The Best Rain Jackets of 2024 | GearJunkie

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The Best Rain Jackets of 2024 | GearJunkie

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Whether you're splashing about town or trekking through a monsoon, these are the best rain jackets of 2024.

We’ve all worn a trash bag in a pinch. And while almost anything is better than being soaking wet, nothing beats a purpose-built rain jacket with the right combination of features and price to meet your needs.

For more than five years now, we have shouldered close to 50 different rain jackets in just about every different name for rain — pulling together everything from the best rain jackets for bumping around town, to the best ultralight shells for long-distance thru-hiking, and even techy rainwear for the sport-specific demands of trail running, cycling, and climbing. Senior Editor Nick Belcaster leads our efforts, and never lets a good rain shower go to waste.

During testing, we aimed for the worst weather windows to challenge the waterproofing, livability, and rough-and-tumble durability of these jackets. We paid close attention to performance over entire seasons, and if the weather failed to materialize, we weren’t above busting out the garden hose. Every jacket was backpacked in, worn hard, and put away wet.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the jacket you’re looking for. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our comprehensive rain jacket buyer’s guide, as well as our comparison chart. And if you still have rain jacket questions, take a look at our list of frequently asked questions.

Editor’s Note: We updated our rain jacket guide on November 2, 2023, to add additional information on rain jacket categories and waterproof membranes, and ensure that our selection is still current.

In creating a better rain jacket, there are a number of different levers to pull to tilt the scales toward your ideal. Practice however shows that this produces many niche jackets: an ultralight shell that doesn’t breathe great, or an armored hardshell that moves like a tarpaulin.

That’s why we were so impressed at how even-keeled the Outdoor Research Foray and Aspire Superstretch Jackets ($300) were. Building on their previous successes, the new Superstretch flavor from OR adds an elastane-infused GORE-TEX panel between the shoulder blades that provided an impressive amount of mobility in our testing. 

While rain jackets with integrated stretch have become popular in recent years, our testing has shown that while the mobility gains are generous, most DWR finishes have a difficult time keeping up with a flexible fabric, and will often wet out before their non-stretch counterparts. That’s why we appreciate the design of the Superstretch jackets so much — which puts the stretch right where you need it and retains the waterproofing elsewhere.

Hewn from a tried-and-true GORE-TEX Paclite 2L membrane, OR has overcome the typical pitfalls of this membrane and capitalized on its strengths to create a rain shell that’s up for anything. While our previous experience with Paclite has shown it to be a supremely waterproof membrane, we often felt clammy when overworking the 15,000 g/m² breathability capacity. Not so, with the Foray.

Where other rain jacket pit zips may span from elbow to mid-torso, the TorsoFlo zips of the Foray and Aspire run a full two feet all the way to the hem, meaning that venting the zips feels like throwing open all the windows in the house. This supreme mechanical venting ability greatly manages previous breathability concerns, and in practice, it felt like turning a corner when it comes to the rain jacket paradigm. 

Rounding out the Foray and Aspire is a three-way adjustable hood with buried cordlocks, YKK Aquaguard zippers (further guarded by storm flaps), and two torso pockets that are large enough to stuff the jacket into for storage. There is also a left-hand napoleon pocket on the chest, and an elastic drawcord hem.

If you find your adventures are a bit more static, the Foray and Aspire jackets are both available in a non-Superstretch cut — retaining everything we love about this jacket and at a palatable $75 less. And, as always, Outdoor Research is one of our favorites when it comes to offering a broad range of sizes to fit all body types.

REI often focuses on gear to help folks get into the outdoors, especially those on a budget or who are dabbling on a first excursion. But even at its budget price, the Co-Op’s XeroDry GTX jacket ($179) performs more like a veteran piece.

The two-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE membrane provides a stout barrier against wind and moderate rain, though it suffers a bit when it comes to breathability — rated at 15,000 g/m². Thankfully, REI anticipated the issue and fitted the XeroDry with pockets that are mesh-lined, which double as core vents for moving moisture out when the pace picks up. Smart.

We also appreciated how the XeroDry stands up to scuffs, scrapes, and abrasion — all thanks to the tough Bluesign-approved polyester face fabric and DWR finish. The smaller fit and finish details of the jacket, like the zipper pulls, cord locks, and hook-and-loop cuffs, are all on the lighter-duty side, but we found them in testing to be perfectly functional for the price.

Most impressively, it manages all of this at under 13 ounces. At an approachable price, this $169 shell is meant for backpacking, with hip belt-friendly hand pockets that double as core vents to help dump heat. Plus, the XeroDry GTX carries both Bluesign and Fair Trade certifications.

Recently updated, Patagonia’s Torrentshell 3L Jacket ($179) gained a three-layer H2No waterproof membrane, something that many other jackets at the price point can’t match.

Many will also appreciate the number of sustainable choices Patagonia made when creating the new Torrentshell, such as the 100% recycled nylon ripstop face fabric, the Fair Trade sewing, and a PU membrane that employs 13% biobased content. For the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find another rain jacket that provides the same level of performance, which is why the Torrentshell was our Runner-Up choice.

While we previously deducted a few points from the Torrentshell for sporting a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish that still contained PFCs, Patagonia has made good on their promise to continue to cut the forever chemicals out of the rain jacket mix, and now produces the Torrentshell with a full PFC-free build. We did find the face fabric to be a bit crinkly and bulky, something we attribute to working out the kinks in using recycled nylon, but it did soften some with use.

When you consider that Patagonia has the Torrentshell 3L Jacket priced under $180, you’ve got a budget- and resource-friendly rainwear option that’s just as at home on the trail as it is kicking around town.

