Traveling pretty much anywhere in the world comes with the risk of getting caught in the rain.
For people who travel for the great outdoors, a good rain jacket can be one of the most important pieces of gear you pack from a safety and comfort perspective.
But we don’t want to be weighed down, right?
That’s where packable rain jackets come in.
This article lists some of the best packable rain jackets of 2020 to save you the time and effort of tracking them down.
If you’re not sure how to choose between them, have a read of the guide at the end to get a better idea of how to weigh up the pros and cons.
These reviews are divided up into men’s and women’s but most of the jackets come in both a men’s and women’s version so don’t be put off if you see a jacket you like in the wrong gender.
- TOP 13 Best Packable Rain Jackets 2020
- Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket
- Arc’teryx Men’s Zeta Lt Rain Jacket
- The North Face Men’s Venture II Jacket
- Columbia Men’s Watertight II Jacket
- Marmot Men’s Minimalist Jacket
- Orvis Men’s Encounter Packable Jacket
- Timberland Men’s Packable Shell
- Marmot Women’s Precip Rain Jacket
- Columbia Women’s Arcadia II Jacket
- Rab Women’s Kinetic Plus Jacket
- Black Diamond Women’s Stormline Stretch
- Outdoor Research Women’s Interstellar Jacket
- Brooks Women’s Canopy Jacket
- How to Choose the Best Packable Rain Jacket for Your Needs
- What Should I Look for When Buying a Packable Rain Jacket?
TOP 13 Best Packable Rain Jackets 2020
Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket
Review: This is a minimalist rain jacket, prioritizing light weight, pack-ability and waterproofing, which is exactly what we’re looking for, right? Right.
The only thing is, this means there’s limited functionality when it comes to pockets. It just has the one on the chest that doubles as the pouch to pack the jacket into.
But this means it’s about as lightweight as a jacket can get while still being waterproof in a downpour.
- Comes in both men’s and women’s.
- Well priced.
- Fail-safe waterproofing with taped seams and YKK Aquaguard zippers.
- Very lightweight (6.4 oz.) and compact when packed.
- Limited breathability.
Arc’teryx Men’s Zeta Lt Rain Jacket
Review: This is easily one of the best rain jackets on the market. It’s not as packable as some, but you just have to roll it tightly into the hood to create a compact and relatively lightweight package that you’ll be very grateful for once the downpour starts.
This jacket is as waterproof as it gets while keeping you from getting sweaty and sticky at the same time.
Designed with hiking in mind, it’s well-shaped for athletic people looking for a slimmer fit that isn’t too short in the body, and the pockets are positioned so that they can still be accessed if you’re wearing a harness or backpack with a hip strap.
- Doesn’t have an oversized hood that’s designed to accommodate a helmet like many high-quality rain jackets.
- Waterproof and breathable.
- Relatively lightweight and compact when rolled up.
- Very comfortable.
- Extremely durable.
The North Face Men’s Venture II Jacket
Review: A more packable option, this shell from the North Face packs away into one of its pockets for easy travel.
It is very waterproof, although if you’re stuck in a torrential downpour for days on end, things will eventually start to feel damp, that’s just life, and could be more to do with breathability than waterproofing.
But for keeping on hand for the occasional wet day on the road, this jacket is perfect.
- Underarm zippers for ventilation.
- Excellent waterproofing.
- Two hand pockets.
- Lightweight and compact.
- Sizing runs large.
Columbia Men’s Watertight II Jacket
Review: Very similar to the North Face Venture II above but a little more affordable, this Columbia jacket is waterproof, lightweight and packs easily into one of its hand pockets.
The elasticated cuffs have Velcro closures so they can be tightened around your wrists and the bottom hem has a drawcord so it can be cinched in in really bad weather.
The jacket as a whole provides reliable waterproofing although it’s probably not as high performance breathability-wise as the North Face or Arc’teryx jackets above.
- Columbia’s Omni-shield sheds water and dirt.
- Packs into one of two hand pockets.
- Good waterproofing.
- Machine washable.
- Fitted hood.
- Sizing is not straight forward.
Marmot Men’s Minimalist Jacket
Review: This high-performance lightweight shell from Marmot is made with Gore-Tex and Paclite technology to maximize waterproofing and breathability while being easy to pack.
It does an excellent job of keeping you dry and protected from the wind. But remember, this is just a shell, you’ll need some warm layers underneath if you’re encountering cold temperatures.
- Gore-Tex provides fail-safe breathability.
- Armpit zips for extra ventilation.
- Lightweight and compact shell.
- Waterproof chest pocket.
- Size up to allow for warm layers underneath.
Orvis Men’s Encounter Packable Jacket
Review: Strictly speaking, this jacket is designed for fishing. But it ticks all the boxes for a packable rain jacket perfect for travel, so, why not?
It’s waterproof, breathable, lightweight and fold up into a small, convenient, pocket-sized package. It also has one zippered pocket on the chest, Velcro sleeves, a drawcord bottom and drawcord hood.
- Waterproof YKK zippers.
- Nicely adjustable.
- Very lightweight and easy to fold away.
