Are you looking for a waterproof jacket for hiking, outdoor sports, and everyday use? If so, you are in the right place! High-quality models are designed to provide great water resistance and wind resistance while guaranteeing enough breathability.
Many models are available on the market, and it’s not always easy to make a choice. Some designs are more breathable, others more waterproof, others more stretchy, and still others lighter. The right model will depend on the weather conditions of your region, and the features and performance you need.
Don’t worry! In this article, I will explain the most important characteristics to consider when choosing a trekking jacket. In addition, I will review the best models of the year so that you can find the one that best meets your needs.
TOP 10 LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN JACKETS
PATAGONIA TORRENTSHELL 3L
Check price at: REI
FABRIC: 3-layer H2No Performance
WEIGHT: 13.9 oz – 390 g
PROS: Best overall performance
WOMEN’S MODEL: REI
CHARACTERISTICS: Great durability thanks to its three-layer H2No Performance Standard Shell construction.
Fantastic water resistance (even in snowy weather). Pit zip vents. Adjustable hood. Microfleece-lined neck for greater thermal protection. Zippered pockets to keep your hands warm. This is one of the best outdoor jackets on the market.
ARC’TERYX ZETA SL
FABRIC: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus
WEIGHT: 10.9 oz – 300 g
PROS: Lightweight, versatile, highly waterproof
WOMEN’S MODEL: Arcteryx Zeta SL
FEATURES: This model is one of the most water-resistant on the list while guaranteeing excellent breathability, stretch, and range of motion.
It’s designed to withstand adverse weather conditions such as snowfall and storms. A great option for hiking, adventure sports, and daily use in the winter (while wearing a midlayer underneath).
BLACK DIAMOND STORMLINE STRETCH
FABRIC: BD.dry waterproof breathable laminate
WEIGHT: 11.3 oz – 320 g
PROS: It packs very small
WOMEN’S MODEL: BD Stormline
CHARACTERISTICS: Excellent water resistance and wind resistance. Very comfy and stretchy.
The adjustable hood is compatible with climbing helmets. It packs into the right-hand pocket, so it adds barely any weight and takes up very little space in your backpack. It’s one of the best values for the money!
REI CO-OP DRYPOINT GTX
Check price at: REI
FABRIC: Gore-Tex Active waterproof breathable laminate
WEIGHT: 10.5 oz – 300 g
PROS: Great performance in the worst weather
WOMEN’S MODEL: REI
FEATURES: This model stands out for its minimalist design, high-quality materials, and great durability.
It’s perfect for hiking in harsh weather because it provides high water and wind resistance while keeping an ultralight weight and allowing for a wide range of movement. It features an adjustable hood with a bill, and mesh pockets for extra ventilation and sweat evacuation.
OUTDOOR RESEARCH HELIUM II
FABRIC: 2.5-layer Pertex Shield
WEIGHT: 6.4 oz – 181 g
PROS: The lightest on the list
WOMEN’S MODEL: OR Helium II
FEATURES: This ultralight jacket is designed for runners, hikers, and high-speed athletes.
It packs very small into the chest pocket. The main drawbacks are that it’s not as waterproof as other models and it doesn’t feature hand pockets. However, it has excellent performance for its light weight and reduced space. It’s perfect for hiking in moderate rain and as an emergency jacket.
FABRIC: Gore-Tex with Paclite Technology
WEIGHT: 14.9 oz – 422 g
PROS: High quality and durability
WOMEN’S MODEL: Marmot Minimalist
CHARACTERISTICS: Built with high-quality materials that provide solid construction.
It has a quality feel, not like the plastic feel of some budget models. The outer layer features a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment that protects the inner layers from moisture. Pit zips improve ventilation and help regulate your body temperature. It’s a little heavier than other models, but that’s the price you pay for greater resistance and durability.
