If you are an avid hiker or globetrotter you know that having one of the best lightweight rain jacket pays dividends when you get caught in the rain. These lightweight, packable jackets are easy to carry and weigh mere ounces—so they won’t take up real estate in your backpack.

Having a dependable rain jacket when you need it is essential when you’re traveling or exploring the outdoors. The problem is that you don’t want to lug around a hefty rain jacket just in case it starts to rain.

The solution? A ultra-lightweight, packable rain jacket that compresses down to almost nothing and weighs less than a banana.

A super lightweight rain jacket along with a lightweight down jacket are two things that I will almost always have with me on a longer trip. Combined they can pretty much keep you warm and dry in any situation, take up very little room, and won’t weigh you down.

Here’s a look at some of the best lightweight rain jackets in 2018 that will keep you high and dry in even the wettest conditions.

Best Lightweight Rain Jackets 2018


The Basics: What To Look For in a Lightweight Rain Jacket

Weight. When it comes to packing light, everything counts. All of these ultra-lightweight rain jackets weigh 13 oz or less, with some weighing the same as a t-shirt! The benefit of lightweight rain jackets is that they weigh half as much as many standard rain jackets and are just as functional.

Waterproofness. Waterproofness of a jacket is rated by it’s fabrics ability to keep water out using a column test (want to know more? read here). Basically the higher the number the more waterproof the fabric. However, construction of the jacket (i.e. double layer fabric, taped seams, etc.) also plays a huge role in keeping water out.

Breathability. You don’t want to get wet from the inside out. If you are exercising you will sweat. The more breathable the jacket the less moisture gets trapped inside.

Packability. The more packable, the better. Ultimately the smaller a jacket packs down the less room it takes up in your bag. Some even pack into themselves, with a stuff sack in one of the pockets.

Drawcords. Having a drawcord around the hem of the jacket can help block and out wind and keep the jacket fitting tighter.

Hood. Not everyone likes using hoods. Sometimes they get in the way, but when it’s RAINING a hood can be super useful for staying dry.

Fit. An athletic fit will insure the jacket does not flap in the wind and provides maximum range of motion during movement and exercising.

Seams. Fully taped seams are the only way to go. This means that every seam is taped shut and won’t allow any water to leak through the stitching. Fully taped seams create an air tight seal between you and the outside. Your gear will also be stronger and last longer.

Pockets. Pockets mean you have extra storage space. They also mean added weight and more places for seams and zippers to fail. If you don’t plan on carrying many gadgets look for a jacket with smaller and fewer pockets. At minimum some lightweight jackets have only a chest pocket, or none at all.

Best Lightweight Rain Jacket Reviews

Marmot Essence Jacket

My personal go-to travel rain jacket. Super waterproof and super light. I have put this jacket to the test over the last two years of travel and absolutely love it.

The Marmot Essence Jacket is what a lightweight rain jacket should be—simple, lightweight, and keeps you dry.

Marmot’s NanoPro MemBrain is waterproof and incredibly breathable which makes it great for activities in the rain. The athletic fit with Marmot’s Angel-Wing Movement allows for a full range of motion and makes it a great choice for activities from running to climbing. Plus the integrated underarm vents help keep you dry during intense exercise.

With no bells-and-whistles it weighs the same as a t-shirt and is super compressible, and although paper thin it’s also surprisingly durable. I’ve worn my Marmot Essence Jacket on countless mountain adventures and roughed up again trees and granite rocks without ever having damaged the jacket.

Weight: 6.3 oz

Waterproof Rating: 10,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 47,000 g/m²

Pockets: 1 chest

Vents: Underarm integrated cooling vents

Seams: Fully taped

 

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Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

The Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket is one of the most well reviewed lightweight rain jackets on the market.

Constructed from durable and weatherproof Ultralight Pertex Shield fabric it’s both incredibly breathable and keeps water out. Pair that with fully-taped seams and water-resistant zips and you won’t get wet when the water comes down.

The jacket features a single-pull hood drawcord that makes adjustments easy on the fly and the zippered chest pocket and elastic cuffs keep things functional and simple.

With it’s ultra-lite weight and size, the Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket is among the best packable rain jackets out there.

