With a rain jacket, you can get rid of bulky rubber slickers and stay dry while looking fashionable.
The advances in waterproof textiles and design mean that there are many good raincoat options to choose from. These waterproof jackets are also ultralight, comfortable, and more watertight than they used to be a decade ago. I have gone through hundreds of them on the market, and all their features, to present to you the list of absolute best rain jackets.
What You Should Know Before Buying a Rain Jacket
Rain Jacket Materials
Rain jackets are made from materials that have been specially treated with chemicals and chemical compounds to resist water. Many rain jackets are made by blending two or more rain resistant materials.
These materials include nylon, polyester, cotton, microfibers, and high tech fabrics like GoreTex.
The best fabric for a rain jacket is the Gore-Tex material. Today, it is synonymous with waterproof outdoor clothing. If you are active outdoors or seeking complete protection from rain, you should get a rain jacket made from Gore-Tex materials.
Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant
In conversations about rain jackets, you will often hear talks about jackets being waterproof or water-resistant. I’ll break it down for you.
A waterproof jacket will keep you dry no matter the amount of rain that is pouring. These jackets are best for the outdoor enthusiast as they are ideal for all rain conditions and wet areas.
On the other hand, a water-resistant jacket is not 100% waterproof. Although it will keep you dry in light rain, if you spend a long time in the rain, you may be drenched. They are not ideal for heavy rain conditions.
The 3 types of layering constructions are 2 layer, 2.5 layer, and 3 layer constructions. These layers include an exterior layer that has been treated with a waterproofing agent, a thin mesh layer for releasing vapor, and a protective interior lining.
2 Layer Construction
The 2 layer construction is the most common waterproof method. It is also a less expensive option.
It applies a laminate or membrane to the face fabric with no interior attachment. For protection, it uses a semi-loose hanging layer as its second layer. This makes the jacket a bit weighty.
This method is best for brief travel and mild exposure to a wet environment.
2.5 Layer Construction
2.5 layer jackets have a similar external layer as the 2 layer jacket. It also comes with an external shell but is distinguished by a coating inside or a thin polyurethane laminate that acts as a barrier against dirt or sweat. It offers breathability as this layer protects against oils that clog the pores.
It is called a “2.5 layer” because the coating or polyurethane laminate layer is considered a “half-layer”. While 2.5 layer jackets are considered lighter than others, they are not as durable. So, they require frequent cleaning to maintain their breathability.
The 2.5 layer construction is more breathable and water-resistant than a 2 layer construction. It is best for moderate exposure to rain or a wet environment.
3 Layer Construction
The 3 layer jacket construction is the best performing layer construction available today. It is the most durable and breathable layer construction and is suitable for the harshest weather conditions.
It does not use coatings but has a waterproof/breathable membrane sewn in between an external DWR fabric and a polyurethane film or lining that protects the second layer.
The third layer protects the pores of the breathable second layer from sweat and oils that can clog it.
For improved protection, your rain jacket should have at least 2.5 layers of fabric. However, I recommend getting a 3-layered fabric if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
Also, for durability, look for jackets that have been laminated together. This lasts longer than jackets that are only coated with a waterproofing agent.
The best rain jackets are lightweight, weighing not more than 15 ounces. This is to allow increased movement.
With improved technology and tailoring, easily packable designs make rain jackets even more functional and easy to carry. This means that you can get access to your rain jacket easily as it fits into your carry-on or bag. Some jackets also come with a storage pouch.
A rain jacket is breathable if it is made from fabrics that block water while allowing moisture from your body to escape simultaneously. Unlike most rubbery rain wears, there are many rain jackets made from fabrics like Gore-Tex that allow the inflow of cool air while wicking sweat.
Types of Shells
The word “shell” is used to describe the fabric type and makeup of any clothing material. Here, we will be reviewing rain jacket shells and their weather protection value.
Jackets with hard shells are premium waterproof and breathable gears. They have no insulation, so it is the base layer and mid-layer that keeps you warm. They are generally stiffer than softshell jackets and perform excellently in wet conditions.
The softshell version uses an insulating layer and a water-resistant shell as the mid-layer and outer layer. While it is more flexible and breathable, it offers lesser protection from the rain and wet environment. Softshell jackets are best for exerting activities where you will sweat a lot.
As the name implies, the hybrid shell version combines the soft and hard shell.
This method gives you rain jackets with waterproof fabrics as the outer layer and more breathable and flexible fabrics on the back, side, and under the sleeves. You may also find jackets that are made from soft or hard shells with a durable fabric as its outer layer or in high contact areas.
Insulated shell fabrics are filled with synthetic materials to provide warmth. They are used for creating most puffy jackets and are breathable.
Jackets with insulated shell fabrics are generally water-resistant and suitable for mild wet conditions. However, you may find insulated shell rain jackets that are waterproof with sealed seams, providing increased protection in wet areas.
Here, we will be looking at the construction details of rain jackets. Jackets with improved features may be pricey and have varying weights. For instance, if a manufacturer is going for an ultralight jacket, they may create jackets with fewer features.