OUTDOOR RESEARCH FORAY
FABRIC: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite
WEIGHT: 16.3 oz – 462 g
PROS: Versatility and great ventilation
WOMEN’S MODEL: N/A
FEATURES: This model offers the best ventilation thanks to side zippers that allow you to quickly cool your body when the temperature rises.
It features a soft, pleasant-to-the-touch inner layer and a completely waterproof outer layer, making it a perfect option for multi-sport and daily use. It’s available in a huge variety of colors and designs.
THE NORTH FACE EVOLVE II TRICLIMATE
FABRIC: 3-in-1 Dryvent
PROS: Jacket + fleece lining
WOMEN’S MODEL: N/A
FEATURES: Designed to offer warmth, waterproofing, and breathability.
This model is composed of two high-quality removable pieces: a rain jacket and a fleece lining. You can use only the fleece in moderate-to-cold weather, only the outer layer in moderate rainy weather, or the two layers together in cold rainy weather.
FABRIC: 2.5-layer NanoPro
WEIGHT: 10.1 oz – 280 g
PROS: Best budget option
WOMEN’S MODEL: Marmot Precip
FEATURES: This is one of the most popular models on the list, as it provides great features at a reasonable price.
The DWR repellent layer guarantees fantastic water resistance. Despite its light weight, it has a sturdy and durable construction. In addition, it’s very comfortable to wear and allows for great mobility. This is one of the best budget models for moderate rainy, snowy, and windy weather. It’s available in many colors.
RAB KINETIC PLUS
FABRIC: Proflex 3-layer membrane
WEIGHT: 9.9 oz – 280 g
WOMEN’S MODEL: Rab Kinetic
CHARACTERISTICS: The Rab Kinetic Plus is a bit different from the previous models because it is a softshell jacket.
The main disadvantage is that it doesn’t provide as much water resistance as other models, so it’s not designed for hiking in really wet weather. However, it will withstand light or moderate rain smoothly. The main advantages: 1- It’s much more stretchy. 2- It has a more pleasant touch. 3- It provides greater breathability, so it evacuates sweat much better.
Overall, it’s a great option for trekking in moderate weather.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
HARDSHELL vs SOFTSHELL
As you have probably noticed, all the models on the list, except for the Rab Kinetic Plus, are hardshells.
These are the main differences between the two types:
Softshell models are built with materials that provide a pleasant touch inside but don’t offer as much water and wind protection. Generally, they are water-resistant but not totally waterproof. They perform very well in light to moderate rainfall but not during storms. Also, they offer greater breathability and range of movement.
Hardshell models, on the other hand, use fully waterproof materials and special membranes in their construction. These membranes feature tiny pores that allow for good breathability (but less than softshell models). Generally, they are not as stretchy and comfortable to wear, but they provide the best water protection in harsh weather. They are windbreakers, too. Keep in mind that hardshell models don’t protect you from the cold.
WEATHER AND USE
Before making your decision, think about the weather in the region where you plan to hike. In an adverse climate, you will need maximum rain and wind protection. In mild climates, you will need less water resistance but more breathable, cooler materials, as well as extra zips for greater ventilation.
Trekking jackets are designed mainly for the outdoors. However, they have casual designs that make them stylish garments for everyday use. If you live in a rainy region, you could use your jacket for daily use such as going to work, walking in the park, or going out for a drink.
WATER RESISTANCE AND BREATHABILITY
It’s important to pay attention to the description of mountain clothing, as some concepts can easily be misunderstood.
For instance, these clothes can be “water-resistant” or “waterproof”, which is not the same thing. Water-resistant models can withstand moderate rainfall but not heavy downpours. Such is the case with softshell models and some ultralight trekking jackets. However, they still guarantee decent water protection while providing much better ventilation and a light weight.
Waterproof clothes are usually built with Gore-Tex membranes that prevent the entry of water more effectively and for a longer time.
Gore-Tex membranes are not placed on the outer layer of clothing but, rather, between the layers of material used to build sportswear. They are approximately 0.01 mm thick.