Read Review: A Classic Shell Jacket Gets New Tech: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket Review

From your morning commute to a coastal deluge, the Arc’teryx Beta Jacket ($400) ticks the boxes for our needs when it comes to a rain jacket that can simply do it all.

Arc’teryx’s Beta line of jackets are made for ‘All-Around’ activities, and we can confirm that this jacket will just about do most of it. Utilizing a high-power GORE-TEX 3-layer membrane and a durable face fabric, this is the shell for serious outdoors folk who need absolute protection, no matter the price. Our own testing has taken the Arc’teryx Beta to places that other rain jackets shudder to dream of. Through it all, this jacket came out ready for more.

The Beta certainly isn’t cheap. At its premium price point, it’s better thought of as a long-term investment piece that’ll be around far into the future. But at a 28,000 mm waterproof rating, know that you’ll be protected from the rain for the long haul. During testing around British Columbia’s Squamish, we came to greatly appreciate this heightened waterproofing, as well as the trim fit that worked equally well cutting through downtown as it did getting up close and personal with a few waterfalls.

One downside of the über waterproof fabric is the distinct crinkle of fabric on fabric, which can become a drone on repetitious missions like ski touring. And since this is the lower end of the Beta line, this jacket does without pit-zips. If some added mechanical ventilation is high on your list, check out the Beta LT ($450).

One benefit of the buy-once-cry-once ethos is getting access to brands that are pushing innovation. Arc’teryx works closely with GORE-TEX to produce leading-edge fabric technologies, and if the leading edge is where you spend most of your time, the Arc’teryx Beta is up to the task. It’s probably the best rain jacket money can buy today, without stepping up to something more mountain-savvy like a hardshell jacket.

At a claimed 6.2 ounces (and even less on our own scales), Montbell certainly had weight on the brain when they crafted the Versalite Jacket ($249). Part of their UL Hiking selection, the Versalite impressed us during testing not only with the weight it lacked, but also the features it’s studded with.

While GORE-TEX INFINIUM WINDSTOPPER isn’t marketed as being a fully waterproof membrane, by incorporating fully taped seams and a DWR-finished face fabric, Mont Bell has been able to whip up a rain shell that sports water resistance that keeps up with the best, and puts up breathability numbers that knock many out of the running.  

In the wilds, our initial fears over using a “windshell” material were quickly salved. Make no mistake, the Versalite can hang in a good rain. And the benefit to using GORE INFINIUM shows when the grade steepens or a thick mist rolls in: this jacket breathes like it’s got a set of lungs stashed away somewhere, and you don’t have to be knocking out 30-mile days to appreciate that.

For the weight, the Versalite is simply feature-packed. Compared to other jackets of the same, or even more weight, the Versalite boasts the full complement: a three-way adjustable hood that rolls up and stows away, two zippered hand pockets with ample space, and 16.5-inch pit zips for easy venting.

As with any specialized piece, the tech-heavy styling isn’t going to win you any awards, and at 10-denier the face fabric will require more care than your average knock-around rain jacket. But put to the task, the Versalite excels in its lane, jamming in many extra features that jackets of the same ilk can’t claim.

One of our favorite jackets for rainy and windy weather, this runner-specific jacket packs down small but also packs a punch in terms of features.

To start, the Janji Rainrunner ($198) has vented panels around the entire torso to vent the core, right where it’s needed most. The jacket has a full-length zipper that extends from the zippered hand pockets to the scuba-style hood. A hip-length hem, cinchable wrists, and reflective touches add to this jacket’s greatness.

But the best feature is the jacket itself: specifically, the newly updated fabric. It’s a lightweight, 2.5-layer 30,000 mm waterproof fabric with 100% taped seams, that packs down to just 8 ounces (7 ounces for our women’s size small.) The protective snugness at the wrists and hood lock water out, but at the same time, the design isn’t too restrictive or heavy.

This jacket will move with you, and due to its small packed size, you can take it on almost all adventures. Durability can take a hit when you’re a featherweight like the Rainrunner Pack Jacket, so choose your trails with care.

On top of all that, Janji donates 2% of proceeds to a different clean-water project nonprofit org each year. For the eco-conscious, it might be the best rain jacket for your mind and body.

Many brands in recent years have begun prioritizing breathability in their rain shells, and The North Face uses electricity to manipulate the air and moisture permeability of its offerings. FUTURELIGHT marks TNF’s take on this air-permeable process, and by our own tests, it marks a step forward in waterproof-breathable technology.

FUTURELIGHT fabric boasts an incredible breathability rating by utilizing a method known as nanospinning, creating a nano-sized fiber matrix that allows for air to flow freely from inside to out. For non-stop active pursuits where moisture management is key, the Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT ($230) scores high marks, and its 75,000 g/m² breathability rating is head and shoulders above all of the other rain jackets we’ve tested to date.

The membrane isn’t even the whole story on the Dryzzle, which is laid out in a smart cut with a feature set that makes it ideal for hiking and backpacking. During testing, we greatly appreciated the reverse-entry hand pockets, which open in such a way as to create a tight seal around your wrists when using the pockets. No more damp hands!

Coupled with a weight of just under 12 ounces and trustworthy water/windproof capabilities, the Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT is more than a one-trick pony, but truly excels when it comes to breathability. We only wished there was a bit more room under the shell for layers.

