The best rain jackets for hiking in any weather

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Nothing dampens enthusiasm for a hike like getting poured. Rather than canceling your plans because of the rain, bring a hard shell waterproof/breathable jacket and enjoy the adventure. The best rain jackets for hikers will protect you from the elements, breathe well enough not to overwhelm you, and increase your comfort factor when the weather turns.

What to Consider When Buying a Waterproof/Breathable Rain Jacket

The level of protection you need from your hardshell will depend on your environment. Hiking in a place where rain and wind are commonplace? Opt for a jacket with a three-layer waterproof/breathable material, which offers the highest level of waterproofing. Trekking somewhere that’s generally dry? A two- or 2.5-layer shell will do.

Breathability matters too. A rugged, fortress-like hard shell will seal in more precipitation, but also make you sweat more than a featherweight, more compressible and airy jacket. Heavier shells are generally more durable, and features like extra pockets, adjustable hood and cuffs, and vents will also add weight.

Finally, consider that the jackets below are geared more towards three-season hiking; for winter-worthy shells, thicker materials and specialized features are desirable.

Rab Ghost Sweater (Photo: courtesy)

The lightest : Rab Ghost Sweater

For the past four years or so, Rab has been at the top of the world of technical fabrics, producing shell after shell of superior quality. This streak continues with the Phantom, which, as the lightest waterproof/breathable shell on the market, has the weight of a trash can poncho, the rain protection of a hard shell and yet the airy feel of a softshell. Oh, and it folds down to the size of a kiwi. The Phantom is made from a 2.5-layer Pertex Shield fabric which the designers paired with a minimalist feature set including elasticated cuffs, a small metallic brim on the elasticated hood that protected us from the pouring rain in the Pacific Northwest and 70 mph gusts in the Colorado Rockies, and a tiny chest stash pocket that can hold a gel pack or a set of keys. We normally don’t like anoraks due to the lack of ventilation, but even without underarm zippers we stayed comfortable on wet climbs for three seasons thanks to supreme breathability. Weather protection balances rain blocking and sweat inhibition – in deluges that lasted over 90 minutes we felt a few drops sneaking into our shoulder and lower back, but every tester agreed that the weight and functionality in the majority of cases more than compensate for its uneven performance at the aquatic extreme.

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket
Patagonia Torrentshell 3L (Photo: Courtesy)

Best value: Patagonia Torrentshell

Solid protection, even in bad weather, doesn’t always require a new line of credit, as the updated Torrentshell proves. It kept us dry all day in the drizzle in Washington’s Alpine Lakes wilderness, pouring rain in Montana’s Pioneer Mountains, and high winds atop Mount St. Helens. Patagonia’s proprietary three-layer fabric keeps the price nice, and you get the eco-credibility of 100% recycled nylon and a partially bio-based PU membrane. denier nylon. Compromise: breathability in the middle of the bag.

Stio Ender Paclite
Stio Ender Paclite (Photo: courtesy)

The most versatile: Stio Ender Paclite Hooded Jacket

Truly versatile shells are surprisingly hard to find. They need to be able to shrug off abuse, vent well, and still have all the zippers, pockets, adjustable hoods, and other features we often take for granted. Pick one that meets all of these criteria at an affordable price, and you’ve hit the jackpot. There weren’t many conditions that could top that shell, be it snow, gusty winds, or pouring spring precipitation. The secret is in the shell’s two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite fabric. It had good breathability (but not the norm), which we appreciated when temperatures dipped into the 30s while traveling in Alberta. When it comes to features, the Ender struck a good balance between being well-rounded and avoiding being too heavy: we managed to fit gloves and a neck warmer in one of the hand pockets, and slipped our smartphones into the chest. Cinching the hem around our waist prevented breezes and drifts, while the hood adjusted via a single drawstring in the back (only works with low profile helmets). Bonus: The 75-denier recycled polyester outer fabric got rid of brush on the bushes without even a scratch.

