When you are out on the trail, the weather can change in an instant. A big thunderstorm can come out of nowhere, with a fierce rain right behind it. Unless you are near your camp, shelter in the woods is hard to come by, so if you want to stay dry when a storm kicks up, keeping good rain protection with you is a must.
There are plenty of options when it comes to protective clothing and it is a good idea to educate yourself about the best hiking rain gear. Let’s take a look at some options for keeping dry while you are away from camp or on the move.
What to Look For
The best feature you can look for to stay dry is material that is waterproof. That way, you can ensure that you remain as dry as possible, no matter how heavy the rain gets. But how do you know what you can rely on?
There are two main kinds of waterproof material – poreless and treated – and it pays to know the difference between them.
The first kind of hiking clothing is that which doesn’t have any pores at all. We’re talking about rubber or plastic articles of clothing that don’t absorb any water at all. This is very effective at keeping the rain out, but these kinds of materials are usually focused on accessories, such as hats and boots, not full articles of clothing. There are some great benefits to poreless material:
- Lightweight: this is an important feature; since you’ll be hiking or carrying your pack from the car, you want to minimize your bulk as much as possible.
- Inexpensive: shopping on a budget is important for some people, so know that they can protect themselves from the weather without incurring too much cost can make all the difference.
- 100% waterproof: not even the hardest rainfalls are going to get through this material, so you’re guaranteed to stay dry.
However, poreless material isn’t perfect, and still suffers from a few disadvantages of its own:
- Can be bulky: it’s difficult to compress this material down to a portable size, so you may have to get a bigger pack just to store your rain gear.
- Insulation: because this material has no pores, it’s not breathable. That means that if the weather is warm while it rains, you’re going to feel extra hot and sweaty from wearing it.
The second kind of material is treated fabric. The treatments are designed to make normal fabric act like poreless material, but without all the drawbacks. One way it does this is to have pores that are so small that water droplets cannot fit through them.
The most famous system around for this kind of material is called Gore-Tex, but there are other systems that are good too:
- eVent: Uses a pore technology called ePTFE, which is based on porous teflon.
- Sympatex: Waterproof and windproof. Made to be breathable but uses absorption as opposed to direct transmission of moisture.
- NeoShell: Made by Polartec, uses similar pore system and is of good quality.
- Omni-Dry: A proprietary waterproof fabric, only available on Columbia sportswear’s products.
- HyVent: Made by North Face, and only available in their garments.
Technically speaking these treated materials are not waterproof. With enough water pressure applied to the material, water will get through. A garment made from treated material will not keep water out when immersed.
For hikers and other outdoor activities, however, these treated materials are perfect:
- Lightweight: treated material isn’t heavier than regular clothing, so you’re not going to be weight down too much during your trip.
- Breathable: heat and humidity are not your friends when you’re camping, so having material that is breathable as well as keeping out moisture is definitely going to help you stay cool and dry at the same time.
- Easy to pack: these materials are easy to fold up and put away in your backpack, just like regular clothing.
- Versatility: these kinds of fabrics can be used in larger items of clothing, such as jackets and pants, so you’re not relying solely on a rubber hat to keep your entire body dry.
But these products aren’t perfect either, and do come with some drawbacks:
- Price: rain gear made of treated material is going to be a bit more expensive, so be prepared to spend a little more money than what you’re expecting.
- Maintenance: the treatments do wear off over time, so you may have to re-prep them before your next trip to ensure that the waterproofing is still working. It’s not a difficult process, but it does take some time out of your day, depending on the kind of method you’re using. Some waterproofing methods require you to wash the garments with a specific solution, while others are just a spray-on process.
- Not waterproof: the heaviest downpours will get through this fabric eventually, so it’s important that you be aware of the limitations of these fabrics.
How Are You Going To Stay Dry?
In addition to deciding what kind of material you are going to invest in, the kind of garment design is going to come into play. Some people want to buy individual components, while others prefer to buy 2-piece rain suits that include hoods. This is an area where personal preference plays a big role, as does the multi-purpose nature of the waterproof components.
For example; a waterproof hat will keep your head dry in the rain, but many also can be used to protect you from the sun. If you opt for a rain suit with hood, you will need another solution for the sunshine.
