How to Find the Best Rain Jacket

Text by: Altitude Sports Editorial Team

Arc’teryx, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Norrona, Rab, The North Face. How to Find the Best Rain Jacket

Outdoor enthusiast or not, when it starts to rain, you want to stay dry. With the number of technical terms used to describe clothing, it can be overwhelming to find exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s a quick guide on how to find the best rain jacket for your needs.

Shop Women’s RaincoatsShop Men’s Raincoats

Materials and Technical Terms

Water-resistant fabrics are coated with a durable water repellent finish that can stand up to light rain for short periods. Materials like nylon and polyester that have been sprayed with a water-resistant treatment aren’t 100% waterproof and will eventually soak through under heavy rain.

Waterproof means no water is able to penetrate. Waterproof fabrics can withstand constant, heavy precipitation while keeping the insides completely dry. Some of the more common waterproof membranes used on products include GORE-TEX, eVent, Hyvent and DryQ. Different brands use different technologies so you can find other membranes that offer the same benefits as GORE-TEX at a lower cost.

Waterproof or water-resistant, Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finishes are generally applied as a spray to all rainwear products. They are used to coat the outside fabric, and instead of permeating, the water drops bead and roll off the garment.

GORE-TEX combines 2 or 3-layers that feature a membrane, lining and outer textiles. The GORE-TEX membrane is a thin layer with tiny pores that keep rain and snow from getting through while letting air and sweat out. These layers combine to create a tough, breathable material that is made to withstand the elements.

Activities and Layers

The first thing to consider when looking for a rain jacket is how you plan on using it. The best rain jacket for you won’t necessarily be the one you spend the most money on. It’s a question of needs. Are you looking for a standard rain jacket, or are you looking for something more technical? Is it for running errands around the city, or do you plan on bringing it with you on your weekend expedition through the mountains?

Once you’ve figured out the intended use, the next thing you want to consider is the number of layers: 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer. The three options will always include a laminate and a coating or membrane. The 3-layer construction will often include an additional fabric or textile for added durability.

2-layer Rain Jackets

Urban and travel style rain jackets will often feature 2-layers. They’re more reasonably priced and perfect for getting around town – however, they don’t generally have armpit ventilation, so they’re not ideal for high-intensity activities. 

The North Face

Women’s Resolve 2 Jacket

Shop

The North Face

Men’s Resolve 2 Jacket

Shop

Arc’teryx

Men’s Zeta SL Jacket

Shop

Columbia

Women’s Splash A Little 2 Waterproof Jacket

Shop

2.5-layer Rain Jackets

2.5-layer rain jackets are better equipped for high-intensity activities. They will often feature arm-pit zips for added ventilation and are often more lightweight and packable than the 3-layer jackets. If you are an outdoor enthusiast looking for something in between basic and heavy-duty, 2.5-layer rain jackets are a great place to start.

Black Diamond

Women’s FineLine Stretch Rain Shell

Shop

Mountain Hardwear

Men’s Exposure/2™ GORE-TEX Paclite Jacket

Shop

Patagonia

Women’s Calcite Jacket

Shop

The North Face

Men’s Venture 2 Jacket

Shop

3-layer Rain Jackets

3-layer rain jackets are highly technical and often more expensive. These jackets are made heavier and more durable to withstand the worst conditions. The most commonly known membrane used on technical jackets is GORE-TEX. However, some brands have come up with their own technologies to battle wind and rain – these include eVent, Hyvent and Dry.Q. If you have a tendency to spend time out in nature, facing off against the harshest elements, a 3-layer rain jacket is the perfect choice.

The North Face

Women’s Apex Flex GORE-TEX Jacket

Shop

norrona mens falketind gore-tex jacket

Norrøna

Men’s Falketind GORE-TEX Jacket

Shop

Arc’teryx

Women’s Beta AR Jacket

Shop

Arc’teryx

Men’s Beta AR Jacket

Shop

Model is wearing the Hunter Original Oversized Waterproof Raincoat & the Moncler ML0017 Sunglasses .

