Here in Scotland, we know a thing or two about rain, hence my previous post on the best lightweight rain jacket, (yes, The North Face is part of that list). Thanks to the cool and wet Scottish weather, I’m acutely aware of the benefits of a quality waterproof jacket.
And each time I put on a rain jacket, I give thanks to brands like North Face that I no longer have to wear bulky rubber slickers or smelly sealskin to stay dry. Rain jackets today are more watertight and comfortable than ever. And, as I’m sure you know, North Face makes some of the best rain shells on the market at affordable prices.
But, even if you are determined to buy a North Face rain jacket, sorting through different waterproofing ratings, technologies, and styles can still be confusing. To help, I tested several North Face jackets to determine which ones are the best.
A rain jacket is one of the staples in any hikers backpack. I use it as part of the layering system often with a fleece or softshell this makes it easy to adjust my body temperature when I am a bit colder coming back down a hill.
Best North Face Rain Jackets for Men
The North Face Venture 2
- Weight: 11.6 oz
- Waterproofing: 2.5-layer DryVent waterproof breathable laminate
- Fabric: 70-denier ripstop nylon; 40-denier ripstop nylon
- Good mobility
- Solid weather resistance
- Fairly compact
- Nice hood design
- Good ventilation
- Relatively bulky fit
A long-time staple in North Face’s collection, the Venture 2 aims to balance weight, weather protection, and price. It’s a great rain jacket for the average backpacker or hiker. It is also a good choice for everyday use around town. I have already written a review on The North Face Venture vs the Resolve Rain Jacket as these are the two most popular jackets right now in this range.
Water and Wind Protection
I used the Venture 2 on an early spring backpacking trip through the UK. After a few weeks of field use, the waterproof face fabric of the jacket held up decently well.
I admit that the price point and the thin 2.5 layer construction didn’t inspire confidence at first, but the shell kept me dry each time the skies opened up.
And, while its overall weather resistance isn’t outstanding, the Venture 2 did a fine job of blocking out wind. The hood is easy to chinch and it stays securely in place. Even though it does not have a stiffened brim, it will keep the elements out.
The center zip is secured with Velcro and covered by a nylon flap. I didn’t experience any leaks during my test. Moreover, the Velcro cuffs efficiently sealed out moisture around the wrists.
You will be satisfied with the Venture 2 as long as you set reasonable expectations and clean it regularly.
I still use it as an emergency shell for light summer or around-town use. I am impressed by how well the jacket has held its water resistance over time.
Ventilation and Breathability
The Venture 2 doesn’t provide exceptional levels of breathability. I don’t expect budget-oriented 2.5L rain shells to be breathable. But, I must note that the Venture 2 is marginally more breathable than the original version of the jacket. Compared to the older version, the Venture 2 feels noticeably less clammy.
Moreover, the ventilation features on the jacket somewhat compensate for the lack of breathability. The pit-zips make the jacket more comfortable on top of creating more effective ventilation. And, if you leave the hand pockets open, the tightly woven lining allows for a little bonus venting.
Mobility and Comfort
The micro-fleece patch on the chin is quite comfortable and the hood fits well. The cord locks for the hem and hood adjustments are a bit small, but they are still easy to use. I had no problems using the cord adjustments and the zipper pulls with gloves on.
Moreover, the jacket moved with me well even when I layered up. However, the jacket felt a bit baggy throughout the arms and the torso when I wore only a t-shirt underneath. But I got a good seal around my waist by cinching the hem quite a bit. I must note that this is one of the few rain jackets that come in tall and 3XL (men’s and women’s) sizes, so finding a decent fit shouldn’t be a problem.
The Venture 2 is tougher than most jackets in its price range. It’s able to stand up to some wear and tear thanks to the 40D ripstop nylon. I haven’t had any hiccups with the zippers and the Velcro has held up well through extended use. The Venture 2 even comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
The North Face Dryzzle Futurelight
- Weight: 11.9 oz
- Waterproofing: FutureLight 3L fabric with DWR finish
- Fabric: Recycled polyester; recycled nylon
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- Allows for great freedom of movement
- Limited lifetime warranty
- A bit pricey
The FutureLight rain jackets strike a nice balance of toughness and weight. Designed to be a versatile 3-layer jacket, it is a great emergency layer for hikers and backpackers. It is also a good choice for those who are hard on their gear. North Face’s FutureLight air-permeable fabric is excellent for a variety of applications. Even if you have just cooled off, the jacket maintains an even level of moisture movement.
