Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Hiking & Backpacking

Protecting yourself from whatever Mother Nature throws at you while out on the road is vital. If you want to stay safe and well when you’re out in the wilderness, you need a backpacking rain jacket that works well.

Just in case you don’t want to read the full review, my favourite is this jacket from Outdoor Research my current jacket from them is 12 years old and still the one I want to carry most often – even though I have bought quite a few others during the last few years.

Outdoor Research is the Best Rain Jacket

Lightweight jackets are always changing, thanks to new innovations and designs. There are many different backpacking rain jackets on the market just now, which isn’t a bad thing. However, finding one that you like the look and feel of is not always that easy.

You may not wish to spend a large amount of money on something that will keep you just as dry as the cheaper version. Below you will find a guide that should help you find a jacket that works for you.

Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket Black/Hydro

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Outdoor Research Jacket comes with a fully taped seam that helps to keep the rain out. With internal pockets that double up as a stuff sack, you’ll find this jacket is very convenient. Open up the jacket quickly when it’s raining and fold it back into the stuff sack when it’s dry.

Durable and likely to last up to 10 years if you take care of it, the Outdoor Research Jacket is waterproof and comes with a draw-cord hem. The smart black finish with the Outdoor Research logo and the blue zipper means this jacket looks good no matter what Mother Nature is doing to it.

  • Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Tech: Nylon, fully taped seam, separating full center front zipper

Check Price on Amazon

 

The North Face Men’s Resolve Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The North Face Men’s Resolve Jacket is a tough jacket that comes with a breathable HyVent polyurethane coated inner layer that helps prevent sweating. The fully-seamed seal helps prevent water from making its way into the jacket and the roll-away hood is very convenient. If there’s a storm, you may appreciate the hook and loop flap-over which protects the front of the jacket, including the zip.

Complete with 2 pockets that can be zipped closed, this North Face jacket also comes with elasticated cuffs that help keep the weather at bay.

  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Tech: HyVent, ripstop nylon, zipper closure, machine wash, breathable polyurethane coated inner layer

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Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Columbia Men’s Watertight li Jacket is a smart backpacking rain jacket that comes in 2 colors and is made from 100% nylon. The fine mesh is constructed from 100% polyester and with its zipper closure, the wearer is protected from the elements.

With an abrasion-resistant chin guard that keeps you even dryer, this rain jacket can be kept in a pocket, making it easy to store. The Omni-shield ensures that you are dry and clean as it works to resist the absorption of water.

  • Weight: 13.5 ounces
  • Tech: Omni-shield, nylon shell, machine wash, zippered side pockets, elastic cuffs and hem, waterproof

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Marmot Minimalist Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Marmot Minimalist Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket comes complete with Gore-tex and paclite which ensures this rain jacket is breathable, waterproof, and easy to pack. With its taped seams, you’re less likely to get wet and the attached hood can be adjusted so your face is covered.

The PitZip allows you to increase the airflow should you need to and the water-resistant zipper keeps even more rainwater out.

  • Weight: 3.6 ounces
  • Tech: Gore-tex, paclite technology, taped seams, PitZips, drawstring hem, and zippered hand pockets
  • Note: Ideal for harsh weather and light travel.

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MAGCOMSEN Men’s Lightweight Windproof Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The MAGCOMSEN Men’s Lightweight Windproof Jacket is available in 5 different colors and is relatively lightweight. The chest pocket and hand pockets make it easier to store belongings and the inner chest pocket is ideal for cellphones and wallets.

With a breathable lining and hook and loop closure, this jacket keeps you protected from the wind and rain.

  • Weight: 1 kilogram
  • Tech: Polyester, hook & loop closure, large chest pocket, lined, windproof, breathable lining
  • Note: Ideal for hiking, rock climbing, camping, and working outdoors.

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The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Jacket is available in 31 different colors and patterns and is made from polyester, nylon, and twill. The waterproof fabric gives the jacket a barrier against moisture. Its quick-drying properties work to stop the wearer from sweating while improving the movement of air.

  • Weight: 1.06 pounds
  • Tech: Ripstop nylon, breathable, quick-drying, velcro storm-flap, zippered hand pockets, and a relaxed fit

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Baleaf Unisex Pullover Rain Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Baleaf Unisex Pullover Rain Jacket comes in 8 different colors and needs to be pulled on and off over the head. Lightweight and made from waterproof material, the jacket has elasticated cuffs and two zipper pockets. The reflective logo helps to keep you visible and the hood is completely adjustable.

  • Weight: 0.48 pounds
  • Tech: nylon, funnel hood, elastic cuffs, lightweight, reflective logo

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GEEK LIGHTNING Waterproof Hooded Rain Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The GEEK LIGHTNING Waterproof Hooded Rain Jacket has a clean finish with the SwissSwell logo located near the left shoulder. Abrasion-resistant and quick drying, this rain jacket has an attached hood and bungee cords to ensure a good fit. The jacket fits into a pocket and is easily foldable.