Lately, these waterproof membranes have become very popular because they are both waterproof and breathable. The secret to making this possible is that the outside water is in a liquid state while the sweat evaporates in a gaseous state.
The pores of the membrane are 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water, so rain cannot pass through the material. However, these pores are 700 times larger than the vapor molecules in our sweat, allowing these molecules to escape to the outside.
Breathability is measured by the amount of gas that passes through one square meter of fabric during a full day. The higher the number, the more breathable the material is.
This is a very important factor to take into account. You should avoid materials that don’t allow sweat to evaporate efficiently.
Regardless of the materials used in the construction of the garment, many models incorporate zippers to improve ventilation.
These zips can be placed in different locations, commonly in the armpits, in the pockets, or on the sides (when you open them, the jacket looks like a kind of poncho). Most zipped pockets are built with mesh fabrics to ensure that sweat can escape through the zipper.
Hardshell models are not designed to provide great thermal insulation. Their main function is to be water-resistant. Generally, they are used as the outer layer in a three-layer system. If you need more protection against the cold, you should wear a fleece underneath.
STRETCH AND MOVEMENT
When you practice outdoor sports, you must wear clothes that give you a good range of movement. Today, most manufacturers have introduced new materials that provide remarkable stretch to their garments.
CONSTRUCTION BY LAYERS
Most waterproof membranes are not abrasion-resistant. Therefore, manufacturers must add several layers of material to produce well-performing fabrics. These are the main types of layer constructions:
This is the simplest construction, consisting of a waterproof fabric as the first layer and a thin mesh as the inner layer. Two-layer garments are usually inexpensive and don’t perform as well as other types. Generally, they are a good option for entry-level hikers and occasional use.
This system uses an outer fabric as the first layer and a polyurethane laminate as the second layer. Then, a very thin inner layer is applied for extra protection. This construction doesn’t use an inner mesh, making these garments lighter and more compressible. They are perfect for minimalist trekkers and runners.
The feel of the inner side is not as pleasant as in three-layer models, but you can use a softshell or fleece lining underneath.
Three-layer garments provide the best weather performance. In this category, an outer layer, a waterproof and breathable intermediate membrane, and an inner fabric are used for greater protection and comfort. Generally, these are the most durable, waterproof, and expensive models on the market.
High-quality materials will be of no use if the garment doesn’t have heat-sealed seams. Most manufacturers include this feature to ensure that no water comes in through the seams.
Ultralight designs tend to be less resistant and durable, while more sturdy models have a longer lifespan. If you want to have an idea of the fabric’s resistance, you should look at a value called Denier. Denier measures the thickness of the filaments used to make a fabric. Fabrics with a low Denier (10D) are lighter but less durable. Fabrics with a high Denier (60D) are thicker and offer greater resistance.
Weight has been an important factor in this review. The lightest models are designed for trail running, while the heavier ones can be used for hiking, as third layers, or as everyday garments.
All models are available in different sizes. It’s important to find a design that fits your body shape. If you are going to buy online, you can measure your shoulders, chest, and waist, and then compare these measurements to the sizes recommended by the manufacturer. If you are going to wear a midlayer underneath, don’t get a too-tight size.
Most models include a hood to protect your head from rain and snow. Some are pretty tight, while others are much more spacious, as they are compatible with climbing helmets. They may include a protective bill, and most of them are adjustable.
POCKETS WITH ZIPPER
Most popular designs include two side hand pockets, which are handy for storing small belongings, and sometimes a chest pocket. More minimalist models include only a chest pocket or even no pocket at all. Such is the case with trail running models. Sometimes, the garment can be packed into one of the pockets, which is great for storage and easy transport.
Most closures used in ultralight rain jackets are waterproof. Some don’t use protective flaps to reduce weight. Some models feature a double slider zipper, which is very helpful when one is using a harness, as the zipper can be opened from either end.
Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.