Most jackets have hoods with brims and adjustments on the sides and back that allow you to customize the size of the opening. Others have hoods with zips that allow you to remove, or roll and stow away hoods in the collar. Jackets without hoods are intended for mild conditions.
Most rain jackets have zips in front and on their pockets. To keep water from seeping in through the zippers, manufacturers use a storm flap over the zips or use rubber-coated zips.
Also known as laminated zips, coated zips have covers that are used to shield the opening at the end of the zipper track. These shields are called zipper garage/hut.
While coated zips save weight, they are harder to zip up and down. The coating also wears down with time.
Pockets are an essential feature in a rain jacket. Most jackets have pockets with waterproof zippers and others include a pocket with a cord port that allows you to listen to music on your phone or music player while they are in your pocket.
A good rain jacket must have fully taped seams for it to be considered waterproof. However, some jackets do not use seam taping if the jacket is not intended for heavy use.
Vents are important because they act as a backup for improved airflow. Most rain jackets have pit zips as underarm vents while others have mesh liners in torso pockets as additional vents.
Most jackets have adjustable closures that prevent rain, cold, and wind from entering through openings. Cuffs are often created using velcro straps.
Short rain jackets often have an adjustable drawcord at their hem bottoms while longer jackets may have it at the waist.
The chin guard is a soft protective cover that prevents your mouth or chin from catching on the zip.
Longer rain jackets often have adjustable drawcords that run along the waistline for a customized fit. The cords can also be loosened for increased ventilation.
What’s the Best Rain Jacket?
To arrive at this list of best rain jackets, I went through available jackets, taking note of the features mentioned above and what real users had to say about these jackets.
At the end of the review, you will find a FAQ section where I answered the most popular questions on buying rain jackets.
Shell Fabric: 100% Nylon
Lining Fabric: 100% Polyester
The Columbia Men’s Watertight II Rain Jacket is made using a durable waterproof nylon shell that protects against rain at a moment’s notice. It is produced using Omni shield technology, an air-permeable membrane that keeps you clean and dry while improving breathability. This technology allows quick drying and avoids stains.
The jacket has an adjustable hood, two zippered side pockets with coatings that repel water, and a chin guard that is abrasion-resistant. It also features an elastic hem and elastic cuffs for a snug and comfortable fit. Its elastic features also allow for increased mobility.
The jacket is designed to be lightweight while offering complete protection in a wet environment. It is packable with full seam sealings that keep you dry.
- Omnishield technology that keeps you clean and dry
- Durable waterproof nylon shell
- Adjustable cuffs, zippered pockets, and elastic hem for a snug fit
- Can act as a windbreaker
- The left pocket serves as a pouch for packing
- Tear and abrasion-resistant
- The hood is not detachable so you have to carry it around
- It does not have underarm zipper vents for improved breathability
Fabric: 100% Nylon
The North Face Men’s Resolve Waterproof Jacket comes with a warranty from its manufacturers that protects you in cases of factory defects and faulty workmanship. It is made from nylon DryVent fabric that keeps you dry while being ripstop. It also has a durable water repellent finish for dry protection.
If you love hiking, you will find this rain jacket handy. It is designed to be lightweight and features a breathable mesh lining for ventilation and cooling. This allows you to explore some more on your adventure. Also, its foldable hood means that you can transform it into a windbreaker easily.
In its front, the jacket features a top to the bottom zipper that is protected by velcro sections. This has an added advantage of keeping the wind out in windy conditions. It has an adjustable drawstring at the waist for a customized experience.
The North Face Men’s Resolve Waterproof Jacket is designed with layering in mind and it is my choice of best premium rain jacket in this review.
- Made with ripstop DryVent fabric that protects completely
- Specially designed for hiking
- Has a stowaway hood
- Breathable mesh lining for ventilation
- Light fleece coating to keep you warm in wet conditions
- The loose fit allows for layering
- Packs into its hood
- Stowaway hood adds bulk to jacket collar
- The hood is large-sized and falls over the face
- Jacket pockets are not too deep
- The actual color may differ from the displayed color
- Has no inner pockets for keeping your valuables
Shell Fabric: 100% Nylon
Lining Fabric: 100% Polyester
The Columbia Women’s Waterproof Rain Jacket is made from a 100% durable nylon shell and polyester for improved warmth and comfort. It is made from thin nylon material that keeps it lightweight. It is also versatile and can serve as a windbreaker when you need one. The jacket is great for layering.
The jacket comes in an assortment of sizes and colors and it features an adjustable hem and cuffs. It packs down into its pocket and it can be kept handy for easy access. It has a stowaway hood with velcro on the hood to keep it tucked in.
It features two zippered and mesh-lined hand pockets that are big enough to store a kindle. It has reflective accents that keep you visible while the jacket keeps you warm.
