Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Rain Jackets of 2022

We tested rain jackets from Arc'teryx, REI, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, The North Face and more to find the very best
Best Rain Jackets of 2022
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.
Credit: Brandon Lampley
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday May 24, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Over the last 10 years, we've tested over 50 of the best rain jackets. This review features 15 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 showers to assess their performance. We've taken them skiing, backpacking, and even mountaineering. After almost a decade of hands-on testing, we offer you unbiased and honest recommendations to help you get the best possible option for your needs.

While most of these models are available in men's and women's versions, we've found that they don't always perform the same. With this in mind, we publish a detailed review of women's specific models performed by our female review team. Spanning the range of a decade, GearLab has tested a variety of products, including hiking gear and backpacking gear reviews. If you are getting into more burly weather, you might consider a hardshell jacket.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 24, 2022, to include newly added products, like the updated Rab Kinetic 2.0, the Patagonia Storm10, and The North Face Flight Lightriser FUTURELIGHT.

Related: Best Rain Jackets for Women

Top 15 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 15
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Awards  Top Pick Award  Editors' Choice Award  
Price $87.42 at Backcountry
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$300 List
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$126.47 at Backcountry
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Overall Score
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66
Star Rating
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Pros Insanely lightweight, tiny compressed size, stows tightly in a reversible pocket, hood design maintains great peripheral vision, respectable stormworthinessSuper light, ultra compact, trim fit, great breathability, weather protection compared to others in its weight class, stuffs into a pocket, hood moves very well with its userLightweight, compact, solid weather protection and excellent DWR, helmet compatible hood, waist-belt friendly pockets, mobilityTop-tier stormworthiness, mobility and range of motion, hood design, long-lasting DWR, exceptional breathability, harness and hip-belt friendly pocketsBreathability, comfortable feeling internal fabric, stretchy material allows for good mobility, respectable weight and packed size
Cons Average breathability, minimal hood, only one pocket, not as versatile in the traditional senseAverage weather protection overall, no pockets, no clip in point on stuff sack, elastic wrist loops are basic, trim/athletic cut doesn't facilitate layeringAverage breathability, not super durable or as long lasting as other modelsNo ventilation options, expensive, no easy way to clip to a harnessPockets pinch under a waist belt or harness, hood doesn't fit over a helmet, slightly on the more expensive side, weather resistance
Bottom Line Light and compressible, it is ideal for trips where low weight is paramountIf you participate in activities where every ounce matters and you also need excellent weather protection and breathability, few can match this model for its weightAn excellent option for the weight-conscious backpacker who wants something light enough for long-range trips and versatile enough for a wide range of outdoor activitiesThis stormworthy and function focused model is exceptionally versatile and offers some of the best performance in our reviewMaintains a steady level of breathability regardless of activity level and nails a sweet spot of weight and durability
Rating Categories Outdoor Research He... The North Face Flig... Patagonia Storm10 Arc'teryx Zeta SL The North Face Dryz...
Water Resistance (30%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Breathability & Venting (25%)
5.0
8.0
5.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort & Mobility (18%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (15%) Sort Icon
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Durability (5%)
4.0
5.0
5.0
8.0
8.0
Packed Size (7%)
10.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Outdoor Research He... The North Face Flig... Patagonia Storm10 Arc'teryx Zeta SL The North Face Dryz...
Measured Weight (Medium) 6.5 oz 7.25 oz 8.5 oz 10.9 oz 12 oz
Waterproof Fabric Material 2.5-layer Pertex Shield 20D FutureLight 3L 3L H2No Performance Standard 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus waterproof breathable laminate 3-layer Futurelight
Face Fabric and Layer Construction 30D 100 nylon ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+ waterproof breathable insert 100% recycled polyester, DWR finish 100% recycled nylon ripstop, DWR finish 40-D ripstop (N40r) Gore-Tex Paclite Plus Recycled polyester
Pockets 1 zippered hand pocket 1 interior 1 left chest zip, 2 front zip 2 hand pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest
Are Lower Pockets Hipbelt Friendly? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Pit Zips No No No Yes No
Helmet Compatible Hood (not only fits but not too tight) No No Yes No Yes
Stows Into Pocket? Yes Yes Yes No Yes


