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Best Packable Rain Jacket: Keeping Dry On All Your Adventures

Best Packable Rain Jacket
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

No matter where you are hiking, it is important to be prepared. This includes a proper rain jacket.  When choosing yours, it should be the best packable rain jacket, as the material needs to stand up to the toughest weather. These lightweight pieces of nylon could be the only thing that keep you dry during a downpour of rain.

Finding a jacket that is windproof will keep you warmer and leave you to enjoy the great outdoors. As many avid hikers know, when out in the wilderness and exposed to the elements, keeping dry is your most important line of defense against hypothermia.

This is why companies spend so much time and research testing the best materials in an effort to create the best products. There are many features to look for when choosing the ultimate rain jacket, including waterproofing technology, windproof technology, the shell, fit, and other accessories.

A combination of all these features as well as how compactable and lightweight a jacket is should be considered when choosing the best jacket for your next adventure.

Main Features to Consider

Waterproof vs Water-resistant

There is a very big difference between waterproof and water resistant. Waterproof means that no water gets through the jacket. Companies have studied the materials they use and have developed a waterproof breathable material. Jackets with this feature can endure rain for long periods of time.

These jackets will not only keep you dry from the elements, but are also breathable to keep you dry from your own perspiration. This is important because when active in wet and cold conditions, your body will still sweat which will still make you even wetter and colder. Jackets that are breathable wick away moisture and allows it to escape.

Bring your Packable Rain Jacket

Many have also added ventilation zippers located under the arms which will allow added breathing. These go a long way to keep you dry while you hike or walk for long distances. Water-resistant, on the other hand, is only good for short walks in light rain.

Typically seen in windbreakers, water-resistant technology will not hold up against a long or heavy rainfall.

Windproof and wind-resistant go hand in hand with waterproof and resistant: if a jacket has waterproofing technology it is also windproof; the same goes for water resistant.

Shell

There are three main types of shells.

  • Hard shell: refers to the type of material the outer layer of the jacket is made of. The term “hard” refers to the more rigid material it is made of which provides waterproof and windproof technology.
  • Soft shell: synonymous with water-resistant. This design trades full waterproofing for optimal dexterity and breathability. A soft shell will be the best choice for times when you need to fully exert yourself, like a run for example. The main focus of this material is breathability, so expect to get a little wet if you get caught in a full downpour.
  • Hybrid shells: mixture of hard and soft shells. In the areas that are prone to water (shoulders, arms, and back), waterproof material is used, while areas that need a focus on breathability (under the arms and sides), are made of a soft shell. These combine the best parts of hard and soft shells allowing for maximum movement while keeping you as dry as possible.

Technology

Light rain jacket technology has advanced tremendously in the last few years. Instead of just pure, unbreathable vinyl, there are many different coatings and materials. Durable water repellant refers to the coating on the outer material of the jacket. Most people don’t realize that jackets with this technology require maintenance.

After prolonged use the coating can wear out and make it feel as if the jacket has holes in it. Available in stores, a new membrane can bought and applied. This will make the jacket like new again allowing water bead and run off the jacket instead of being absorbed by the fabric.

Packable Rain Jacket

Waterproof jackets are the result of a multi-layer membrane and fabric. The jacket you are looking to buy will likely have a 2, 2.5, or 3 layer coating. All of these jackets are waterproof, windproof and generally provide good breathability. The differences are found in weight and durability.

Double layer technology is the quietest but also the heaviest. These jackets are best for a commute to work or in a travel setting. 2.5-layer jackets are the lightest. The half layer is actually a specially designed coating that provides extra protection against water. This makes them exceptionally lightweight and cost less.

A triple-layered jacket is the best in every category, including price. The layers include a durable outer shell, a waterproof membrane, and a liner. Even with all of this fabric they are still lightweight. These are the best jackets for long hikes in extreme conditions.

When it comes to waterproofing, there are two main technologies that are used to accomplish this:  durable water repellent (DWR) and Gore-Tex. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages over the other, so it’s a matter of personal preference which ones you choose.

  • DWR: a coating that is places on the outside of the jacket. It’s a water repellent layer that prevents water from being absorbed by the fabric, so that it’s no heavy and soggy.
    This protective coating also doesn’t make the fabric less breathable, so you won’t have to worry about the inside of your jacket becoming a sweaty mess. The downside to this, however, is that the coating does wear out after a prolonged period of time, especially if your jacket gets dirty.
    That means a reapplication of the spray or washing your jacket in a specific solution to regain its water repelling properties. DWR jackets are a bit more affordable, but it is a matter of maintenance to keep them working for you.
  • Gore-Tex: this is a composition of polyurethane, and is a thin film that is added to the outside of the jacket. It’s extremely breathable, and forces any water or liquid to bead up and roll off of the fabric.
    But it isn’t just waterproof on the outside: any water that forms on the inside is wicked away by this membrane and is expelled through the layers to the outside, keeping you doubly dry. Gore-Tex-coated jackets do tend to be a bit more expensive, but for these benefits, they may be well worth the price.