Blurring the line between rain jacket and their more climbing-oriented cousins, the Norrøna Falketind Paclite Rain Jacket ($349) is a hardshell jacket in everything but the membrane, meaning you get all of the mountain-ready cut and features, with a lighter packed weight and compressed size — perfect for taking with you anywhere.

The 2.5-layer GORE-TEX Paclite Plus membrane used is a notch above the typical Paclite, in that it incorporates a less slick backer and printed dots on the interior to better move moisture out of the jacket. The breathability will still be on the lesser side when compared to other GORE-TEX membranes at 15,000 g/m², but the waterproofing is just as strong at 28,000 mm.

In lieu of typical under-arm pit zips, Norrøna went with a novel solution that we haven’t seen before, and that’s zippered front chest ventilation. This zipper (separate from the full closure zipper) runs a full 12 inches and opens up the jacket to fresh air, all without splitting the jacket entirely and leading to a floppy shell. During testing, our reviewers found that this moved air nicely through the jacket.

With a technical fit, this jacket doesn’t flap about in strong winds, and retains much of the technical articulation needed to pull off any move necessary — be it on the glacier or on the trail. The hood is sized to accommodate a climbing helmet, and adjusts with a single pull on the back of the head.

Compared to the Arc’teryx Beta Jacket, the Falketind Paclite does have a few advantages. For one, the Falketind implements mechanical ventilation into the build, which is something the Beta is missing out on. The Falketind also slides in $50 cheaper, though it does miss out on the twin hand pockets, and better 3-layer GORE-TEX membrane that the Beta has.

If you’re looking for a jacket that will stand up to the rough stuff, but is still packable enough to make it into your bag on every outing, the Norrøna Falketind Paclite puts up the good fight.

They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but the Downpour Plus 2.0 Jacket ($195) sure does get close. Combining an admirable balance of waterproofness/breathability, features, and price, this Rab rain jacket strikes a near-perfect balance across the spectrum and is easily among the best in our testing.

The Pertex Shield 2.5-layer waterproof membrane sports what we believe is just about the perfect balance of waterproofing to breathability: 20,000 mm to 20,000 g/m², and generous pit zips help to avoid perspiration when the difficulty really ramps up. There are certainly other rain jackets that fill special niches better than the Downpour, but few tick more boxes across the range.

In our own testing, we were consistently impressed by the well-thought-out features that round out this shell. During a trail ride on Washington state’s Galbraith mountain, we battled on-again, off-again showers with the Downpour, and were keen on the roll-away hood, which easily tucked away for the rip down, as well as the drawstring hem which kept mud from going where the sun don’t shine.

There are a few stumbles: such as the sometimes difficult-to-manage left-hand zipper, and the need to mechanically vent to avoid interior slickness typical of 2.5-layer waterproof membranes — but we’re willing to look past these minor flaws for the sheer utility the Downpour provides.

The Rab Downpour Plus 2.0 is one of the most well-rounded rain jackets we’ve tested, and at the price (less than $200), it’s an easy go-to for anyone looking for a shell to do almost everything.

Read Review: Rab Downpour Plus 2.0 Jacket Review: A Versatile Shell That’s Ready for All 50 Names for Rain

Built for moving through the mountains, the Patagonia Storm10 jacket ($329) is the beefed-up sibling of the Torrentshell, making use of the same 3-layer H2No membrane, but in a much more packable and capable profile. This jacket lands squarely in between a hardshell and a rain jacket, but with a sub-10-ounce weight, you’d hardly guess that it’s got such chops.

The Storm10 sits among the more technical rain jackets on our list, with the Arc’teryx Beta just edging it out in overall burl-factor. Both jackets sport a 3-layer membrane, but the Beta has a slightly thicker skin (30-denier to the Storm10’s 20D), and a slightly higher waterproof rating. In testing, we found these jackets both excelled in the same use profile: perfect for off-trail, mountainous adventures where you’ll need every ounce of protection.

On top of the high-quality 20,000 mm waterproofing, the Storm10 adds a number of savvy features that ensure the jacket isn’t held back when you want to push into new territories. The hood is helmet-compatible, meaning it’ll fit over a climbing or ski helmet, and it also sports a RECCO reflector. And when you want to stash the jacket away, it stuffs into its own chest pocket, and has an integrated hang-loop for clipping to the back of a climbing harness.

Alas, it can’t all be roses, and the rain jacket is unfortunately lacking in the pit zips department. During our testing in a particularly rainy Pacific Northwest spring, casual hiking was manageable while fully zipped up, but turning up the cadence did cause some moisture pile-up. We’ll add it to the wish list for now, which is mighty short otherwise.

Ideal for those who want a rain jacket to do it all in, the Patagonia Storm10 offers an adaptable shell that has the muscle to back it up for when the skies open.

Having now gone through a number of revisions over 12 years, it’s easy to say that not only does the Outdoor Research Helium Jacket ($170) have staying power, but it also continues to get better. This weight-conscious shell tips the scales at a scant 6.3 ounces, and still manages to not leave too many features on the cutting room floor.

While our use of the previous generation of Helium is extensive (we’ve carried it on over 2,000+ miles of thru-hiking), the newest iteration pushes the needle even further with the addition of a new version of Pertex Shield membrane with Diamond Fuse technology. Instead of increasing the denier for strength, this weave utilizes diamond-shaped yarns that interlock with one another to bulk up the tear resistance.

OR claims this adds up to a 5x more tear-resistant jacket over its predecessor, and while we haven’t dove into the brambles to prove it, a strong tug across the fabric does yield a more confidence-inspiring feel. During a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park, the Helium jacket performed admirably when pressed against the sharp granite boulders of the desert.

