When you think about what a rain jacket looks like, your mind can envision a thick and chunky plastic sheet that makes a makeshift overall. That is not the case in today’s time. The best lightweight rain jacket looks just as stylish as any jacket and is made of more waterproof and durable material. They also offer breathability and come in a form that can be easily packed into your backpack.
The average consumer for this type of jacket can be someone who likes to go on hikes every day but is met with harsh, rainy weather or someone who wants to carry something with them in case of emergencies. The possibilities are endless, and so are the number of rain jackets on the market, so let’s go through the best options available in 2021. As always, this guide aims to help you find your perfect rain jacket for your needs.
What factors should you consider when buying a Rain Jacket?
Buying a rain jacket means that you have to consider different factors and get used to different terminology and jargon. This can include the level of water resistance, the fabric layers, the weight and breathability, the types of shells and features, how easy they are to pack, etc. Here are three points I have an eye on when it comes to by a new rain jacket.
Fabric Layers – 2L, 2.5L, 3L
A rain jacket will combine fabric layers to prevent outside moisture from leaking into the jacket truly.
A 2L jacket has a mesh liner that keeps the inner coating dry. However, these jackets lack breathability and can be bulky, so they are only recommended for very lightweight use.
A 2.5L jacket has a thin fabric attached to the waterproof or breathable laminate. These jackets are more lightweight and breathable and are recommended for light drizzling or even moderate rain. However, they may not have a very soft feel.
A 3L jacket would be bulkier than a 2.5L, as it includes a waterproof membrane. These can be more expensive; however, they can withstand hefty downpours and are very durable to cope with tough use.
Water Resistant VS Waterproof
It is well-known that when you are purchasing a rain jacket, you must be looking for protection from some form of rain or storm. When you are used to light rain or showers, then you go for a water-resistant jacket.
A water-resistant jacket will cope with such conditions, but harsh exposure will cause it to absorb the moisture or sometimes give out entirely.
A waterproof jacket will have a laminate layer or coating to prevent heavy downpours from soaking up into the cloth. This type of jacket will also feature waterproof taping on the interior, along the seams.
Rain Jacket Categories
The first category I want to mention is the daily use category. For daily uses like commuting, running errands, or walking the dog, you’ll likely prioritize a casual fit and useful features like handwarmer pockets and Velcro wrist cinches. You can still use them for hiking, however, and they tend to have a stylish design.
Hiking-focused rain jackets are the most used category by myself. Hiking jackets are built to be light and packable to bring along on hiking trips, and their performance in heavy rain and wind is the best in the industry.
Ultra-lightweight rain jackets are down, thin, and very focused, ultralight rain jackets are not for everyone. Their performance is often similar to or a little below the weekend hiker category above. That may not seem impressive on the surface, but it can give you a huge relief in tropical or humid conditions. I would recommend carrying an ultra-lightweight rain jacket as a backup.
Best Lightweight Hiking Jacket Of 2021
Best Overall Rain Jacket
Arc’teryx Zeta SL ($299)
- Weight: 309 g | 10.9 oz
- Category: Daily use
- Waterproof Level: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus
- Pros: High-quality feel, mobility, and range of motion is a high, extremely breathable, good look, very stormproof
- Cons: Costly, no pit zips, no ventilation options, clipping to a harness isn’t easy, not too stretchy
When you aren’t on a budget and looking for something premium and high-end, you look towards Arc’teryx. Quality is not compromised on the Zeta SL, yet it is very lightweight at just 10.9 oz. The Zeta SL can also be easily packed so that it won’t require a ton of space. It’s also surprisingly comfortable for a material that is extremely durable and can withstand some tough wear and tear. This jacket can thrive in the worst storms due to its excellent storm-proof material. This jacket is very versatile and can be used for many different activities due to its great overall performance.
However, there are always downsides to everything, and the Zeta SL is no exception. Although soft to wear, the material is far less stretchy than what would be expected at this price range. The lack of pit zips will also make for a stuffy feeling experience because the heat will be retained, and the jacket’s breathability reduces. The lack of core vents also adds to this issue. It’s also difficult to ignore the price of this jacket, which cannot be easily affordable for the average consumer who may not be needing this for hard use. There are better options available out there for lower prices. But, if this is something you can afford, then it’s best not to skip out on all the benefits that the Zeta SL has to offer.
Best Value Rain Jacket
Patagonia Torrentshell 3L – $299
- Weight: 397 g | 14 oz
- Category: Hiking + Daily Use
- Waterproof Level: 3-layer H2No Performance Standard
- Pros: Good look, durable, stormworthy, functional, affordable, pit zips
- Cons: Stiff material, heavy, crinkly, don’t pack too small, no chest pocket, average mobility
The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L offers the best value in rain jackets, where you are getting the most bang for your buck. With an upgrade to the 3-layer design, the price is very attractive. The durability of the fabric is outstanding, and it is also more breathable. The lining is thick so that you won’t get a clammy feeling, and the look and design of the jacket speak for themselves. The abrasion resistance offered by the Torrentshell 3L has beaten many competitors that provide rain jackets in a similar price bracket. This jacket is great for everyday use and can be used for many different activities, even harder hiking. The storm-proofing of the rain jacket is also very good for its price.
