If you work outside or just enjoy the great outdoors, don’t let a downpour slow you down. Avoid getting soaked to the bone by arming yourself with the best rain jacket.
The best rain jackets keep you both dry and cool, unlike the stuffy old-school rain jackets. The best option for you may offer extra insulation for cold rains. Or, it may be super light and pack up small into a tiny built-in pocket to stash in your hiking pack or the trunk of your car.
Check out these products before your next rainy day.
- BEST OVERALL: The North Face Resolve Waterproof Jacket
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: FROGG TOGGS Pro Action Waterproof Rain Jacket
- BEST WOMEN’S HIKING: Hount Women’s Lightweight Hooded Raincoat
- BEST MEN’S HIKING: Columbia Men’s Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket
- BEST WOMEN’S INSULATED: Columbia Women’s Switchback Sherpa Lined Jacket
- BEST MEN’S INSULATED: Carhartt Men’s Insulated Shoreline Jacket
- BEST WOMEN’S PERFORMANCE: Marmot Women’s Precip Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket
- BEST MEN’S PERFORMANCE: Eddie Bauer Men’s Rainfoil Packable Jacket
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Rain Jacket
If you’ve only experienced the heavy, yellow, rubber-coated rain jackets from years past, the features included with today’s best rain jackets may impress you. This section highlights some of the factors you should keep in mind when choosing the best rain jacket for your needs.
Most rain jackets today are lightweight and breathable. Many are tightly woven nylon or polyester. Other materials include natural fibers like wool and cotton and man-made microfibers and rayon.
It’s not just the fabrics that make these jackets waterproof. Manufacturers treat the fabrics with rain-repelling chemicals and compounds like resin, pyridinium, melamine, polyurethane, and acrylic. Some manufacturers even treat their fabrics with waxes. You can reapply these products after a few years if your jacket no longer stands up to a storm like it used to.
Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant
Don’t let the terms water-resistant and waterproof fool you. There’s a big difference between the two.
- Water-resistant or water-repellent jackets will help keep you dry in light rains, but they aren’t impervious to water. The seams where the fabric panels meet—like around the armholes, pockets, shoulders, and sides—are weak spots where water can penetrate after prolonged exposure.
- Waterproof jackets, on the other hand, have taped seams that keep water out of these cracks in the armor. Inside these jackets, you’ll notice strips of tape-like material over the stitches. It’s this tape that makes a garment waterproof.
Chemical treatments also figure into the equation. Nylon and polyester are water-resistant by nature. Chemical treatments and reinforced seams can take these materials from water-resistant to waterproof.
The term “weight” has a couple of meanings when it comes to rain jackets. It could refer to the jacket’s insulation, where heavyweight jackets are warm and insulated, and lightweight jackets have a mesh lining at most. Weight can also refer to the overall heft and packability of a jacket.
If you’re headed on an outdoor adventure, depending on the temperature, a light- or medium-weight jacket might be the best choice. These jackets will keep the rain off without overheating, and they’re light enough to throw in a backpack. Medium-weight rain jackets can offer a bit of insulation for chilly mornings or mild climates.
Today’s best rain jackets bring major improvements in the weight department over their older counterparts. Those rubber or polyurethane-coated jackets could weigh up to four or five pounds. Some rain jackets today barely register on a scale.
A waterproof jacket doesn’t mean much if you’re soaked in sweat underneath it. To stay dry on both sides of your jacket, your rain gear has to be breathable.
Modern fabrics and treatments allow body heat to transfer through the material, which means you won’t sweat excessively underneath. This is a major improvement on old-school raincoats.
Breathability might not seem so important if you just wear your raincoat to run from the house to the car. But, it’s a game-changer on work sites or during outdoor activities. When body heat builds up inside a non-breathable jacket, it can make you soaked and uncomfortable.
Some materials in rain jackets wick the moisture away from your body. The material grabs sweat droplets from your skin and moves them to the jacket’s outer surface, keeping you dry and comfortable inside.
It can be challenging for a jacket manufacturer to provide both insulation and moisture-wicking, but there are some materials that do both naturally.
Depending on where you plan to use the rain jacket, packability may be a major consideration. If it takes up too much space in a backpack or suitcase, your rain jacket may never make it out the door.
Many of the best rain jackets pack into a small built-in pocket or an included bag. Just stow a packable rain jacket in the bottom of your bag and forget about it until you need it.
If your outdoor pursuits take you into cooler temperatures, you might want to consider an insulated rain jacket. Insulation comes in a few different weights and many different materials.
Most insulated rain jackets use a medium-weight material that provides warmth in cool, but not cold, conditions. Fleece and sherpa linings are common. You may find premium jackets with a layer of wool inside. There are also brand-name insulations, such as PrimaLoft and Thinsulate, but they tend to go into heavier-weight jackets that may be more suitable for snow.
A few other extra features might make all the difference when choosing the best rain jacket. An adjustable hood will fit securely around your head to keep the rain out without flapping in the wind. Pit zips, which are literally zippers in the armpits, allow you to give yourself a little more ventilation. Zippered or sealed pockets will keep your gear dry.
Our Top Picks
Now that you have an idea of what components go into high-quality rain jackets, you’re ready to shop. The following is a list of some of the best rain jackets to keep you dry and comfortable while you work or play in wet weather.
