely open.
The most breathable materials in our review were a mix of those that use Gore-Tex and air-permeable materials. These two types of materials were a cut above the rest when we were out working hard on a rainy winter hike, where they could pass an impressive amount of moisture at an astounding rate. The most breathable models that feature an air-permeable fabric are the Rab Kinetic 2.0, using Proflex, and Outdoor Research MicroGravity using Ascentshell, which allowed for exceptional breathability and were nearly as breathable.
The most breathable that did not feature an air-permeable fabric were the Marmot Minimalist, Arc'teryx Beta, and the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic jacket, the latter of which features Mountain Hardwear's proprietary Dry.Q polyester. These jackets were surprisingly comparable to the previously mentioned models.
Comfort and Mobility
For whatever activities you have planned, you'll want a jacket that moves comfortably with you and doesn't inhibit your movement. In the mobility portion of this metric, our review team compares how each model moves with its use or how restrictive it may be depending on the activity required. We tested each model's overall freedom of movement for general applications and a handful of specific activities like climbing and ski touring.
We also explicitly compare how well a model's hood maintained the peripheral vision and how it moved with our heads. We compared each jacket with our arms facing straight forward, straight up, and straight to the sides. We also examined how easily each model lets us accomplish these tasks. We measured how much each one pulled back from our wrists and if the hem of the jacket pulled up around our waists.
In the comfort portion of this metric, we consider the small features that made a given product more comfortable to wear (and how easy specific features were to use), as well as the feeling of the interior material; was it more or less clammy feeling on our bare skin? Base layer T-shirt? Lastly, we evaluate the basic but essential bit about how each model felt.
We note small features, like a microfleece patch at the chin or soft fabric where the hood rests on your brow, which are appreciated touches that feel nicer. We also considered the ease of use of each feature, comparing cinch cords for the hood and how easy to access and adjust they were. Some jackets add larger fabric pull tabs to the zipper — rather than small pieces of cord — to ease operating with cold fingers or gloves.
The model with the best range of motion was the ultra-stretchy Rab Kinetic 2.0. It is just one of many new models that are part of the fresh new wave of stretchier, waterproof shells. While the number of stretch models continues to grow, the Kinetic is the stretchiest shell we have ever seen and offers nearly restriction-free movement. The only thing worth noting about this model is its ultra-slim fit for more technical pursuits. Those who want to add more than one thin layer underneath should consider sizing up.
Next in line for the best freedom of movement and mobility are the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, Patagonia Storm10, Outdoor Research MicroGravity, Arc'teryx Beta, and The North Face Flight Lightriser. These models feature mobility-oriented designs and offer a functional range of motion that is just a small notch below the Rab Kinetic 2.0, though all scoring well for different reasons. The MicroGravity and the Storm10 are stretchy and appreciated.
If you're wearing your jacket around town, having room in the pockets for gloves and a warm hat or a phone and keys can be nice. Some folks don't like using hoods in a more urban setting and consider an umbrella for wet days. In the backcountry, a hood that rolls away and stows can be appreciated, but it is generally a lot less of a big deal.
The effectiveness of each model's hood (of keeping our heads dry while not chafing our chins or cutting off our peripheral vision) varied wildly. Our favorites are the Arc'teryx Beta and Rab Kinetic 2.0, while the Outdoor Research Foray II, Patagonia Storm10, and Patagonia Torrentshell scored not too far behind.
Regarding hoods, the Rab Kinetic 2.0 is of special note because it features an internal elastic band designed to ride directly on the wearer's forehead, acting as an internal gasket to the main hood. As crazy as this sounds — and trust us, most of our review team was skeptical — it turned out to be comfortable and effective, maintaining top-notch peripheral vision.
From beanies to baseball caps, each one of these jackets featured hoods that cinched down over a range of headwear, maximizing the hood's ability to turn with its user's head — instead of turning into it — though our hands-down favorite hood is on the Arc'teryx Beta.
It is tough to argue the utility of pockets, as everyone uses them at least sometimes. They are unquestionably useful to help keep track of small items, keep certain things close at hand, and are a convenient place to keep your hands warm. Not all pockets are created equal, and their size and location can greatly impact their overall usefulness, depending on the user.
For example, having lower handwarmer pockets is great for around town but can be a nuisance and rendered nearly or completely unusable while wearing a harness or heavy pack.
While on adventures requiring wearing a pack, most of the jacket's pocket is under a weighted hip-belt strap and is frequently uncomfortable due to the zippers being pinched under the waistbelt (or harness) and the pockets themselves unusable. The zipper-pinching-induced pain only compounds itself the longer the trip, so if you're planning on using your rain jacket for day hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering, steer clear of models with low front handwarmer pockets. Besides discomfort, lower hand pockets are far less accessible when wearing a pack.
Nearly all of our reviewers love pockets that are slightly higher such as the ones found on the Arc'teryx Beta. They are up and out of the way of a pack's hip belt, so we can still access items. More importantly, the zipper doesn't cause us pain under heavy loads. Low pockets are more comfortable for keeping your hands warm while cruising the farmer's market on a drizzly day for less technical applications.
