The Best Rain Jacket for Backpacking and Hiking

  • Car Camper
  • Day Hiker
  • Ultralight Backpacker
  • Urban Hiker
  • Wilderness Backpacker

Whether it’s an emergency shell for summer trips or a rain jacket that has to fend off month-long gales (we’re looking at you Pacific Northwest), a rain jacket is an essential piece of any backpacking, hiking, or camping kit.

But what is the best rain jacket for those activities?

Below we summarize the best rain jackets for backpacking, hiking, camping, and urban life with an outdoor focus. We’ve deemed these the best rain jackets after a great deal of in-depth research and product testing. Keep in mind there are many different kinds of backpackers — we’ve split them up into five distinct Backpacker Types, and highlight the best rain jackets for each Type below. Our recommendations are also broken down into three price-based categories: Budget, Classic, and Premium.

Some rain jackets will overlap Backpacker Types, so if you see one jacket twice, know that it works for multiple activities.

The Best Rain Jackets for Backpacking

Rain in the backcountry can get messy, cold, and dangerous if you’re not prepared. You want a rain jacket that provides solid protection. The rain jackets we picked for wilderness backpacking have a few things in common.

Functional Pockets

The best rain jackets for backpacking in the wilderness are those that allow you to reach the hand-warmer pockets while wearing your backpack. This means the pockets have to be placed above where your hip belt traditional sits. Reaching items in-pocket, or being able to open these pockets for venting, allows you to hike without stopping, or get much needed air.

Breathable

When hiking in the rain, you want to keep water from getting under your coat, but you also want to let your sweat evaporate or you’ll be soaked no matter what. The best rain jackets for backpacking are all breathable. Some have pit zips, some have fancy materials that wick moisture, some have special pockets to help with cooling, but all address the issue.

Deep Hood

When it comes to comfort a deep hood is essential. You want rain out of your face, and getting a hood that fully encloses your head is how to do that. The best rain jackets for backpacking have deep hoods, and the more expensive ones have articulated hoods so you can look around with ease.

Our Recommended Rain Jackets

Arc'teryx Zeta LT

Arc'teryx Zeta LT

At a Glance

  • Weight: 11.8 oz.
  • Layer: 3-Layer, Gore-Tex C-Knit
  • Retail Price: $425

Pros

  • Gore-Tex C-Knit is smooth. Almost like silk. It's a pleasure to wear on bare skin or while layering.
  • Deep, articulated hood with a stiff brim makes sure rain will not get in your face.
  • Impeccably cut for an "active" figure. Moves well, looks good.

Cons

  • The price. $425 is more than most people will spend on a rain jacket. It's a lot, we get it.
  • Interior pocket is nice for casual use, but seems overkill for backpacking.
Read the full review of the Arc'teryx Zeta LT

Marmot PreCip

Marmot PreCip

At a Glance

  • Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, NanoPro Membrane
  • Retail Price: $100

Pros

  • Solid, useful features in every part of the jacket. Storm flaps on zippers, a deep adjustable hood, pit zips, and it packs into itself.
  • For such a fully featured jacket the cost, which is $100 or less, is a steal.
  • Due to the above pros, the PreCip is one of the most popular rain jackets in the outdoor world.

Cons

  • Less than stellar breathability. Par the course for 2.5-layer rain jackets, but if you want true breathability you'll have to shell out more.
  • Interior fabric can get sticky and uncomfortable against the skin. Recommended to layer with a long-sleeve underneath.
Read the full review of the Marmot PreCip

The Best Ultralight Rain Jackets

Ultralight means using rain jackets that weigh nothing — or as close to nothing as possible. Features are cut, fabrics are thinner, and breathability is not as good, but you will still be protected from all that water. The rain jackets we picked for ultralight backpacking have a few things in common.

Under 10 Ounces

Yes, weight is still the most important factor. The best rain jackets for ultralight backpacking are those that truly live up to the ultralight name. Our picks are under 10 ounces.

Pack Up Small

Weight is one thing, size is another. Most ultralighters have smaller packs due to the reduction of gear, and these rain jackets are accommodating. Whether or not they fit into themselves, they pack down to well.

