10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets of 2019

10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets

You don’t need to buy an expensive rain jacket for hiking and backpacking because an inexpensive one will work just as well as one costing an arm and a leg. In fact, most backpackers use rain jackets that cost $100 or less for just this reason. While outdoor clothing manufacturers and the media rave about the breathability of Gore-tex, eVent, or Pertex fabrics, the fact is they work poorly for people who cover up their torso with a backpack, shoulder straps, and hip belts. Water vapor can not move across a breathable laminate efficiently under those circumstances.

Here are the 10 top rain jackets that hikers and backpackers really use.

Make / Model Adj Hood Pit Zips WP/BR Avg Weight Price
Marmot Precip Yes Yes Yes 13.1 oz $100
Outdoor Research Helium II Yes No Yes 6.4 oz $159
Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket Yes No No 5.5 oz $20
Patagonia Torrentshell Yes Yes Yes 12.1 oz $129
Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite Yes No No 7.6 oz $45
REI Essential Rain Jacket Yes No Yes 8.8 oz $70
Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket Yes Yes No 7.2 oz $99
Columbia Outdry EX Eco Yes No Yes 13.0 oz $199
The North Face Venture 2 Yes Yes Yes 11.5 oz $99
REI DryPoint GTX Yes Yes Yes 10.5 oz $249

The coating that makes these jackets breathable, called DWR for “durable water repellent”, rubs off with use. When that happens, most backpackers buy a new jacket, on average every 2-3 years, instead of trying to restore the DWR coating with a product like Nikwax TX Direct. Alternatively, many hikers and backpacks buy rain jackets that are made with non-breathable fabrics. Many of those rain jackets have pit-zips and other venting features to help reduce internal sweat build up when it rains.

But if staying perspiration-free in the rain is important to you while you’re hiking down a trail carrying a loaded backpack…maybe you should pick another sport. You’re going to sweat. Think of a rain jacket as part of your larger layering system instead. It’s best use is to keep you warm when it’s raining or the wind is blowing hard, often in combination with a mid or base layer. Perspiring is inevitable. Your goal should be to stay warm and avoid hypothermia.

1. Marmot Precip

Marmot Precip Jacket
The Marmot Precip is by far the most popular backpacking rain jacket because it’s inexpensive but fully featured with pit zip vents, a fully adjustable hood, velcro-wrist cuffs, and a hem adjustment.  The jacket also has two mesh-lined front pockets which are great to store gloves or a hat and provide additional ventilation. The Precip is made with Marmot’s proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric which gets the job done but will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. While the Precip is priced at $100, you can usually find it for far less. The Precip is available in men’s, women’s, and youth sizes.

2. Outdoor Research Helium II

Outdoor Research Helium II

The Outdoor Research Helium II is one of the lightest weight rain jackets available, which explains its popularity with ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers. While it lacks many features such as side pockets, pit zips, and adjustable wrist cuffs in order to save gear weight, it has an adjustable hood and a drawcord hem to keep the wind from robbing your body heat. The Helium II also has a small chest pocket with a water-resistant zipper, good for carrying a cell phone, and a small inner pocket, which the jacket can be folded into for storage. The jacket is made with Pertex Shield+, a lightweight waterproof/breathable fabric with decent breathability, but it will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. The Helium II is available in both men’s and women’s sizes.

3. Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket

Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket
The Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket (part of the UL2 rain suit, but also available separately) is an inexpensive, utility jacket favored by many backpackers because it’s so lightweight and inexpensive. It’s made with a non-woven polypropylene fabric that’s permanently waterproof. While the UL2 Rain Jacket does have an adjustable hood, it doesn’t have any pockets or other features that you find on most other rain jackets. The fit is also quite baggy and the material is easily ripped. But it’s easy to repair with duct tape, and for only $20, it’s a surprisingly good value that provides inexpensive rain protection and warmth. Unisex only.