Best Overall Rain Jacket


Arc'teryx Zeta SL


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 9.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Comfort & Mobility 8.0
  • Weight 7.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Packed Size 7.0
Weight: 11 ounces | Pockets: Two elevated pack-friendly hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Exceptional hood design
Outstanding mobility and range of motion
Stormworthy
Small packed volume
Good breathability
Hip belt and harness-friendly pockets
Long-lasting DWR
REASONS TO AVOID
No ventilation options
Not stretchy
Doesn't stuff into its pocket
Price

If we could only choose one rain jacket for a wide range of activities, from backpacking to mountaineering or simply strolling through the farmers market on a rainy Sunday, the Arc'teryx Zeta SL would be it. Simply put, no other model can match the Zeta's across-the-board performance. In every aspect, from the hood to its storm protection, to its low weight and top-tier breathability. Simply put, the Zeta's design is well thought out and provides an unmatched balance of weight, breathability, and an unmatched ability to ward off weather, even during the stormiest of circumstances.

The Zeta offers excellent articulation and maintains itself as one of the better models when it comes to the range of motion and freedom of movement; however, more models are starting to offer materials that are stretchier and less cumbersome feeling. This one is rigid and provides no stretch; while we never felt it inhibited our movement, we are big believers that stretchy materials provide more comfort and better performance. Fortunately, the Zeta makes up for this by offering exceptional articulation, and it scores well in all of our mobility tests. The Zeta is one of the more breathable models in our test, yet it doesn't feature any pit zips and only has a main front zipper to dump heat. This isn't a big deal; however, for those who run hot or are commonly hiking in warmer rain (where this model's breathability will be reduced), something with pit zips might be better. It's our review team's favorite jacket, thanks to its overall versatility and performance.

Read review: Arc'teryx Zeta SL

Best Bang For The Buck


REI Co-op XeroDry GTX


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Comfort & Mobility 7.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Durability 6.0
  • Packed Size 7.0
Weight: 12.5 ounces | Pockets: Two hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Incredible price for a Gore-Tex jacket
Stormworthy
Very breathable
Respectable packed volume
Nice hood design
Pit zips
DWR is robust
Affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
Slightly clammer than other Gore models
"Wets" out slightly quicker than comparable models
Hood doesn't fit over a helmet
So-so mobility and freedom of movement

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 vastly outperforms all less expensive options while offering very comparable performance to a number of the more expensive ones. The Xerodry offers above-average weather protection and breathability at a respectable weight and packed size — for a far lower price than its competitors.

This model does have a few downsides, though these downsides are only when directly compared to more expensive models, most of which feature Gore-Tex rather than a more price-oriented, proprietary 2.5-layer coated-membrane option. Compared to several higher-end models, we found the XeroDry had a slightly clammier interior and a tendency to wet out faster than spendier 3-layer models. However, these are small differences, and this model's price is hard to beat for the performance it provides; it blows away the competition in a similar price range.

Read review: REI Co-Op XeroDry GTX

Lightweight and Compact Option


The North Face Flight Lightriser FUTURELIGHT


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 7.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Comfort & Mobility 8.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Durability 5.0
  • Packed Size 8.0
Weight: 7.0 ounces | Pockets: One chest
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight and tiny compressed size
Stows into a hidden mesh pocket
Hood maintains great peripheral vision
Respectable storm worthiness
REASONS TO AVOID
Lacking ventilation options
Average storm-protection
Mesh stuff pocket leaves something to be desired
No pockets
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 more versatile than we originally gave it credit for and is an excellent option for folks who will likely carry their jacket in their pack more often than they wear it. 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, which provides good freedom of movement. Its air-permeable design is also decently breathable.

While minimal weight and respectable storm protection are why you buy this model, durability and true all-around versatility aren't. For a similar price, many shells we tested offer better storm protection. Not surprisingly, this is one of the least durable models 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.

Read review: The North Face Flight Lightriser FUTURELIGHT

Excellent for Backpacking


REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 9.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Comfort & Mobility 8.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Durability 6.0
  • Packed Size 7.0
Weight: 14.5 ounces | Pockets: Two zip hand pockets
REASONS TO BUY
Incredibly breathable material
Fantastic hood design
Extremely stormworthy
Small packed volume
Raised, hip-belt friendly pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
Average weight and packed volume
The cut is slightly on the boxy side
Okay mobility

The REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX is a stormworthy jacket geared toward outdoor enthusiasts. This model is packed full of outdoor-centric features, offering some of the best overall weather protection and breathability in our review. It boasts raised, pack-friendly handwarmer pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, large pit zips, and a layering-friendly cut, making it ideal for folks who end up heading out — regardless of the forecast.