Weight: 6.4 oz

Waterproof Rating: n/a

Breathability Rating: n/a

Pockets: 1 chest, 1 internal

Vents: No

Seams: Fully taped

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Outdoor Research Realm

Outdoor Research has been using the highest quality materials and the most advanced science to push the limit in outdoor gear for a while now. With the Realm, they designed an ultra-light rain jacket, that won’t limit your movement while hiking, climbing, or skiing. And at under 11 ounces, it’s easy to bring this hard-shell rain jacket along with you everywhere.

For this rain jacket, Outdoor Research intentionally stripped away all the extra and unnecessary features. The Outdoor Research Realm is ranked as one of the top lightweight rain jackets because of it’s focus on functionality. Excellent protection, range of motion, and comfort. All for a great price.

Tech Specs

Weight:  10.9 oz

Material: AscentShell™ 3L, 100% nylon 20D mechanical stretch ripstop face with 100% polyester 12D backer

Pockets: Twin chest pockets, internal pocket doubles as stuff sack

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: None

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Arc’teryx Zeta LT Jacket

The Zeta LT ultra-lightweight rain jacket from Arc’teryx may be the best lightweight rain jacket on the market today. Of course, it also retails for nearly twice as much as any other hard shell rain jackets available.

In life, you get what you pay for, and the Zeta LT is no exception. You’ll drop a pretty penny on this shell, and your bank account might feel a little hung over the next morning. However, rain and wind will never touch you again.

This is one of the few 3-layer rain jackets on the market right now. Most lightweight waterproof jackets use 2 or 2.5 layer construction. However the 3-layer design allows for top-tier weather and waterproofing, as well as uncompromised comfort.

Tech Specs

Weight:  11.8 oz

Material:  N40p-X 3L Gore-Tex®

Pockets: Internal chest pocket, two hand pockets

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: No

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Marmot Mica Jacket

At just under an ounce heavier than the Marmot’s Essence jacket the Marmot Mica Jacket is a more waterproof and less breathable option.

In either case these two jackets are among the best lightweight rain jacket options out there and prove that Marmot’s done it right.

Constructed out of Marmot’s waterproof and breathable MemBrain Strata the Mica Jacket insures you’ll stay dry in rainstorms and let’s moisture escape so you don’t get wet from the inside out from sweat.

The lightweight jacket keeps things simple, but has an adjustable hem, hood, and cuffs to keep the weather out.

Weight: 7.0 oz

Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 20,000 g/m²

Pockets: 2 hand

Vents: Zippered underarm

Seams: Fully taped

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Marmot Super Mica Jacket

The Marmot Super Mica Jacket is slightly less waterproof but more breathable than the Marmot Mica Jacket. It still comes in under 10 oz and has reinforced shoulders and hips, underarm zips, and harness-and pack-compatible pockets.

The bottom line is that this is another great rain jacket option with just enough features and still super light weight.

Weight: 10.0 oz

Waterproof Rating: 10,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 47,000 g/m²

Pockets: 2 hand

Vents: Zippered underarm

Seams: Fully taped

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Montane Minimus Jacket

The Montane Minimus Jacket will keep you dry and you’ll still be able to move with it’s athletic cut and drop tail. Made out of ultralight Pertex Shield 2.5-layer fabric it offers superior breathability and waterproof protection.

The jacket features include a roll-away hood, reflective detailing to keep you seen in low light, and a stow sack to easily store your jacket or hang it off your pack.

The bottom line is that it’s a super-light jacket that weighs little more than two of your energy bars and comes with every feature you need, and nothing you don’t.

Weight: 7.5 oz

Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 25,000 g/m²

Pockets: 1 chest

Vents: No

Seams: Fully taped

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Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion Jacket

At only 11.5 oz the Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion Jacket will keep up with any activity you throw at it.

It’s fully waterproof and yet breathable with it’s two layer construction of a Dry.Q Evap membrane and a durable 70D nylon shell. The material is tough and feels like much more of a mountaineering or traditional rain jacket than some of the other materials out there.

The form fitting design and pack and harness-compatible hand pockets (located higher on the jacket) make the jacket functional in all situations.