However, this jacket does not perform well in hot sunny weather as it has no moisture-wicking technology, causing it to stick to your body if worn without layers. While it may run a bit long and tight at the sleeve, the velcro strap at the wrists allows you to keep it somewhat restrained.
- Polyester lining for warmth and comfort on rainy days
- Folds into a pocket, making it handy
- Reflective accents to keep you visible in the dark
- Stowaway hood
- Versatile as it can be worn daily as a windbreaker
- Has a mesh inside pocket big enough to store a kindle
- Not breathable as the jacket is not mesh-lined
- Needs a hat under the hood to keep it from flopping on to your face
- The inside may stick to your body in warm conditions
- Slim hips may not be ideal for a curvy figure
Fabric: 100% Polyurethane
Made from 100% polyester polyurethane fabric, the Charles River Apparel Women’s Wind & Waterproof Rain Jacket is perfect for wet conditions. The polyurethane shell provides improved fabric strength, making it more durable than most rain jackets. Its seams are heat sealed to protect against the wind and rain.
It features a 2-way zipper for improved movement range and reflective stripes that run across the front and back for visibility. It has zippered side pockets with flaps for providing cover.
The jacket is lined with mesh for better airflow and has taffeta nylon sleeves that can easily be pulled on or off. It has vents in front and underarm for breathability and increased airflow. The hood and open hem come with shock cord drawstrings and it features adjustable cuffs for protecting against the elements.
- Two-way zippered front for improved motion range
- Fleece-lined zippered pockets for warmth
- Underarm vents for cooling
- Hood has an adjustable shock cord
- Taffeta nylon in sleeves for easily pulling it on or off
- Heat-sealed seams to keep you dry
- Reflective stripe keeps you visible in dark wet conditions
- The displayed size may differ from the actual size
- Makes crinkly sounds during movement
Fabric: 100% Polyester
The OTU Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Hooded Raincoat is the best budget buy in this review. It is made from 100% polyester fabric that is rip-stop, lightweight, and breathable. It is so lightweight that it folds into a small, packable size.
The hood comes with an adjustable drawstring for a customized fit and you can choose to tuck away the hood or remove it.
The jacket features an adjustable drawcord on the hem while a hook and loop mechanism allows you to seal the cuff, thereby keeping out the cold, wind, and water. It also has 2 zippered slash hand pockets with an overlapping flap to keep your things dry. It has 1 inner chest pocket for keeping your phones and valuables safe while outdoors.
The OTU Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Hooded Raincoat is perfect for daily wear and travel, but may not be the best jacket for a severely wet or cold environment.
- A stow-away hood that is also removable,
- Mesh lining for wicking moisture,
- Folds small so it’s ideal for packing,
- Not pricey,
- Requires layers to keep you warm
- May not perform well in extremely wet conditions
The winner of this roundup is the Columbia Men’s Watertight II Rain Jacket. Unlike other products, it uses an Omni shield technology that allows for quick drying, keeping you dry and clean while allowing airflow. It uses a durable nylon waterproof shell and is packable while being lightweight. It features an elastic hem and cuff for a snug, customized fit.
While my top choice is the Columbia Men’s Watertight II Rain Jacket, be sure to check other products in the roundup as you may find another that fits your lifestyle better.
Questions and Answers About rain jacket
To find the right rain jacket size for you, measure your chest size and arm length, and check the sizing provided by your preferred manufacturer. Typically, rain jackets are sized like suit jackets with the L, R, S sizing correlating with the chest size and arm length.
I advise leaving a bit of room than your usual size when buying a rain jacket. This is because the actual sizing of jackets may differ from the displayed size or you may need to wear your jacket over your cloth.
To care for your rain jacket, follow the care instructions on the label. Some general tips to follow include using a technical cleaner like Tech Wash to clean it regularly, cleaning before waterproofing, and check all pockets before cleaning.
How often you re-proof your jacket depends on how frequently you use it and the conditions you use it in.
If you frequently wear your jacket in severe weather conditions, you should reproof it every 3 months. If you wear it less frequently or in mild weather conditions, reproofing it every 6 months is okay.
How to clean and maintain waterproof jackets in a good condition?
Here are the steps to clean and maintain your waterproof jackets:
- Brush off loose dirt or mud before washing and close zips and flaps on your freezer.
- Check the detergent compartment of your washing machine to ensure that it is clean of detergent. You can also run your machine on a hot wash while it is empty to clean detergent or softener residues.
- Pour your chosen technical cleaner into the detergent compartment and place your only jacket in the washtub.
- Completely wash and rinse it at the recommended washing degree on the care label.
- To dry, follow the care instructions on your garment label.
How to reproof a waterproof jacket?
Follow these steps to reproof your rain jacket:
- Prepare your jacket by removing loose dirt and closing all straps and zips.
- Then, hang your jacket on a washing line.
- Using a waterproof spray product, spray your jacket evenly holding the container at 5-7 inches away from the jacket. Check the instructions on the label for more.
- With a damp spray, wipe excess spray from your garment and check that all sections have been sprayed.
- To complete the process, allow jackets to air-dry.