Our Recommended Rain Jackets

Patagonia M10 Jacket

Patagonia M10 Jacket

At a Glance

  • Weight: 9.17 oz.
  • Layer: 3-Layer, H2No Performance
  • Retail Price: $399

Pros

  • Crazy light for a 3-layer shell. At under 10 ounces it's not entirely clear how Patagonia made this a 3-layer jacket.
  • Three pockets and multiple adjustment points means the M10 is fully featured, yet still light.
  • Tough and durable zippers that are water resistant on their own.

Cons

  • Price, of course. This is a high-end shell built for alpine climbing. If you are in serious rain, snow, or want the "best of the best", this is the one. Otherwise, it might be overkill.
Read the full review of the Patagonia M10 Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium II

outdoor research helium ii

At a Glance

  • Weight: 6.2 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5 layer, Pertex Shield+
  • Retail Price: $159

Pros

  • Truly ultralight. This thing weighs half a pound and protects you from rain.
  • Decent breathability for a 2.5-layer rain jacket. Can wear in a tough spot and get out without being completely soaked on the inside.
  • The price point is a plus. It's a quality ultralight jacket with a lifetime warranty for much less than $200.

Cons

  • It packs down small, but the pocket it stuffs into is pretty useless otherwise. Why not make this pocket more functional?
  • Weak handcuffs. Instead of cinching, these have elastic, which means water will probably get in at some point.
Read the full review of the Outdoor Research Helium II

The Best Day Hiking Rain Jackets

Whether you’re hiking trails in a perpetual mist or only need coverage for a few wet months, a rain jacket is necessary for any day hiker — you can’t let a few drops keep you from the trails. The rain jackets we recommend for day hiking have a few things in common.

Budget Friendly

Most people are day hikers, and most people don’t need to spend more than $200 on a rain jacket. This changes if you’re in extreme environments, but if you plan to be back at your car or house before sunset, there’s only so much trouble you can get into.

Pit Zips

Higher-end jackets tackle breathability with fancy layers and materials, but these rain jackets all have pit zips for manual ventilation. Get hot in the rain? Let the vapor pour out.

Versatile

As you’ll see, these rain jackets are recommended for other Backpacker Types as well. They will keep the rain off without too much issue, and come from respected brands with great warranties. You shouldn’t buy a new rain jacket for every activity, and these are all solid.

Our Recommended Rain Jackets

The North Face Dryzzle Jacket

The North Face Dryzzle

At a Glance

  • Weight: 12.9 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, Gore-Tex PacLite
  • Retail Price: $199

Pros

  • Fully featured. Adjustable hood, three pockets, a media port, pit zips, and storm flaps.
  • PacLite is breathable.
  • Works for casual wear, hiking, or camping.

Cons

  • Sizing is more "relaxed" than "active", so be prepared for a baggier rain jacket. Some like this, some don't.
  • The hood is not articulated, so it can block your vision when turning to either side.
  • Doesn't pack down very well or small, and doesn't have a pocket that it stuffs into.
Read the full review of the The North Face Dryzzle Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell

patagonia torrentshell

At a Glance

  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, H2No Performance
  • Retail Price: $129

Pros

  • Solid features and a durable exterior make for tried and true rain jacket.
  • BlueSign approved, which means this is an environmentally friendly jacket.
  • Multiple color options for those that care about style.

Cons

  • Could use a chest pocket.
  • Sleeves may run short, so try on the jacket before buying to determine your size.
  • Pit zips are needed because the fabric itself is not highly breathable.
Read the full review of the Patagonia Torrentshell

Marmot PreCip

Marmot PreCip

At a Glance

  • Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, NanoPro Membrane
  • Retail Price: $100

Pros

  • Solid, useful features in every part of the jacket. Storm flaps on zippers, a deep adjustable hood, pit zips, and it packs into itself.
  • For such a fully featured jacket the cost, which is $100 or less, is a steal.
  • Due to the above pros, the PreCip is one of the most popular rain jackets in the outdoor world.

Cons

  • Less than stellar breathability. Par the course for 2.5-layer rain jackets, but if you want true breathability you'll have to shell out more.
  • Interior fabric can get sticky and uncomfortable against the skin. Recommended to layer with a long-sleeve underneath.
Read the full review of the Marmot PreCip

The Best Car Camping Rain Jackets

Car camping is often a relaxed, luxury outdoor experience. If you have rain you better be prepared, but you’re also not more than a few feet from you car, which (hopefully) is 100% waterproof should a true gale find you. The rain jackets we recommend for car camping have a few things in common.

Budget Friendly

Rain jackets can be expensive. Especially the ones with fancy Gore-Tex materials. While high-performance is worth it in the backcountry, we don’t think it’s imperative for car campers. All the car camping rain jackets we picked are under $200, even the Premium Pick.

They Work

All the rain jackets we pick “work”, but some work for highly specific scenarios. We view car campers as a more generic bunch of folk who just need a rain jacket to keep off the rain. Each of our picks fulfill this without a problem — put them on and you’re protected.

Versatile

You’ll see that our car camping rain jackets are the same as those recommended for day hiking. We believe any of these rain jackets will work exceptionally well for either activity, with a nod toward the day hiking, due to the pit zips. Also, most car campers end up day hiking around their campsite, so having the same rain jacket makes sense.

Our Recommended Rain Jackets

The North Face Dryzzle Jacket

The North Face Dryzzle

At a Glance

  • Weight: 12.9 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, Gore-Tex PacLite
  • Retail Price: $199

Pros

  • Fully featured. Adjustable hood, three pockets, a media port, pit zips, and storm flaps.
  • PacLite is breathable.
  • Works for casual wear, hiking, or camping.

Cons

  • Sizing is more "relaxed" than "active", so be prepared for a baggier rain jacket. Some like this, some don't.
  • The hood is not articulated, so it can block your vision when turning to either side.
  • Doesn't pack down very well or small, and doesn't have a pocket that it stuffs into.
Read the full review of the The North Face Dryzzle Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell

patagonia torrentshell

At a Glance

  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, H2No Performance
  • Retail Price: $129

Pros

  • Solid features and a durable exterior make for tried and true rain jacket.
  • BlueSign approved, which means this is an environmentally friendly jacket.
  • Multiple color options for those that care about style.

Cons

  • Could use a chest pocket.
  • Sleeves may run short, so try on the jacket before buying to determine your size.
  • Pit zips are needed because the fabric itself is not highly breathable.
Read the full review of the Patagonia Torrentshell

Marmot PreCip

Marmot PreCip

At a Glance

  • Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, NanoPro Membrane
  • Retail Price: $100

Pros

  • Solid, useful features in every part of the jacket. Storm flaps on zippers, a deep adjustable hood, pit zips, and it packs into itself.
  • For such a fully featured jacket the cost, which is $100 or less, is a steal.
  • Due to the above pros, the PreCip is one of the most popular rain jackets in the outdoor world.

Cons

  • Less than stellar breathability. Par the course for 2.5-layer rain jackets, but if you want true breathability you'll have to shell out more.
  • Interior fabric can get sticky and uncomfortable against the skin. Recommended to layer with a long-sleeve underneath.
Read the full review of the Marmot PreCip

The Best Rain Jackets for Urban Hiking

Cities get rain, just like the woods. But you still want to trek around your city, and you still need a rain jacket to fend off that rain. A trench coat works, but isn’t very comfortable for high activity. The rain jackets we recommend for urban hiking have a few things in common.

Stylish

Out in the forest you can wear anything — like trail running shorts over longjohns — and it doesn’t matter. In the city you want to look good, yet use gear that gets the job done. The rain jackets we picked for urban hiking have many color options, size options, and in general are sleek and styled.

Versatile

You’ll notice a couple of these rain jackets fall into other activities. Much like car camping and day hiking, we don’t see the need to purchase multiple rain jackets for each different experience in your life.

Our Recommended Rain Jackets

The North Face Dryzzle Jacket

The North Face Dryzzle

At a Glance

  • Weight: 12.9 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, Gore-Tex PacLite
  • Retail Price: $199

Pros

  • Fully featured. Adjustable hood, three pockets, a media port, pit zips, and storm flaps.
  • PacLite is breathable.
  • Works for casual wear, hiking, or camping.