From activities where a bit more ruggedness is required, such as mountain climbing, to activities where packed volume and weight are a priority, like backpacking and hiking, the FutureLight rain jacket works. North Face’s polyester-based air-permeable fabric offers excellent storm protection. It performed decently in my garden hose and shower tests as well as in real-world use.
The large internal storm flap on the main front zipper greatly improves weather resistance. Moreover, the hood does a good job of sealing out the elements. The Dryzzle offers more than enough weather protection to keep most backpackers, hikers, and mountain climbers happy and dry.
Venting and Breathability
North Face’s breathable membrane is similar to other proprietary air-permeable materials. The jacket offers a “steady” rate of breathability since air is always able to pass through the fabric. The best part about air-permeable fabrics such as this one is that they remain breathable even when you have already cooled off. This is usually not the case with eVent or Gore-Tex fabrics.
From my experience, the Dryzzle is one of the best rain jackets for more aerobic activities, such as backpacking or hiking, but also for less aerobic ones, like walking around town.
Comfort and Mobility
I didn’t feel clammy during my test thanks to the interior Tricot lining as well as the air-permeable membrane. Compared to the previous version of the jacket, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in terms of mobility and freedom of movement. The sleeves barely pulled back from my wrists when I reached forward or upward and the hem hardly moved when I lifted my arms over my head.
From freedom of movement standpoint, the stretchy construction, coupled with the mobility-focused design and the great cut, make it one of the best rain jackets. All of this makes the Dryzzle a great choice for those who don’t want to sacrifice mobility for storm-worthiness.
Whether I had a beanie, baseball cap, or nothing, the hood provided me with great storm protection. Thanks to the excellent features of the jacket, I was able to keep the hood snug around my head without limiting my peripheral vision.
However, the hood did affect my peripheral vision and comfort when I tried to use it with a bike helmet.
The face fabric is made of 20D x 25D recycled polyester. It is tougher and more tear-resistant than average. Compared to a thin 2.5 layer jacket, the FutureLight 3-layer construction offers better protection to the internal waterproof membrane.
You won’t have to worry about grime and sweat damaging the waterproofing. I am impressed by the overall durability of the Dryzzle rain jacket and I think that it’s tough enough for hiking and backpacking use.
The North Face Apex Flex DryVent
- Weight: 28 oz
- Waterproofing: DryVent 3L shell
- Fabric: 95% polyester; 5% elastane
- Feels less clammy than most jackets
- Athletic cut
- Stormworthy material
- Stretchy fabric
If you are looking for something more stylish than a typical rain jacket, the Apex Dryvent may be the perfect option for you. Even though the Apex has the guts of a real rain shell, the exterior fabric looks closer to a sport coat or softshell.
This 3-layer jacket uses North Face’s proprietary DryVent waterproof breathable membrane. What makes it different from other rain jackets is that they laminate an exterior stretch-woven material to the waterproof membrane. This gives the Apex its softshell-like appearance.
The deep hood and the large front storm flap did a good job of keeping me dry during my test. The combination of the thick construction and design features greatly improves storm worthiness. And, even though the exterior fabric eventually started to absorb water, the waterproof membrane kept the water out. Still, despite the fact that no water got in, it made me feel damper and colder.
Mobility and Comfort
The jacket uses a solid, stretch-knit backer for its interior fabric. It feels less restrictive and helps with mobility thanks to its stretchy nature. Moreover, it’s soft and it doesn’t produce a clammy feel. I also liked the athletic cut of this jacket.
However, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of breathability. Even though the Apex doesn’t feel clammy like most rain jackets, I expected the interior and exterior fabrics to be more breathable. The jacket is still more than comfortable for mellow activities.
Weight and Durability
The Apex is one of the heaviest rain jackets I’ve ever tested and likely the heaviest North Face rain jacket overall. But the weight of the jacket undoubtedly has its benefits. The most significant benefit is durability.
The Apex’s stretch woven fabric is tougher and more abrasion-resistant than, for instance, polyester or 50D nylon. Compared to a traditional 2.5 layer, the solid, stretch-knit backer will hold up better. It will also do a better job of protecting the waterproof layer from grime and sweat. As a result, the waterproof membrane will last longer.
Surprisingly, the Apex is similar to most rain jackets in terms of packed volume. Every time the storm stopped, I was able to stuff it away easily in the bottom of my backpack or laptop bag. This makes it a good choice for a day hike.
Best North Face Jacket for Women
- Weight: 14.4 oz
- Waterproofing: DryVent 2L shell
- Fabric: Recycled polyester; nylon ripstop
- Thoughtfully designed
Utilizing a variety of technologies, the Resolve 2 is a suitable shell for backpacking or around-town use. Even though it is designed for cooler weather, the Resolve makes an effort to prevent you from overheating when it warms up.