Norrøna Falketind
Norrøna Falketind (Photo: courtesy)

Best Protection: Norrøna Falketind

The devil is in the details, but so is the salvation, as this meticulously crafted jacket proves. Testers loved the little things, including the asymmetrical cuffs that protected their hands as they picked blueberries in the rain at Alaska’s Chugach State Park. A helmet-compatible hood deflects drips, and high-placed pockets keep essentials close, even under a pack. More favorites: a soft Gore-Tex C-Knit backing that’s comfortable on bare skin, underarm zippers and a fit that adapts to winter layers. The Falketind’s three-layer Gore-Tex material offers impressive breathability: “This shell did a great job of letting excess heat escape during a strenuous 2,200-foot ascent up Camel’s Hump at 55°F” , says a Vermont tester. Compromise: Designer details come with a designer price.

Fjallraven High Coast Hydratic Jacket
Fjallraven High Coast Hydratic Jacket (Photo: courtesy)

The most beautiful: Fjallraven High Coast Hydratic Jacket

The perfect rain shell does not exist. Increased protection usually means increased weight and decreased breathability; high breathability begets high prices. Rather than assembling a quiver of shells for every type of weather, we looked for a reasonable all-purpose shell at a relatively affordable price. The High Coast Hydratic excels at exactly what a hard shell is supposed to do: it keeps you dry. On rides near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we drove through rain, sleet, and snow—sometimes all in the same day—and the shell proved impervious to the elements. This shell is tough too: its 70-denier recycled nylon fabric with a PU coating never tore when we drove through patches of brambles. Since it weighs just over 11 ounces and folds down to the size of a cantaloupe, that’s saying something. So where does this shell falter? Breathability. The High Coast Hydratic has a 2.5 layer construction, in which the PU coating on the outside provides waterproofing. This design is less breathable than a traditional membrane (which allows sweat vapor to escape through tiny pores, in addition to sealing out water), and on a steep hike – we gained 1,900 feet in 2 miles – we found my perspiration condensing on the inside of the jacket, even in sub-zero temperatures. Still, we consider the High Coast Hydratic a good buy for a hiker looking for a shell that does its job in wet and cold environments, but won’t break the bank.

What Hiker The editor is looking in a rain jacket

Hiker in the Canyon
Equipment Editor Eli Bernstein (Photo: Courtesy of Eli Bernstein)

Eli Bernstein, Equipment Editor

“As someone who gets hot when I’m hiking, I put breathability first. Sometimes that means sacrificing a bit of protection, but I’m much happier getting slightly wet in an ultra-breathable hard shell than if I had opted for a heavier model that had me sinking in minutes.

Editor-in-Chief Emma Veidt in the Arctic
Emma Veidt, Deputy Skills Editor, deals with frozen figures at the Arctic Circle (Photo: Emma Veidt)

Emma Veidt, Associate Skills Editor

“When I buy a hard shell, I look for durability. If I’m already spending money, I want my jacket to last long enough to be worth the investment. There’s nothing worse than splurging on new gear only to ruin it as soon as the going gets tough, so I look for high denier materials. I also restore the DWR of my hardshell to give it a longer lifespan: When the water repellent starts to wear out, your jacket no longer repels rain; he begins to absorb it.

How to Care for a Hardshell Rain Jacket

Avoid the smoke. Smoke particles adhere to fabric and interfere with DWR. Ditch your shell before you break out the s’mores. If possible, you should also wear long sleeves under your jacket. Skin oils, sunscreens and insect repellents can damage membranes and impair breathability. You should also store your case dry; like your tent, your rain gear should be aired out between uses to prevent mold growth, especially during long-term storage.

If your hardshell starts to get wet (when precipitation stays on the outer layer of the jacket, but doesn’t penetrate through), refresh the DWR by washing the shell with a product like Nikwax TX.Direct. (You should do this once or twice a season if you use your hull a lot). For a small tear or tear, clean the area with an alcohol swab, then repair it with waterproof repair tape. Flaking seams require Seam Grip, but any larger delamination, membrane tear, or seam tear requires taking your jacket to a repair shop or contacting the manufacturer.