Weight: 11.5 oz

Waterproof Rating: n/a

Breathability Rating: n/a

Pockets: 2 hand

Vents: Pit

Seams: Fully taped

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rab spark jacket

Rab Spark Jacket

Rab is a high quality outdoor and mountain adventure gear company based out of the UK. Their Men’s Spark Jacket is a superb choice for a lightweight waterproof jacket. Constructed out of a 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+ it will keep you both dry and allow a high level of breathability.

This packable rain jacket is more geared towards mountain adventures and is ready to take on anything you can throw at it. It comes with fully taped seams, zippered underarm vents to cool off, hook-and-loop cuffs, a helmet-compatible hood, and a hem drawcord. The jacket is also super packable and can be stuffed into one of its A-line chest pockets for easy and convenient storage when you’re on the move.

Weight: 11.1 oz

Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 20,000 g/m²

Pockets: 2 chest

Vents: zippered underarm

Seams: fully taped

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Marmot Minimalist Jacket

The name Minimalist may be a bit of a misnomer. That’s because this jacket is designed to be fully featured and is heavier and more bulky than both the Marmot PreCip and Essence jackets. That being said, this jacket is incredible.

Everything about this jacket feels like quality and comfort. The fabric is more breathable and durable than most affordable lightweight rain jackets. Every seam is taped on this jacket, and that includes on the billed hood designed to keep you dry in a storm.

If there are any complaints to be made about this jacket, it’s simply that it doesn’t pack quite as small or light as other ultra lightweight rain jackets. However, at this price point, this is a solid purchase. It’s tough, stylish, and ready to fight off the fiercest of storms.

Tech Specs

Weight:  15 oz

Material: 2.5-layer GORE-TEX® with Paclite® Technology

Pockets: Chest pocket and zippered hand pockets.

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: Pit zips

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REI Rhyolite Jacket

If we were scoring only on breathability, the Rhyolite rain jacket would be the best lightweight rain jacket around. The 3-layer eVent fabric does an incredible job of keeping you dry inside and out. If the jacket shell itself isn’t keeping you cool enough though, the hand pockets are lined with mesh so that they can double as core vents.

REI tried to focus on functionality and designed the Rhyolite to match the outdoor activities it’s used for. That’s why the pockets are placed high on the torso to accommodate your backpack’s hip strap, or a harness.

And although this jacket is incredibly comfortable and breathable, it does trade that for a little bit less abrasion resistance than some other hardshell rain jackets. To me that is a big consideration as I spend a lot of time climbing rocks. But short of blackberry bushes and squeeze chimneys, this jacket will stand up to almost anything without a problem.

Tech Specs

Weight:  12 oz

Material: 3-layer eVent DValpine™

Pockets: 2 hand pockets

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: mesh-lined pockets double as core vents

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The North Face Venture 2 Jacket

The North Face knows that a high-quality rain jacket like the Venture 2 needs to be able to adapt to a wide variety of outdoor sports and applications. Features like a helmet-compatible adjustable hood, pit zip vents, and ripstop exterior all add up to a multi-sport jacket ready for just about anything.

The North Face insures quality with a lifetime warranty, which is pretty damn nice a couple seasons down the line.

Although North Face didn’t skimp on important features like Velcro-adjustable cuffs, a hem cinch cord, and main zipper cover, this jacket is still one of the lightest rain jackets around. And it’s not just light, but also packs into it’s own pocket for easy storage.

Tech Specs

Weight: 11.6 oz

Material: Solid colors are  40D ripstop nylon; Heathered colors are 70D ripstop nylon

Pockets: Two hand pockets. Packs into pocket.

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: Pit-zip vents

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Columbia Watertight II Hooded Rain Jacket

The Columbia Watertight II is a great entry level rain jacket, perfect for either an affordable backup layer, or a less expensive layer to rough up in wild places.

While this jacket doesn’t offer the light-weight or the high performance of the best lightweight rain jacket around, it’s fully seam sealed and uses Omni-Tech™ waterproofing technology to keep you dry.

This jacket does pack down into one of the two hand pockets for easy transport, which is great for the price point.