This jacket is designed to be worn in terrible conditions and is ever-so-slightly heavier and bulkier; however, for 3-4 extra ounces, it packs some serious storm protection. The Stormbolt GTX's cut is less bulky than the previous Drypoint, but it is still boxer than many cuts in our review. It is built for layering; we don't find you need to downsize unless you are truly between sizes, but you'll want to consider that it does run roomier.

Read review: REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX

An Excellent Air-Permeable Option


Rab Kinetic 2.0


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 6.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Comfort & Mobility 10.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Packed Size 7.0
Weight: 14.5 ounces | Pockets: One chest, two lower
REASONS TO BUY
Good storm protection
Very breathable
Stretchy fabric
Versatile
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 sector of the market, the stretchiest of the stretchy Rab Kinetic 2.0 still manages to stand 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. This means they continue to breathe better in warmer conditions or once their user has cooled 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 can't even come close to matching the weather protection for extended, low activity days as the top-performing models and tend to wet out much faster. The Kinetic was no different but was in the upper third of air-permeable models. It is fine for a few hours of wet hiking or ice climbing, snowshoeing, or ski touring in the snow but hanging out in camp on a rainy day we'd rather have something else. This also presents a problem since 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, which usually results in a net heat loss and the user feeling colder than if they were not wearing an air-permeable model. Again it isn't 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 better suited for more aerobic activities (hiking, backpacking, ski touring, or anything moving) where its other benefits of non-stop breathability and incredible mobility are more important than absolute storm protection.

Read review: Rab Kinetic 2.0

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
81
$300
Editors' Choice Award
Excelling across our board of metrics, it's versatile enough for outdoor activities and is lightweight and stormworthy
77
$279
Top Pick Award
If days, weeks, or months of potentially damp time in the backcountry are possible in your future, then this notable stormyworthy model should be on your radar
77
$300
Top Pick Award
Despite being one of the absolutely lightest jackets on the market, it still provides a respectable level of storm protection, mobility, and breathability
75
$249
A tough, stormyworthy, versatile air-permeable model
74
$159
Best Buy Award
It offers enough performance to keep almost any outdoor enthusiast happy, at a price that won't break the bank
74
$230
Top Pick Award
A softshell at first glance, this ultra-stretchy, ultra-breathable model is perfect for aerobic cool weather activities, where mobility, an athletic cut, and top-tier breathability are necessary
73
$225
With awesome ventilation capabilities, top-tier stormworthiness, and above average durability, this model is a great all-rounder
72
$199
This is a classic, awesome do-anything piece
71
$200
A decent all-around rain jacket at a respectable price
70
$150
Great for those on a budget, this versatile model marries durability and stormworthiness, without being too heavy or costly
70
$160
An ideal layer for fast-and-light trips, where every ounce of weight matters
70
$300
While not the absolute most stormworthy, it strikes a good balance of weight, features, and performance
66
$230
Satisfies the majority of outdoor enthusiasts with its excellent combination of durability and weight
64
$100
With better breathability than similarly priced models, it's tough to beat
49
$90
This model boasts a good price and adequate protection, but it lacks outdoor features present in other contenders

what does waterproof really mean? rain creates three pounds per...
What does waterproof really mean? Rain creates three pounds per square inch of pressure being applied to the fabric; however, most waterproof breathable fabrics can withstand a lot more than that. The US military has a 25 PSI standard that most companies use as a guideline. All the fabrics are plenty waterproof to keep you dry out in the rain. How long they last, how well they keep water out, and overall design have a major impact on their ability to keep you dry.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Why You Should Trust Us


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.

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; however, Ian personally tested each jacket in our review in the Cascade Mountains and temperate rainforests of Western Washington and 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, both in the field and in our home labs, to help produce the best reviews possible.

Related: How We Tested Rain Jackets

None of the models we tested offered terrible peripheral vision but...
None of the models we tested offered terrible peripheral vision but some certainly maintained it better than others.
Not all models fit the same and you may need to size up or down to...
Not all models fit the same and you may need to size up or down to help your jacket to best suit your needs. For example with the Patagonia Storm Racer, marketed as a trail running jacket; tester Ian Nicholson could only fit a technical fleece underneath or a super thin puffy (in a pinch) where with a majority of models he could fit more.
While you can buy a rain jacket for less than half the price, this...
While you can buy a rain jacket for less than half the price, this model easily outperforms cheaper models. This jacket uses Gore-Tex Active and boasts awesome features and performance. This is one of the better values out there for a rain jacket, period.