4. Patagonia Torrentshell

Patagonia Torrentshell
The Patagonia Torrentshell jacket is quite similar to the Marmot Precip in terms of features with a fully adjustable hood, pit zips, velcro wrist cuffs, hem pull cord, and side pockets. However, it’s made with a significantly heavier weight 50 denier fabric, which makes it a warmer jacket and a heavier one, coming in at about twice the weight of the Outdoor Research Helium II. The Torrentshell Rain Jacket is made with Patagonia’s proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric which gets the job done but will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. The jacket is also more expensive than the Precip, which probably explains why it’s less popular.  It is available in men’s and women’s sizes.

5. Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite

Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite
The Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite is a big step up from the Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket in terms of styling with a fully adjustable hood, zippered side pockets, velcro wrist closures, and a cord-adjustable waist. It’s also permanently waterproof and far more durable and better fitting than the UL2 rain jacket. While the Xtreme Lite is twice as expensive as the UL2 rain jacket, you can usually get it on Amazon for considerably less than its list price. Available in men’s and a new women’s model.

6. REI Essential Rain Jacket

REI Essential Rain Jacket
The REI Essential Rain Jacket is a low-price and basic waterproof/breathable jacket with an adjustable hood, velcro wrist cuffs, zippered side pockets, and a drawcord hem. It’s quite durable, but still lightweight at only 8.8 oz. It lacks pit-zips like the Marmot Precip and Patagonia Torrentshell Jackets, but it also costs less. The Essential Rain jacket is made with REI’s proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric which gets the job done but will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. This jacket is still a good value for the price. It’s also available in men’s and women’s sizes.

7. Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket

Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket
The Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket is a fully featured rain jacket with an adjustable hood, pit zips, velcro wrist cuffs, interior, and exterior pockets and a drawcord hem. It’s made with a permanently waterproof fabric (available in silnylon or PU coated silnylon), so you’ll never need to restore a DWR layer because it doesn’t have one. Lightheart Gear is a cottage manufacturer that sews all of their jackets, so you can request custom alternations when you order it. It’s also available in a nice variety of colors. The sizing is unisex. 

8. Columbia OutDry EX Eco

Columbia OutDry Ex ECO
The Columbia Outdry EX Eco is a waterproof/breathable jacket that doesn’t have an external DWR coating, so you never need to reproof it. It’s a fully featured rain jacket with an adjustable hood, two big mesh-backed side pockets, velcro wrist cuffs, and elastic hem adjusters, but it does not have pit zips. The breathability of the EX Eco is pretty impressive compared to Gore-tex, but the jacket is relatively heavy and warm. The EX Eco is a good choice if having a waterproof/breathable jacket is your top priority and gear weight is less important. It is available in men’s and women’s sizes, as well as in a new black color.

9. The North Face Venture 2

The North Face Venture 2
The North Face Venture 2 is a fully featured rain jacket which is comparable to the Marmot Precip, although it is made with heavier weight, more durable fabrics like the Patagonia Torrentshell. It has a fully adjustable hood, pit zips, velcro wrist cuffs, zippered side pockets, and a drawcord hem adjustment. The Venture 2 is made with The North Face’s DryVent proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric which gets the job done but will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. This jacket is still a good value for the price and fairly lightweight. It’s also available in men’s and women’s sizes.

10. REI Drypoint GTX

REI Drypoint GTX
The REI DryPoint is the most expensive rain jacket in the top 10 because it’s made with Gore-tex, and not a less expensive knock-off waterproof-breathable fabric. The DryPoint is fully featured with an adjustable hood, velcro wrist cuffs, and a drawcord hem. It also has hip belt compatible side pockets, which are highly desirable for backpackers since you can use them without having to undo your hip belt. The side pockets also act as core vents, much like pit zips, but lower down on your torso. These work very well, but you have to pay a premium for them. Like all waterproof/breathable jackets, the DryPoint has a DWR coating that will need to be reproofed when it wears off. It is available in men’s and women’s sizes.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*