  • Weight: 0.7 kilograms
  • Tech: Water-resistant, lightweight, abrasion-resistant, bungee cords, and hook and loop cords
  • Note: Ideal for travel, camping, and hiking.

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Columbia Men’s Watertight II Front-Zip Hooded Rain Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Columbia Men’s Watertight II Front-Zip Hooded Rain Jacket has a 100% polyester lining and is breathable. Available in 24 different colors and with an abrasion-resistant chin guard and drop tail, this jacket also has a classic fit.

  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Tech: Omni-Tech, sealed construction, zippered hand pockets, classic fit, chin guard, and waterproof

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Marmot PreClip Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Marmot PreClip Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket is a smart rain jacket that comes with an adjustable hood and a DriClime-lined chin guard. Made from breathable fabric and with a taped seam, it also has pitzips that keep you even dryer and is available in 29 different colors

  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Tech: Lightweight, waterproof, Driclime chin guard, breathable, taped seam, pitzips

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Global Men’s Hooded Lightweight Windbreaker Winter Jacket Water Resistant Shell

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Global Men’s Hooded Lightweight Windbreaker Winter Jacket Water Resistant Shell is made from 100% polyester and comes with water-resistant coating in its interior. The scuba neck offers more protection and the toggles at the waistband ensure a better fit. The three panel hood allows for a better fit and the mesh pocket bags are very durable.

  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Tech: Polyester, water-resistant, scuba, toggles and three panel hood
  • Note: Ideal for hiking, running, hunting, and many outdoor activities.

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Patagonia Levitation Hoody Jacket

Columbia Men’s Watertight lI Jacket

The Patagonia Levitation Hoody Jacket is available in a light gray color and comes with 2 handwarmer pockets and abrasion-resistant fabric. The helmet-compatible hood makes this jacket ideal for rock climbing and hiking. The front zipper has a microfleece zipper and the left chest pocket comes with a zipper. The cuffs come with a spiral-seam which ensures it fits over your gloves.

  • Weight: 16.2 ounces
  • Tech: Handwarmer pockets, abrasion-resistant fabric, microfleece zipper, and helmet-compatible hood

Check Price on Amazon

 

What to Look out for When Buying a Rain Jacket

The most important, for me, is that it is comfortable. I don’t want a hood that keeps falling down over my face or will not stay on my head as soon as there is a light breeze. The jacket has to be thick enough that it will last a long time, years, with my backpack rubbing against it all day.

I usually prefer zips under my arm to let out some of the moisture to keep me dry inside. And pockets – I want all bar one pocket to be accessible from the outside, I don’t want to unzip the jacket to reach anything except for one valuables pocket in the inside.

Fabrics

If you prefer a specific type of fabric or you want something you’ve never tried before, you may want to opt for jackets that are made from Gore-tex or polyester. These materials have been used for years to keep you warm while keeping the rain and wind out.

Related: Best fleece jacket.

Jacket Construction

While the construction of a jacket will vary between manufacturers, rain jackets typically have 2 or 3 layers. Along with face fabric and a membrane, many jackets also come with a backing that helps your body breathe. If you want as much protection as possible, you should opt for a jacket that comes with 3 layers.

Hood

Not a lot of people pay attention to the hood, however, its construction is vital. A hood that’s too small won’t protect you. A hood that’s too big can make it too hard to see. This is why it’s important you find a rain jacket that comes with a hood that fits well. You may also want to look for a hood that has a peak, as it can help to keep the rain away from your face.

Chin Guard

Not all rain jackets come with chin guards, however, they can be a useful tool. Chin guards help to protect your face from rubbing which can often be uncomfortable. They can also help prevent you from catching your chin on the waterproof fabric or the zip.

Pockets

While you may not consider pockets as a vital part of your jacket, their position can have an effect on what you use the jacket for. For example, if you plan to hike up mountains, you should opt for a jacket that comes with pockets located quite high up. Pockets should ideally be a good size as they can hold maps, cell phones, and anything else you need on the trail.

Rain Jacket or Poncho?

best rain jacket review

My other half likes her poncho when we are on multi-day hikes, I could never get used to one. In some downpours her backpack has stayed dry, mine has been a little damp. There is a write up here on the comparison between ponchos vs rain jackets.

All of the above are great brands. You will not go wrong with any from this list. I have a few lightweight rain jackets, my favorite is one that I bought 12 years ago just before going hiking in the Rockies near Banff. This jacket from Outdoor Research is hard wearing and so far has never torn – quite something for me as I wander off the beaten tracks.

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