Which rain jacket for hiking is best?
There’s nothing worse than finishing a hike and being drenched. A good rain jacket ensures a comfortable, dry adventure in even the toughest of conditions. You’ll want a hiking-specific rain jacket if you plan to hit the trails. A casual rain jacket may keep the rain out, but it can also leave you sweating due to its lack of breathability.
If you want something that keeps you dry and looking good, opt for the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket.
What to know before you buy a rain jacket for hiking
How many layers does it have?
Often you’ll see a number in the name of a rain jacket (like the 3L in Patagonia’s jacket). This number denotes the amount of layers that make up the jacket’s construction. Rain jackets for hiking are in one of three categories: two layers, two-and-a-half layers and three layers.
Two layers: The two-layer jacket is a jack of all trades and master of none. It is in the middle of the pack in price, weight and durability. It will give you waterproofing and breathability similar to two-and-a-half-layer jackets. It does everything you need a rain jacket to do and does it well. However, it isn’t exceptional in any category.
Two-and-a-half layers: The added half layer actually lowers the durability of the jacket. It also reduces the weight and price. The second layer on these jackets is just a laminate coating with a protective “sheen” laid over it (the half layer). This construction lowers the weight, but also the durability of the materials, driving the price down. It provides the same waterproofing and breathability as the two-layer jacket for a lower price.
Three layers: A three-layer jacket is the best you can get. It outdoes its competitors in waterproofing, breathability and durability. Three-layer jackets tend to be lighter than two layers and rival the ultralight two-and-a-half. All these features come at the highest price point.
Is Gore-Tex worth it?
Modern Gore-Tex is miles beyond the original in terms of breathability. Originally, while Gore-Tex was breathable, it was easily broken down by oils from the wearer’s skin and would lose waterproofing quickly. Modern Gore-Tex has solved that problem with a coating that goes over the Gore-Tex and protects it from degradation via sweat, sunscreen or other oils.
If you live in a wet climate where you’ll get many miles out of your rain jacket, it’s worth the additional cost.
Durability and weight tradeoff
As with most hiking clothing, there is an inverse relationship between weight and durability. Ultralight jackets, for example, are made from incredibly thin materials and can tear easily if snagged on a branch. Those who want lighter clothing have to accept that the materials need to be treated more carefully. If you hike through brush often, you’re better off opting for a two- or three-layer jacket than a two-and-a-half.
What to look for in a quality rain jacket for hiking
Not all rain jackets are equally comfortable. Rain jackets made for hiking and performance tend to have slimmer fits than casual ones. Some brands combat this by adding stretchy materials that allow for a full range of motion when hiking.
If a slimmer fit isn’t what you’re looking for, going up a size is a pretty simple solution. You may want to consider sizing up in general if you plan to wear multiple layers in a colder, more rainy climate.
Look for full-zip jackets with ventilation zips. These tend to be under the armpits and allow some breathability and mobility when you start to get warm.
If you live in a place with sporadic rain showers, look for jackets that either pack into their pocket or come with a drawstring bag.
How much you can expect to spend on a rain jacket for hiking
In general, a good hiking rain jacket will cost $100-300.
Rain jacket for hiking FAQ
How do you wash a rain jacket?
A. You’re always best off following the manufacturer’s instructions. If those aren’t available, follow these basic guidelines:
1. You can put your rain jacket in the washing machine, but use a detergent specific to rain gear.
2. Try not to wash more than two rain items at once.
3. After washing, you’ll want to treat your jacket again. There are durable, water-repellent treatments that you can buy in spray form. Follow the instructions on the bottle, and you’ll be fine. The only exception here is for unlined jackets that need to be waterproofed in the machine.
4. Air dry or use the most delicate option on your dryer.
What is the difference between waterproof and water-repellent?
A. These are simply two different degrees of protection. If you spend a significant time in the rain, your water-repellent jacket will soak through. Waterproof jackets beat water-repellent or water-resistant jackets every time.
What’s the best rain jacket for hiking to buy?
Top rain jacket for hiking
What you need to know: This jacket has three layers, an affordable price and the high quality you expect from Patagonia.
What you’ll love: This is a light, breathable jacket that packs away easily. Three-layer construction keeps you cool and dry no matter the trail you’re hiking. At a price point comparable to jackets with fewer features and guarantees, it’s the best option available.
What you should consider: If you’re highly active or sweat a lot, this jacket may trap some of that. It shouldn’t be a concern for most people, though.
Top rain jacket for hiking for the money
What you need to know: This jacket is affordable and breathable, and it features a two-and-a-half-layer construction and is made by a well-known outdoor name.
What you’ll love: Marmot has created an incredibly breathable and light jacket that will still keep you dry. The seams are taped for extra weatherproofing, and you can stow the hood when you don’t need it.
What you should consider: Since it’s a two-and-a-half-layer jacket, you do sacrifice some durability. You may need to trek more carefully when wearing it.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: While it’s the most expensive on the list, it also is the most full-featured with two layers of Gore-Tex.
What you’ll love: With Gore-Tex construction, this jacket can handle anything thrown at it. Since it’s light and packable, it’s easy to throw into your bag. With multiple adjustment points, you can dial in the fit to your liking.
What you should consider: Arc’teryx as a brand tends to run small. If you don’t like your jackets to have a snug fit, consider sizing up or opting for a different brand.
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Joe Coleman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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