On the trail you can’t escape a downpour by ducking indoors. Your first (and only) line of defense is having a good rain shell stashed in your pack for when that cloud bank starts to look angry. Other times, you might need a simple wind layer to keep the early morning chill at bay while you knock out your pre-work run at nine-thousand feet. No matter what though, it’s better to have that shell with you than leave it at home. We’ve found seven favorites that are all so comfortable you’ll find excuses to bring them along no matter the conditions.
Best For: Fast and light climbs, all day adventures
Buy It If: You want every last ounce to count. The all new Minimus 777 comes in at under five ounces, making it the lightest 3-layer shell we’ve ever tested. It is built from extremely breathable Pertex Shield fabric that will stand up to multiple seasons of abuse.
Best Feature: The hood, cuffs, and waist are all elastic closure rather than velcro or draw strings, which not only saves weight, but makes it idiot proof. The waist holds tight and doesn’t ride up even under a climbing harness in bad weather.
Best For: High tech waterproofing with fashion forward styling
Buy It If: You need your trail shell to look as good as your office rain coat. The Plasmonic features 70d face fabric along with distinctive color blocking a a pair of exclusive camo patterns that will set you apart from the typical bright neon outdoors crowd.
Best Feature: Mountain Hardwear’s Dry.Q EVAP 2.5-layer membrane is an “instant on” breathable technology, meaning you won’t have to start overheating to get your sweat wicked away. This is especially nice when you’re carrying a pack in humid summer weather.
Best For: Ultrarunners looking for the most minimal option
Buy It If: Your idea of a fun time is knocking out a fifteen mile run or mountain bike ride before work. The Houdini is an excellent windlayer, and sheds light precipitation with ease. The new Alpine Version ($199) has an excellent DWR coating if you need the added protection.
Best Feature: The Houdini packs up into its chest pocket and is palm-sized when packed down. We carry ours attached to climbing harnesses and our life vest when out on the SUP.
Best For: Extreme weather trekking
Buy It If: You’re planning on spending your summer adventures in parts North. The Abisko Eco-Shell was designed with Swedish backpackers in mind, and is no stranger to cold, rainy treks. This 2.5-layer shell is made from a partly recycled polyester membrane.
Best Feature: The lightweight membrane and face fabric isn’t “crinkly” like many shell jackets with a burly membrane. This was nice for both style – it easily pulls office duty – as well as being quiet on the trail.
Best For: Cost Effective Protection
Buy It If: You want one jacket that can handle both urban and backcountry excursions. The Hurricane has a casual cut that lends itself well to either navigating wet sidewalks or slinging flies on a lonely river.
Best Feature: The nylon/poly blended face fabric is incredibly abrasion resistant, and is heathered to give the jacket a classic, lived-in look. This is the jacket that will remain in your trail wardrobe for years to come.
Best For: You’re a multi-sport addict
Buy It If: The Rebound is stretch knit, making it conform to your every move. We found this especially helpful when moving through some HIIT workout routines on a dreary morning at a local park. It transitioned easily to road cycling, and never rode up even when hunched on our drops pedaling hard.
Best Feature: Environmental responsibility. In addition to building this jacket with a top notch membrane, liner, and face fabric, NAU donates a portion of proceeds to every sale to a charity of your choice from their list of partners – we’re partial to the Conservation Alliance and People for Bikes.
Best For: All-around comfort
Buy It If: You’ll be using the same jacket backpacking, road tripping, fly fishing, and everything in between. The lightweight Talusphere has a great fit for just about every activity.
Best Feature: The chest pockets double as vents and are accessible even when carrying a fully loaded pack. These are a welcome departure from the industry standard pit-zips.