Thanks to the sealed seams and Dryvent technology, the North Face Resolve 2 is highly waterproof. The outer layer of the jacket is made of waterproof PU-coated nylon. The jacket is a bit on the heavy side, but all the materials are of the highest quality.
You won’t run into any issues with the stitching or the seams and you won’t see any loose threads. You won’t have to worry about water leaking through in the middle of a storm.
The shell does a fantastic job of blocking out wind. In terms of overall weather resistance, the Resolve is undoubtedly one of the best jackets on the market. The rigid outer fabric will retain weather-resistant properties in the long term.
Windproof jackets are, generally, not so breathable, and the Resolve 2 is no exception. However, the Dryvent fabric does allow some moisture and heat to escape and the mesh liner allows for airflow through the torso.
The is a comfortable shell designed for cold weather. The fleece fabric around the high neck feels nice and does a great job of keeping the heat in. Even though it doesn’t have any insulation, the Resolve 2 is almost as warm as a winter jacket. Moreover, its functional fit allows for easy layering.
The large hood covers your whole head, so you won’t have to worry about the rain getting inside. To prevent the hood from flopping around when it’s very windy, you can tighten the hood on each side using the bungee cords.
It’s very easy to adjust. The hem is also adjustable and the sleeves feature elastic cuffs.
Alternatives to North Face
If you’ve come to the conclusion that the North Face is not your cup of tea after all, don’t worry. I have posted about great alternative brands to The North Face, and here are a few excellent alternatives that I like:
Arc’teryx Zeta SL
- Weight: 10.9 oz
- Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite Plus
- Fabric: 40D ripstop nylon
- Long-lasting DWR
- Good breathability
- Small packed volume
- Outstanding mobility
If I could only choose one rain jacket for hiking or backpacking, it would be this one. There are very few jackets that can match Arc’teryx’s across-the-board performance.
The jacket’s design is well thought out in every aspect, from its small packed size and low weight to the hem and hood.
On top of exceptional weather protection, even during raging storms, the Arc’teryx rain jacket offers excellent articulation.
It’s also one of the more breathable rain jackets I’ve come across. This is all thanks to the air-permeable Gore-Tex Paclite plus fabric.
I really loved the feel of the internal fabric of the jacket. It even felt great when I put on the jacket directly against my skin. Compared to the majority of competitors, the Arc’teryx feels significantly less sticky and clammy.
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket
- Weight: 6.3 oz
- Waterproofing: 2.5L Pertex Shield
- Fabric: 30D Nylon Ripstop
- Decent storm-worthiness
- Great hood
- Incredibly lightweight
- True to size
- Only one pocket
While I wouldn’t call the Helium an all-around rain jacket, it is more versatile than I thought it would be. The Helium is incredibly compact and light. It practically disappeared in my North Face backpack.
I highly recommend it to hikers who are more likely to carry their rain shell in their pack more often than to actually use it. The jacket offers adequate storm protection despite the fact that it’s one of the lightest models on the market.
If it weren’t for the lack of hand pockets, the Helium would be perfect. The jacket offers only one Napoleon-style chest pocket. While the jacket is very comfortable to wear, not having a pair of pockets to put your hands in is still a bit disappointing.
If you think you’d like the Helium jacket, check out my Helium HD vs Helium II jacket comparison.
Outdoor Research Microgravity
- Well-designed hood
- Stretchy fabric
- Very breathable
- Good storm protection
- Packed volume
It’s so hard to keep track of all the new stretchy air-permeable rain jackets that have hit the shelves. But the Microgravity manages to stand out even in this newly crowded sector of the market.
I’ve tried many different rain jackets, and almost no other model can match Microgravity’s blend of storm worthiness and durability. And, on top of offering superior weather protection, the Microgravity offers excellent freedom of movement and a top-tier level of breathability.
Regardless of your body temperature or external factors, the Ascentshell air-permeable fabric will ensure that the jacket remains breathable. This makes the Microgravity a great choice for more aerobic activities or soggy multi-day adventures in the great outdoors.
The large hood is very easy to adjust. It also allowed for great peripheral vision even as I looked side-to-side. I also loved the two Napoleon-style chest pockets.
I wasn’t impressed with the packed size of the jacket, though. But I like the fact that the left lower-hand pocket doubles as a stuff sack.
If you want to see what other brands are out there, check out my post on the best outdoor clothing brands.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.