All in all, this rain jacket performs beautifully for a budget option. If you’re looking to save some money, or having trouble saving money, this could be the best lightweight rain jacket for you.

Tech Specs

Weight: 16 oz

Material: 100% Nylon 2L Full Dull plain weave

Pockets: 2 hand pockets

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: No

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Mountain Hardwear Finder Jacket

Much like the Columbia Watertight II, the Finder jacket from Mountain Hardware is an affordable option for wet weather protection. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that nicer hard-shells do, but it has the basics covered.

The seams are sealed, the zippers are water resistant, and the body fabric is really tough. It sure isn’t as comfortable or well fit as nicer rain jackets, but this jacket is less than a quarter of the price of the best lightweight rain jacket available.

All things considered, this jacket makes a great, sturdy outer layer to keep you dry in a storm. If you find yourself frequently scraping up against trees and rocks and generally putting your shell to the test, then the Finder jacket is a great way to stay dry without breaking the bank.

Tech Specs

Weight: 13.4 oz

Material: Dry.Q™ 70D 2L Ripstop (100% Nylon)

Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: No

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Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket

The Torrentshell jacket is a great example of Patagonia pushing the bar of performance while keeping the cost affordable.

At about 11 ounces, it’s almost as light as the best lightweight rain jacket, even though it’s designed with 2.5 layers of protection.

As with all their products, Patagonia uses recycled and sustainable materials which minimizes negative social and economic impacts from manufacturer to retailer. This has been Patagonia’s founding principle since it’s inception and is a big reason why there are so many loyal customers who choose Patagonia gear over all others.

This jacket in particular strikes a nice balance between price and performance. It is strong, light, ultra waterproof, and packs down into either of it’s two hand pockets.

Once you consider Patagonia’s lifetime warranty, it all adds up to a really high quality jacket for an incredibly reasonable price.

Tech Specs

Weight: 10.6 oz

Material: 2.7 oz 50D 100% recycled nylon ripstop

Pockets: 2 hand pockets

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: Pit-zip vents

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Outdoor Research Foray Jacket

Being from Seattle, Washington, Outdoor Research knows all about the rain. Up in The Northwest, they get more rain than any other part of the country. So it’s no surprise that Outdoor Research has designed some of the best lightweight rain jackets ever made.

The Foray is another great product from OR for myriad reasons. From innovative features like the Torso Flo venting system, to simple essentials like an adjustable hood, the Foray checks all the boxes.

This lightweight men’s rain jacket is directly comparable to the Marmot Minimalist. At the same weight, similar price, and even sporting the same Gore-Tex waterproof laminate and soft touch inner layer.

The TorsoFlo side zip system allows for unparalleled breathability and makes a huge difference when you’re layering backpacks and gear over your jacket. This feature can seem like a bit of a wildcard, but believe us, it’s every bit as awesome as it seems.

Tech Specs

Weight: 16.3 oz

Material: GORE-TEX® with Paclite® product technology 2L, 100% polyester 50D plain weave

Pockets: 2 hand pockets, 1 zippered chest pocket

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: TorsoFlo™ Venting – Hem-To-Bicep

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Arc’teryx Norvan SL Jacket

The Norvan SL jacket from Arc’teryx is probably the lightest, most packable jacket you will ever own. Designed for high intensity trail running, this jacket weighs just four ounces and packs down to about the size of a baseball! If that alone doesn’t sell you on this shell, the high quality materials and ultra-functional construction surely will.

For this ultra-lightweight rain jacket, Arc’teryx did away with all the extra and unnecessary features that might weigh you down or hold you back. In some cases this is nice, but you may find yourself missing pockets and pit vents.

The Norvan SL does one job, and it does it really well. It fits comfortably through all types of activity and will keep you dry without fail. The high-tech Gore-Tex material Arc’teryx uses to make it is extremely breathable and relatively abrasion resistant.

If you’re looking for a jacket so light it will actually make you weigh less, than this is definitely the best light weight rain jacket for you.

Tech Specs

Weight: 4 oz

Material: GORE-TEX® with SHAKEDRY™ product technology

Pockets: None

 

Waterproof Rating:  mm

Breathability Rating:  g/m²

Vents: None

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Backcountry Stash Shell

Backcountry Stash Shell

When Backcountry.com launched it’s own line of outdoor gear and clothing a few years back I was excited to see what they offered. The Backcountry Men’s Stash Shell does not disappoint with it’s superior Bombshell Lite featuring mechanical-stretch construction.