Other Features to Consider

In addition to the main features mentioned above, there are some other considerations to keep in mind when looking for a rain jacket.

Packable Rain Jacket features

They may not make or break a sale, but they will add to your comfort and enjoyment of your jacket.

  • Adjustable components: Many jackets have a hood that is made of similar fabric as the jacket, which will keep you warmer as the body loses most of its heat through the head.
    Keeping water from running down your neck also goes a long way to making the hike more enjoyable. Being able to adjust your hood gives you a form fitting shape that allows you to keep moving even in the wet conditions.
    Not having to worry about finding shelter or cover when an unexpected rain comes will give you the peace of mind to enjoy the outdoors.
Also, look for jackets with waistbands and cuffs that have the ability to adjust as well.
    This will go a long way to not only ensuring water stay out, but to protect you from harsh winds as well. Velcro is sometimes used to close holes or attach a hood as well. Being able to adjust your jacket can make your hike more comfortable and cooler.
  • Taped seams: A jacket isn’t truly waterproof without its seams being taped. A true high quality jacket will go to great lengths to make sure no water will enter its environment.
    Water-resistant jackets also use this feature to add reliability to their jackets as well. If you are looking for a fully waterproof jacket it is recommended to make sure it has its seams taped and specifically states that it is 100% waterproof.
  • Compactness: When going on a backpacking trip, or even just spending a day outside, you don’t want to be weighed down for your next trip. Many jackets can fold down small enough to compress in tight corners of a pack without compromising quality performance.
    Whether you are hiking or biking, you need to be able to move without feeling weighed down. Ensuring your jacket is lightweight and can fold down will allow your body to move comfortably while keeping you warm and dry.
  • Pockets: A pocket allows you the ability to store a quick snack or a knife. This is a nice feature found in high quality jackets. The ability to close and waterproof these openings is key.
    Water and wind will find its way through these weak spots if they are not sealed tight. Some jackets have many pockets while others have only a couple. Think about what the jacket’s purpose is before buying. If you are using a backpack having many pockets isn’t necessary.

We have compiled a list of excellent men’s waterproof jackets below. These jackets are all completely sealed, provide excellent windproof technology, are lightweight and can all be compact enough to be taken along on your next adventure.

Every one of these jackets have been tried and tested and are top of the line products.

Top Products of 2017

Arcteryx Norvan Jacket

Arcteryx Norvan Jacket

Price: $349

Waterproof: Yes

Weight: 2 lbs

Special Features: Sizeable hood, reflective stripes, underarm venting

Description: This stylish Arcteryx Norvan Jacket is lightweight and excellent for your next outdoor adventure. Equipped with added underarm venting, this slim fit provides excellent breathability. The hood is fully adjustable and includes a brim.

This will stay in place even during gale force winds. Passing the GORE extreme wet weather testing, this jacket even has watertight zippers.

It boasts shaped form-fitting cuffs and an elastic waist making sure you are safe from the elements and allowing for the perfect adjustable fit. This is safe to wear at night, as it has reflective stripes on the sleeves.

Marmot Essence Jacket

Marmot Essence Jacket

Price: $172

Waterproof: Yes

Weight: 6.3 oz

Special Features: Ultralight, nano-technology, adjustable fit

Description: Weighing in at less than a pound, the Marmot Essence Jacket is incredibly lightweight. This will allow you to shove it in your bag without being weighed down. Having a dry jacket on the ready will give you peace of mind for any outdoor adventure.

If it is a warmer climate this jacket has been designed to be extra breathable. This combination will allow you to use it in just about all corners of the world with confidence. The Nanomembrane allows the jacket to bend and flex while providing protection from the elements.

The high brimmed neck cuff ensures no water will run down your neck. No matter where you are or the activity you’re doing, this jacket is a very good all-in-one choice.

Marmot Men’s Precip Jacket

Marmot Men's Precip Jacket

Price: $185

Waterproof: Yes

Weight: 12.8 oz

Special Features: Taped seams, ample colors, DWR finish

Description: Much like the other Marmot jacket on this list, the Marmot Men’s Precip Jacket is a waterproof,  breathable jacket. It’s specially taped seams do not allow any water to enter. The center zipper adds even more ventilation while the inner flap prevents water from entering.