Analysis and Test Results


Our selection involves a wide range of products, from the most storm-worthy to the most budget-friendly, while also selecting some of the best models geared for specific applications or with specific 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 at specific applications or for specific user types.

Related: How to Choose the Right Rain Jacket

we considered over 90 different rain jackets before choosing the...
We considered over 90 different rain jackets before choosing the best in our review. We tested each jacket by spraying them with hoses, wearing them in the shower, and spending countless hours hiking, climbing, skiing, and backpacking in them.
Credit: Ian Nicholon

Value


You've likely asked yourself something along the lines of "is this piece of gear really the extra money over that piece of gear? The answer is rarely crystal clear, as so much of it depends on the user and their intended use of the product. However, we prioritize quantifying the differences to go what you get (if anything) by spending more with the end goal is helping you decide if you'll get the most out of the best of the best or if you'll be happy with a model that will keep your wallet happy.

Likely wider than any other product 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

On the less expensive end are various products that use coated membrane fabrics, which generally aren't as long-lasting or as breathable as laminated membranes. These higher-end laminates are more expensive to produce, and when looking at Name Brand materials, you are not only paying for the "name" but also 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 will sacrifice some of their profit and use more expensive materials like Gore-Tex made by a third party on their more performance-focused pieces — rather than just proprietary fabrics. While it might be a slight downer to hear that these more expensive fabrics tend to work better and last longer, quality fabrics make a world of difference from a waterproof/breathability perspective. While generally not the case with most outdoor products, there is often a pretty direct relationship between price and performance when it comes to rain jackets.

rain is not going to penetrate the fabrics that any of these jackets...
Rain is not going to penetrate the fabrics that any of these jackets are constructed with. In a downpour, however, running water can seep 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.
Credit: Ian Nichcolson

Water Resistance


Without question, 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 do an adequate job of keeping you dry, not a whole lot else matters. We extensively tested each model in the real world using these models in the rain, wind, sleet, and snow. We also conducted a series of side-by-side tests to help us quantify performance and better understand why and how each model directly compared to one another. Some of the testings included 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.


rain jacket - obviously, the waterproof material itself is important, but with...
Obviously, the waterproof material itself is important, but with nearly all manufacturers offering a material that is more than adequate, those jackets with features that kept the rain out and move moisture scored the best. Ian Nicholson climbing "Pretty Nuts" near Kicking Horse Pass in extremely wet conditions.
Credit: Andy Dahlen

There are many waterproof fabrics and treatments that manufacturers use in the various models we tested. There is also a heap of laboratory testing that has been done to quantify precisely how waterproof each of these specific coated or laminated materials are. With that said, the critical bit to understand is that all of the products tested are water-resistant enough to use as a rain shell and all meet the technical requirements to be referred to as waterproof. This doesn't mean they all perform at the same level, but they are all weather-resistant enough to be called waterproof.

rain jacket - all the models we tested are technically waterproof but not all...
All the models we tested are technically waterproof but not all offered the same level of storm protection or resisted "wetting out" in similar amounts of time.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 from wetting out. This is a columniation of a number of 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) and the longevity of DWR and its' subsequent ability to resist wetting out after extended periods — that can be hours or weeks of use.

rain jacket - garden hose to the face and wrists? check. the foray can handle it...
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 rainstorm. But models with adjustable cuffs and well-designed hood adjustments are superior in howling rainstorms or when working with your hands overhead in the rain.
Credit: Amanda Fenn

The Arc'teryx Zeta SL, Marmot Minimalist, and REI Stormbolt GTX offer our group's most robust weather resistance. These models all do an excellent job of sealing out precipitation in all of its forms and have well-designed wrist cuffs and hoods that can be cinched down to help seal out the elements, keeping us dry.

All the products we tested will keep you dry in a storm. The primary differences in our water resistance metric come from individual fabric characteristics and to a slightly less extent each model's respective hood's design, cuffs, pocket closures, and the longevity of a model's DWR.

a well designed hood is one of the most important factors...
A well designed hood is one of the most important factors influencing how dry a rain jacket is going to keep you.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 offered good DWR and resisted wetting out — both over time and during a single day out in heavy weather.

while these jackets weren&#039;t designed with sea kayaking in mind, that...
While these jackets weren't designed with sea kayaking in mind, that didn't stop our review team from utilizing a trip to the West Coast of Vancouver Island to put them to the test. Trips like this only added to the testing of each model's versatility. In this photo, lead tester paddled over 20 miles in the Broken Islands in non-stop rain.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

