Choosing the right rain jacket can be an overwhelming and time-consuming endeavour. Between all the brands and models, specs and jargon, many people quickly succumb to paralysis by analysis. Often, this creates a situation where exasperated buyers are willing to overpay for a brand they know will deliver, like Arc’teryx. But quality isn’t always reflected in price.
To prove this, we’ve rounded up three rain jackets that give Arc’teryx options a serious run for the money. We’ve compared these models across five key metrics, including weatherproofing, breathability, weight, packability, and price. On the roster today, we’ve got the:
- Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell
- Columbia Watertight II Jacket
- Helly Hansen Loke Shell Jacket
Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Alternative 1: Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell
Based in the rugged desert state of Utah, Black Diamond is one of the major industry players in the outdoor gear scene. Though officially the brand is only 33 years old, their history actually extends as far back as the late-1950s.
Yvon Chouinard—who you may recognize as the founder and CEO of Patagonia—burst onto the rock climbing gear scene with his hand-forged pitons. It was the late-50s and he was selling these out of the trunk of his car. Word quickly spread and Chouinard Equipment was born.
As the decades wore on, the business suffered several financial losses and they filed for bankruptcy in 1989. A group of former employees, backed by enthusiastic investors, purchased the assets of the now defunct company and rebranded as Black Diamond Equipment.
It was a wise business move. The company doubled down on designing and manufacturing gear for climbers and skiers. Today, Black Diamond is a worldwide name, boasting product lines for a range of outdoor activities and backing an array of environmental and social causes.
The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell represents one of the most versatile rain jackets on the market. It features a 100% nylon stretch shell fabric and is coated with a breathable, weatherproof, proprietary solution called BD.dry.
Ultra-stretchy, gusseted underarms give you complete freedom of movement. Meanwhile, DWR-coated pit zips allow you to quickly dump heat. Two zippered hand pockets and a Aquaguard zippered chest pocket offer plenty of dry storage for all your essentials. The hem and cuffs are adjustable thanks to Velcro tabs.
The Stormline can be stuffed into its own right pocket for compact storage. A carabiner loop makes it easy to clip to your harness or backpack when you’re on the go.
- Weighs 11.3 oz (320g);
- Bluesign approved primary fabric;
- Hip-length and regular fit.
As a versatile rain jacket, the Stormline stands up to both urban downpours and alpine thunderstorms. That said, the helmet-compatible hood makes it a particularly good choice for shoulder-season climbers and skiers.
It’s also worth noting that the Stormline clocks in at a mere 11.3 oz. Between its lightweight construction and compact design, it’s also a great choice for ultralight hikers.
Both the men’s and women’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell retail for $199.95.
Alternative 2: Columbia Watertight II Jacket
Headquartered in the vibrant city of Portland, Oregon, Columbia Sportswear is an international leader in active lifestyle gear.
Gert Boyle (1924-2019) is largely considered the founder of Columbia. In 1937, her family arrived in the Pacific Northwest after fleeing Nazi Germany. Her father bought a hat-making business and christened it Columbia Hat Company. The business was eventually passed on to Gert’s husband, Neal. In 1970, Neal died and Gert suddenly found herself at the helm.
Her vision and perfectionism spurred the company forward, taking it from local hat maker to global gear manufacturer. Inspired by the snow-capped mountains, lush evergreen forests, and eminently blue coastlines of the Pacific Northwest, the company began producing some of the most cutting-edge outerwear on the market.
In 1986, their Bugaboo parka was born, redefining the alpine skier aesthetic. And the rest is history.
Built with Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Tech fabric, the Watertight II Jacket is both waterproof and breathable. The multi-layer weather protection allows perspiration to escape without letting moisture in. This is largely thanks to the microporous liner that acts as an air-permeable membrane.
The fully seam-sealed jacket is very accommodating. It features an adjustable storm hood, drawstring waist, and Velcro cuffs. A drop tail hem keeps your rear dry, while two zippered hand pockets keep your essentials dry. When not in use, the jacket can be compressed into one of its pockets for easy storage.
- Weighs 13.5 oz (382g);
- Thick nylon plain weave for durability;
- Sits just below the waist and has a regular fit.