However, the material is crinkly, and this cannot be very pleasant to some consumers. Due to the slightly stiffer material with less give, your mobility will be reduced to an average range, so nothing too fancy. The weight is also average but can be considered to be a bit heavy for other rain jackets. The Torrentshell 3L also doesn’t feature a chest pocket, which may not hamper your experience too much, but it can be easily found in other rain jackets. Overall, considering the price of the rain jacket, it is not something to be missed because it offers a great deal of storm-proofing and durability.
Best Lightweight Rain Jacket
Outdoor Research Helium ($144)
- Weight: 179 g | 6.3 oz
- Category: Lightweight
- Waterproof Level: 2.5-layer Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse
- Pros: Extremely lightweight, small packing size, durable
- Cons: One pocket, not too versatile, not too breathable, thin fabric, no pit zips
The Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket has outdone itself when it comes to being lightweight. At around just over six 0z, it’s as if it isn’t even there! It also packs into a very tiny compact size into its pocket, so you can easily carry it around anywhere. The hood offers all-around coverage and a great range of vision, so you can easily keep an eye on your peripherals. It is also durable and can handle light rainfall.
But, the material only handles light rainfall. In case of heavy rain, the fabric will not perform well. The price range for this rain jacket is also not too cheap because this price bracket can easily pack a more stormproof, breathable, and durable jacket. The lack of zippers – as it only features one – is also a bit disappointing and you won’t be able to carry much in it.
The fabric is also fairly thin, so you need to be careful when traversing harsh terrain. The lack of pit zips will also make the jacket feel clammy and hot on the inside. However, considering the easy portability, compact design, and lightweight fabric, the Outdoor Research Helium will suit a person looking to pack light for this extra layer of protection for trips with less expected rain and use extra space in their pack for other, more important items.
Best Budget Rain Jacket
REI Co-op Rainier -($90)
- Weight: 369 g | 13 oz
- Category: Daily Use + Hiking
- Waterproof Level: 2.5-layer Peak
- Pros: Amazing price, good look, good size range, pit zips
- Cons: Oversized for smaller frames
If you’re looking for a good rain jacket yet are on a bit of a budget, then the REI Co-op Rainier is the jacket for you! The price offered for a jacket of this quality is simply unbeatable. The design and style of the jacket itself are also very aesthetically pleasing and attractive for consumers, topped with a wide range of color options; this is the jacket of choice. This jacket is also good to encourage body positivity as it offers a wide range of sizes available for heavier builds. The addition of pit zips also makes for a nice and breezy trip, so you don’t feel clammy. It is good for all sorts of daily as well as slightly more tough activities.
However, it is safer to size down when talking about the sizes because they can fit big on smaller frames. It also cannot handle hefty downpours, and the material may absorb some moisture. It can also be less durable and only last a few seasons based on the number of uses. But, overall, considering the price factor and general comfort of the jacket, it seems to be an excellent bargain.
Best Stretch + Mobility Rain Jacket
- Weight: 281 g | 9.9 oz
- Category: Daily Use + Hiking
- Waterproof Level: 2.5L BD.dry
- Pros: Good price, very stretchy, breathable, durable, soft, pit zips, adjustable cuffs, two pockets, lightweight
- Cons: Huge fit, pockets attached low, so difficult to use with a backpack.
When it comes to the trend of stretchy rain jackets, the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch tops them all! And despite its flexible design, it is very comfortable and has a soft feel to it. And not only this, but it comes packing a bunch of different features. Some of these features include pit zips to keep you cool, and it also comes with adjustable cuffs for greater ease.
It features two pockets so you can easily store items or anything else you may need on the go. The material is also breathable and very lightweight. The waterproofing on the jacket is also easily competing with that of jackets at a much higher price. The very affordable price makes it a strong candidate for one of the best rain jackets currently out there!
The performance of this rain jacket is very high, but it does have a couple of downsides. First, the fitting of this jacket seems to be very large, with it being long and bulky. If you add a ton of layers underneath, then it might not be much of an issue.
The pockets are also kept very low on the jacket itself, so if you’re pairing it with a backpack, it can become difficult to use them easily. However, these cons can be minor and easy to workaround. Considering all that the rain jacket has to offer, the issues are fairly negligible.
Best Versatile Rain Jacket
Marmot Minimalist – $190
- Weight: 454 g | 16 oz
- Category: Daily Use + Hiking
- Waterproof Level: 2.5-layer GORE-TEX Paclite
- Pros: Aesthetic design, high-quality feel, versatile, durable, breathable, stormworthy, functional, good price
- Cons: Heavy, thick
The Marmot Minimalist is made for those that prefer a functional, minimalistic design. With minimalism gaining popularity, this one surely meets the aesthetic. It is pleasing to look at, and it is also pleasant to the touch with a premium feel. Furthermore, it can withstand heavy downpours, so you don’t need to worry about absorbing water. This versatile rain jacket suits the needs of pretty much everybody in any situation. The price is also very attractive, and the good features make it a worthy choice.
However, the Marmot Minimalist also has its flaws. It is very thick and heavy, which can make mobility and ease of movement a bit difficult. This can also be a downside for the minimalistic folk who would expect such a design to be more lightweight and have better mobility. However, due to its good price and practicality, you can expect this jacket to last very long and even the toughest wear and tear.
That is it for today’s article. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! With the button below, you can get back to all hiking equipment articles!