Other improvements come in the form of the single napoleon pocket on the left chest, which has been enlarged for easier stuffing of the jacket into itself. There is also a hidden key clip to keep your keys close at hand, and YKK water-resistant zips on both the main and pocket zips.

When compared to its contemporaries, the Helium exists in sort of a middle-ground between the Zpacks Vertice and the Montbell Versalite, where the former offers higher breathability (and higher price), and the latter boasts more features and better livability, all at the same weight. As with many Pertex Shield jackets, we did find that breathability wasn’t quite what we’d like to see, and that the slick interior can feel clammy once you’ve pushed the jacket past the brink.

Choosing between the three will mean weighing your goals and going with the best fit, but for any discerning thru-hiker, alpine climber, or trail runner, the Helium rain jacket easily makes the grade.

The Stretch Ozonic Jacket from Mountain Hardwear ($230) takes the phrase moves with you to heart, incorporating a four-way stretch across the entire jacket that not only makes pulling the move easier, but it also does so quietly and with a super soft hand.

Billed as a front-to-backcountry do-it-all shell, this jacket oozes movement and adds a nice amount of stretch to Mountain Hardwear’s 2.5L Dry.Q waterproof membrane. The membrane itself specs out at a respectable 10,000 mm waterproofing and 10,000 g/m² breathability, and in a live-fire environment, we found the Stretch Ozonic to be ideal for lighter precip environments where motion is king, such as trail running, scrambling, or bumping around the city.

As a surprise, one of our favorite features of this jacket is hidden away: mesh-lined pockets. In terms of easy methods to add physical venting to a jacket, mesh is high on our lists (we’re surprised more jackets don’t incorporate this). There will be a slight durability ding with using a lighter material, but we’ve yet to see it pan out that way in our experience.

The hood of the Stretch Ozonic is fairly boilerplate, with a single drawcord adjustment at the rear of the head to keep it out of your eyes. No wire-stiffened brim here, but we did enjoy the soft microfleece chin guard for when the rain really let loose and we had to retreat inside the hood.

As with many stretch-infused jackets, you’ll need to keep up on the DWR treatments, as this is an area of tradeoff for the impressive flexibility of the membrane. But for when the occasional storm brews up, this jacket certainly will make the cut for folks who want a shell that will flow with them.

From the minds of thru-hiking gurus Zpacks, the Vertice Rain Jacket ($299) aims to be in the company of the “lightest possible choices,” and at 7 ounces it certainly lands among them.

The standout headline of the Vertice is Zpacks’ proprietary membrane, which boasts an impressive claimed 56,000 g/m² breathability rating that stacks up strongly against the new wave of hyper-breathable membranes, such as The North Face’s FUTURELIGHT membrane.

This jacket is no slouch when it comes to waterproofing either at 20,000 mm, which typically will suffer when seeking out high breathability numbers. Compared to the lab numbers, we found during testing that we stayed dry for multiple hours of Pacific Northwest rainfall.

The finish of the Vertice is decidedly cottage industry, and you can tell that an actual human went to work on this jacket. We actually became fond of this fact, and there aren’t any sewing issues that would compromise the integrity of the jacket, but this is certainly a piece for the function-forward among us. There’s a reason thru-hikers look so goofy.

The hood of this jacket, unfortunately, left something to be desired, feeling more like looking through a porthole than anything else. In our estimation, adding a few more inches to this aperture would greatly improve the liveability on days when the precip doesn’t yield. For your next thru-hike or ultralight mission, the Vertice trims the fat but maintains the protection.

Way back in 2016, Outdoor Research pioneered electrospun membranes on a large scale to produce stretchy, reliably breathable rain shells. Now more widely adopted, this manufacturing process effectively allows venting more easily than other options, which require the wearer to reach a high temp before hot air (from the body) can push through.

The Motive ($229), with OR’s electrospun AscentShell tech, boasts the brand’s lightest and most streamlined construction. Though not truly a softshell, the Motive still blends maximum stretch in a surprisingly quiet hardshell, so you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be.

It is important to note that waterproof membranes with stretch tend to wet out faster than their static counterparts, which makes the Motive a go-to for activities like backcountry skiing where moisture can’t soak in as easily.

At less than 11 ounces for the men’s version and 10 ounces for women, OR managed to make a surprisingly lightweight offering that still has conveniences like zippered hand pockets, an internal chest pocket, and an adjustable hood.

A solid blend of packability, stretch, weight, and value, Black Diamond’s StormLine Stretch ($180) provides a solid option for traveling and daily getaways. And available at below $200, it’s a reasonable option from a trusted brand.

Underarm gussets pair with four-way stretch to allow greater freedom of motion, while Black Diamond’s proprietary BD.dry membrane seals out the elements. The StormLine packs into its own pocket and has adjustable cuffs, and also features a climbing helmet-compatible hood. Plus, the jacket weighs just 11.3 ounces, which means you’ll hardly register that it’s hanging from your climbing harness or stashed away in your pack.

While not the best suited for layering, the StormLine is just the jacket for when a shower surprises you halfway up a climbing route.

Our team of testers has braved storms from the rain-drenched foothills of the Pacific Northwest to the mountains of Colorado for half a decade now to review and publish rain jacket guides for men and women. The GearJunkie crew isn’t afraid of a poor forecast, and our gathered rain jacket knowledge is pulled together here to guide your rain jacket choice. While we might be a bit wet behind the ears, it’s not for a lack of experience.