The ingenious multi-layered design of Omni-Tech means that the Watertight II Jacket works especially well during dynamic activities. Its construction encourages air flow, dumps excess heat, and keeps you dry from rain.
Between its price and weight, the Watertight II Jacket represents one of the best value rain jackets on the market. It’s the definition of a budget-friendly option.
The men’s Watertight II Jacket retails for $109.99.
Alternative 3: Helly Hansen Loke Shell Jacket
Boasting the most badass origin story of any outdoor gear brand, Helly Hansen was the brainchild of a Norwegian sea captain and his wife.
In 1877, Captain Helly Juell Hansen and his wife, Maren Margarethe, set their sights on developing quality workwear for seafarers. They laboured tirelessly out of their basement, experimenting with linen and linseed oil, and eventually created garments that could withstand sharp winds, heavy rains, and tidal spray.
By the end of their first year in business, they had even won an award at the World Exhibition in Paris. After this, expansion began in earnest. They grew their product line to include a range of specialised garments, from agriculture to industrial workwear. They even manufactured items as diverse as rugs and gas masks.
Today, HH is headquartered in idyllic Oslo where they continue to innovate their technical sportswear.
The Loke Shell Jacket features a rugged and waterproof Helly Tech face fabric. This 100% polyamide, proprietary material is designed for the harshest weather conditions imaginable. A DWR finish further resists the elements.
Underarm pit zips prevent overheating by giving you granular control over heat retention. Meanwhile, the jacket is highly accommodating: it boasts a drawstring waist, Velcro cuffs, and adjustable hood. For storage, the Loke packs down into its own pocket.
- Weighs 11.6 oz (330g);
- Fully seam sealed;
- 2.5-ply construction.
The rugged face fabric combined with the fully adjustable features makes the Loke an excellent companion for year-round outdoor activity. Coming in at a compact and feathery 11.6 oz, the Loke is well-suited to thru-hikes, too.
All in all, the Loke is a no frills icon from a legacy brand. It repels wind and rain, yet remains breathable—exactly as Captain Helly and Maren intended.
Both the men’s and women’s Loke Shell Jacket retail for $149.99.
Want to learn more about how Helly Hansen compares to Arc’teryx? Check out our in-depth comparison guide in this Battle of the Brands.
After reviewing each rain jacket individually, it’s time to see how well each of them holds their own when compared across five key metrics.
Waterproofing & Breathability
It’s interesting to note that only two of our three challengers use a proprietary fabric in their construction: Omni-Tech (Columbia Watertight II Jacket) and Helly Tech Performance (Helly Hansen Loke Shell Jacket). Black Diamond instead opts for a 2.5 layer, 100% nylon as its primary.
On the other hand, the BD Stormline does use a proprietary weather-proofing solution known as BD.dry; the Loke simply uses a DWR finish; and the Watertight II has no coating at all.
So what does all this mean for performance? Well, not as much as you might think. In terms of breathability, the Watertight II has a slight edge. For water- and wind-resistance, the Loke has a slight advantage. Overall, however, you’ll find that each jacket delivers.
Weight & Packability
In terms of weight, all three jackets weigh safely under a pound. The Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is the lightest with a weight of 11.3 oz. The Loke Shell Jacket weighs marginally more at 11.6 oz. The Watertight II Jacket is the heaviest, weighing in at 13.5 oz.
It’s worth noting that all three of our contenders are extremely packable. Each of them can be stuffed down into its own pocket for easy transport.
The most budget friendly option is Watertight II Jacket, retailing for just $109.99. The priciest option is the Stormline Stretch Rain Shell with its $199.95 price tag. The Loke Shell Jacket represents a happy median at $149.99.
Nevertheless, all three jackets are very dependable and affordable choices when compared to Arc’teryx rain jackets.
A good rain jacket can mean the difference between a comfortable wet-weather trek and a potentially hypothermic situation. Though none of our entries are adapted to true alpinism, each does a commendable job of keeping you dry across a variety of activities and conditions.
For urban strolls to mountain downpours, all three versatile options hold their own against most Arc’teryx rain jackets—and for a fraction of the price. Whether you choose the Stormline Stretch, Watertight II, or Loke Shell, you won’t be disappointed.