This is one of the heaviest jackets of the bunch at 13 ounces and is considered a four-season shell.

With the extra weight you’ll get ultimate protection from the elements when skiing, hiking, climbing, or whatever you do! This jacket is a great option for a super breathable, durable, and waterproof jacket that is ready for anything you throw at it.

It’s also a great deal when the jacket is on sale and you can often grab it for as little as $100!

Note: The jacket may run a bit small in the torso, but it has extra long arms.

Weight: 13.0 oz

Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 20,000 g/m²

Pockets: 2 hand, 1 internal chest

Vents: underarm zips

Seams: fully taped

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Norrøna Bitihorn Dri1 Jacket

Norrøna Bitihorn Dri1 Jacket

Norrøna is a Norwegian brand producing incredibly high quality and stylish outdoor clothing and sports gear. If you haven’t heard of them until now, don’t worry, but the gear they make is certainly worth taking a look at. I love their bright colors and design components that set their clothing and gear apart from others.

The Norrøna Bitihorn Dri1 Jacket only weighs 7.5 oz and provides great waterproof protection (20,000 mm) and breathability (20,000 g/m²). This jacket is one of the most weatherproof and lightest jackets on the market. The jacket features underarm vents to help extra moisture and heat escape during exercise and the athletic cut won’t slow you down during any activity.

Weight: 7.5 oz

Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm

Breathability Rating: 20,000 g/m²

Pockets: 2 chest

Vents: underarm

Seams: fully taped

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patagonia storm racer jacket

Patagonia Storm Racer Jacket

Designed for alpine running, the Patagonia Storm Racer was built with mobility and speed in mind. The jacket is built from stretchy 30-denier ripstop nylon with DWR finish and will both resist tearing and won’t let water in.

The jacket features fully taped seams, a single-pull adjustable drawcord at the hood and hem, zippered arm vents, and elastic bound wrists to save weight.

Weight: 9.6 oz

Waterproof Rating: n/a

Breathability Rating: n/a

Pockets: 1 internal chest

Vents: zippered arm

Seams: fully taped

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Pros and Cons of Packable Lightweight Rain Jackets

With almost every piece of gear, lightweight usually means less durable. Although these jackets are incredibly strong and resistant, the fabric used can be almost paper thin and can be damaged by sharp objects.

To snowboarders, hikers, bikers, climbers, the durability of your gear is a huge factor. Personally, I take my lightweight rain jacket almost everywhere that I go. The only times I don’t are because I’m worried that it’s not tough enough for the job.

If you spend most of your recess playing in the mountains, owning a lightweight rain jacket is a must. However, even the best lightweight rain jacket can’t protect you from everything. Having another, stronger layer might be important to your lifestyle.

That said, the ultra-lightweight and small size of these packable jackets are the main draw. They are super packable and rarely weigh more than your iPhone. This means you can stuff them in your daypack or pocket and you won’t even know they are there.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, every type of jacket is best used for certain purposes. However, a durable, lightweight rain jacket is by far the most useful type to own.

Just add and subtract layers underneath to match whatever weather the world throws your way. After all, the really important layer in a storm is the outer one that keeps you dry.

Nothing keeps you dry like the best lightweight rain jacket.

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Lightweight Rain Jacket Buying Guide – Find The Right Jacket for Travel & Outdoors

Why Get a Lightweight Rain Jacket?

There is a nearly endless selection of high quality coats on the market today. From high-tech puffies, to full on parkas, to lightweight rain jackets, to soft shells, the choices are unfathomable.

Sometimes, buying gear can feel as overwhelming as ordering wine at that classy restaurant you took your girlfriend to for her birthday. There’s no shame in that.

Although there are many styles of jacket to choose from, each specializes in a different type of outdoor adventure.

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Puffies provide the most warmth while still packing down really small. Excellent for layering and handling really cold temps on trips in the alpine.