Senior Editor Nick Belcaster is no stranger to a little precip, and is the principal tester for this guide. Living and playing in the state of Washington requires either a lot of patience in waiting for the weather to change, or a lot of gumption to get outside anyways. Belcaster has also thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, and has previously professionally equipped alpine climbers for whatever conditions they might encounter, including week-long deluges.

For this guide, we considered a broad range of uses for rain jackets, and included selections for both city and outdoor use. We consulted online resources, talked shop with brands, and then hit the field to pull our hoods up and let the skies open. From time spent on long trails to running laps on ice climbs, rain shells are often put to the test in a wild variety of conditions, and we aimed to review them in a broad spectrum of environments.

Our rain jacket testing occurs year-round, but mostly during the wettest months of the autumn in the Pacific Northwest. Belcaster, along with a crew of dedicated trail hounds, have been pulling on waterproofs and treading out into uncertain weather patterns for more than 5 years — collectively testing nearly 50 different rain jackets. Our testing aims to challenge these jackets, and looks at waterproofing over 24-hour periods, breathability during hill climbs, and durability against dense Cascadian bushwhacks.

There are a lot of rain jackets on the market. And while having options is great, it can be overwhelming to choose. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll explain the most important factors to keep in mind when deciding on the best rain jacket for your needs.

It’s true; when it rains, it does always seem to pour, and if you live somewhere where it does so frequently, you’ll need a rain jacket that’s ready to take on day-after-day deluge and cover you on your commute or expedition to the mailbox.

A rain jacket meant for everyday use will prioritize ease of use over much else, which often means a casual cut meant to toss over anything you’re already wearing. Because of this, they may weigh a little more than their backpacking cousins, but make up for it in durability. Thicker denier face fabrics are often employed to up the wear factor, which also prolongs the time it takes the jacket to wet out.

Functional features such as Velcro wrist closures, hand warming pockets, and hoods with some adjustability are all standard, though you won’t often see more sport-specific features such as helmet-compatible hoods, or two-way front zippers. One of our favorite do-it-all jackets is the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L, a shell that doesn’t demand much for the protection and everyday use it provides, but we also lean on the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX, Rab Downpour Plus 2.0, and Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic as everyday rain jackets.

Rain jackets for hiking and backpacking take their jobs a bit more seriously, and need to contend with a rapidly filling backpack to ensure they make the cut. You’ll likely be hiking off into more remote locales for longer periods of time, and should look for a rain jacket with a waterproof membrane to match. Consider shells of 2.5- or 3-layer layups, which will stave off wetting out for longer, and often sport higher breathability numbers.

When hiking in a rain jacket, we like shells that combine mechanical and membrane breathability to continually move moisture out as we huff uphill. While their overall waterproofing numbers may be a bit lower, polyurethane membranes often move moisture at a better rate over their 2-2.5 layer GORE-TEX counterparts. Aim for a number north of 20,000 g/m² if you plan on hiking in your rain shell often. For day hikes, we often reach for the Outdoor Research Foray Superstretch, Patagonia Torrentshell 3L, and Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell.

Packability, too, is in high demand, and certainly so for backpacking rain jackets. Here you may encounter more ultralight rain jackets, which leverage high-performance membranes, light denier face fabrics, and minimal feature sets to disappear into your backpack. The Montbell Versalite always finds its way into our thru-hiking packs, with the Zpacks Vertice and Norrøna Falketind not far behind.

This is the realm of sport-specific rainwear, and where you’ll likely find jackets that are fine-tuned for heading further into terrain that’s whipped by rain on a constant basis. Rain jackets of this ilk are more similar in many aspects to hardshell jackets, which is rainwear with extra durability baked in for treading into mountainous terrain and activities. 

You’ll pay for the performance, but the tradeoff comes in tougher shell materials, highly breathable waterproof membranes, and feature sets that make them more amenable to action while wearing, rather than hiding away inside. Hoods are often much more adjustable, with multiple corded zones to dial in your fit, and may also be oversized to fit over a climbing or ski helmet.

Exterior pockets typically are set higher on the torso, which allows access to them while wearing a backpack hip belt or climbing harness. The interior of these jackets, too, will have a bit more of a premium feel to them, with high-quality linings that are meant to protect the membranes for longer and promote water wicking.

The Arc’teryx Beta makes a strong case for its price tag here, and the 3-layer GORE-TEX it utilizes is top-of-the-line when it comes to rainwear, but don’t count out the North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT or Patagonia Storm10, both jackets built with impressive tech.

Given enough time and pressure, nothing is truly waterproof. Even the yellow rubber slickers that swaddle fisherfolk will eventually yield to enough H₂O, which means a little science is needed in order to understand relative water resistance in rain jackets.

Waterproofness is measured by the amount of water that can pile up on fabric before it leaks over a period of 24 hours. The minimum standard to call something waterproof is 1,000 mm, which should generally be capable of handling everyday front country use, like walking your dog around town in a light drizzle. But for outdoor adventures with severe weather, you’ll want to find a jacket with a waterproof rating between 5,000 mm and 30,000 mm.

Pressure can also lower the waterproofness of your rain jacket, and can be introduced from backpack straps or heavy snow. It is important to note that waterproofness and breathability are two metrics pulling in opposite directions of one another, and that superior water resistance will require some concessions in the breathability department.

As humans, we tend to perspire as we run, hike, or climb in our rain jackets, so having a shell that is breathable should be highly valued. Measured most often by the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) test, higher values in g/m² denote a better ability to allow perspiration to pass out of a jacket.

Jackets intended for high-output activities will have a breathability rating of 20,000 g/m² or more, while lesser ratings between 10,000 and 15,000 will suffice for in-town use or when packability is the primary goal.

The Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate, or MVTR, is the most commonly used test for measuring the breathability of waterproof membranes. This rate can be measured through a number of different tests, but the most common metric used is given in g/m²/24 hours. Higher values on the MVTR test give you a better idea of the jacket’s ability to pass moisture, but it isn’t the end-all say as other factors such as ambient humidity play a large role as well.

Budget-minded jackets like the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch sport an MVTR rating of 10,000 g/m², which isn’t quite at the standard of 20,000 g/m² rating we like to see in jackets meant to be used during high heart rate activities. At the other end of the spectrum, specialized shells like The North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT boast impressive values of 75,000 g/m².

The RET, or Resistance to Evaporation rating has been gaining steam in recent years, with high-end GORE-TEX membranes being notable adopters. This rating uses a simulated perspiration test, and values here are the inverse of the MVTR, with lower values showing a higher ability for moisture transfer. 

A jacket with a RET value of <6 will really pump out perspiration and is rated as extremely breathable on the RET scale. Fabrics with a RET score of between 6 and 12, like the Norrøna Falketind Paclite Rain Jacket, land in the highly breathable camp, and ratings of >12 are only moderately breathable. 

About as simple as simple gets, two-layer jackets utilize a waterproof membrane and outer face fabric to guard against scuffs and scrapes. These jackets often require hanging mesh linings to protect the waterproof membrane from abrasion, which ups the bulk and weight factor, but can also keep the cost down on entry-level pieces.

Without a full barrier protecting the interior of the jacket, the pores of the membrane can become clogged with time, and 2-layer jackets will need to be washed more often to keep them in fighting shape. The original formulation of GORE-TEX was a 2-layer layup, which boasted high breathability and waterproofing numbers but suffered in terms of durability as the membrane degraded with use. Today, all GORE membranes protect the interior of their membrane to prolong its life.

Jackets made with 2.5-layer fabrics incorporate a very thin protective lining to the inside of the waterproof membrane, which is typically laminated, screen printed, or sprayed on, and eliminates the need for a mesh lining and the bulk and weight that comes with it. These linings often increase the longevity and breathability of the jacket by decreasing the body oils and dirt that can clog the pores of the membrane.

One unfortunate drawback to these jackets is that they often feel clammy against the skin in continuous rain, and lack the moisture-wicking of three-layer jackets. Many may believe that their rain jacket has given up the ghost, when in fact it is the breathability that has been overwhelmed and caused a back-up of moisture coming from their own bodies.

By adding a third wicking textile to the interior of the membrane, three-layer jackets benefit from a significant bump in moisture management, but also typically in price. This is the realm of true all-day-deluge performance jackets, and most often use the big name-brand membranes that have come to dominate the industry, such as GORE-TEX or eVent.

This third layer also adds a good bit of durability to the jacket as it protects the waterproof membrane from abrasion, but will add some bulk over 2.5-layer jackets. Because they are more complex, 3-layer membranes often land in the performance category of rain jackets and carry higher prices to boot.

Waterproof membranes come in a number of flavors these days, but all operate on a similar principle: keep the rain out and keep perspiration from building up inside the shell. The construction of these membranes is often as mechanical as they are chemical, and the two big players today are ePTFE and polyurethane membranes, with air-permeable membranes on the rise.

Best thought of as a piece of plastic stretched very thin, ePTFE are specialty materials (polytetrafluoroethylene, to be specific) that are expanded, creating micropores that act as a filter to inhibit water penetration, but allow water vapor to be expelled. These ePTFE membranes have over 9 billion pores per square inch, each 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger than a water vapor molecule. This allows the membrane to resist water from the elements, but diffuse perspiration as it builds within the shell.

Most ePTFE waterproof membranes today also include a thin polyurethane coating or tricot backer on the inside to stop contaminants such as body oils from clogging these pores. The other majority share of waterproof membranes are made using a very thin sheet of polyurethane, which is naturally hydrophilic and maintains breathability through diffusion. These membranes have historically been monolithic, meaning that they lack any pore structure, but new technologies are producing air-permeable membranes that pass air freely.

Because they depend on diffusion to move perspiration from the inside, PU membranes require you to work up a bit of a sweat before they’ll really start to move moisture, which can lead to a slick interior if some mechanical ventilation isn’t employed.

New to the market in recent years and somewhat of a blend of both previous technologies, air-permeable membranes take the waterproof nature of polyurethane and create a matrix that allows for gaseous vapor transfer, as opposed to pure diffusion. Opening up the membranes in this way has led to great leaps in breathability, with membranes like The North Face’s FUTURELIGHT boasting a rating of 75,000 g/m².

PACLITE is widely used in hiking and backpacking rain jackets, as it offers a high waterproofing rating, but strips out the textile backer of 3-layer membranes and applies a layer of polyurethane and carbon on the interior. This makes a hanging mesh lining unnecessary, and creates rainwear that is impressively packable. This layer is less thin than the bonded interior materials of 3-layer membranes, and as such is known as a 2.5-layer technology.

When even more packability is needed such as during backpacking, Gore’s PACLITE PLUS is a membrane that cuts down on bulk even further by spraying a layer of polyurethane that is much thinner than regular PACLITE to increase durability. Because of this, we regard PACLITE PLUS as a 2-layer membrane, and at >28,000 mm/24 hours of water resistance, this technology is plenty waterproof — but its breathability suffers some at 15,000 g/m².

