Eddie Bauer BC Sandstone Stretch rain jacket

The Best Rain Jackets of 2021: The Top Waterproof Shells for Any Activity

Whether you’re splashing about town or trekking through a monsoon, these are the best rain jackets of 2021.

We’ve all worn a trash bag in a pinch. And while almost anything is better than being soaking wet, nothing beats a purpose-built rain jacket with the right combination of features and price to meet your needs.

We scoured the internet, spoke with brands, and researched a wealth of online reviews to narrow down the top contenders for the best rain jackets. Then, we tested the best of the best to determine which contenders stand out. We looked at materials, features (stretch, durability, breathability, packability), price, and more.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Rain Jackets of 2021

Best Overall Rain Jacket: Eddie Bauer BC Sandstone Stretch — Men’s & Women’s

Eddie Bauer BC Sandstone Stretch

Historically, the one drawback that came with any rainshell is it feels like — well, a rainshell. Eddie Bauer cracked that nut with the BC Sandstone Stretch ($179-299). It’s a soft, stretchy and, most importantly, quiet waterproof layer that feels more like a light autumn coat than a protective shell.

Eddie Bauer BC Sandstone Stretch rain jacket

There are other options on this list with more advanced technology and a more impressive list of features. But when it comes to sheer comfort and reliability, we found nothing better than the BC Sandstone Stretch. It’s not as durable as more rugged — and less cozy — options, and with enough use, it will wet out.

But for its lifetime (we’ve had ours for nearly 2 years, and it’s still going strong), this rain jacket looks and feels less like a waterproof shell and more like an about-town layer.

Not overloaded with features, the BC Sandstone Stretch has only the essentials you’d want: two zippered hand pockets and an interior zippered phone pocket. Cinch cord hem and hood, Velcro-adjustable cuffs, and four-way stretch throughout round out the build.

It’s the stretchiest, softest, and quietest rain jacket we tested. And with a sub-$300 price, it’s a fair bargain given the market for high-end raincoats.

Pros
  • Stretchy
  • Quiet
  • Simple
  • Stylish
Cons
  • Less rugged than other options

Check Men’s Price at AmazonCheck Women’s Price at Eddie Bauer

Best Budget Rain Jacket: Decathlon Quechua MH100 — Men’s & Women’s

Decathlon Quechua MH100

Ordinarily, any jacket that costs under $50 is probably just a waste of time and money, as it will likely let you down and need to be replaced (sooner rather than later).

But Decathlon — still a relatively new player in the U.S. outdoor gear market — achieves bargain basement prices primarily through vertical integration. Because it controls its own manufacturing, distribution, and retail, it purports to pass along the cost savings to the end consumer.

We’ve tried some of its wares, and while some are a bit more far-out than we’re used to, plenty of its products meet our (and others’) standards for quality outdoor gear — like Decathlon’s $80 down jacket.

So it is with the brand’s Quechua MH100 rain jacket — a $30 shell that can compete with coats 10 times the price. We’re not saying it will outperform the best rain jackets the industry has to offer. But, for moderate use and reasonable expectations, this jacket punches way above its weight class.

The two-layer rain jacket provides respectable waterproofing (the brand claims 5 inches of water over 2 hours) and the basic features: two hand pockets, an inner chest pocket, and zippered pit vents. But it also allows the wearer to fully remove the adjustable hood (via snaps) — a handy feature for those who just don’t need it.

By no means the most breathable nor the most stylish, the Quechua MH100 still packs a wallop in terms of value and utility.

Pros
  • Price
Cons
  • Limited colors
  • Longevity

Check Men’s Price at DecathlonCheck Women’s Price at Decathlon

Best Rain Jacket for the City: Columbia OutDry Ex Reign — Men’s & Women’s

Columbia OutDry Ex Reign

Columbia put the outdoor industry on notice in 2015 when it revealed a new take on waterproof-breathable membranes with its OutDry Extreme tech. Doing away with DWR coatings — which “wet out” with time and abrasion — Columbia made the exterior of its OutDry Extreme a permanently waterproof PU layer.

The result has been one of the burliest and most dependable waterproof materials we’ve tested (if not the most breathable). So if your primary needs are trips to the office, grocery store, or just about town, Columbia’s OutDry Ex Reign Jacket ($150) provides a dependable defense against the elements.

Pros
  • Longevity
  • Durability
Cons
  • Not as breathable as other options

Check Men’s Price at BackcountryCheck Women’s Price at Backcountry

Best Premium Rain Jacket: Canada Goose Seawolf (Men’s) & Seaboard (Women’s)

 Canada Goose Seawolf

If money’s not a concern and you want a jacket that will beat back Mother Nature, has a plethora of nifty features, and looks as good in the wild as it does in the urban jungle, then look no further than the Canada Goose Seawolf and Seaboard rain jackets.