In addition, this high quality jacket is also exceptionally breathable. This is the best combination for staying dry and warm. Equipped with velcro sealable pockets, the Marmot Precip jacket ensures quick access to essential items.

Coming in sizes from small to three extra large, you are sure to find the best fit with this jacket. An added bonus is that this stylish jacket comes in 28 different colours, allowing you to show your style in a more individualized look.

Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion Jacket

Price: $205

Waterproof: Yes

Weight: 11.5 oz

Special Features: Tear resistant fabric, two waterproof pockets, sealed front zipper

Description: Mountain Hardwear’s Plasmic Ion jacket has a lot going for it. It’s specially designed 70D material is tear resistant, making it especially durable. The Dry Q EVAP waterproof technology ensures you stay dry no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.

Not only will water not penetrate and wind not faze you, but it still excels in ventilation. Two zippers under the arms provide breathability for heavy sweat days.

As an extra feature, two pockets are included to store all of your snacks, and extra care went into ensuring these compartments are completely water tight.

Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket

Outdoor Research Men's Helium II Jacket

Price: $159

Waterproof: Yes

Weight: 6.9 oz

Special Features: Front chest pocket, reflective hood, fully taped seams

Description: Clip this impressive jacket to your pack and never face another storm unprepared again. This 100% waterproof Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket was built to perform even in flash flood conditions.

Folding to the size of a granola bar, this ultra light option performs well every time. Never fear the trail again, as this breathable jacket is sure to keep you moving comfortably.

Advanced technology like the Pertex Shield+, in addition to seam taping, ensures that water never touches your body. A water tight chest zipper allows you quick access to your important items.

The fully adjustable hood has a reflective strip adding extra safety for nighttime or heavy rain outings. Throw this jacket in your pants pocket and be prepared for any weather conditions no matter where you are.

REI Co-Op Rain Jacket – Men’s

REI Co-Op Rain Jacket - Men’s

Price: $48.89

Waterproof: Yes

Weight: 9.4 oz

Special Features: 2.5 layer shell, 3 piece adjustable hood, adjustable hem and cuff

Description: This is the most affordable product on our list, but don’t let the price fool you. This incredibly well-designed jacket excels in performance. REI is a brand very well known for quality outdoor gear and this jacket is no exception.

With a 2.5-layer waterproof shell, equipped with fully sealed seams and a weatherproof zipper, you are sure to stay dry even in the harshest conditions. This technology also makes the jacket light so it is very packable and ensures that you are not weighed down.

With up to 60 miles per hour wind-resistance, this jacket is coated with water-repellent technology to help the rain bead off the fabric. This makes it ideal for long hikes, and even weekend getaways in rugged terrain.

The nylon shell allows the jacket to be breathable, guaranteeing full waterproof capabilities. Its three-piece hood can easily be adjusted, providing you a personalized fit so you can stay warmer and drier.

Final Words

When you are out enjoying the great outdoors, you face the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Any avid outdoor enthusiast knows that just because the day starts sunny, it doesn’t mean it will end that way.

Choose your Packable Rain Jacket

Having a waterproof and windproof jacket can make all the difference. Getting wet while hiking in the outback can lead to the serious issue of hypothermia and can quickly turn a great hike into a life threatening event.

The jackets on our list will ensure that you stay dry and happy. Take advantage of the time and effort companies have taken to create advanced technology for your next trip. Sealed seams, protective membranes, and lots of ventilation create the perfect jacket. Like what you see, or have used one of these jackets? Please leave your comments below. We love hearing from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Samantha Brown

    I have a question about the prices. Do you really get what you pay for? I am looking for something affordable but good quality. I see you listed Rei Co-op and it has a more affordable price tag. In your opinion, is this still a portably jacket that matches up to the others you have listed?

  • Daniel Carraway

    I try to include quality products on a wide variety of price range. Yes, most are affordable, some are pricey but the quality is at par and reliable.

  • Mark Watson

    Ventilation zippers, love it. It’s like having a vent for extra heat to get out of. I always get overheated when I run. It doesn’t rain too much where I am but I can see how a portable rain jacket would be useful during monsoon season. They come on quick and having something easy and within reach would be very useful.

    • Daniel Carraway

      Hi Mark and yes, these packable rain jackets are very useful. Our weather is fickle and I don’t mind carrying an extra gear just as long as it is lightweight and compact. The breathable materials are heaven-sent and allows our body to cool down. Love the DWR and Gore-Text materials – very innovative!

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