Staff Picks: The Best Rain Jackets of 2020 Stay dry with our six favorite waterproof shells.

27 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hiking in the Arc'teryx Beta AR.

Don’t let crummy weather spoil your outdoor fun. A quality rain jacket is key to staying dry and comfortable, whether you’re hiking in the rain, running errands in a drizzle or waiting out a storm in the mountains.

Once you’ve explored our in-depth advice on how to choose rainwear, read on for our staff’s favorite rain jackets. These six shells will cover you for a range of active pursuits and budgets, no matter how much precip you encounter. They’re all windproof, waterproof and reasonably breathable.

 

Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 GORE-TEX PACLITE Stretch

Best Rain Jacket for Hiking  

Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 GORE-TEX PACLITE Stretch

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s
  • Waterproofing: 2.5-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE
  • Sustainability: Contains materials that meet the bluesign® sustainability criteria.
  • Weight: 10.5 oz. (women’s M), 12.5 oz. (men’s M)
  • Price: $220

The Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 hits the sweet spot if you’re looking for durable waterproof protection with enough features for hiking and playing outside. Chief among said features: stretch at less than a pound. The Exposure/2’s stretchy face fabric belies its waterproofing, giving you ample mobility for reaching for overhead hand holds and slicing your paddle through the water.

Other features to brag about: a droptail hem (longer in the back than front) to keep your backside dry, a brimmed hood and a lightweight construction that packs up small. “I love that it stretches, fits well, has deep enough pockets and Velcro wrist straps to keep out the wind and rain,” says one co-op customer. “Perfect to roll up and keep in my pack, ready for rain.”

What’s more, the Exposure/2 uses materials that are bluesign® certified for a smaller environmental footprint. The jacket also has a durable water repellent free of perfluorinated chemicals (or PFCs) typically found in older-school finishes. Buy here.

 

Outdoor Research Helium

Best Ultralight Rain Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s
  • Waterproofing: 2.5-layer Pertex Shield
  • Sustainability: Contains materials that meet the bluesign® sustainability criteria.
  • Weight: 5.6 oz. (women’s M), 6.3 oz. (men’s M)
  • Price: $159

At just 6 or so ounces, the Outdoor Research Helium easily slides into the most ultralight loads, providing a reliable insurance policy against a wet day out. “The Helium is an awesome, just-in-case jacket,” says a sales lead from our Tualatin, Oregon, store. “It packs up tiny, and it’s so light.” Stash it inside your pack, hang it off your harness using the carabiner loop, tuck it into your bike seat bag, or otherwise make it a regular part of your Ten Essentials kit.

Details like an adjustable hood, interior storm flap, drawcord hem and elastic cuffs help seal out water, making the Helium a decent daily driver, even for the weight. Still, it’s a minimalist design, so you won’t find pit zips or other hand pockets (but you do get a chest pocket, which it zips inside of). Buy here.

 

Arc’teryx Beta AR

Best Rain Jacket for Extreme Protection

Arc'teryx Beta AR

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s
  • Waterproofing: 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro
  • Weight: 13.2 oz. (women’s M), 1 lb. (men’s M)
  • Price: $599

“AR” stands for all-around, and the Arc’teryx Beta AR lives up to that billing. This hardy shell will protect you from the harshest elements, whether you’re hiking, skiing or mountaineering. Or, “anytime you’re really out in the elements and you just don’t want to think about your jacket at all,” says our Tualatin, Oregon, sales lead. “It’s one of those hardcore jackets that you can have for several decades if you take proper care of it.”

The 3-layer GORE-TEX Pro waterproofing—meaning there’s a face fabric, a waterproof membrane and soft inside liner—offers the highest degree of durability and waterproof performance offered by GORE-TEX. The face fabric’s heavier-denier makeup resists rips and snags well, making the Beta AR the toughest shell in our lineup. We also love the helmet-compatible hood with its separate collar, which allows you to zip up the jacket without feeling restricted by a hood that’s not in use. (It also lets you drape a braid or pony out of a fully zipped jacket without eating a pile of hair, our gear editor adds.) Buy here.

 

KUHL Stretch Voyagr

Best Rain Jacket for Everyday Use

KUHL Stretch Voyagr 

  • Versions: Women’s, men’s
  • Waterproofing: 2.5-layer proprietary
  • Weight: 12.7 oz. (women’s M), 13.4 oz. (men’s M)
  • Price: $159

One fail-safe test of rainwear comfort is if you actually want to keep it on even when there’s not a raindrop in sight. The KUHL Stretch Voyagr passes, thanks to a clean, not-too-techy aesthetic that pairs with a four-way stretch material that’s soft next to skin. Running errands, walking the dog and even light hiking are all on the table with the Stretch Voyagr, which uses KUHL’s proprietary 2.5-layer waterproof/breathable membrane.

This jacket isn’t exceedingly technical, however, so you won’t find features like armpit zips or wrist adjustments. It does have hood and waist adjustments, however. Note: The women’s version has a longer, thigh-length cut. Buy here.