The men’s Seawolf and the comparable women’s Seaboard are shockingly lightweight — especially for their long cut — and they wear as comfortable as you’d hope a $750 coat would.

These three-layer rain jackets use the Toronto brand’s proprietary Tri-Durance fabric, roll up into their own hoods, and offer vented mesh back panels, four external front pockets, cinchable hoods with head skirts (to allow side-to-side movement), and reflective accents all over.

Plus, Canada Goose rates the Seawolf and Seaboard rain jackets down to 23 degrees Fahrenheit — so they’ll offer protection in cold rains as well as spring showers.

Pros
  • Style
  • Features
  • Comfort
Cons
  • Price

Check Men’s Price at BackcountryCheck Women’s Price at Canada Goose

Best Ultralight Rain Jacket: Rab Phantom Pull-On — Men’s

Rab Phantom Pull-On

Hey, ounce-weenies: Rab has you covered. The Phantom Pull-On ($200) is Rab’s latest uber-packable shell for fast-and-light pursuits. The quarter-zip Phantom Pull-On weighs a scant 90 g — that’s just a shade over 3 ounces.

Semi-stretchy (and semi-see-through), the Phantom uses a 2.5-layer Pertex Shield fabric that resists tearing and held up to its fair share of branches and boulder scrapes in our tests. It packs into its own removable (snap-on) stuff sack down to 4.5 x 2 inches.

Pros
  • Weight
  • Packability
  • Breathability
Cons
  • Quarter-zip
  • Not for continuous hard rain

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Most Sustainable: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket — Men’s & Women’s

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

The primary reason you’ll wear Patagonia’s Torentshell 3L Jacket is it will keep you dry and shield you from a multitude of elements. But many folks will choose this over other competing rainshells because the entire face fabric uses 100% recycled nylon ripstop (Bluesign-certified), Fair Trade sewing, and a PU membrane that employs 14% recycled content.

Throw in the fact you can rejuvenate the DWR treatment after it’s completed its life and utilize Patagonia’s Worn Wear program to fix normal wear and tear, and you’ve got a waterproof layer with a smaller carbon footprint than many of its peers. And when you consider it’s under $150, you’ve got a budget- and resource-friendly rainwear option.

Pros
  • Sustainability
  • Price
Cons
  • Plastic-y feel
  • No accessory pocket

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Rain Jackets: Best of the Rest

Montbell Torrent Flier — Men’s & Women’s

Montbell Torrent Flier

A challenger to Rab’s Phantom for packability, the Montbell Torrent Flier ($249) doesn’t sacrifice creature comforts to achieve light weight. A full front zip, accessory pocket, GORE-TEX PACLITE PLUS construction, adjustable hem and hood, and reflective hits all combine in a 7.3-ounce jacket that packs down to about the size of a softball.

Check Men’s Price at MontbellCheck Women’s Price at Montbell

Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Rain Jacket — Men’s & Women’s

Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell
Photo courtesy: Outdoor Research

Way back in 2016, Outdoor Research pioneered electrospun membranes on a large scale to produce stretchy, reliably breathable rainshells. Now more widely adopted, this manufacturing process effectively allows venting more easily than other options, which require the wearer to reach a high temp before hot air (from the body) can push through.

The Motive, with OR’s electrospun AscentShell tech, boasts the brand’s lightest and “most streamlined” construction. Though not truly a softshell, the Motive still blends in maximum stretch in a surprisingly quiet hardshell, so you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be. And at sub-11 oz. for men’s, sub-10 oz. for women, OR managed to make a surprisingly lightweight offering that still has conveniences like zippered hand pockets, internal chest pocket, and an adjustable hood.

Pros
  • Excellent stretch and breathability
Cons
  • No sustainability certifications

Check Men’s Price at ORCheck Women’s Price at OR

The North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT Jacket — Men’s & Women’s

The North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT

Much like Outdoor Research, The North Face uses electricity to manipulate the air and moisture permeability of its rainshells. FUTURELIGHT marks TNF’s take on this process, and by our own tests, it marks a step forward in waterproof-breathable technology.

The Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT ($229) weighs in just under 12 ounces and works well to help shed heat. Its waterproof and windproof capabilities are trustworthy, and it offers some stretch and recycled content in the construction.

Pros
  • Comfort
  • Cold defense
Cons
  • Limited stretch
  • No pit zips

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at Backcountry

66 North Snaefell — Men’s & Women’s

66 North Snaefell

If you had to choose the perfect (read: harshest) conditions to test serious rainwear, you’d basically arrive in Iceland. A nation beset by a cold, roaring sea and a culture founded on fishing and exploring that sea has, predictably, given rise to clothing that can withstand some harsh environs. And if it works on the cold Atlantic, it’ll work for everyday adventures.

Cold, dark, and drizzly for fully half the year, Iceland sits at the 66th north parallel of Earth. And to honor that, 66 North, the brand, makes its reputation on burly, durable garments that reliably keep you warm and dry.

The Snaefell jacket is a no-frills rain jacket that justifies its hefty price tag ($532) with quality construction — Polartec NeoShell works to stop wind and rain but still vent excess body heat.

Pros
  • Durability
  • Warmth
Cons
  • Price

Check Men’s Price at 66 NorthCheck Women’s Price at 66 North

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch — Men’s & Women’s

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch

A solid blend of packability, stretch, weight, and value, Black Diamond’s Stormline Stretch provides a solid option for traveling and daily getaways. At under $150, it’s a reasonable option from a trusted brand.

Underarm gussets pair with four-way stretch to allow greater freedom of motion, while Black Diamond’s proprietary B.Dry membrane seals out elements. The Stormline packs into its own pocket and has adjustable cuffs and a climbing helmet-compatible hood. Plus, the jacket weighs just 11.3 ounces.

Pros
  • Value
  • Weight
  • Packability
Cons
  • Not ideal over layers

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell — Men’s & Women’s

jack-wolfskin-go-hike-soft-shell

Full disclosure: Jack Wolfskin’s Go Hike Softshell is not a true rain jacket. So if you’re planning to be slogging through a monsoon outside, look elsewhere. But The Go Hike makes this list for everyone else who might get caught unawares in some surprise elements. The Go Hike is water repellent enough to protect you from drizzles, to damp snow, to light rain (we know, Colorado spring has given us all three).

More than that, though, the Go Hike is almost totally wind proof and super stretchy. So it’s a fantastic layer to bring for bad elements in general if you want to add comfort to the mix. More breathable than a true shell, the Go Hike is plenty packable and a terrific all-around option, whether you’re light hiking or peak-running.

Check Women’s Price at Jack WolfskinCheck Men’s Price at Jack Wolfskin

Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Paclite Plus — Men’s & Women’s

Mountain Hardwear Exposure2 Paclite Plus

Mountain Hardwear specializes in technical outerwear, suitable for high-alpine and particularly rugged pursuits. But the Exposure/2 Paclite Plus ($300) strikes more of a balance with everyday needs than you might expect.

Sure, it packs into its own pocket and boasts a (claimed) 9-ounce weight, but it also uses GORE-TEX PACLITE PLUS — a 2.5-layer membrane that adds packability at a slight sacrifice of overall durability.

An accessory chest pocket and stretchy mesh-lined hand pockets offer convenience and comfort. A brimmed, adjustable hood also helps cinch out moisture — a good all-around, lightweight coat that’s capable on less-intense adventures.

Check Men’s Price at BackcountryCheck Women’s Price at Backcountry

REI Co-op Drypoint GTX

REI Co-op Drypoint GTX

REI often focuses on gear to help folks get into the outdoors, especially those on a budget or who are dabbling on a first excursion. But the co-op’s Drypoint GTX performs more like a veteran piece of kit. The three-layer GORE-TEX Active membrane provides a stout barrier against wind and heavy rain. And it stands up to scuffs, scrapes, and abrasion with aplomb.

Most impressively, it manages this at under 11 ounces. Not a budget buy by any means, this $249 shell is meant for backpacking, with hip belt-friendly hand pockets that double as core vents to help dump heat. Plus, the Drypoint GTX carries both Bluesign and Fair Trade certifications.

Pros
  • Weight
  • Materials
Cons
  • Price
  • Not ideal for city use

Check Price at REI

Sherpa Pumori — Men’s & Women’s

Sherpa Pumori

A heavier option built to hold up to pack straps and serious downpours, the Sherpa Pumori ($260) looks and feels more like a traditional raincoat. Suitable and stylish enough for city life, the Pumori falls somewhere between a softshell and hardshell with its stretchy, three-layer, 100-denier face fabric.

Burly zippers, deep pockets, and thoughtfully offset seams (to prevent chafing) combine for a very comfortable defense against precipitation and wind. Plus, like all of Sherpa’s products, a purchase of the Pumori helps provide schooling for a child in Nepal.

Pros
  • Comfort
  • Construction
Cons
  • Less packable than other options

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at REI

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Rain Jacket

There are a lot of rain jackets on the market these days. And while having options is great, it can be overwhelming to choose. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll explain the most important factors to keep in mind when deciding on the best rain jacket.

