What’s the worst thing about choosing a new hiking rain jacket?
The options are as variable as the weather itself.
The quality can vary wildly, as can the features, price and ability to do the one job it was bought for.
Keeping water out.
As such, it can be a bit of a minefield when wading through the multitude of options, from big name brands to budget bargain buys.
Are they worth it? Is it going to last? Do I need all those bells and whistles? Is it going to look good? Will it match my awesome rain pants?
Which is why I’m here to lend a helping hand.
I’ve trawled the interweb to bring you what I believe to be the very best hiking rain jackets for 2021.
Below you’ll find a huge choice from which you will hopefully find the best hiking rain jacket for your needs, perfect for backpacking in the rain. I’ve included male and female options – with the ladies going first. A buyer’s guide and FAQ will follow.
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- 15 Best Hiking Rain Jackets for Men and Women 2021
- Lomon Women’s Lightweight Waterproof Raincoat
- Columbia Women’s Switchback III Rain Jacket
- Wantdo Women’s Lightweight Rain Jacket
- Diamond Candy Women Hooded Rain Jacket
- Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander Rain Jacket
- The North Face Women’s Resolve Jacket
- Orvis Women’s The Hatch Rain Jacket
- Arc’teryx Women’s Beta SL Jacket
- Regatta Men’s Stormbreak Performance Jacket
- Helly Hansen Workwear Men’s Mandal Rain Coat
- Columbia Men’s Watertight II Jacket
- Marmot PreCip Men’s Waterproof Rain Jacket
- Jack Wolfskin Men’s Cloudburst Jacket
- Carhartt Men’s Shoreline Waterproof Jacket
- Frogg Toggs Pilot II Guide Rain Jacket
- How to Choose the Best Hiking Rain Jacket
15 Best Hiking Rain Jackets for Men and Women 2021
Lomon Women’s Lightweight Waterproof Raincoat
Review: Getting the ball rolling is this simple, budget-friendly option from Lomon. It’s the main advantage is that it comes with its own carry pouch, so it’s super portable and lightweight.
Made from water-resistant polyester, this is a good choice for bad weather emergencies.
- Great portability.
- As basic as basic can be.
- Won’t hold back a downpour.
Columbia Women’s Switchback III Rain Jacket
Review: It’s likely you’ll see more than one entry from Columbia on this list – a brand well known for producing excellent outdoor gear and apparel.
The Switchback has a stowaway hood, is made from a water-resistant nylon shell, is fully adjustable and packs down into handy pocket size for portability. It’s machine washable, too.
- Loads of color options.
- Not 100% waterproof as is claimed.
Wantdo Women’s Lightweight Rain Jacket
Review: Made from a durable, quick-dry and water repellent fabric, this Wantdo offering is a step up from the previous lightweight options.
It also comes with a detachable hood and adjustable cuffs, while adding a breathable inner lining and underarm air vents so you don’t get too sweaty.
- Inner mesh and zippered pockets.
- Hole for headphones.
- Choice of colors.
- Not as breathable as it could be.
Diamond Candy Women Hooded Rain Jacket
Review: This stylish, contoured rain jacket from Diamond Candy is a little more heavy duty than what we’ve seen so far.
It has a windproof adjustable, drawstring hood and elasticated cuffs to keep the chill out. Its outer shell is water resistant and soft to the touch. Internal, breast and hip pockets complete the look.
- Great price for what you get.
- Nicely contoured for a feminine silhouette.
- Choice of colors.
- Might be a little on the bulky/heavy side for some.
Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander Rain Jacket
Review: Back to the lightweight shell designs sees this Charles River entry, a clean, simple rain jacket that comes in a large choice of colors.
It has an inner mesh to assist air flow, two-way front zipper and heated seams. For added safety, there are reflective strips front and back for when you’re out and about in low light.
- Simple but stylish design.
- Reflective strips.
- Choice of colors.
- The hood isn’t detachable.