This result of a jacket wetting out significantly reduces breathability in that area that is wet. This water may or may not be making it through the fabric. Still, in nearly all cases, the continuous film of water eliminates all breathability, and the wet-looking area will feel cold and wet, or clammy, from the inside and appear to 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.

the previous metric compared how well each model kept us dry from...
The previous metric compared how well each model kept us dry from the outside where this one compares how well they helped us stay dry from the inside.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Breathability and Ventilation


Our water resistance metric measures and compares how well each contender 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. We considered two main factors when awarding scores for this metric. First and foremost, we researched and tested each fabric's breathability, and it should be noted that this is undoubtedly 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.


breathability and ventilation are both significant factors in...
Breathability and ventilation are both significant factors in keeping the wearer dry, 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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 actually be left open in a downpour. Basically, we measured if we could use them to dump heat while it was actually raining while hiking, trail running, and backpacking or otherwise enjoying the outdoors in active ways. 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 that were far better than others at allowing sweat to escape or keeping rain from getting in.

we compared each jacket&#039;s overall breathability as well as their...
We compared each jacket's overall 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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Breathability Versus 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 its ventilation. The reason being, if it's rain, but 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-made moisture in. No ventilation designs proved capable of keeping more water out than the let in during heavy rain or even walking up bushy trails after a storm.

we love the foray. if you want a durable rain jacket with...
We love the Foray. If you want a durable rain jacket with class-leading ventilation features, it's a great option.
Credit: Amanda Fenn

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 even drench a lightweight t-shirt if they're working hard enough, and even the most basic lightweight synthetic t-shirt are significantly more breathable than any waterproof jacket we tested. Set yourself up for success and wear the minimum layers you can get away with to minimize overheating unnecessarily.

breathability is an important factor when considering shells. at...
Breathability is an important factor when considering shells. At some point, you can't shed any more layers under your rain shell while hiking with a heavy pack uphill and you're going to 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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

People are often more worried about being too cold, but in our experience, we see far more people wear way too much clothing and 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 you're taking part in any time of aerobic activity, you'll likely produce far more sweat than your jacket can handle and soak yourself.

even the most breathable models have a limit on the amount of...
Even the most breathable models have a limit on the amount of moisture they are able to pass through. Set yourself up for success by wearing the minimum layers you can get away with. Remember that nearly everyone can drench even a t-shirt if they're working hard enough.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Air-Permeable Fabrics

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 wave of 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 and Outdoor Research MicroGravity being two of our favorites.

air-permeable fabrics are a cool new trend in the outdoor industry...
Air-permeable fabrics are a cool new trend in the outdoor industry, and they offer a static level of breathability, regardless of user output and external environments. This means your jacket keeps breathing even after you've cooled off.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

What is an air-permeable fabric or jacket? 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 of the waterproof-breathable garment industry, which relies on a disparity in heat and/or pressure to get the moisture to pass through the material. This does mean that air-permeable jackets, on a micro-level, aren't technically windproof. With that said, all these models feel windproof but do feel cooler than most folks are used to once they have stopped exercising or are just hanging out in the rain.

a number of models in this review, like the outdoor research...
A number of models in this review, like the Outdoor Research Microgravity, are air permeable. This means air can pass through the fabric itself, and on a micro-level, these models aren't technically windproof and don't require as much internal heat build-up as more traditional fabrics. Most of these models breathe quite well.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 the truth is that 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.

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

Sounds great right? You might have even assumed that most materials breathed at a fairly static level but the truth is that just isn't the case. A number of 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 big temperature difference. In these ideal conditions and scenarios these types of 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.

as useful as many ventilation features are, a fabric&#039;s breathability...
As useful as many ventilation features are, a fabric's breathability is more important than ventilation. When it is storming hard and you want to batten down the hatches by closing pit-zips and cinching the hood, a breathable fabric is paramount.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Conversely, because they don't breathe as well once the user has stopped and cooled down, the pressure difference will be lower. These fabrics also 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 you want to continue wearing your jacket for wind protection, or as you suspect the next storm is just minutes away, then venting your jacket can prove incredibly useful.

the patagonia torrentshell has large pit zips with easy-to-use pull...
The Patagonia Torrentshell has large pit zips with easy-to-use pull strings on the zippers. Pit zips let the wearer ventilate the jacket for high energy activities. Some models have mesh-lined pockets for additional ventilation. The Torrentshell's hand pockets are lined with waterproof fabric.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Pit zips, side zips, core vents, or other various zippered ventilation designs all 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, which is a fairly generic term for mesh-lined pockets that you can leave open to let a little moisture out.