Weight and Packability
Light is right for many, and weight is crucial for any gear used on human-powered adventures. All of our testers value lightweight clothing and equipment, but not at the expense of basic functionality. If you're thru-hiking 2,650 miles, climbing technical terrain, or riding your bicycle from coast to coast, weight may (and should) be one of your primary concerns. For burlier adventures, soggy backpacking trips, expedition-type mountaineering trips, or even daily use, you'll want to consider durability and storm worthiness just as much as weight.
Most of the models in our review are already on the lighter end of the weight spectrum, particularly when compared to beefier 3-layer models. Many of the contenders in our review weigh less than a pound, which is the unofficial benchmark for what is considered a lighter-weight jacket.
While one pound might be a benchmark, the average weight in our review is closer to 12-14 ounces, with some models dipping down to an impressive 6-7 ounces — an unfathomable weight even just five years ago. For the most weight-conscious, these lightest of light jackets are impressive.
The Outdoor Research Helium weighs in at 6.5 ounces and can be stuffed into a built-in reversible chest pocket with a clip-in loop, a nice feature for climbers carrying it on their harness. It could also be useful for anyone wanting to clip their jacket to something.
Quite close in weight is The North Face Flight Lightriser. It weighs seven ounces; while around half an ounce heavier, it's more breathable and stretchier and provides decent weather protection. Those seeking the lightest, fully featured model should check out the Patagonia Storm 10, which weighs 8.5 ounces and, unlike the two previous models listed, actually has front pockets and offers superior storm protection.
We've all been caught in a storm, getting soaked when we left our jackets in the car at the then-sunny trailhead. As the weather can change quickly and unexpectedly, it's these just-in-case packing scenarios when having a light, compact rain shell is useful, and there is less of a personal debate on whether to throw it in your running vest or the bottom of your pack.
It's just easier to forget about until you need it. Even on multi-day trips with perfect or less-than-perfect forecasts, packed size should be high on most outdoor enthusiasts' priority lists. In reality, most folks carry their rain shell nine times out of ten, so the smaller it packs, the more room you have for other items.
Approximately half of these models stuff into one of their pockets, and others can be rolled and stuffed into their hoods. Our rating for packed size considers the compressed size and the ease of using the integrated stuff pocket. Some compress relatively small but require wrestling to get them stowed; others fit comfortably into their stuff pocket.
A clip-in loop (for use after the jacket has been stuffed) is a nice feature that many climbers or hikers will appreciate and use at some point. As for packed volume, the Outdoor Research Helium is the most compact. This model is significantly smaller and half the compressed volume of the average packet size in our review.
The Patagonia Storm10 packs tightly into its chest pocket and is as small as the slightly lighter Outdoor Research Helium. Among the smallest models, though just a little bit bigger, The North Face Flight Lightriser is far tinier than most models in our review. The only thing that kept it from being more compact is that its mesh pocket didn't do quite as good of compressing it.
A rain jacket must stand up to its user's demands. While we know everyone would like their rain jacket to last an eternity, many people are better off going with a lighter-weight model that they will use infrequently and carry around a good chunk of the time. Unfortunately, as jackets get more lightweight, they also generally become less durable. This is in both abrasion and cut resistance but also in overall longevity. This is particularly true among the lightest models, exponentially less durable than products weighing three to five ounces more.
The exterior material (also known as the face fabric) of nearly all rain jackets is either nylon or polyester. While we like to talk a lot about other aspects of rain shell jacket construction, this external material plays a huge role in the overall durability. For the most part, the lighter the face fabric is, the easier it tears, or the faster it is to abrade. Most of the jackets tested use 30-50 denier face fabric, with the 50D shells being notably more robust than the 20-30D. All but theColumbia Watertight II feature ripstop material. A 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. This is a significant advantage and why many outdoor products utilize it.
While polyester is generally stretchier and more durable than nylon, thickness matters. For example, a 50D nylon jacket is likely more robust than a 30D polyester, even though polyester is "generally" tougher. If you plan to use your jacket off-trail or while bushwhacking, choose a model with a higher denier and ripstop face fabric, and at least consider a polyester model. Lastly, after years of experience, we have found that jackets with fewer seams in the shoulders hold up better, especially if you plan to carry a pack regularly.
Some of the most durable jackets we are the Marmot Minimalist, Arc'teryx Beta, and Outdoor Research Foray II. The Minimalist and the Foray utilize polyester face fabrics with a much longer-lasting Gore-Tex Paclite membrane. Each proves to be able to handle anything we could hope a backpacking-oriented rain jacket could take. With its 50D ripstop nylon shell, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is one of the more robust budget-friendly models.
Our team focuses on each product's face fabric when assessing its overall durability. This is the layer that impacts a given product's tear and abrasion resistance and how well its DWR might hold up. As discussed in the weather resistance section, models with laminated membranes, whether name-brand ones like Gore-Tex or proprietary ones, far outlasted products with coated membranes.
Determining which rain jacket is right for you might seem complicated. While staying dry is the goal, aspects like breathability, hood design, or a given model's level of mobility can make a big difference in daily use. Our metrics are in place to help you decide based on what design characteristics you want to focus on and, subsequently, which model is best suited for your needs. Once you've considered which metrics are most important for your adventures, our review can help you narrow your decision.
Overview Enjoying the mountains to the fullest extent...
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