The North Face Women’s Resolve Jacket
Review: As an outdoor apparel company, The North Face need little introduction. This lightweight, functional rain jacket bears their signature logo, with an adjustable hood stowed in the collar.
It comes with a mesh, breathable lining, two hip pockets and front zip and velcro closing. Uses their Dryvent technology to keep moisture away from your body.
- Quality brand.
- Men’s version is available.
- Choice of colors.
- Could be a little thicker against the wind.
Orvis Women’s The Hatch Rain Jacket
Review: For a more stylish design I’ve included this Orvis rain jacket that has a more fashionable look and feel to it.
Made from water-resistant nylon, it’s lightweight, breathable and machine washable. There are weatherproof, tapered zippers on each of the hip and breast pockets and it comes in a choice of colors.
- Fashionable design.
- Good length.
- Expensive for what it is.
Arc’teryx Women’s Beta SL Jacket
Review: If you’re into any alpine pursuit, you will no doubt have come across Arc’teryx.
Canadian born and based, they’re at the forefront of outdoor clothing technology, and this is simply the best women’s hiking rain jacket money can buy.
A super-lightweight, Gore Tex coated design that will keep all the elements at bay – but then again, that’s the least you’d expect for the price.
- It doesn’t get better than this.
- You’ll pay through the nose for it.
Regatta Men’s Stormbreak Performance Jacket
Review: The UK based outdoor clothing company Regatta offer this no-nonsense rain jacket that’s really attractive on the wallet – by stark contrast to the best women’s rain jacket for hiking above.
This is seriously no-frills, but it will get the job done if you’re caught in a downpour. Quite possibly the best budget rain jacket out there.
- Surprisingly durable.
- Outstanding price.
- Great portability.
- It’s super basic.
Helly Hansen Workwear Men’s Mandal Rain Coat
Review: Helly Hansen are a Norwegian company specializing in outdoor gear for the oceans and mountains.
You might expect them to come up with a contender for the best hiking waterproof jacket on the market.
This 100 % polyester design is PVC coated with no shoulder seams, and is extremely durable considering its weight.
- Waterproof certified.
- Quality look and feel.
- No zipper.
- No zipper.
- Limited color choice.
Columbia Men’s Watertight II Jacket
Review: A Columbia entry for the men, this hugely popular jacket is made from a 100 % nylon shell with a polyester lining.
It’s specially coated to repel liquid while avoiding any staining. It’s guaranteed to be waterproof, perfect for any rainy day and possibly the best hiking waterproof jacket I’ve reviewed.
It’s highly versatile and can be used in any situation.
- Quality build.
- Will keep you dry.
- Very limited color options.
Marmot PreCip Men’s Waterproof Rain Jacket
Review: Rivalling the Columbia in almost every department is this Marmot version of what could almost be the same jacket.
The company was founded in Colorado and specialize in outdoor gear. This waterproof and weatherproof offering has a hood that rolls into the collar, enclosed zipper and elasticated waist for an adjustable fit.
- Smart design.
- Genuinely weatherproof.
- Loads of colors available.
- Pretty basic.
Jack Wolfskin Men’s Cloudburst Jacket
Review: German company Jack Wolfskin enter the fray with this number, a nicely shaped design bearing their distinctive logo.
Specifically targeted at hikers, it’s a lightweight shell that is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Their Texapore technology ensures that you will remain dry. It can stow away in its own hip pocket, making it my pick for the best rain jacket for backpacking.
- Top quality build.
- Nice cut.
- Guaranteed waterproofing.
- Also pretty basic.
Carhartt Men’s Shoreline Waterproof Jacket
Review: I’m going out on a limb by saying I think this is the most stylish hiking jacket on my list.
It’s just a really attractive design from Carhartt, the US company known for its durable work clothing.
The 100 % nylon shell with polyester lining will keep you dry while its breathable membrane won’t get you all hot and bothered. Quite simply it’s top drawer.