a majority of waterproof breathable fabrics require a pressure...
A majority of waterproof breathable fabrics require a pressure differential to start breathing. This is generally accomplished by your body generating a fair amount of heat, thus warming the inside of your jacket. However, an air-permeable model will continue to dry more effectively after you've cooled off and are standing around. Photo: Testing and comparing the breathability of different layers while making a one-day ascent of Mt. Shuksan, with Phil Wadlow shown on the summit.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 better compare and analyze breathability. When looking at the numbers, again more than half the jackets in this review don't have a static level of breathability and the exact 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 lots of ventilation options and compared and contrasted performance keeping vents completely closed, partially open, and completely open to best get a sense of how each model performed.

there are a lot of breathable fabrics out there, but in our...
There are a lot of breathable fabrics out there, but in our side-by-side 10-minute stairmaster tests (and in real-world use) we found eVent to be one of the most breathable. Not by lots, but enough to notice. We even found that it was breathable enough that we would get cold faster during breaks.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The most breathable materials in our review were the Gore-Tex and Gore Paclite Plus. These two fabrics were a cut above the rest when we were out on a rainy winter hike, where they were able to pass an impressive amount of moisture at an astounding rate. While these two fabrics scored the best overall, there were several proprietary air-permeable models and fabrics, like the Rab Kinetic using Proflex and Outdoor Research MicroGravity using Ascentshell, which allows for exceptional breathability and were nearly as breathable.

slayin&#039; some pow on tye peak in the arc&#039;teryx zeta sl.
Slayin' some pow on Tye Peak in the Arc'teryx Zeta SL.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Best Options For Moving Moisture

After extensive testing, we found the REI Stormbolt GTX and the Arc'teryx Zeta SL, both constructed with thinner materials and Gore-Tex and Gore-tex PacLite Plus laminates, proved to breathe the best; for those interested, the Zeta SL offers little in the way of ventilation. As a result, we found the Stormbolt slightly less steamy inside than other high-end performers during high-energy activities and way more breathable than models that feature coated waterproof-breathable fabrics.

john yarnall testing and checking the wind resistance of his...
John Yarnall testing and checking the wind resistance of his air-permeable Rab Kinetic on a six day traverse of the Northern Picket Range, WA.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The next round of most breathable included several other options featuring Gore-Tex, like the Marmot Minimalist and The North Face Dryzzle, along with our two top-performing air permeable models, the Rab Kinetic 2.0, The North Face Flight Lightriser and Outdoor Research MicroGravity. It's worth noting that with these air-permeable jackets, we noticed ourselves becoming colder during breaks than with the non-air-permeable ones.

comfort and mobility are extremely important factors that are often...
Comfort and mobility are extremely important factors that are often under-considered when purchasing a jacket. This is likely because there are less quantifiable metrics to go along with a given jacket's mobility. Or some people might simply think, "I'm just hiking, I'm not climbing." However, 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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson


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, as well as 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 out 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.

we tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket by seeing how...
We tested the maximum range of motion of each jacket by seeing how well we stayed 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.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 as a whole.

which jacket has the best range of motion? only one way to find out.
Which jacket has the best range of motion? Only one way to find out.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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.

range of motion is an advantage possessed by many of the stretchier...
Range of motion is an advantage possessed by many of the stretchier models. For users who intend to use their shell climbing or nordic skiing, we recommend checking them out. Here Mike Bowman makes an ascent of the Beckey route on Liberty Bell during a light snowstorm.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 truly 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 aimed toward more technical pursuits. Those who might want to add more than one thin layer underneath should consider sizing up.

depending on what you like to do, mobility can play a pretty large...
Depending on what you like to do, mobility can play a pretty large roll in your purchasing decisions. Here we test a Patagonia Torrentshell on the 18-pitch Serpentine Arete on Dragontail Peak between intermittent rain showers.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Next in line for the best freedom of movement and mobility are the Patagonia Storm10 Outdoor Research MicroGravity, REI Stormbolt GTX, The North Face Flight Lightriser and the Arc'teryx Zeta SL. These models feature mobility-oriented designs and offer a functional range of motion that is just a small notch below the Rab Kinetic, though all scoring well for different reasons. The MicroGravity and the Storm10 are stretchy, the Zeta SL is exceptionally well-articulated, and the Stormbolt is slightly on the baggy side.

hood designs varied considerably between jackets. a good hood design...
Hood designs varied considerably between jackets. A good hood design will keep the water out while moving with you and allowing you to hang on to a good amount of your peripheral vision. Here, Tester Ian Nicholson tends a backcountry breakfast on a stormy morning.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Features


If you're wearing your jacket around town, having room in the pockets for a pair of gloves and a warm hat or a phone and keys can be nice. Some folks don't like to use hoods in a more urban setting and consider an umbrella for truly wet days. In the backcountry; a hood that rolls away and stows can be appreciated but is generally a lot less of a big deal.

consider whether you would like to use your rain jacket with a...
Consider whether you would like to use your rain jacket with a climbing or bike helmet. While any hood can be worn under a helmet, it can be more convenient (and comfortable) if it can be pulled on and off quickly by fitting over the top.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Hood Design

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 were the Arc'teryx Zeta SL, Rab Kinetic 2.0 and the REI Drypoint GPX, while the Outdoor Research Foray, Patagonia Storm10, and Patagonia Torrentshell scored not too far behind.

hood design is one of the most important aspects of a waterproof...
Hood design is one of the most important aspects of a waterproof jacket. When well-designed, you should forget you're wearing it. When poorly designed, you'll face issues like obstructed peripheral vision, discomfort, and a lack of compatibility to different headwear. Photo: Graham Zimmerman and Ryan O'Connell rappeling while attempting to climb a new route in the Kitchatna's AK.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

When talking about hoods it is worth bringing up the Rab Kinetic 2.0 is of special note because it features an internal elastic band designed to ride directly on top of 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.

here tester ian nicholson showcases the rab kenitic&#039;s cool &quot;double&quot;...
Here tester Ian Nicholson showcases the Rab Kenitic's cool "double" hood design.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 hoods were on the Arc'teryx Zeta SL and the Patagonia Storm10.

peter webb puts his arc&#039;teryx zeta sl jacket to the test during some...
Peter Webb puts his Arc'teryx Zeta SL jacket to the test during some wetter than ideal conditions while alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Pockets

It is tough to argue the utility of pockets, as everyone uses them at least some of the time. 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 have a huge impact on their overall usefulness, depending on the user.

if a jacket&#039;s handwarmer pockets are too low, they are rendered...
If a jacket's handwarmer pockets are too low, they are rendered totally useless by the waist-belt of a pack or a harness and can pinch the wear's hips quite uncomfortably under heavier loads. We prefer models with higher handwarmer pockets, or at least lower-profile zippers to minimize pinching.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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. For several of our testers whose pockets that are too low; too close to our hips can be a dealbreaker.

we love slightly elevated pockets that remain accessible under a pack.
We love slightly elevated pockets that remain accessible under a pack.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

While on adventures that require wearing a pack, a majority 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 activities like day hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering, steer clear of models with low front handwarmer pockets. Besides discomfort, lower hand pockets are far less accessible with a pack on, and at times can be inaccessible.

all of our testers appreciated the slightly elevated and...
All of our testers appreciated the slightly elevated and function-oriented pockets on the Rab Kinetic.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Nearly all of our reviewers love pockets that are slightly higher and out of the way of a pack's hip-belt or a climbing harness, so we can still access items, and more importantly, so the zipper doesn't cause us pain under heavy loads. Low pockets are slightly more comfortable for keeping your hands warm while cruising the farmer's market on a drizzly day for less technical applications.

these pocket designs are popular with the casual crowd, but are...
These pocket designs are popular with the casual crowd, but are often impractical while hiking since they are nearly inaccessible while wearing a pack or harness. Shown here is the Interstellar, with so-so pockets.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weight


For many, light is right, and weight is a crucial factor for any piece of gear used on human-powered adventures. All of our testers value lightweight clothing and gear, 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 for daily use, you'll want to consider durability along with 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.

we weighed all the models in our review on a postal scale.
We weighed all the models in our review on a postal scale.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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. While some folks might not care about spending more or sacrificing some features or storm worthiness for just a few ounces; for the most weight-conscious of users, or those who own a quiver of jackets; these lightest of light jackets are impressively light and might allow you to get away with bringing a slightly smaller pack or to bring one when you otherwise might forgo a rain shell altogether.