Let’s take a look at some of the products that will provide rain protection for your time in the wilderness.
Rain Gear Reviews
Outdoor Research Snoqualmie Sombrero Rain Hat
Weight: 9.8 oz
Features: 3 layer 70D Taslan Gore-Tex, Waterproof, Insulated, Seam Taped, Foam Brim Floats, Brushed Tricot Crown, Windstopper Ear Flaps
If your plans include some harsh climate, Snoqualmie Sombrero Rain Hat from Outdoor Research will keep your head dry and warm. It has a wide brim and foam reinforcements in many critical areas. All of the seams are taped to ensure maximum moisture resistance.
The shell of the hat is made from state-of-the-art 3 layer 70D Taslan Gore-Tex for impeccable moisture protection. The Gore-Tex allows you to stay dry, and still shed excess heat and moisture. This hat features insulation, and is made for cooler climates. The windstopper ear flaps fold up and out of the way when you don’t need them, and will make sure that your ears are nice and warm when you want them to be.
The crown of this hat is made from a comfortable brushed tricot, and this will help you to manage moisture, no matter what conditions you find yourself in. This is a serious piece of technical outerwear, and will do its job for a long time.
Frogg Toggs Pro Lite Rain Suit
Weight: 1 pound Shipping Weight
Features: Polypropylene, Free from PVC and phthalates, L83 Non-woven bi-layer material, Washable and Recyclable, Light-Weight
For an emergency rain suit, you can’t do much better then this. The Frogg Toggs Pro Lite rain suit is made from a poreless form of polypropylene that is completely waterproof. The jacket has an attached, adjustable hood and the closure in front has both zippers and buttons.
This is a very lightweight material and is not meant for daily wear in high-stress environments. Because it is totally waterproof and made from a poreless material, it will not breathe at all. For people that need to stay active while in wet climates, this may not be the ideal choice.
On the upside it is a very inexpensive option that you can have at the ready for the trail. When you see a storm rolling in it will be easy to get on, and the rain isn’t going to have any luck getting to your clothes.
Marmot Men’s Precip Jacket
Weight: 12.8 oz
Features: 100% Nylon Construction. Waterproof, breathable with Fully Taped Seams. Ergonomic Hood and Storm Placket Over Front Zipper.
Marmot is a premier maker of quality outdoor gear and this jacket is a good example of their craft. It is made from Nylon, and is both waterproof and breathable. With this jacket you can stay dry and still move if you need to. It is made from a treated nylon fabric, so it will be much more durable than most plastic shells, and still give you a lightweight garment.
The design of the jacket is also very well thought out, with a hood that is detached from the high-zip collar. This allows you use the hood independently from the collar, depending on the wind and rain you are facing.
The front zipper is covered with a placket that is made to keep the water out, and fastens securely with velcro. This is a very well made jacket that is built to be used regularly, and can also act as a shell for cooler weather. This makes it a very versatile garment that offers you a lot of value for you money.
Salomon Men’s X Ultra Mid 2 GTX Multifunctional Hiking Boot
Weight: 4 lbs Shipping Weight
Features: Rubber Sole, Gore-Tex Waterproof Lining, Gusseted Tongue. Speed Hook and Bretheable Mesh Side Panels.
Having a dry pair of feet goes a long way towards making your hike a lot more enjoyable. Salomon Men’s X Ultra Mid 2 GTX boots from Salomon will give you plenty of traction and keep your feet dry to boot!
These hiking boots feature Gore-Tex waterproof lining that is integrated into a breathable mesh fabric that lets your feet shed heat and moisture as you hike. They also have a protective rubber toe cap, and the tongue has been gusseted to prevent any debris from making its way into the interior.
A full rubber sole was utilized to give you excellent grip, and will be really durable. These are not a cheap option, but when it comes to hiking boots it’s a lot better to invest in quality. You will be glad you did the first time you get stuck in the rain!
Dutch Harbor Gear Men’s Sou’Wester Hat
Weight: 1 lb Shipping Weight
Features: Full PVC construction on exterior, waterproof. Huge Brim, Polyester interior. Fold-Away Ear Flaps. Interesting Style.