- Really attractive design.
- Quality construction.
- A little bit pricey.
- Might be one the heavy side for some hikers.
Frogg Toggs Pilot II Guide Rain Jacket
Review: For all and any outdoor pursuits, you’ll be hard pressed to do much better than Frogg Toggs.
The US company has got you covered for whatever you’re getting up to in the wilderness and this jacket is no exception.
It’s built to last with a vented, removable hood, double breast pockets, and a guaranteed waterproof shell. You won’t need another rain jacket for a considerable length of time.
- Super durable.
- Great choice of designs.
- On the expensive side.
How to Choose the Best Hiking Rain Jacket
There are a lot of factors to consider when making your choice of the right rain jacket.
Below you’ll find a handy guide covering all the things you need to consider.
I’ve also included an FAQ with some more pearls of wisdom to further assist you.
As you’ll doubtless be aware, rain jackets come in all kinds of different materials, each offering all kinds of different properties.
Nylon and polyester seem to be recurring themes, both for the inner and outer fabric. It might then be treated with a water resistant coating. More information about that will follow.
Ripstop or tear proof fabric is advisable if you’re really going to be putting the jacket through its paces, such as climbing or on more rugged hikes.
Or if you simply want the garment to last longer down the years. You’ll no doubt pay more for it, however.
Check to see if the material is breathable or not. It’ll be more durable and waterproof if it has a sewn-in membrane, but it might not be as effective when it comes to air-flow.
There’s always going to be a trade-off somewhere down the line.
Now, this is where a little bit of education can go a long way – because you’ll find many people make the wrong choice because they’re not armed with the knowledge of the terminology.
- Water-resistant means that the garment will be able to resist water to a certain degree, but it will eventually give way and the floodgates will open.
- Water repellent describes something that is not easily penetrated by water. In this case, it is likely to be a fabric that has been treated with some kind of coating. It is a step up from water-resistant, but it will also eventually give way – particularly in heavier showers.
- Waterproof means that something is totally impervious to water. Again, you’ll pay for it and it might sacrifice breathability, unless you’re looking at something like Gore-Tex.
Gore-Tex is the best of the best, a breathable but waterproof membrane sewn into the fabric.
Some outdoor clothing brands will have their own versions of it that might well be just as effective – for a fraction of the cost.
Either way, make sure you know the difference between them, because it will save you writing a scathing review for something that was never designed for monsoon in the first place.
It’s worth mentioning this as an entry in its own right – especially when it comes to hiking rain jackets.
You might have the best waterproofing in the world, keeping you nice and dry, but you’re going to be running at uncomfortable temperatures if the garment has poor air flow.
Armpit vents are a great inclusion to help keep you nice and fresh – so you might want to look out for those.
And the effort you’re going to be exuding while on the go is likely to keep you nice and toasty – so you’ll need to find the balance for if and when the heavens open.
Cheaper rain jackets are great if you just need them as a backup, but they’re not going to stand the test of time.
There’s a fair to strong chance that they’ll rip as soon as you catch them on a branch while hiking in the woods.
If your excursion into the wilderness is going to be challenging, make sure you get something that’s built for the job. Consider investing in something that will last in the long run.
We’re all different shapes and sizes, so it stands to reason that rain jackets should be built to accommodate that.
Incorporating drawstring cords are really useful to ensure that the jacket fits right and looks good.
Adjustable velcro cuffs will help with the fit while keeping the elements at bay, too.
Keep these things in mind – particularly if you struggle to find something that fits your contours.
Truly effective rain jackets are likely to feature a significant increase their size and weight. This then, will affect their portability.
Whereas something that is only meant for an emergency shower will be able to fold down into its own carrying pouch, taking up little to no room in a backpack or pocket.
In my mind, “hiking” rain jackets should have a really nice balance between portability and how good it is at keeping the rain out.
Which naturally leads me on to…
What is the sole or main use of your chosen garment?