If you’re looking for a lightweight waterproof jacket for all your journeys and adventures, take a look at The North Face Resolve Waterproof Jacket. This jacket comes in both men’s and women’s sizes (available on Amazon) and has tons of the features hikers and adventurers want.
The shell, made of DryVent 2L fabric, is a two-layer waterproof, breathable material. It has two zippered front pockets, an adjustable and stowable hood, and sealed seams to keep the elements at bay. Although there isn’t a pocket for packing, this mesh-lined jacket will fold or roll and pack away easily.
For an affordable, lightweight rain jacket for drizzles and storms alike, check out the FROGG TOGGS Pro Action Waterproof Rain Jacket. This waterproof jacket uses FROGG TOGGS’ Dri-Pore Gen 2 performance waterproof and breathable fabric to keep you dry and comfortable.
The Pro Action isn’t short on features either. The raglan sleeves allow for full range of motion. Two zippered, lined pockets keep your hands warm and your gear dry. A button flap over the front zipper and taped seams provide extra protection against the rain. The stowable hood and adjustable waist let you tweak this tough jacket to just the right fit.
Don’t let poorly-timed rain end your hike before you’re ready. The Hount Women’s Lightweight Hooded Raincoat can help shield you from the elements while you trek.
The polyester-rayon blend is both waterproof and breathable. It has two front pockets, an adjustable drawstring hood, and an adjustable hem that you can cinch tight to keep out the wind and rain. Pack the Hount Hooded Raincoat into the small included bag, toss it in your backpack and go.
A lightweight rain jacket packed neatly in the bottom of your backpack can save your hike when the sky opens up. The Columbia Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket packs into a small mesh pocket, so it’s ready to go in such a scenario. Columbia’s own Hydroplus material is both lightweight and breathable.
The Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket has a zippered closure, adjustable sleeve cuffs, and an adjustable waist to keep the rain out when it’s blowing sideways. A stowable hood packs into the collar for casual wear, and it comes in a wide range of colors.
If your work or outdoor activities require a bit more warmth than a basic rain jacket can provide, Columbia’s Switchback jacket could be a viable option. The shell is made of Columbia’s own lightweight, breathable Hydroplus fabric, and the lining is 100% polyester sherpa.
The Switchback’s adjustable hood, waist, and sleeves help keep rain and wind out. The two front zippered pockets will keep your hands warm and your belongings dry.
When you’ve got a job to do no matter the weather, the Shoreline Jacket from Carhartt can help. The quilted interior keeps you warm. The shell, made of Carhartt’s Storm Defender material, lets heat out without letting rain in.
The Shoreline has two front zippered pockets, a left chest pocket with a hook-and-loop (or Velcro) closure, and adjustable sleeve cuffs. The front zipper zips in both directions, so you can get a little air when needed. The zipper’s interior and exterior flaps provide extra enforcement to keep rain from soaking through. The hood adjusts in size and seals against the rain. Taped seams throughout the entire jacket help ensure you’ll stay dry.
The Precip Jacket from Marmot offers the kind of waterproofing and features you’d expect from a performance jacket. Marmot’s NanoPro fabric is both waterproof and breathable. The completely sealed and taped seams keep water out without trapping body heat. For a little extra ventilation, open the built-in pit zips.
Large flaps shield the front zipper and two front-pocket zippers against the rain. The adjustable stowaway hood, waist, and sleeve cuffs offer extra protection against wet weather.
If you need a packable jacket that can keep up with your activities, the Rainfoil Packable Jacket from Eddie Bauer is a solid option. This waterproof jacket uses Eddie Bauer’s breathable Weatheredge two-layer fabric to guard against rain and wind without trapping heat. Taped seams and StormRepel DWR treatment offer additional rain protection.
The Rainfoil has two zippered front pockets and a zippered interior pocket to keep your gear safe and dry. The interior chest pocket also holds this jacket when you pack it down. The hanger loop will attach to the outside of your pack, and the hook-and-loop flaps and tabs on the front zipper and sleeves keep rain and wind from ruining your outdoor adventures.
FAQs About Your New Rain Jacket
Below are the most commonly asked questions about rain jackets. If you still have questions about your jacket’s materials or features, reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service department.
Q. How do I know if my rain jacket is waterproof?
The best indication of whether your rain jacket is waterproof is if it has sealed or taped seams. Turn your jacket inside out and look at the stitching. If the threads have a waterproof tape or seal, the jacket is likely waterproof. Taping the seams is an extra step that manufacturers won’t take with standard, non-waterproof jackets.
Q. Why does my rain jacket get wet inside?
Your jacket could be getting older, which means the fabric or treatment could be breaking down. You could try reapplying a waterproof layer. Many spray treatments can improve or restore your jacket’s waterproofing (available online).
If your jacket doesn’t have taped or sealed seams, it wasn’t waterproof to begin with, and you won’t be able to change that with exterior treatments.
Q. Is a rain jacket the same as a windbreaker?
Not at all. While some rain jackets can be windproof, few windbreakers are anything more than water-resistant. Their materials will shed a bit of rain, but water will make its way in after prolonged exposure.
Q. How do you wash a rain jacket?
It’s best to spot clean a rain jacket by hand, but most are machine washable if necessary. Just avoid the dryer. Rain jacket shells and their treatments are typically synthetic and might not withstand the heat.