- Waterproof, windproof and breathable.
- No hand pockets.
Timberland Men’s Packable Shell
Review: This retro rain jacket could be one of the lightest on this list, weighing it at less than 10 oz. and packing down into a very convenient pocket size.
It’s not designed with serious outdoor activity in mind as it’s rather feature lacking. But for a handy shell to keep in your backpack for when the weather turns on urban explorations, this shell is ideal.
- Simple, retro design.
- Hand pockets and elasticated hood.
- Very compact and lightweight.
- No draw cords, just elasticated hems.
- Unlikely to be breathable.
Marmot Women’s Precip Rain Jacket
Review: The Marmot Precip is a top-quality, lightweight rain jacket that despite its light weight, can still cope with heavy rain and keep you comfortable and dry.
The two pockets are slightly higher around the waist to allow for a hip strap or harness, the high collar works together with a drawstring hood to keep your neck and head dry, and the hood can be rolled into the collar when you want to keep it out of the way.
- Many different colors to choose from.
- Armpit zips for extra ventilation.
- Nanopro waterproofing provides breathability.
- Flattering cut.
- Can be stuffed into the interior pocket for travel.
Columbia Women’s Arcadia II Jacket
Review: This jacket is a solid mid-range choice and the perfect option for traveling if you want something that will handle hiking in wet weather but also keeping on hand for wet days in the city.
It’s very lightweight, with a mesh lining and Omni-tech waterproofing which provides breathability similar to Gore-Tex.
The whole thing packs up into one of two hand pockets and the large storm hood will help to keep your face dry.
- Wide range of colors available.
- Packs away into hand pocket for travel.
- Omni-tech breathable waterproofing.
- Large adjustable storm hood.
- Sizing can be tricky.
Rab Women’s Kinetic Plus Jacket
Review: A top of the line jacket from UK brand Rab, the Kinetic Plus is a waterproof softshell that has a little stretch to it which makes it probably the most comfortable option on this list.
It has some of the best breathability on offer when it comes to rain jackets so you’ll easily be able to wear it day after day without compromising performance.
It doesn’t pack up quite as small as some of the pocket-sized packable jackets but it’s still lightweight and very easy to travel with.
- Slightly stretchy.
- Soft shell.
- Highly breathable.
- Close-fitting hood.
- Two large, zippered, waist-height pockets.
- Lightweight and easy to roll up.
- Sizing is tricky.
Black Diamond Women’s Stormline Stretch
Review: Similar to the Kinetic Plus, the Stormline Stretch is another jacket designed with mountain activities in mind.
Consequently, it has the classic oversized hood which will take a bit of adjustment to find the right fit if you’re not wearing a helmet. But, there’s plenty of space for a wooly hat!
The material has some stretch in it allowing for extra movement and comfort, and it’s also waterproof, windproof, breathable and lightweight – everything we’re looking for in a packable rain jacket for traveling.
- Slim fitting design.
- Material has a slight stretch.
- Armpit zippers.
- Two zippered hand pockets.
- Lightweight, waterproof and breathable.
- Oversized hood is designed to cater for helmets so will be loose-fitting.
Outdoor Research Women’s Interstellar Jacket
Review: Outdoor Research’s Interstellar is a slightly stretchy hard shell built to have maximum breathability while still being able to cope with serious rain.
It’s designed for use with a helmet so the hood will take some adjustment, but it’s a worthy compromise for the performance you get in exchange.
- Slightly stretchy for maximum movement.
- Very breathable to keep you comfortable and dry.
- Both chest pocket and hand pockets.
- Very lightweight and packs down into the left hand pocket.
- Hood is designed for helmets so will be a bit big without.
Brooks Women’s Canopy Jacket
Review: This is a running shell from Brooks, designed to cope with light rain while being super comfortable and not restricting movement, and also super breathable to cope with the sweat you’d generate while running.
It fits the bill even if you’re not a runner but looking for something super lightweight and packable to pull out if showers arrive on the forecast, as the whole thing packs into a little mesh pouch.
- Slightly stretchy and lightweight.
- Sleeves have thumb holes.
- Very comfortable.
- Easy to pack.
- Not designed for heavy down pours.
How to Choose the Best Packable Rain Jacket for Your Needs
First up, what is a packable rain jacket?
A packable rain jacket is a rain jacket that can be stuffed into a small pocket or pouch, or rolled up into a reasonably small package that makes it easy to travel with.
Truly packable rain jackets, the ones that can be stuffed into a pocket, are the best option for people who won’t be relying on their jackets for long periods of heavy rain or in alpine environments, and just want something to keep on hand for the occasional shower.
Some of them perform pretty well, but typically have some downsides.
For example, they may be waterproof but lack breathability which means you’ll start to feel damp pretty quickly. They may also lack functional pockets, have a less than ideal fit, or simply not be particularly waterproof.
On the other hand, we have lightweight shells which are designed with more features to keep you comfortable and safe for longer in harsh conditions. They’ll take up a little more space in your pack but they’re still comparatively easy to travel with.
