When you start doing outdoor activities, unless you live in the dessert (and even then) a rain jacket is one of the first and most important things you have to invest in. This is because we cannot fully predict or control the weather, and many times when doing an activity, you might get the unexpected downpour.
This is where having the best packable rain jacket you can get comes in handy. Either you want something for cold or warmer weather, an insulated jacket will not give you as much rain protection as a rain jacket will provide, so you should invest in one regardless.
But if your need is not to be fully protected against precipitation, and just want a water repellency in case of light rain, you can check some other types of jackets with this added feature.
In any case, we will be showing you below the main things you have to consider when purchasing a rain jacket, as well as showing you some of the most popular options out there when it comes to the gear, so you can have your choice and pick the correct one for your needs.
Things you should know about your jacket
If water-proofing is provided by layers or coating
There are several ways you can get water-proof protection, either by the fabric or layers the jacket has, or by a repellent coating. You can compare it to having something painted versus having a sticker.
The coating is usually a Durable Water Repellent treatment that helps maintain water from entering the layer. It usually works well when light to medium precipitation, but also doesn’t have as much breathability as a layered jacket might have.
You can also find specific layers on the market that have some water-proofing technology, like the Gore-Tex which is one of the most popular ones. This one remains breathable while still fulfilling its goal.
The number of layers (if it is layered)
The amount of layers a rain jacket has might not seem like a big concern when shopping but it really can make a big difference. So to help you understand this a bit more, we have a quick review of the three more common types of layers a rain jacket might have.
These jackets usually have an outer layer that has been treated with Durable Water Repellency (DWR) to help avoid the water to get through. After this, it is the real water-proof layer, which can vary according to the manufacture company, but it is usually polyurethane.
And the third layer is to keep the waterproofing from getting clogged from sweat and many other things your skin can have, which makes more durable and makes them maintain their breathability for longer than many other 2 or 2.5 layers.
The downside with this is that it can sometimes make the fabric heavier than the 2.5 layer jacket, but still lighter than the 2 layer and it can make them less breathable as well.
These ones are similar to the three layer jackets, an outer DWR treatment, inner water-proof layer, and the last layer that protects from clogging, but in this case this fabric is usually very thin and makes the jacket become lighter as well.
The 2.5 layer jackets are not as durable as the 3 layer jackets, but often feel more lightweight.
2 Layer Jackets
These jackets have, again, a DWR coating on the outer layer, then a waterproof inside and usually mesh or another fabric to help separate the waterproofing from the body.
These ones are usually more affordable than the other 2.5 and 3 layer jackets, but are less durable and bulkier than the other ones, which might not come handy when backpacking, running, or any other heavy activity.
If it is water-proof or water resistant
There’s a difference between a waterproof jacket and a water resistant one.
Waterproof is when the gear can stand prolonged exposure to rain and still remain dry, like when you get walking under precipitation for an amount of time without water coming through. Water resistant is when the garment has enough water protection to keep you dry when rain is light and for shot amount of time.
This is usually useful for other activities when weather can get unpredictable, but if you are planning on staying under rain for longer, this gear will not work
If it is windproof or wind-resistant
As you might have guessed from the description above, the difference linger in its ability to repel the wind. The ability to repel water usually comes with the ability to repel wind as well, that’s why water-proof gear is also wind-proof.
But not all water resistant is windproof, and not all windproof jackets are completely waterproof (they might just be water-resistant).
So the rule is: Waterproof = Windproof but Windproof ≠ Waterproof
The wind resistant gear is similar to the water resistant, it might help you when the weather is not as bad, but it won’t help you stay dry and warm when exposed for longer to these kinds of conditions.
The breathability of your jacket
This is another aspect that is very important when picking a jacket, because with no breathability, you will still get damped and wet from sweat.
Many waterproof jackets do not have much breathability since the material tries to repel as much water as possible, but there are still a number of ones, like the layered or the Gore-Tex that offer some degree of breathability.
Some jackets tend to add more ability by placing zippers or mesh under the armpits, where rain might not get as direct and air can get in.
What extra features it has
The word extra might make it sound less important, but sometimes those extra features make up for some other aspects if you need them. Some of these features can be the seam, ventilation zippers, adjustable hoods and cuffs and pockets.