Softshells are stylish and comfortable. They layer well with other jackets and make a great layer to wear to the bars on a cold autumn night. However, they don’t stop wind or water and thus are better used for lighter work.

Parkas and winter jackets are designed for snow sports and come with all the bells and whistles. They are usually warm, waterproof, and ready to handle some serious weather. Many come with special features designed for certain sports like snowboarding or ice climbing.

Lightweight rain jackets are all about layering. They aren’t insulated so that they can pack down to incredibly small sizes. Also known as hardshells, these jackets are all about stopping rain and wind.

They are ideal for outdoor sports like climbing, hiking, kayaking, biking, or spring skiing and snowboarding. Because they give you the option of layering up or keeping cool, they are ideal for variable conditions and serious objectives.

Seriously, you’re not serious until you have the best lightweight rain jacket on your back. With one of these, there’s nothing nature can throw at you that will slow you down.

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Understanding Rain Jacket Waterproof Ratings & Breathability

Tech specs can get a little confusing when it comes to high end gear of any sort. Comparing microns and millimeters and megajoules and microdiddies can get pretty confusing. Especially microdiddies– no one really knows what those are.

Water proof and breathability ratings are no exception. A mystery to most, but fortunately quite simple to understand.

Waterproof fabrics are rated in millimeters. Simple version—the higher the number, the more waterproof the fabric.

Most jackets have anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 mm ratings. Here’s what that means:

If you were to take a one inch square tube and place it on a piece of fabric, then fill it with water, this is how tall your tube would need to be before any water leaks through the fabric.

So if your jacket is rated at 10,000mm, that means that a 1″ column of water would have to be ten meters, or about 32 feet tall before it would start to leak through.

Anything over 10,000 mm is pretty good. Anything over 15,000 is ready to take on some serious storms. The best lightweight rain jackets have 20,000+.

Breathability is measured in a similar way. The higher the number, the more breathable the fabric. Expressed as grams, it represents the number of grams of water vapor that can pass through a square meter of the fabric in a 24-hour period.

So for example, a fabric that is rated at 10k breathability means that it would allow 10,000 grams of water vapor to pass through it in 24 hours.

When searching for the best lightweight rain jacket, you want to find one with a high waterproof rating as well as a high breathability rating.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lightweight Rain Jacket

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Waterproof Rating

Depending on what you intend to use your new lightweight jacket for, you may place high or low priority on the waterproof rating.

If you live in a place where rain is rare and usually light, than you needn’t worry too much about waterproofing. Instead, opt for something that is more breathable, comfortable, or functional.

However, if you live somewhere rain falls frequently and fiercely, you’re going to need to pay attention to this number. Particularly anyone spending time in the alpine such as climbers, hikers, skiers and snowboarders will want to get the best lightweight rain jacket they can.

Weight

How much you value lightweight gear depends a lot on your own style and frame of mind. If you like to go ultralight and take only the essentials, then you don’t need me to tell you what to do here.

However, you don’t need to place that much weight on the decision (so to speak) if you don’t want to. Personally, I’m never concerned if a piece of gear weighs a little extra for added functionality. After all, the more you carry, the stronger you’ll get. Right?

And after all, you don’t need the best lightweight rain jacket for it to be lightweight. All of these jackets weigh less than most phones, maybe as much as your keys or wallet.

So don’t get too bogged down in splitting hairs or counting grams. You have to weigh all the qualities of a coat, so to speak.

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Packability

Although weight might not matter to everyone, packability usually does. After all, it’s not very useful to have a great jacket if it doesn’t fit in your backpack mid-day when the sun comes out.

Nearly all serious endeavors in the backcountry require you to change layers throughout the day. If your jacket packs down so small it fits in your pocket, you’ll notice the convenience, guaranteed.

However, it can be hard to manufacture a jacket that is both highly functional and easy to pack small. Sometimes, you have to make a compromise between size and utility.

Fabric Layers & Materials

These days, just about every company is using their own proprietary, patented fabrics with cool, techy names that make no sense to the average Joe. However, there are some common ones like Gore-Tex that are used by many companies in various ways.