What you want to avoid, are rain jackets that have any kind of insulation layer, or are seriously heavy duty and bulky when packed up.
Traveling is all about layering and a good packable rain jacket is designed to keep you dry, not insulate you against cold temperatures.
You’ll need to pair it a decent base layer, preferably merino, and then either a polar fleece or lightweight down jacket depending on the conditions.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Packable Rain Jacket?
Packed Size and Weight
If traveling light is your ultimate objective, you’ll be wanting to prioritize the lightest and smallest rain jacket so that it doesn’t dominate your backpack.
If this is you, you’ll probably be interested in our guide to the best packable day packs as well – check it out for more inspiration.
Remember though, if you’re going hiking or doing anything in an alpine environment, this type of rain jacket is not recommended.
Breathability is what makes the difference between a high performing rain jacket, and one you wouldn’t want to be relying on for any extended amount of time.
Often people will think that a rain jacket isn’t waterproof, when in actual fact, it’s just not breathable. Often the moisture you feel on the inside of your jacket is actually your own sweat!
Good quality, breathable rain jackets do require some care though. They need to be regularly washed in order to keep the tiny pores that allow your sweat to escape from clogging up with dirt.
If you think your rain jacket is losing its waterproofing, you might just need to give it a gentle machine wash and then a coat of good a DWR like Nikwax (link to Amazon.com).
One more feature that can help with breathability are pit zips, or zippers in the underarms that you can open up for extra ventilation when the rain stops for a bit.
A rain jacket without pockets can be pretty annoying to wear for long periods of time. But the placement of the pockets can also make a difference too.
Most good quality hiking rain jackets come with pockets that are designed to sit higher than the hip strap of your backpack (or harness), or they just have a chest pocket. This is great if you’re hiking or climbing, but less convenient if you’re traveling in a city.
On a similar note, many top of the rain jackets designed for the great outdoors are designed with oversized hoods that can be worn over a helmet.
It’s not a faulty design, it just means it’s going to be harder to get a snug fit with this kind of hood.
As mentioned before, it pays to take into account the climate of your destination. For example, traveling to Iceland or Scotland with some hiking in mind will require a top-quality and marginally less packable rain jacket.
If this is you, look for more options specifically designed for hiking here. Trust me, the rain jacket is not the part of your gear you want to compromise on.
On the other hand, if you’re going to South East Asia, the most lightweight and packable option will be fine, because even if you get caught in a monsoon, the weather will be warm enough that if you get a little damp, your life won’t be at risk.
Alternatively, if you’re just traveling in cities and not planning any hiking, you may decide against a waterproof jacket altogether and just have a down jacket and umbrella on hand and be prepared to duck undercover or wait out the shower in a café.
Other Waterproof Gear
If you know you’re going somewhere where the weather conditions can be serious (like Iceland, Scotland, New Zealand or any alpine environment), a jacket alone may not be enough.
I’d seriously recommend waterproof hiking rain pants as well, and you’ll also want to think about how to keep your stuff dry with a good rain cover for your pack.
This is probably fairly self-explanatory but will probably be the deciding factor when it comes time to make your final decision. With a lot of outdoor gear, you pay for the brand and quality doesn’t always follow.
This is true to a degree with rain jackets, but less so. If you want a really good quality rain jacket that will perform in torrential rain, you’ll need to front up the bills.
What is the best packable rain jacket?
The best truly packable rain jacket on our list is the Outdoor Research Helium II. But all of the jackets on the list above are excellent choices.
How to pack packable rain jacket?
Most of the time, packable rain jackets will stuff into an inside out pocket or small stuff sack. If your jacket is slightly less packable that this, then rolling it up into its hood is the next best option.
What is the best lightweight waterproof rain jacket?
There are many great options but one of the best from our list is the Arc’teryx Zeta lt.
How long should a waterproof jacket last?
The waterproofing on most jackets should last 3-4 months of frequent use before the jacket will need a wash and reproofing.
Is there a truly waterproof jacket?
This is an interesting question, and unfortunately the short answer might be ‘no’.
For all the things we require a rain jacket to do (keep out the rain but let out our sweat, cope with the friction of backpack straps, keep water off our face or from entering around the neck even if you’re walking in horizontal winds…) no rain jacket is ever going to keep you 100% dry in a serious downpour. But some come pretty close!
What is the most breathable waterproof jacket?
This is another interesting question! How breathable a jacket is can come down to how well it’s been cared for.
But in terms of new jackets, the North Face’s waterproof membrane is thought to be one of the most breathable. And then you have the old favorite, Gore-Tex. Any Gore-Tex jacket will be ranked pretty highly in terms of breathability.
That brings us to the end of this list of the best packable rain jackets in 2020. There are some excellent jackets to choose from. It really comes down to how much you’re willing to spend and how important staying dry is to you!
With rain jackets, it pretty much is a case of ‘the more you spend, the better the quality’.
Unfortunately, they’re not something you can really skimp on if you want them to actually keep you dry in a downpour.
Don’t forget to comment below if you can recommend another jacket or have tried any of the jackets above. And be sure to download our e-book about solo travel safety before you leave for your trip.
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