Are you going to be exploring Scotland for several weeks in winter?
Are you climbing in the Alps?
Is it a day trip to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia?
And then decide how regularly you’re likely to be needing such an item.
If it’s just a one-off, or for emergency downpours only, you’re not going to need a super-expensive, top-of-the-range item.
Likewise, if you’re never far from getting your hands dirty in the great outdoors, you’ll want something that is built to last.
Consider its use and WHERE you’re going to be using it. Always plan what you pack by checking the weather and climate of your chosen destination.
You would expect that most rain jackets will come with a serviceable hood, but it is worth making sure – just in case they don’t.
Is it a permanent fixture on the jacket?
Can it be removed?
Is it possible to roll it down into a pocket in the collar?
Then you might want to consider the hood’s design and how much of your head/face it’s actually going to cover.
Does it come with a chin guard?
Will you be able to see?
Are you going to look like Kenny from South Park?
Just some things to bear in mind when it comes to choosing the right hood for you.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a stickler for useful pockets in a jacket.
Hip/waist pockets alone just aren’t going to cut it – I need more space in case I’m carrying more stuff. Particularly if it’s of a valuable nature such as cash or travel documents.
That’s where hidden pockets can be super useful and practical.
Internal pockets are awesome, as are one or possibly two external breast pockets.
And if it doesn’t have any pockets at all I’m personally not going to be interested no matter how good the waterproofing is.
Once again, the tradeoff is likely to be parting with more money for the privilege of having more pockets – something I’m perfectly happy to do.
Zippers and Seams
Taped seams and laminated zippers will be the standard for the real waterproof products, but some designs will use poppers instead.
A storm flap to protect the garment’s opening will also help keep the wearer dry.
Always pay attention to the details – it could be the difference between being comfortable and getting a soaking.
It’s a no brainer – we all like to look good.
Nobody purposefully sets out to make a fashion faux pas – it’s just that some of us are better at it than others!
The style of a rain jacket is seriously going to affect your choice, even if it’s at the expense of its effectiveness.
Some products out there are truly hideous – but they might well do the job with aplomb.
However, there’s no reason you need to sacrifice one for the other when looking for something that really makes a fashion statement in the wild.
How Much Should I Spend on a Rain Jacket?
This is entirely up to you, but I would always go for the best you can possibly afford.
I would even suggest that you stretch a little further, as the investment will come good over time.
Buying something cheap might be great as a quick fix, but if you have to do it, again and again, it isn’t going to be good on the wallet in the long run.
But remember – you might be able to pick up a real bargain if you do your homework. You just might find something every bit as good as a well-known brand for a fraction of the cost.
What’s the Best Brand to Buy?
There’s no hard or fast answer to this as every brand has their followers and fans. One person’s nightmare is another’s dream as they say.
Colombia, The North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx… the list is seemingly endless and the choice can give you a selection headache.
And as mentioned above, sometimes it’s better to go for a not-so-well-known option. You might find a hidden gem.
If pushed, I’m particularly fond of Jack Wolfskin. I’ve owned a few of their products and they’ve never let me down yet. I also like their style – and being the Independent Wolf I naturally gravitate towards such cool branding.
To each their own.
How do I Clean My Rain Jacket?
Many jackets available are machine washable – which is a huge advantage – but you still need to pay close attention to a manufacturer’s care instructions.
A mild detergent and warm water is usually the most effective and non-abrasive option if you’re not allowed to simply bung it in the washer.
And use a liquid as opposed to powder in the machine – certain fabrics and membranes won’t take kindly to harsh and potentially abrasive suds.
Check out the useful video below for more cleaning and care tips and tricks.
I know that’s a lot to take in when it comes to finding the best hiking rain jacket, but trust me – you’re going to need to put in a lot of thought before making your final choice.
It’s well worth the extra effort as you’ll no doubt end up making the perfect purchase for your outdoor needs.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, or if there’s a particular brand you’d heartily recommend.
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