Technical Features

Hood Size

There’s nothing worse than constantly having to readjust your rain jacket. Whether it’s for climbing, cycling or skiing, you want to find a jacket with a hood that fits a helmet and has toggles to secure it. Less time playing with your hood means more time on the trails.

Pockets

Pockets are a key feature to consider when shopping for a new rain jacket. If you’re backpacking, the Norrøna Lofoten GORE-TEX Pro Jacket is equipped with easy access chest pockets so you can easily grab your map or GPS on the go. More pockets are great on technical excursions, but if you’re looking for a simple rain jacket to wear around town, something with fewer pockets might be a better option.

Mammut

Women’s Masao HS Hooded Jacket

Shop

Black Yak

Women’s Hariana Jacket

Shop

Norrøna

Men’s Lofoten GORE-TEX Pro Jacket

Shop

Arc’teryx

Men’s Zeta AR Jacket

Shop

Taped Seams & Laminated Zippers

Most technical rain jackets will have taped seams and laminated zippers to help keep the rain out. While most rain jackets feature taped seams, not all have laminated zippers. In most cases, a storm flap will be used to protect the zipper from direct exposure to water. Laminated zippers always have a cover at the top. This cover is called a zipper garage or a zipper hut and is meant to keep the zipper protected from exposure.

Wrist Closures & Drawcords

Wrist closures and drawcords can increase breathability or contain warmth on windy days. The ability to taper the waist and wrist keeps the jacket more fitted and avoids getting the fabric caught on anything.

Armpit Vents

Jackets equipped with zippered armpit vents are ideal for light to high-intensity activities thanks to their excellent ventilation. When the rain forces you to keep your jacket on, the armpit vents work to moderate the amount of airflow coming in, so that sweat dries faster. On humid rainy days or during strenuous activity, good air circulation is key to staying comfortable.

Ultralight & Packable

Ultralight models provide you with a light and packable layer to protect against rainy weather. These rain jackets combine lightweight, effective protection with the convenience of pack-ability. They keep you dry and don’t add extra weight when it’s time to layer or pack them for a weekend trip.

Arc’teryx

Men’s Norvan SL Hoody

Shop

Arc’teryx

Women’s Beta SL Hybrid

Shop

Model is wearing the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket & the Norrøna svalbard wool T-Shirt.

Making Sure Your Rain Jacket Fits Right

Having the right fitting gear is key when it comes to performance. If you’re up in the mountains, you want to make sure your rain jacket can comfortably accommodate layers without being too large.

When trying on the rain jacket, put the hood on and zip it up. The zipper should go up easily, and if you drop your head forward, the collar shouldn’t feel tight or restricting. Moving around in it and reaching for your shoulder blades should not be difficult. Stretch your arms above your head and check how high the jacket rises on your abdomen. A good technical jacket with an athletic fit should not ride up. 

Another thing to consider is the length of the sleeves. If they’re too long, they can get in your way, and if they’re too short, you’ll have difficulty keeping the cold out. To test the sleeve length, zip up the jacket then stick your arms straight out in front of you. They should be comfortable and able to keep your arms covered up to your wrists. Having proper fitting sleeves will eliminate chafing, avoid restriction and keep body heat from escaping when it’s cold out.

The Best Rain Jacket For You

There’s more to a rain jacket than it’s appearance. Function and technical features play an important role in keeping you comfortable. Having the right combination of specs might cost you more than you’re used to paying for clothes, but spending a bit more time and money to find the best rain jacket for your needs is worth it. It’s an investment you’ll be happy you made when you’re stuck in the rain.

Shop Women’s RaincoatsShop Men’s Raincoats

There is 11 thoughts on this article titled “How to Find the Best Rain Jacket”.

    1. Hello Nancy, it is a past season model of the Beta jacket from Arc’teryx. You can still find the jacket although the colour is may be limited. It is available in the Beta SL Hybrid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *