The Best Rain Jackets You Can Buy to Keep You Dry

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A lot has changed since heavy, unbreathable plastic slickers were standard all-weather apparel. Today’s rain jackets are lighter, softer, more breathable and more waterproof than ever. Cordura Fabric For Tactical Jackets

The Best Rain Jackets You Can Buy to Keep You Dry

We live in a Golden Age of water repellency. Before nylon shells and Gore-Tex membranes, humans devised hydrophobic clothing using vinyl or oiled canvas — and, beven efore that, cured seal and whale intestines. Now, thankfully, that's all in the past; today, waterproofing happens at a molecular level with advanced membranes that keep water droplets out but let body vapor (i.e. sweat) through.

The advancements have allowed rain jackets to become lighter, more breathable, packable and no less rain-proof. Rain jacket technology keeps getting better too — today, companies are experimenting with new fabrics to make rain shells softer and more comfortable and adding stretch for increased mobility (and less of that trademark crinkly jacket sound).

Style hasn’t fallen by the wayside either. The new class of rain jacket is light enough, durable enough, breathable enough and waterproof enough to handle multi-day treks through misting rain as well as the inevitable deluge during commuting hours.

Testing a rain jacket is inherently weather-dependent: as the name suggests, you've got to have a little rain for true testing to take place. Lucky for you, our testers are strategically located across the greater U.S. and tested these rain-defenders in a variety of conditions, from the streets of New York City to the hiking trails of coastal California and everywhere in between.

We tested these jackets during springtime showers, torrential fall downpours and the occasional unexpected sprinkle. We concentrated on materials, weight and fit as our parameters and come up with this list of capable, style-forward options that leave your dad's raincoat in the dust. Here are our top picks.

To learn more about our testing methodology and how we evaluate products, head here.

Patagonia is synonymous with quality and the Granite Crest jacket is no exception, featuring all of the performance and functionality we’ve come to expect from the Ventura, California-born brand. And, as usual, it is made with earth-conscious craftsmanship: its NetPlus 100 percent post-consumer recycled nylon ripstop is made from recycled fishing nets and is finished with PFC-free DWR.

Our tester loved the features you get with this jacket: a helmet-compatible hood, pit zips to keep things breezy when temperatures rise and a number of clever pockets that to keep everything close by whether you’re climbing or just shlepping to the grocery store. The waterproofing is excellent, as you’d expect; plus, it packs down into its own pocket, and the adjustable waist is a great addition.

When The North Face released its Futurelight waterproof fabric technology in late 2019, it only showed up in outerwear made for skiing, snowboarding and other mountain adventures. Now though, the brand is rapidly rolling the tech into everything from hiking footwear to tents. Like other waterproof membranes, Futurelight is impermeable, but thanks to a unique manufacturing process, it’s also remarkably breathable. That makes it the perfect material for a lightweight rain layer, like the new and improved Dryzzle.

Rain jackets tend to become clammy as soon as temperatures rise, so the additional breathability of Futurelight is a welcome upgrade to this TNF classic. We’ve worn the similar pullover version, the Arque Active Trail Futurelight Jacket, ($198.95 $99.48) through the New York City subway system, which becomes a sauna in the summertime and had no sweaty issues.

The Dryzzle is a classic rain jacket with an adjustable hood and hem, an exterior chest pocket and two hand pockets. Our tester appreciated the simplicity of its aesthetic, which worked in both urban and outdoor environments.

Most rain jackets that cost less than $100 use a two-layer construction consisting of a shell fabric with a waterproof laminate bonded to its interior (it's often white and feels plasticky to the touch). These jackets can be good at keeping you dry, though they tend not to be nearly as durable — we've seen some laminates begin to flake away after one or two seasons of hard use.

REI's Rainier Rain Jacket has a 2.5-layer construction, which means that in addition to its recycled ripstop nylon shell and Peak waterproof laminate, it has a light interior lining that makes a protective sandwich that helps this jacket last more than a few seasons. We liked its other features, too, like a collar separate from the adjustable hood (which allowed for easy adjustments during shifting weather), though we did find it isn't as lightweight or packable as some of the others on this list.

Our tester usually sticks to black and dark blues for their outerwear, but when testing out the sunshine-yellow Cielo raincoat, they started re-thinking their approach to colorful outerwear. That’s not only thanks to the happy hue — the jacket itself makes a compelling case for hoping for some more spring showers. The silhouette is marketed as “urban” but our tester wore it on trails, running errands and on wet travel days, and appreciated the super-soft fabric, a recycled polyester with a PFC-free DWR treatment.

The rain jacket has plenty of features besides its good looks: the full seam taping, two-way zipper and zippered hands pockets provide utility and the ability to customize fit, to an extent, along with the velcro cuff adjustments and internal waist cinch. The only feature our tester really didn’t like was the freestanding collar: in her opinion, it sits too close to the throat, and when fully zipped, pushes up against the chin. It’s a distracting and oddly fixed feature for such an adjustable jacket, but overall, she’d still recommend the Cielo to anyone looking for a little color, and a lot of coverage, in their day-to-day wardrobe.

If you’re a generally sweaty person, like me, you probably have trouble finding a rain jacket that you can wear in the warmer months. This is where the Light Packable Rain Jacket from Snow Peak comes in. Made from a breathable 3-layer recycled polyester, it is a stretchy, packable garment that is light as a feather (3 ounces, to be specific) — ensuring that you don’t overheat when rain comes on the warmest of days. The jacket is so paper-thin that you can see through it, which adds a bit of style that separates it from other, more utilitarian rain jackets. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t perform. Snow Peak straddles the line between style and function better than most, making extremely technical garments that look good with the rest of your wardrobe.

I tested this thing on numerous humid, warm, rainy days and never got wet, even though I could see my skin through the jacket. The two front pockets are perfectly placed, the hood covers my head with ease and it packs down small enough to carry around in a tote bag without even knowing it’s there.

All the jackets on this list will provide ample protection from a storm. But if you live in a particularly rainy area or one prone to epic deluges, Norrøna’s high-end mountaineering jacket is an industrial-strength option. “It kept me bone dry in the middle of a downpour on a bicycle commute riding into a headwind,” raves our reviewer. “Despite the blustery conditions, every part of my body the jacket covered stayed dry. If only that were the case with the rest!”

The key ingredient is the Gore-Tex Pro membrane, which employs a lightweight woven liner to minimize bulk, increase breathability and deliver reliable waterproofness. If you get too hot, lengthy pit zips help you dump heat (though they may let some rain in too), while articulated elbows, DWR-treated chest pockets and an adjustable, helmet-friendly storm hood round out the premium package.

The Beta Series from Arc'teryx is the brand's line of all-around mountain shells that are built to take on any adventure in (virtually) any conditions. While there is a broad range in price from the lower-tiered Betas to the top-tier Beta (the new Beta Down Insulated Jacket is a whopping $1,000), they all serve the same function: kick ass in rain, snow, sleet and wind. The Beta features everything you need without the frills: it's made from highly breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex fabric with Gore C-Knit backer tech, keeping you cool and dry when things take a turn for the worse. It's light enough, even, to be comfortable over a t-shirt on a relatively muggy summer day in the Northeast.

Whether you're taking on a summer thunderstorm in the mountains or need to stave off winter showers, the Beta is adept. The fit is a bit roomy, which lends itself well to layering in the colder months. I was able to rock a down jacket underneath mine with no issues.

Read our full Arc'teryx Beta review.

Stretch is one of the biggest trends in rain jackets at the moment, but it’s easy to write off as a feature only available on jackets at the upper end of the price spectrum. The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch shatters those preconceived notions. We found it to be impossibly stretchy, while still offering the 100-percent waterproofing that you’d expect in a high-end rain jacket and comes in at a price of just $149. Bring your lunch to work for a week or two and you’ll have saved up enough for it.

Beyond price, Black Diamond brings some serious performance to the table with its BD. Dry waterproof breathable membrane. It beads water on par with more expensive jackets on this list, and while other features beyond stretch are sparse, you get far more than you pay for.

Like many of the jackets to make our list this year, Mountain Hardwear’s Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite consists of a fabric that’s not only lightweight but also slightly stretchy. Also superseding older jackets is the Exposure/2’s packability. Mountain Hardwear employed Gore-Tex’s Paclite Plus fabric, which combines these qualities with high durability in a two-layer construction.

The Exposure/2 doesn’t come with underarm vents, but its two oversized hand pockets are lined with mesh on the interior and can be left open to allow heat to escape. The jacket also has an exterior chest pocket and an adjustable hood and hem. At only 9.6 ounces, it’s one of the lighter jackets on this list and perfect for stashing in a backpack when the forecast isn’t confirmed. That factor, along with its durability, makes the Exposure/2 perfect for the trail.

For $9 more, you can also find an excellent minimalist hiking jacket in Outdoor Research's Motive AscentShell ($199). It's slightly heavier at 10.9 ounces but plenty breathable and includes some stretch.

Umbrellas aren't an option for those who commute by bike, making a rain jacket all the more essential. Yes, any rain jacket will do, but Rapha included a docket of features that make its Commuter Jacket particularly adept at the task. One is a bike-specific pattern that includes a longer rear to protect from road splatter, and another is reflective detailing that beams back headlights for visibility. The jacket also features a hood small enough to fit beneath a helmet and a zipper slightly offset to minimize skin abrasion.

If you're looking for a rain jacket that's geared toward snow and winter riding, check out Rapha's Classic Gore-Tex Winter Jacket ($395).

When the weather is transitional (aka, temperamental and moody) it can be hard to decide what to wear: should you chance it and wear your hoodie, hoping it doesn't shower, or should you wear your bombproof, weather-proof parka, only to face sun for the entire day? For in-between days where weather protection is desired but not guaranteed to be needed, our tester likes to slip on the Apex Jacket from Outerknown. Its styling is modern, while utilitarian, and the four-way stretch fabric and water-repellent coating are a far cry from the rubbery, uncomfortable rain jackets of the past. Functional features like a packable hood and interior pocket increase its usefulness, even when it's not raining. The material is so soft and comfortable, this easily became our tester's go-to travel jacket — even when there's no rain on the forecast.

We called out Snow Peak's Light Packable Rain Jacket as the best splurge lightweight rain jacket, but not everyone can afford a single layer upwards of $400. That's where Houdini's The Orange Jacket comes in: it weighs roughly 6.9 ounces for a men's large, so it is slightly heavier — but The Orange is also $140 cheaper, making it much more approachable. It kept our tester dry for an hour-long bike ride in the rain last week, thanks to its ultralight, three-layer fully waterproof shell. The Orange has just the essential features, a could be considered a masterclass in minimalism: it's coated with a fluorocarbon-free DWR finish, has one chest pocket and a hood that can be rolled down and stored away.

Compared to other rain jackets, Columbia’s OutDry Extreme immediately looks different. That’s because OutDry Extreme, one of Columbia’s proprietary waterproofing technologies, is constructed differently than Gore-Tex, Dermizax or other commonly used barriers. Instead of layering the waterproof membrane between a liner and a shell, Columbia put it on the outside, where it’s exposed directly to the weather.

That construction has multiple consequences: the fabric-lined interior wicks and is left soft; the exterior feels more like a classic, slicker-style raincoat that won’t wet out (when a coat’s shell fabric gets saturated). It also means that the seams are taped on the outside, which adds to the jacket’s unique look. It also has two large pockets and underarm zips for venting. The OutDry Extreme doesn’t follow the most recent trend in rain jackets — it doesn’t have any stretch — but it’s still comfortable, breathes quite well and is impenetrable to rain.

If you're still wary of whether a softshell rain jacket can indeed keep you dry outside, Rab's Kinetic 2.0 will be the one to convince you. Its recycled outer fabric feels almost T-shirt-like, but wear it in a downpour (we did) and watch water bead right off. That fabric enables lots of stretch and breathability, too, which makes this jacket great for faster-paced activities. We also liked the elasticized hood liner, which makes a snug fit so that when you turn your head, you don't wind up staring at the inside of your coat (it helps when you're looking for traffic before crossing a road or merging on a bike). The Kinetic 2.0 doesn't have many features beyond that — most notably, two oversized, harness-compatible pockets.

Stalking game often requires straying off-trail, where brushing up against moisture-laden vegetation can leave you as doused as standing in a storm. Waterproofing is essential; it doesn't have to be overly bright or bulky, though. Sitka built the Dew Point as such with Gore-Tex's three-layer fabric equipped with a C-Knit backing that keeps it soft instead of sticky. The jacket is more minimal than a lot of other hunting rain gear — it weighs 12.5 ounces — but it still has pack-friendly zippered pockets, pit zips for venting and an adjustable hood.

The Best Rain Jackets You Can Buy to Keep You Dry

Printed Polyester Fabric Aether's stylish and streamlined rain jacket is built for whatever the elements throw its way. Featuring a high-density three layer fabric to repel wind and water and taped seams for extra protection, the Storm All Weather Jacket is still feather-light and functionally rich. Aether's new jacket comes in eye-catching Bone and Total Eclipse colorways. (Check back soon for our upcoming full review...)