Most lightweight rain jackets are composed of two or three layers to provide a protective outer shell and a soft, comfortable interior. Exteriors are usually some form of rip-stop nylon or polyester, usually treated with special waterproofing techniques. Middle and interior layers are usually designed for breathability and comfort and vary widely by brand.

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Breathability

Breathability is critical to comfort in the cold and rain. A jacket that has good ventilation and a high breathability will keep you dry inside your jacket so you can stay comfortable and warm all day.

This can make an unbelievable difference after a long day on the mountain. If you’ve ever slept in your car on a cold night, you know just how much condensation your body heat can create. When you spend your day exercising in a mountain environment, you’re going to produce a lot of moisture on the inside of your jacket.

Doesn’t matter how waterproof it is, if it doesn’t breathe well, you’re gonna get wet.

Fit

There’s nothing worse than ordering a new jacket in the mail, waiting anxiously for it to come in time for a big trip into the mountains, and it being the wrong size when it arrives. That sucks.

And it’s easy to do. After all, jackets need to fit differently than other clothing. Although you want a snug fit, some jackets are designed to let you layer up underneath while others are meant to fit snug to your form.

Fortunately, most manufacturers, and nearly all customer reviews mention a jackets intended fit. Some are labeled as true to size, while others fit smaller or larger than average. When in doubt, look up reviews on Amazon. They’ll let you know what to look out for.

Pockets

Like many things, pockets are a preference. Some jackets have more holes than Swiss cheese, while others are minimal with just one chest pocket, or none at all.

Personally, I shoot video, take photos, carry snacks, and usually have a pen and a handful of other gizmos around. Pockets really help me streamline my operation in the mountains.

However, the same is not true of all people. And if you don’t intend to use them, there’s no point in having them. They just add weight and extra points where your waterproofing can fail.

best-hiking-jacket-reviews

Hood

Needless to say, your noggin needs to stay warm and dry. You need your mind sharp in the back country. A hood that fits correctly on and off your head makes a surprising difference to your comfort and happiness on the trail.

If you’re looking for the best lightweight rain jacket, look for an adjustable hood. There should at least be adjustable points around the front of the hood. The best hoods, adjust around the circumference of your head as well.

Pit & Side Zips

We’ve already talked about breathability a bit. But when it comes to your pits, ventilation isn’t just a game, it’s an art and a science. For most people, the best lightweight rain jacket has some sort of underarm or core ventilation.

A jacket such as the Foray from Outdoor Research takes this to a whole other level By allowing the entire side of the jacket to zip apart.

However, some people find that they never use their pit vents and would rather not have them. Maybe you don’t exercise so intensely in your rain jacket. Maybe you were just born without pit sweat genes.

If so, the best lightweight rain jacket for you won’t have them.  Fewer zippers means fewer seams; Fewer places where waterproofing can fail.

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Durability

Personally, durability is one of the most important factors to me when considering the best lightweight rain jacket.

That’s because sometimes what I put my gear through is pretty rough. From rock climbing in the mountains, to biking and running trails, even working at home in the yard, the outdoors can be pretty hard on your gear.

The best lightweight rain jacket material is something hotly contested by gear manufacturers. Most of the toughest lightweight rain jackets out there are made out of either Gore-Tex or some variety of rip-stop nylon.

However, there are lots of companies experimenting with various other fabrics with varying degrees of success. When in doubt, search Google for some product reviews.

Color

There are up to four schools of thought when it comes to color.

Some people like to blend in to nature. To them, the best lightweight rain jacket is earth toned. Maybe gray, tan, forest green, for example.

Some people like to stand out, after all, it can be argued that it’s safer to wear bright colors in the wilderness. Their best lightweight rain jacket is orange, red, yellow. However, any bright and unnatural color will do in a pinch.

Some people just like colors they like, and don’t really think beyond that. Their best lightweight rain jacket is whatever color they damn well please. Because what is life for, if not for living!

And then, there are the people who don’t care what color their rain jacket is. They probably never even considered it. The best lightweight rain jacket for them is… oh whatever, they don’t care anyways.

I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, or what color the best lightweight rain jacket is for you. Just don’t do anything you’ll regret. Ok?

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Price

One of the craziest things about life in the year 2018 is that you can get extremely high quality gear for pretty darn cheap. Although most of the top lightweight rain jackets cost between $100 and $160.