Cons

  • Sizing is more "relaxed" than "active", so be prepared for a baggier rain jacket. Some like this, some don't.
  • The hood is not articulated, so it can block your vision when turning to either side.
  • Doesn't pack down very well or small, and doesn't have a pocket that it stuffs into.
Read the full review of the The North Face Dryzzle Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell

patagonia torrentshell

At a Glance

  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Layer: 2.5-layer, H2No Performance
  • Retail Price: $129

Pros

  • Solid features and a durable exterior make for tried and true rain jacket.
  • BlueSign approved, which means this is an environmentally friendly jacket.
  • Multiple color options for those that care about style.

Cons

  • Could use a chest pocket.
  • Sleeves may run short, so try on the jacket before buying to determine your size.
  • Pit zips are needed because the fabric itself is not highly breathable.
Read the full review of the Patagonia Torrentshell

Columbai Arcadia II/Watertight II

columbia arcadia ii

At a Glance

  • Weight: 10.7 oz.
  • Layer: 2-layer, Omni-Tech
  • Retail Price: $59.95

Pros

  • Decent water resistance and functionality for a budget rain jacket.
  • Often on solid discount, so you can get it even cheaper.
  • Solid DWR coating to bead off water.

Cons

  • Breathability is lacking, and there are no pit-zips. It's why we don't think this is good for more active pursuits.
  • Not the best toggles on the adjustable hood and hem. Could see these breaking.
  • Crinkly fabric, even after lots of use. Hang on a hanger to make sure the jacket is sleek.
Read the full review of the Columbai Arcadia II/Watertight II

How to Buy a Rain Jacket

When it comes to buying a rain jacket — or any piece of outdoor gear — there is one key concept to remember: It has to work for you.

We have spent countless hours researching and testing rain jackets, and we absolutely stand by each of our picks. They’re what most people will want in a rain jacket, broken down by the type of trip you’re on and your budget. That said, you may not be “most people”. When it comes to buying a rain jacket there are specific things to look for to make sure you’re buying the best rain jacket for you, not simply the “best” rain jacket on the market.

Rain Jacket Membrane and Cost

All rain jackets shed water for a reason. They have a “waterproof” membrane in their construction, which sheds water on the outside (with the help of DWR), and allows water to escape from the inside. This “waterproof durability” debate is explained full in our Guide, but for most consumers the specifics don’t matter too much.

The key is this: get a membrane that will suit your most common outdoor activity and climate.

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and like to go on 5-day backpacking trips, look at getting a higher quality membrane, like Gore-Tex or eVent, which is engineered for high breathability. You’ll need it in that environment, and be glad you spent the money to stay comfortable.

If you’re in southern California and go day hiking when it’s warm out, you really just need a basic rain shell to stuff in your pack on cloudy days.

Membranes that breathe exceptionally well tend to be more expensive, so make the decision about what you need before purchasing.

Rain Jacket Layers

Whether you’re an “active fit” junky or prefer a looser garment, remember that you will most likely wear a rain jacket over other clothes. Probably a long-sleeve shirt, perhaps a fleece.

Try on some rain jackets in the stores to see how brands tend to fit you, and make sure it’s not too tight. You will get hot, start sweating, and be drenched if your rain jacket is too tight.

Should I Buy a Rain Jacket Online?

Beyond fit and size, the biggest question most backpackers ask is if they should buy a rain jacket online, or a discounted rain jacket.

The answer: Yes.

But you should do your best to try on the specific model in store, or at least the brand. This will give you a good idea of how it fits. If you can’t do that, check to see what the return policy is for the online retailer you’re buying from, and lean towards those that would allow returns.

Your best bet is to do some research on the kinds of rain jacket you’re looking to purchase beforehand, then keep an eye out for when that model (or a model like it) goes on sale.

Almost every outdoor online retailer and manufacturer has yearly sales. It is common to find the exact rain jacket you want for 30% off — this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the jacket. It usually means there’s a warehouse overstock, or a new rendition of the product is coming out and the retailer or manufacturer is getting rid of the old ones.

With patience and research you can buy all (or most) of your backpacking gear at a discounted price.

Daniel Zweier

Daniel Zweier is Editor-in-Chief of Backpackers.com. Beyond orchestrating the daily flow of Backpackers.com, Daniel writes surrealistic short fiction and novels, adventures into the backcountry and abroad, surfs, reads, drinks tea, and obsesses over gear. A lot of gear. Visit his website if you want to learn more about his authorial pursuits.

Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.