Comfort

It’s important that your rain jacket moves comfortably with you and does not overly restrict your movement. A comfortable rain jacket will keep you dry without feeling annoying or cumbersome.

Small features usually define the overall comfort of a rain jacket. For example, a hood that fully blocks peripheral vision will not be comfortable to use. Ideally, your rain jacket will minimally limit your range of motion, and the interior lining will feel good against your skin.

Weight & Packed Size

Most people agree that weight is an important consideration for any piece of outdoor gear. If you’re going to be carrying your rain jacket in a pack when it isn’t in use, you want it to be as light and compact as possible — without sacrificing usability. Many lightweight rain jackets weigh less than a pound without sacrificing durability and functionality.

Many rainshells stuff easily into their own pockets and become barely larger than a baseball. Once packed down, it’s nice to have an external clip-in loop on the stuff sack — especially for multipitch rock climbing or backpacking. If your rain jacket packs down conveniently, you’re more likely to bring it along and have it when it’s needed most.

Northface Apex Flex GTX Rain Jacket Review
Testing waterproofing.

Level of Waterproofing

The water resistance of a rain jacket will depend on its waterproof rating. The greater a jacket’s rating, the longer the fabric will keep water out. Rain jackets with a rating between 1,000 and 2,000 mm should be generally capable of handling everyday front country use, like walking your dog around town in a light drizzle.

For outdoor adventures with severe weather, you’ll want to find a jacket with a waterproof rating between 5,000 mm and 30,000 mm. Jackets with lower ratings will likely need to be retreated more frequently.

Durable Water Repellent Finish (DWR)

Rain jackets are treated with a durable water repellent finish (DWR). These treatments prevent water from soaking into the fabric and instead cause moisture to bead up on the surface.

Once a jacket’s DWR wears off, it can usually be retreated with a fresh coating, although the factory standard is difficult to obtain.

Breathability

A trash bag will keep you dry, but it will also make you sweat ’til you’re wet. And an unbreathable rain jacket will do the same.

For short jaunts, you can get away with a less-breathable option like the budget-friendly Decathlon Quechua. But for activities like hiking, you need a well-ventilated jacket.

Look for pit zips to quickly air out and materials that maintain water-repellency while remaining breathable. The BC Sandstone excels in this arena.

Pockets

It’s nice to have a well-placed pocket or two in your rain jacket. However, more pockets mean more material, and more material means increased weight and decreased packability.

Also, pockets create seams that may also decrease the waterproof capability of the jacket. Still, it’s nice to at least have two hand pockets to keep your hands warm and dry in a storm.

Hood

Some rain jackets have hoods that double as a convenient stuff sack. Generally, if it’s raining hard enough to warrant a rain jacket, you’ll probably also have the hood up.

A well-designed hood should be strategically designed to offer full protection without limiting peripheral vision. It’s also important to ensure that your hood will fit over any helmet you may be wearing simultaneously.

Extra Features

Ultimately, a rain jacket’s sole purpose is to keep moisture out. However, some jackets also include some extra features that add further value.

Some jackets come with features such as handwarmer pockets, large pit zips, and a roomy cut that allows space for warm layers underneath.

Durability

A rain jacket is designed to be exposed to the elements, and a good one will do its job without falling apart. As rain jackets become lighter, users should expect a dip in durability, too.

However, on this list, we have included rain jackets that are both lightweight and reliable. A jacket that is abrasion-resistant will have much greater overall longevity.

FAQ

What Is the Best Waterproof Rain Jacket?

The best waterproof jacket is the one that fits well, meets your needs, and provides reliable waterproofing. On this list, we have included several high-quality rain jackets.

When deciding which one to purchase, consider factors including the jacket’s waterproof rating, weight, durability, and extra features.

Is GORE-TEX 100% Waterproof?

GORE-TEX is the gold standard for waterproof fabric. When undamaged and in good shape, GORE-TEX-treated fabrics will keep out any liquid water that lands on the surface.

However, over time, the quality of the waterproofing of GORE-TEX will degrade, and it will no longer perform like new. Most GORE-TEX materials have a waterproof rating of 28,000 mm.

Do I Need to Take a Rain Jacket Hiking?

It is wise to always go into the outdoors prepared with a rain jacket. Many rain jackets are light and packable, so you’ll hardly notice them in your pack during the hike. In wet and cold conditions, a good rain jacket can keep you comfortable and safe.

Is There a Breathable Rain Jacket?

Rain jackets are designed to keep water out while still allowing your body’s moisture to escape as vapor. Unlike a trash bag or plastic poncho, rain jackets are semipermeable and are designed to keep you both cool and dry at the same time.

Still, a rain jacket is certainly less breathable than other kinds of layers, and you can expect some heat and moisture to get trapped underneath.


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