 

REI Co-op XeroDry GTX

Best Value Rain Jacket

REI Co-op XeroDry GTX 

  • Versions: Women’s, women’s plus, men’s
  • Waterproofing: 2-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE
  • Weight: 10.6 oz. (women’s M), 12.5 oz. (men’s M)
  • Sustainability: Contains materials that meet the bluesign® sustainability criteria.
  • Price: $159

The REI Co-op XeroDry GTX combines all the things you want in a rain shell but at an eye-popping price. It uses a 2-layer version GORE-TEX PACLITE, which makes for a lightweight, packable jacket. That positions the XeroDry nicely as a moderately technical shell for hiking and hopping around town. “This quality jacket introduces people to GORE-TEX technology without breaking the bank,” says our retail specialist at the Austin, Texas, store. “There’s nothing else like it out there at that price.”

The XeroDry GTX also has a chest pocket for quick access, adjustable Velcro wrist straps and a higher neckline to block your face from the rain. It stuffs down relatively small to take up little space in your backpack. Nice touch: The front zippered pockets are mesh-lined, so they can double as vents on warm days. (There are no armpit zips, however.) “This has been my go-to shell for over a year now,” says a senior product manager at the co-op. “I love how lightweight it is and the minimal design—just what I need and nothing more.”

You can also feel good about this shell from an environmental standpoint: It’s made with materials that are bluesign® certified and has a durable water repellent free of PFCs, or chemicals of concern. Buy here.

 

REI Co-op Rainier

Best Rain Jacket Under $100 

REI Co-op Rainier

  • Versions: Women’s, women’s plus, men’s
  • Waterproofing: Peak 2.5-layer
  • Sustainability: Contains materials that meet the bluesign® sustainability criteria.
  • Weight: 11.4 oz. (women’s M), 13 oz. (men’s)
  • Price: $89.95

It’s no wonder that the Rainier is the co-op’s best-selling rain jacket—ever. It’s waterproof, relatively breathable and loaded with features at just $90. “I keep looking for a reason to buy a second rain jacket but can’t find one,” says a copywriter at the co-op who bought the REI Co-op Rainier when she first moved the Pacific Northwest and hasn’t broken up with it yet.

Armpit zips improve ventilation, and a hem drawcord lets you to cinch the Rainier for solid protection. But this isn’t a super technical piece. It doesn’t pack up all that small, making it a better option for everyday use. It has ample room for a phone, snacks and sundries with two exterior hand pockets and two interior drop pockets. We love that the hood adjusts and rolls away into the collar. Buy here.

 

Shop All Rain Jackets

 

Buying Advice

To find the best rain jacket for you, consider how you’ll use it.

 

Construction

Waterproof jackets all have at least one layer that seals out water completely (unlike a water-resistant jacket, which can only handle light rain for a short period of time). There are 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer rain shells.

2-layer Construction: These rain jackets typically have a face fabric (the first layer) that has a waterproof/breathable laminate bonded to the inside (the second layer). Most casual rain jackets use this construction because it’s often more affordable.

Note: The REI Co-op XeroDry GTX uses a 2-layer version of GORE-TEX PACLITE, but it isn’t a traditional 2-layer like described above. Instead, it has an outer shell that’s bonded to the PACLITE membrane (more like a 3-layer shell, below) and covered with a protective coating that makes a liner unnecessary.

2.5-layer Construction: As with jackets featuring 2-layer construction, these shells have a face fabric (the first layer) and a thin, waterproof/breathable laminate or coating that’s generally applied to the inside of the face fabric (the second layer). But in addition, 2.5-layer jackets have a porous material underneath (the half layer) that gives the jacket better durability than a 2-layer construction.

All but two of the shells in this lineup are 2.5-layer.

3-layer Construction: Jackets featuring 3-layer construction like the Arc’teryx Beta AR, are the toughest of the bunch. They have a face fabric (the first layer) that’s bonded to a porous waterproof/breathable membrane (the second layer). A lining (the third layer) then covers the membrane like a shield. This construction tends to give the garment a longer lifespan than other designs.

Think of waterproof/breathable membranes in 3-layer jackets as wallpaper applied to a wall and waterproof/breathable laminates in 2.5-layer jackets as spray paint applied to a wall.

Read more about how rainwear works here.

 

Features

In general, features like pockets and adjustment tabs make a jacket heavier and less packable. If you’re using you rain jacket for casual use, then go all out in identifying the stuff that matters to you. If, however, you plan to take your shell on the trail, really scrutinize what matters. Things like pit zips, stretchy fabric and drop-tail hems can be worth their weight for outdoorsy pursuits.

The most technical shells on this list are the Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2, Outdoor Research Helium, Arc’teryx Beta AR and REI Co-op XeroDry GTX. They’re great options for hiking and multi-sport activities. The KUHL Stretch Voyagr and REI Co-op Rainier are better choices for more casual wear.

 

Methodology

We polled staffers and member-testers across the co-op for their favorite rain jackets. We asked for technical pieces, casual pieces and everything in between to come across this list of six.

 

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Article by Phuong Le. Phuong Le is a writer for REI, an immigrant, a mom. She has more than 20 years of experience as a journalist for major daily news organizations. She spent the last decade covering the environment and breaking news for The Associated Press in Seattle. You can find her on the slopes, along rivers, in the woods. REI member since 1996.


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