The seam can help with that extra water repellency, but it does not always equal waterproofing; the ventilation zippers, as mentioned before, can help with breathability. Making sure the zippers have a DWR coating or a way to keep water from entering is also very useful.
The adjustable cuffs and hood will help you keep the water from entering those areas, where it might be less protected by the fabric. And the pockets are useful when you carry important objects that should not get wet.
Now that we have reviewed some important aspects to choose from, make sure to keep an eye on the reviews and compare the pros and cons.
If you are checking an article about packable rain jackets, our guess is that this is an important feature for your jacket to have.
You have to consider that the most lightweight sometimes tend to be less breathable than others, and if they are both breathable and lightweight, they tend to get more expensive. It is all a matter of balancing what you want vs. what you really need.
Let’s check at some of the best packable rain jackets
ASICS FujiTrail Packable Jacket
Dimensions: From S to XL
Specific features: 100% polyester, lightweight ripstop fabric, jacket packs into own pocket, windproof
Best Use: Running, hiking and other activities under rain
When it comes to not getting wet, this jacket does the work completely. ASICS FujiTrail Packable Jacket is lightweight, so it will not reduce your speed or movement when you are on the track or are doing outdoor activities under the rain, and still provides complete protection against low-medium precipitation.
Thanks to its material, that is 100% ripstop polyester, the jacket is durable as well, so you can use it in difficult outdoor scenarios, and it is also very windproof, which provides a little bit of warmth and can help you under cooler conditions.
You do have to consider the jacket is not an insulating layer, and if wearing it under colder temperatures, you should use a proper insulating layer under it.
Lastly, the jacket is very packable and easy to carry, since you can fold it and save it on its own pocket, making it a really great option for hikes and excursions where saving space is vital. Make sure to look for the sizes according to your own measurements, since the sizing is different and can run small in some people.
Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell Jacket
Dimensions: From S to XL
Specific features: GORE-TEX technology 2.5L, adjustable hood to wear over helmet, two way armpit zips to help with ventilation, drawcord hem and cuff tabs help stay warm and dry, YKK Vision Flat center front zipper with Durable Water Repellent coat
Best Use: Alpine hiking, biking, running, mountaineer activities
The Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell Jacket is a great option that combines lightweight, waterproofing and breathability. This is due to its GORE-TEX technology that, as we mentioned before, allows for great waterproofing ability but while keeping the fabric as breathable as you can get.
It is great for high intensity outdoor activities such as hiking and running. To help with this, it also has two way armpit zips that you can use for ventilation, in case the warmth gets too heavy or the activity too intense to be able to breathe the sweat out.
Thanks to the Durable Water Repellency coating in the zippers, the water will not get in through there, so is a great feature this jacket has. It also comes with an adjustable hood to use over the helmet with no problem, and still covers you from the rain.
Columbia Sportswear Evapouration Jacket
Dimensions: 29 inches (center back length)
Specific features: Lightweight, 100% nylon 2.5L 70D, Omni-Wick EVAP evaporation panels, Omni-Tech waterproofing, fully seamed, attached adjustable hood, drawcord adjustable hem
Best Use: Hiking, running and outdoor activities under low, medium and up to heavy rain
The Columbia Sportswear Evapouration Jacket is really lightweight so it won’t interfere with your movement if you use it for hiking or trekking. It is also really easy to carry, as you can fold it into its own hand pocket and transport very easily.
It is made out of 100% nylon material, which provides complete protection against the rain, and helps you stay completely dry under low, medium or even heavy precipitation.
Also, thanks to its Omni-Wick EVAP advanced evaporation panels under the arms, and its Omni-Tech waterproof ability and that it is fully seamed, you can have both breathability as well as water protection.
It comes with and adjustable storm hood that remains attached to the hood, and also a drawcord adjustable hem that helps providing security against the moist that could get in.
The downside that this jacket might have is that it has no lining inside to keep you separated to the rubberlike material that might get sticky on contact with your skin, so this jacket is definitely more suitable for wearing as a water protector above long sleeve shirts or another sweater or jacket if it is cold weather.
Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket
Dimensions: May vary
Specific features: Pertex Shield + 2.5L, fully seamed ripstop nylon, zippered chest pocket, stuff pocket with webbing loop, reflective trim on hood and adjustable hood, waist adjustment strap
Best Use: Walking, biking, hiking. Best for low-demanding activities under up to heavy rain
If you are in need of something that does not take much space and can be virtually 100% waterproof, the Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket is the perfect choice for you.
It is a really lightweight (only 6.4 ounces) and is made out of a fully seamed ripstop nylon that uses the Pertex Shield technology with 2.5 Layer waterproofing. This means that the jacket is completely waterproof and still very light to wear, so it can be used under any situation where you need the water protection but without the extra weight in your bag.
You can fold this jacket up to the size of a granola bar, so it is not only lightweight but also really easy to transport as well. It comes with adjustable hood and a waist adjustment strap hidden so you’ll get the most protection against the elements.
Lastly, the jacket is really windproof, which is perfect for windy rainy days where you need to be protected against the elements. On the downside with this jacket is that is not very breathable, so under high demanding activities you can still get a bit damp from transpiration.
REI Co-op Rainwall Jacket
Dimensions: May vary
Specific features: 5L waterproof breathable coating, ripstop nylon with seamed seals, windproof up to 60mph, packs into own pocket, hood zips off, pit zips to help with ventilation
Best Use: Light to medium precipitation. Walking, alpine hiking, outdoor activities under cool temperatures
The REI Co-Op Rainwall Jacket is a great option when you need both waterproofing, but also need to be able to move around easily. This jacket is very compact, as it can be folded into its own pocket to be carried around, and it is also very lightweight, which makes the perfect combination for carrying around when traveling and backpacking.
Its 2.5L waterproof yet breathable coating makes this jacket a great option for low to medium rain, and it even better for using during cooler temperatures, because it ripstop nylon material and seamed seals can help the warmth stay in.
Still, since it doesn’t have an insulating layer, you should wear above other layers that fulfill this purpose when faced with really low temperatures.The hood can be zipped off, and it also comes with pit zips that help maintain the breathability under hot weather.
Lastly, it is windproof up to 60mph, which can be really useful for alpine treks and mountain activities. On the downside, the jacket is not made for prolonged exposure to rain, or to be used under really heavy precipitation.
Helly Hansen Loke Jacket
Dimensions: May vary
Specific features: 100% fully seam sealed polyamide, 5 ply fabric construction, durable water repellency treatment, adjustable hood, bottom hem elastic adjustment cord, zipped hand pockets and Velcro cuff adjustment, packs into own pocket
Best Use: Backpacking, traveling, outdoor activities under warmer temperatures or as a layer.
The Helly Hansen Loke Jacket is a great option when you are planning on layering and need a protective rain jacket. It is very lightweight as it is 100% polyamide, and has a 2.5ply fabric construction and a Durable Water Repellency treatment that makes it great for low to high precipitation.
Also, due to the jacket’s fully seam sealed fabric you will be completely covered against the moist. Another great feature this jacket has is that it can be packed into its own pocket, which can help you save a lot of space when packaging for traveling or backpacking trips.
It comes with an adjustable hood which has an elastic adjustment cord that helps you stay dry as well, and to match it with helmets. Lastly, it has Velcro cuff adjustments to keep water from coming in through the cuffs.
Keep in mind the jacket doesn’t have insulation, so it is designed for warmer temperatures. To use on colder ones, you should wear above a insulating layer.
Now, to conclude with the reviews
You have now seen some of the most popular products there are on the market when it comes to packable rain jackets. We hope that with these reviews, you can get a sense of what you want before making the purchase.
This way, you won’t end up with an item you have no use for and waste a lot of money, or having to send it back and wasting precious time. Keep in mind that, as with any other item or gear, there will always be pros and cons, as no product is perfect for everyone, and you should always consider both sides before making up your mind on something.
As we mentioned before, look for the packability of your jacket. If that’s one of your biggest requirements, make sure to consider breathability as well if you plan to move around a lot or use it during warmer temperatures.
Also consider price against what you are purchasing, and keep in mind the sizing might vary, and if you need to use over layers, you will surely have to purchase a size or two up.
Do you think we missed something when it comes to rain jackets? What are your best tips for buying the right jacket? If you want to help with your opinion, please share with us in the comments below.