Currently a fledgling on the market, the new ePE membrane from GORE-TEX is bound to spread into most garments that currently use the 3-layer version. Urged on by manufacturers who wanted a PFC-free version of the legacy membrane, GORE-TEX was able to strip out the fluoro from their ePTFE membranes by supplanting polyethylene in its place. The material is still expanded like the original recipe and nails the 28,000 mm water resistance rating that 3L GORE-TEX is known for.

The trade-off is in breathability, which is on the lower end of the spectrum at a RET rating of <13. This will mean that jackets made with ePE will need to lean more on mechanical ventilation to keep moisture moving throughout the jacket.

Used in higher-end hardshell jackets where maximum protection from wild conditions is needed, Gore’s three-layer Pro membrane is made of several ePTFE membranes bonded together, and uses a Micro-Grid backer that cuts down on overall bulk. A >28,000mm water resistance and 24,000 g/m² breathability put GORE-TEX Pro jackets at the top of the heap. In recent years, multiple versions of GORE-TEX PRO have been produced, including Most Rugged, Most Breathable, and Stretch.

Because of the overall price associated with GORE-TEX Pro (hardshells begin at around $350, and rocket all the way to $900), it isn’t often that you see it utilized in rain jackets meant for everyday conditions.

The airiest of the GORE-TEX offerings, this variation of the GORE membrane boasts a higher breathability rating than other styles, making it ideal for high-exertion activities where moving water out is more important than keeping it out. Exterior face fabrics are between 13-30 denier, and the backer is a lightweight C-Knit material, which all aids in creating less of a barrier for moisture to move through during high-exertion activities. Few companies currently use the Active textile, with Norrøna and GORE WEAR currently creating trail running and cycling jackets utilizing it.

Using a polyurethane film membrane, Pertex Shield+ is able to achieve a good balance of water resistance and breathability at 20,000 mm and 20,000 g/m², respectively. Produced as a 2.5-layer fabric, jackets made with these membranes can sometimes be overwhelmed by perspiration and feel slick to the touch.

These include numerous specialty textiles that are created directly for manufacturers to their specifications, which allows them to fine-tune their membranes as well as keep overhead costs down and produce more affordable rainwear. Examples include Outdoor Research’s AscentShell technology, Black Diamond’s BD.dry, and many more.

We’ve found that rain jackets made with proprietary membranes are often significantly less expensive than jackets using name-brand membranes.

The first line of defense for a rain jacket, a durable water-repellent finish (DWR) is a hydrophobic coating that gives it that ‘duck’s back’ look of rain beading away harmlessly. This keeps water from overwhelming the waterproof membrane and prolongs its ability to stay waterproof.

DWR coatings also affect the ability of the jacket to breathe, as a wetted-out face fabric will inhibit the jacket’s ability to expel moisture. Abrasion, oils, and trail funk can all degrade the coating, so keeping your rainwear clean and re-waterproofed is the best way to ensure that your jacket continues to function at peak performance, as we discuss below.

Historically made from environmentally harmful chemicals known as perfluorocarbons (PFCs), many companies are now working on using PFC-free DWR finishes in their rain jackets. Patagonia has pledged to use a PFC-free DWR in all of its outerwear by 2024, and REI recently announced that it would soon no longer carry products from brands that continue to use the chemicals. We are happy to see this trend spreading throughout the industry.

It’s important that your rain jacket moves comfortably with you and does not overly restrict your movement. A comfortable rain jacket will keep you dry without feeling annoying or cumbersome.

A growing trend has been incorporating built-in stretch into rain jackets, which greatly increases their abilities where high mobility is needed. Jackets we reviewed like the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch and Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket incorporate stretch and will move with you outdoors.

Small features usually define the overall comfort of a rain jacket. For example, a hood that fully blocks peripheral vision will not be comfortable to use. Ideally, your rain jacket will minimally limit your range of motion, and the interior lining will feel good against your skin.

Most people agree weight is an important consideration for any piece of outdoor gear. If you’re going to be carrying your rain jacket in a pack when it isn’t in use, you want it to be as light and compact as possible — without sacrificing usability. Many lightweight rain jackets, like the Montbell Versalite or Patagonia Storm10, weigh less than a pound without sacrificing durability and functionality.

Many rain shells stuff easily into their own pockets and become barely larger than a baseball. Once packed down, it’s nice to have an external clip-in loop on the stuff sack — especially for multi-pitch rock climbing or backpacking. If your rain jacket packs down conveniently, you’re more likely to bring it along and have it when it’s needed most.

It’s nice to have a well-placed pocket or two in your rain jacket. However, more pockets mean more material, and more material means increased weight and decreased packability.

Also, pockets create seams that may also decrease the waterproof capability of the jacket. Still, it’s nice to at least have two hand pockets to keep your hands warm and dry in a storm. Waterproof zippers on pockets and front zippers can add increased water resistance and protect your valuables inside. Also, rain jackets will often incorporate underarm zippers to increase ventilation.

Sewing together a rain jacket introduces hundreds of holes into the fabric, so most incorporate taped or bonded seams to ward off leaks. Seam tape can be added to all seams, or sometimes only essential seams, in order to save weight.

Some rain jackets have hoods that double as a convenient stuff sack. Generally, if it’s raining hard enough to warrant a rain jacket, you’ll probably also have the hood up.

A well-designed hood should be strategically designed to offer full protection without limiting peripheral vision. Adjustments can include a simple drawstring at the rear of the hood to pull the crown out of your eyes, as well as side profile adjustments for peripheral coverage, and wire-stiffened brims to keep rain from draining into the hood.

Finally, it’s also important to ensure that your hood will fit over any helmet you may be wearing. Typically seen in more sport-specific or hardshell jackets, helmet-compatible hoods provide a bit of extra space internally to accommodate your protective headwear.

Ultimately, a rain jacket’s sole purpose is to keep moisture out. However, some jackets also include some extra features that add further value.

Some jackets come with features such as handwarmer pockets, large pit zips, and a roomy cut that allows space for warm layers underneath. These can be important to consider, as often rain jackets will be tailored to a certain range of uses.

For example, a rain jacket that is crafted for city use will likely forgo pit-zips and instead provide some roomy hand pockets — while a shell meant for all-day hiking should sport an accommodating profile and adjustable hood cinches.

In striving to create the most waterproof membrane, the outdoor industry created a number of unsustainable practices which are slowly beginning to be rectified: using recycled materials, PFC-free DWR finishes, and ensuring sustainable practices are used during production.

Being Bluesign certified means that the fabric used in the jacket has passed an independent approval process to ensure that they are safe for the environment and consumers. A similar process is used in being Fair Trade Certified, where producers must ensure sustainable livelihoods for textile workers.

The most sustainable rain jacket in our review was the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket, which utilizes a 100% recycled face fabric, is Fair Trade Certified sewn, and is Bluesign approved.

A rain jacket is designed to be exposed to the elements, and a good one will do its job without falling apart. As rain jackets become lighter, users should expect a dip in durability, too.

However, on this list, we’ve included rain jackets that are both lightweight and reliable. A jacket that is abrasion-resistant will have much greater overall longevity. Purchasing a shell that utilizes a higher denier face fabric, such as the Arc’teryx Beta Jacket, will greatly increase its durability over time.

Often overlooked, regular upkeep of your rain jacket is essential to keeping the waterproof membrane happy and working as it was designed. When body oils and grime clog the interior pores, the breathability suffers, and a worn-away DWR finish does little to keep a jacket from wetting out. A quick and easy way to breathe some life into your DWR is a brief cycle in the dryer on medium heat.

When a more thorough cleaning is in order, begin by washing your rain jacket with a detergent that is made for waterproof fabrics, such as Nikwax Tech Wash. We’ve found that this will cleanse the waterproof membrane and allow it to function as designed.

You can go a step further by reapplying a fresh coat of DWR such as GEARAID Revivex Durable Water Repellent Spray, and then turning the jacket inside-out and drying it on high heat to set. This is a common fix and with frequent reapplication, it will keep water beading off your jacket when it counts.

The best waterproof jacket is one that fits well, meets your needs, and provides reliable waterproofing. On this list, we have included several high-quality rain jackets.

When deciding which one to purchase, consider factors including the jacket’s waterproof rating, weight, durability, and extra features.

GORE-TEX is the gold standard for waterproof fabric. When undamaged and in good shape, GORE-TEX-treated fabrics will keep out any liquid water that lands on the surface.

However, over time, the quality of the waterproofing of GORE-TEX will degrade, and it will no longer perform like new. Most GORE-TEX materials have a waterproof rating of 28,000 mm.

It’s wise to always go into the outdoors prepared with a rain jacket. Many rain jackets are light and packable, so you’ll hardly notice them in your pack during the hike. In wet and cold conditions, a good rain jacket can keep you comfortable and safe.

Waterproof membranes in rain jackets degrade slowly, but are sensitive to becoming dirty and clogged with sweat and dirt. Often, a jacket still retains much of its original waterproof ability, and only needs to be cleaned with a waterproof fabric-safe detergent and re-waterproofed with a new DWR finish.

Wetting out occurs when the face fabric of a rain jacket becomes overwhelmed by water from the outside, saturating the outer face and limiting the ability of the waterproof membrane to do its job.

This can occur when a DWR finish has worn out, or external pressure from a heavy pack presses the moisture into the fabric. Frequent washing and re-waterproofing is the best bet to avoid wetting out.

Rain jackets are designed to keep water out while still allowing your body’s moisture to escape as vapor. Unlike a trash bag or plastic poncho, rain jackets are semipermeable and designed to keep you both cool and dry at the same time.

Still, a rain jacket is certainly less breathable than other kinds of layers, and you can expect some heat and moisture to get trapped underneath.

Strictly speaking, rain jackets are not usually designed with insulation. Most of the jackets we’ve recommended on this list are not insulated. The main job of a rain jacket is to protect you from rain, snow, wind, and other adverse weather. While rain jackets will add a little warmth, other layers such as fleece jackets and puffies provide much more and can easily be worn underneath a rain jacket.

Whether you’re getting good sticks in hero ice or traversing the snowfields of some foreign range, a good hardshell jacket will have your back. After months of testing in the harshest of conditions, these are the best hardshell jackets to brave the alpine with in 2024.

Whether you’re skiing in sunny or stormy conditions, here are our top picks for the most durable, protective, and comfortable ski jackets of 2024.

Austin Beck-Doss is a Staff Writer at GearJunkie. Austin has been writing about climbing, hiking, and snowsports for 6+ years. Prior to that, Austin worked as a rock climbing and wilderness guide.

Hailing from the hemlocks and hanging mosses of Washington State, Senior Editor Nick Belcaster is an adventure journalist following threads of stories across the West. Cruelly stolen from the alpine swales of rural Wisconsin at a young age, Nick made do ascending the snows and granite of the North Cascades while completing a journalism degree. A long stint on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 codified a life bent on sleeping on minor slopes and picking devil’s club out of his shoes.

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The Best Rain Jackets of 2024 | GearJunkie

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