A budget rain hat with a really great style, this classic design will keep your head dry in almost any weather. The brim is extra wide, and grows from the back to make sure that you entire neck region is protected from the rain.
Dutch Harbor Gear Men’s Sou’Wester Hat is made from PVC, which is a completely waterproof plastic and will not let any rain through at all. The downside to this is that its not a breathable material, so hot weather use for a hat like this is probably not in the cards.
It would make a great emergency rain hat, and the bright yellow model is highly visible. The fold away ear flaps are a nice feature if you are going to be using this on the open water, or in colder climates. If you are looking for an inexpensive waterproof hat that will give you a lot of protection, this is a great option for you.
Arc’teryx Beta SL Jacket
Weight: 14.1 oz Shipping weight
Features: Made From 40D Gore-Tex Paclite DWR Treatment, Seams Fully Taped. Waterproof. Slim Fit with Articulated Hood and High Collar.
Arc’teryx is another quality maker of high quality outdoor gear that has a great reputation. This jacket is a good mix of value and capability that will keep you dry in just about any situation. One of the things you get when you buy from a premium maker like Arc’teryx is a fit that is made for serious outdoor activity.
The neck and hood on this jacket are made to be used either together or separately, and the sleeves offer adjustable wrists so you can shut the rain out when you need to. The jacket is constructed from 40D Gore-Tex Paclite fabric and offers you a lot of protection with minimal weight.
Like any product that features Gore-Tex technology it will cost you more to buy up-front, but the value that you are getting will be well worth the price. This is actually an inexpensive offering from a maker like Arc’teryx, and despite being an entry level garment it will give your incredible performance for years.
This jacket would also make a really nice shell for cooler climates. It has no insulation, but if you add a fleece layer underneath it, you can easily get 3 seasons of wear out of it. It is a good investment for many reasons, and can be used for all sorts of things.
Helly Hansen Men’s Voss Rain Pant
Weight: 1 lb Shipping Weight
Features: 100% Polyurethane, Waterproof. Elastic Waistband.
If you need an inexpensive solution for keeping your legs dry on the trail Helly Hansen Men’s Voss polyurethane pants are a good option. Polyurethane is a poreless material so you know that no rain is going to get in. The downside these pants have is that shedding heat and humidity from the interior will be a challenge, so for high activity situations they are not ideal.
Polyurethane is a very light-weight material, and if you want to have a pair of emergency rain pants in your pack these would be a perfect fit. They are durable enough to last a year or two, but are not made for labor intensive use.
Overall these pants are a really great rain defense product that you can buy and pack without breaking the bank. Using an inexpensive product like this is a good way to go if you are going to be hiking in areas that rain is unlikely. There is no need to spend a fortune on the best gear available if you are hiking in a park that gets ten days of rain a year.
Tourmaster DELUXE BOOT RAIN COVERS
Weight: 1 lb
Features: Tough Synthetic Construction, Elastic for Leg, Waterproof. Velcro Side Opening.
When you are facing a lot of rain and don’t want to deal with sopping wet feet, a pair of boot rain covers can make a lot of sense. Tourmaster deluxe boot rain covers are made for motorcycling, and are constructed from super durable synthetic fabric.
All you have to do is open them up with the side velcro slits, and put your feet in. Putting them on is fast, so if you want to make sure that your feet are safe out on the trail they are a good choice. The tops are made with elastic so your pants will easily slip over the boot rain guards, and no water will be able to get to your feet.
These boot rain covers aren’t really meant for hiking in, so if you are looking for a product that will let you keep trekking in the driving rain, these may not be for you. But if you want something to make sure that you can keep on hiking after the storm has passed, they are perfect.
Think About Your Needs And Buy Accordingly
Before you go out to buy rain gear, think research the climate you do most of your hiking in. Every wilderness is different, and being prepared means staying comfortable on the trail. Once you are sopping wet, it can be really difficult to dry off again. Being damp outdoors is really a downer so avoid it if you can.
It is easy to get carried away when you are looking at outdoor gear. There are so many ways to keep dry on the trail, and you need to think about what kind of hiking you are going to be doing.
We are always interested in knowing how these products performed, so please share you experiences below. We love to read your stories, and helping people find the best hiking rain gear is a benefit to all of us.