Spring is finally here, which means so is the second-best outdoor season of the year (the first is fall, and that’s a scientific fact). It’s also the season most likely to ruin your hiking, kayaking, or camping with a surprise downpour. It’s always best to stay prepared if you end up camping in the rain so make sure to have your tarp and waterproof gear. If it’s time to upgrade your tired rain shell, have a look at the best waterproof jackets to help you brave the wet weather in 2021.
Filson has long been a mainstay in our gear closet here at The Manual. Nearly everything in the outdoor clothing brand’s catalog is well-made and durable with a handsome, timeless aesthetic. To wit: The Swiftwater Rain Jacket. The compact, lightweight design (just 13.4 ounces!) packs down small, so it easily stuffs into an extra pocket. But, the heavy-duty material is weather- and abrasion-resistant, so it’s ready to tackle nasty storms and hardcore outdoor use.
Planning on hitting the trails to hike this season? Check out Patagonia outdoor wear. Like most things in Patagonia’s deep outdoor apparel catalog, the Torrentshell 3L Jacket strikes a good balance between versatility, durability, and price. The aptly named waterproof jacket is made with a tri-layer construction with a durable water repellent (DWR) shell, so it’s both breathable and waterproof. The two-way adjustable hood and laminated visor provide additional protection. We also love that it’s partially made from post-consumer recycled materials.
One of REI Co-Op’s latest releases, the XeroDry GTX Jacket is a durable and lightweight waterproof rain shell. It offers many of the same features as its pricier brand-name competitors — including a two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite laminate, bluesign-approved polyester fabric, and a surprisingly quiet design — so it doesn’t feel like your adventuring in a crinkly metal space blanket. Plus, at less than 13 ounces, it’s incredibly packable.
The Venture 2 Hooded Jacket is one of The North Face’s most popular waterproof jackets, for good reason. The seam-sealed DryVent 2.5L fabric is rugged, breathable, and ready to tackle even the wettest and windiest environments. Underarm vents also allow you to cool offer on steep inclines and declines. All of this is why it’s long been a favorite in the brand’s lineup, especially considering its sub-$100 price tag.
This classic rain shell has been a long-time favorite of the Arc’teryx line for more than 20 years. The triple-layer Gore-Tex Pro construction is windproof, waterproof, and breathable, making it an ideal year-round shell. Through the use of 3D patterning, the Beta AR facilitates a perfectly articulated fit. Other nice-to-have-features — twin high-volume hand pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, and no-lift gusseted underarms — justify the sky-high price tag. Plus, this jacket is damn-near bulletproof, so it’ll survive whatever steep, rocky, briar-laden backcountry trails you subject it to.
If cost isn’t a concern, Helly-Hansen’s Odin Mountain Shell Jacket is one of the best waterproof men’s jackets on the market. Like most products in HH’s catalog, this is a versatile piece of apparel that works equally well on the slopes and in the backcountry. It features a highly durable construction and a solid technical design. Its waterproof capabilities are second to none with a premium shell laminate and a smart design that helps actively shed water and snow, so they don’t pool where you don’t want them to.
For minimalist hikers who need to be prepared for unexpected weather, Fjallraven’s Keb Eco Shell is a solid performer. The 3L Eco-Shell is made from lightweight, recycled polyester fabric that provides waterproof protection for your upper half. The adjustable hood is even helmet-compatible, so it adapts to your brand of outdoor adventuring. We also love the dual wide-access pockets for stashing frequently needed bits of gear.
Reliable waterproofing is, of course, table stakes for a weather-resistant jacket. Black Diamond delivers that and a whole lot more. As the name implies, the brand’s StormLine Stretch targets active adventurers with a generous amount of give in the fabric. The plush interior also feels like a distinct step above the crinkly, plastic feel of ordinary rain jackets. There are also twin hand pockets and a coated front zipper. At a featherweight 10 ounces, it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck adventure rain jackets on the market at under $150.
When the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate and you’d rather be prepared, Mountain Hardwear’s Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite Plus Jacket is an ideal backup plan. This premium waterproof jacket ranks among the brand’s flagship products with a design that’s ultra-weatherproof, packable, and durable. At just 9.6 ounces, it’s the lightest option on this list, making it the perfect solution for weight-conscious backcountry explorers.
The problem with ordinary waterproof jackets and rain shells is that they’re about as comfortable as wearing a garbage bag. They’re plasticky, clammy, and struggle to breathe. Eddie Bauer aimed to solve all of those problems with its BC Sandstone Stretch jacket. The material is stretchy and soft like a “normal” jacket should be while maintaining the waterproof protection of a standard rain shell. For explorers who tend to go from city to trail and back again, the aesthetic is also less technical and a bit more “around-town-friendly.”
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