for many users, weight is possibly the single most important...
For many users, weight is possibly the single most important attribute of a rain shell because they will be carrying it more than 90% of the time. Often times, it's a "just in case" layer, brought along in the event of an afternoon thunderstorm, strong winds, or a drizzle that is not in the forecast. Photo: Phil Wadlow on the Upper Curtis Glacier.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Outdoor Research Helium Rain weighs in at 6.5 ounces and can be stuffed into a built-in reversible chest pocket with a clip-in loop, which is a nice feature for climbers carrying it on their harness. It could also be useful for anyone who might want to clip their jacket to something.

graham zimmerman wearing the lightest and most compressible jacket...
Graham Zimmerman wearing the lightest and most compressible jacket in our review, the Outdoor Research Helium Rain.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Quite close in weight is the The North Face Flight Lightriser at seven ounces which while around half an ounce heavier is more breathable and stretchier while providing very comparable weather protection. Those seeking the lightest fully featured model should check out the Patagonia Storm 10, which unlike the two previous models listed actually has front pockets that offer superior storm protection and weighs a cool 8.5 ounces.

Credit: Ian Nicholson

Packed Size


We've all been caught in a storm, getting soaked when we left our jacket in the car at the then-sunny trailhead. As the weather can change quickly and at times 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 list. 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.

jackets stuffed and ready to travel. the jackets we evaluated that...
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.
Credit: Brandon Lampley

Approximately half of these models stuff into one of their own 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 quite small but require wrestling to get them stowed; others fit comfortably into their stuff pocket.

the storm10 reverses into a chest pocket to help stow it. while it...
The Storm10 reverses into a chest pocket to help stow it. While it takes a little more effort than most to pack it away in this pocket, we appreciate how much it compresses.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 Rain is the most compact. This model is significantly smaller, and half the compressed volume of the average packet size in our review. the

this model, the north face lightriser (in green) is shown next to...
This model, The North Face Lightriser (in green) is shown next to some of the other more packable models in our review.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Patagonia Storm10 packs tightly into its chest pocket and was equally as small as the slightly lighter Outdoor Research Helium Rain. Also among the smallest models, though just a little bit bigger; The North Face Flight Lightriser was far tinier than the majority of models in our review. The only thing that kept it from being more compact is its' mesh pocket didn't do quite as good of a job compressing it.

Credit: Ian Nicholson

Durability


A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands its user places on it. While we know everyone would like their rain jacket to last an eternity, in reality, many people might be 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 lighter, 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, which are exponentially less durable than products weighing three to five ounces more.


The exterior material (also known as the face fabric) is either nylon or polyester, and this 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 between 30-50 Denier face fabric, with the 50D shells being notably more robust than the 20-30D. All but the Columbia 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. We find this is a significant advantage and a reason that the majority of outdoor products utilize it.

a rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands of your activities -...
A rain jacket needs to stand up to the demands of your activities - if it becomes ripped or shredded, no amount of features or special designs will 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.
Credit: Max Neale

Polyester is known to be stretchier and most times, more durable than a similarly thick nylon material. While polyester is generally more durable than Nylon, thickness matters more. For example, a 50D nylon jacket is likely to be more robust than a 30D polyester one 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 come to find that jackets with fewer seams in the shoulders hold up better, especially if you plan to carry a pack regularly.

nothing like starting a trip on a very, very rainy day in...
Nothing like starting a trip on a very, very rainy day in Washington's North Cascades to learn a lot about different models and how they compare to one another.
Credit: Ian Nicholon

The most durable models in our review are the Marmot Minimalist, The North Face Apex, Arc'teryx Zeta SL, and Outdoor Research Foray. Except for the Apex, all three pair 50D polyester ripstop 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 polyester shell, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is one of the more robust budget-friendly models.

dan whitmore testing a north face venture jacket during an extremely...
Dan Whitmore testing a North Face Venture jacket during an extremely wet trip to Washington's North Cascades National Park. The Venture, with its 50D external face fabric, was on the tougher end of jackets we tested.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Our team focuses on each product's face fabric when assessing its overall durability, as this is the layer that has the most impact on a given product's tear and abrasion resistance, as well as 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.

we hope you enjoyed the review and that it helped you make your...
We hope you enjoyed the review and that it helped you make your selection, until next time...
Credit: Graham Zimmerman

Conclusion


At first, glance, determining which rain jacket is ideal right for you might seem complicated or the options more limitless than they might actually be. 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 taken into account which metrics are most important for your adventures, our review can help you narrow your decision down. Thanks for reading and we honestly hope this review helps you find the best possible option for your needs.

Ian Nicholson

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