There are some that cost less than going out with your buddies last Saturday night. And there are some that cost more than my first car.

The best lightweight rain jacket for you will have to match your budget.

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The Basics of Rain Jacket Care

How to Wash Your Rain Jacket

Let’s be honest. You’re scared to wash your new lightweight rain jacket. So you decided you’re just not gonna.

Wrong!

It’s time to learn about a thing called DWR (durable water repellent). All of the lightweight rain jackets on this list are treated with DWR. It’s what causes water to bead up on the outside of your jacket. It’s literally what waterproofing technology is all about.

However, DWR doesn’t function if your jacket is dirty. Time spent at the campfire, getting dirty, even oils from your skin, all will shorten the lifespan of your waterproof coating.

So throw your jacket in the washing machine. Use a NON DETERGENT SOAP ONLY. Manufacturers all recommend Nikwax Tech Wash, which works great.

However, gentle soaps that don’t have detergents, or harsh chemicals will also work. Dr. Bronners, Woolite, and Atsko Sports Wash are all good alternatives.

Then throw your jacket in the dryer– Yes, the dryer!

Always read your jackets labels for care instructions. However, the heat from tumble drying on a warm or low setting actually helps reactivate the DWR.

Over time, with washes, it will wear out. So don’t wash your waterproof rain jacket every time you use it, only when you start to notice water wetting out instead of beading up.

How to Re Waterproof Your Rain Jacket

When at last, your waterproofing does fail, don’t worry. You can re-treat your jacket with a new DWR coating and continue using it for years to come.

Since it used to be the best lightweight rain jacket, it would be nice to be able to continue using it. Not to mention if you re-waterproof your rain jacket, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new one.

There are basically two types of treatments, spray on and wash in. And to be perfectly honest, wash in treatments get a lot of bad press. There’s good reason too.

Because wash in treatments coat both the inside and the outside of your garments, they can actually reduce the breathability of your jacket. This can cause you to retain moisture inside of your jacket, which in turn, prevents most outer layers like Gore-Tex from keeping water out.

It’s best to use a spray on treatment from a company like Nikwax or Granger’s.

Just remember to always follow the instructions carefully. Always wash and dry your jacket before treating it as per the previous instructions.

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The Bottom Line

Finding the best lightweight rain jacket for yourself requires you to first find yourself in a certain sense. You need to know what’s important to you in order to make the right choice.

If your biggest concern is your budget, then you probably already noticed the Finder Jacket from Mountain Hardware. It’s the best affordable lightweight rain jacket out there. The fabric is durable, the design is smart. Although it weighs a little extra, you won’t be complaining.

Maybe you’re not worried about the money though, and just want the absolute lightest-weight rain jacket out there. If light is what you like, then the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Jacket is the best lightweight rain jacket for you. It weighs just four ounces and packs into it’s own pocket smaller than a softball.

If you’re like me, you’re willing to carry a few extra pounds in order to have the best waterproof rain jacket possible. The Arc’teryx Zeta LT is the type of jacket people like us dream about. It’s long-lasting DWR and ultra breathable three-layer fabrics make it the best waterproof rain jacket in this review.

If you can’t spring for that quite yet, then you might consider the Marmot Minimalist.

And if you’re a traveler, constantly loaded with backpacks, gear, and changing climates and culture, you need a versatile jacket. The Outdoor Research Foray has plenty of pockets, excellent waterproofing, and pit zips down to your hips. It’s the kind of feature you can’t live without when your flying into Guatemala in the middle of summer.

As with all things, you have to know who you are, and what you need your gear to do. Decide what features matter most to your best lightweight rain jacket and don’t worry. If you pick any jacket from this list, you won’t be disappointed.

You can also read our guides to the best waterproof backpack, the best outdoor watch and other recommended travel products here.

About the author

Rand Shoaf

Introduced to traveling at a young age, Rand has since traveled to over 45 countries. Learning how to maximize credit card sign-up bonuses in college has allowed him to earn millions of travel miles and points. Using the same tips and tricks he writes about here has ultimately allowed him to explore the word for pennies on the dollar.