We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!
After weathering the storm that was 2020, most people would agree that it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more prepared in 2021. The ideal item to weather all storms is the rain jacket. In the outdoor world, the terminology around waterproof jackets and water-resistant jackets has started to get muddled and a bit sketchy. So, first things first: let’s introduce you to some of the terms that you’ll come across as you seek out the perfect rain jacket or shell.

DWR

This is Durable Water Repellent, the coating that goes on the outermost layer of your rain jacket to help water bead right off your coat as if nothing happened. Companies are beginning to use more environmentally friendly DWR products to reduce the impact on the environment while still producing waterproof jackets. The environmentally friendly versions do seem to wear more quickly, so knowing how to care for your jacket will help it perform over many seasons.

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

Waterproof materials will keep water from getting to your skin. Water-resistant materials will keep a light drizzle at bay, but if things get a bit more serious they will not be up to the task of keeping you dry.

Windproof vs. Wind-Resistant

All waterproof jackets will be windproof. Occasionally you will find a windproof garment that is only water-resistant, and this is due to the type of laminate that the company is incorporating into their garment.

Laminates vs. Coatings

Laminates are like wallpaper that is glued to a wall. Coatings are like paint spread on a wall, both serve similar purposes with varying levels of success. Laminate is your best bet for water and windproofing. Coatings are great for creating lightweight garments and come at a lower price point.

Rainwear Layers

Throughout this article or your shopping journey, you will see 2, 2.5, and 3 layers appear a lot. Let us shed some light on the differences between the layers and what you can expect to get with each type of garment:

2-layer

A laminate or coating is applied to the outermost layer to create a single layer. Within that, there will be a “loose hanging” liner to keep sweat and dirt away from the waterproof and breathable material. 2-layer jackets are quieter than the other types due to material type.


2.5-layer

Similar to the 2-layer design, there is a laminate or coating applied to the outermost fabric layer. This equals two layers; the half layer is a protective sheen or print that is applied to the second layer, again to keep sweat and dirt away from the waterproof and breathable materials. These jackets will be among the lightest and most compressible options.


3-layer

The most durable and expensive of the three options. The 3-layer design uses a laminate between the durable outer layer and a lining layer. These jackets are made for the harshest environments but will be the warmest of the three options as well.

Please use the chart below to help summarize the layer systems of rainwear.
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Why Are You Buying A Rain Jacket?

Your reason for buying a rain jacket can play a deciding role in your choice of jacket style. If you are planning to use it as an extra layer when you go for runs, then an ultra-lightweight 2.5-layer jacket would be your best choice. If you are planning on braving some alpine environments and maybe bashing among the rocks, a more durable and waterproof 3-layer jacket would be more effective in that environment.

Thanks to improvements in waterproofing technology, the lines between jacket layers and function are blurring, so understanding the role your rain jacket will play can help you decide which jacket to choose. The Outdoor Research Interstellar AscentShell is a prime example of a lightweight 3L jacket that I have used as a running jacket in rainstorms, but has also made it to the summit of several peaks as my go-to shell. As with all outdoor gear, there are several options and they all vary slightly. We’ll help you make the right decision, so you can stay dry the next time you read the weather report wrong and experience some precipitation while exploring.

Best Rain Jackets of 2021 - Gear Hacker

Our List

As with all outdoor apparel, there are always options that can put a dent in your wallet. These jackets are all below $500, but even $500 is quite steep for a rain jacket if you only use it for hiking on local trails. Please use our list as a guideline for the accessories and technology that you may be looking for and as a look at some of the best jackets on the market for under $500.
Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Outdoor Research Interstellar Ascentshell - Gear Hacker

Best Rain Jackets of 2021

 
The Best Rain Jackets: Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Rei.com

  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 90% 90%

Pros

Great Features, Lightweight

Cons

Price

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus & 3-layer Gore-Tex with C-Knit

Weight: 12.7oz/360g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 70% 70%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

High Performance For Low Cost

Cons

Less Movement Than Other Jackets

Waterproofing: 3L H2No Performance Standard

Weight: 14oz/397g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Black Diamond StormLine Stretch - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 90% 90%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

Mobility and Value

Cons

Not As Breathable As A 3L Jacket

Waterproofing: BD.dry 2.5-layer

Weight: 9.9oz/282g

The Best Rain Jackets: Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%

Pros

Effective Minimalist Design

Cons

Price

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus

Weight: 10.9oz/310g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: The North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Weather Resistance 60% 60%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%

Pros

Good Styling

Cons

Futurelight Is Not Quite There Yet

Waterproofing: FUTURELIGHT 3L

Weight: 11.99oz/340g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Patagonia Rainshadow - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 90% 90%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%

Pros

Stretch Fabric

Cons

Hood Too Small For A Helmet

Waterproofing: 3L H2No Performance Standard

Weight: 14oz/397g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Outdoor Research Interstellar Ascentshell - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 90% 90%
  • Packability 90% 90%
  • Features 80% 80%

Pros

Lightweight, Breathable, Moves Very Well

Cons

Durability Is A Concern

Waterproofing: 3L AscentShell Technology

Weight: 11.8oz/335g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Outdoor Research Foray - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 60% 60%
  • Features 80% 80%

Pros

TorsoFlo Venting, Helmet Compatibility

Cons

Weight and Packing Size

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite

Weight: 16.3oz/463g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Columbia Outdry Ex Reign - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 50% 50%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

Waterproofing

Cons

Not the best Looking Jacket

Waterproofing: OutDry EXTREME

Weight: 14oz/398g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Stretch - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

Lightweight and Packable

Cons

2.5L Durability Is A Concern

Waterproofing: 2.5L WeatherEdge

Weight: 9.6oz/272g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: REI XeroDry GTX - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Rei.com

  • Weather Resistance 60% 60%
  • Breathability 60% 60%
  • Packability 90% 90%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

Budget Friendly Gore-Tex and Lightweight

Cons

Waterproofing is Not The Best, Gets Hot

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite

Weight: 12.5oz/355g

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Mountain Hardwear Exposure2 Gore-tex Paclite Stretch - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 70% 70%
  • Features 70% 70%

Pros

Stretch Fabric

Cons

No Pit Zips

Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Paclite 2.5 layer

Weight: 12.5oz/355g

Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid

The Best Rain Jackets: Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid - Gear Hacker

Best Rain Jacket of 2021

  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 90% 90%

Price: $425

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus & 3-layer Gore-Tex with C-Knit

Weight: 12.7oz/360g

What We Like: Great Features, Lightweight

What We Don’t: Price

Arc’teryx has used its extensive knowledge in waterproofing technology to create a lightweight and feature-packed rain jacket. Using two types of Gore-Tex—a 2L for the body and a 3L for high wear areas, the Beta SL Hybrid is a shell to be reckoned with. Complete with a helmet-compatible hood, hip-belt-compatible handwarmer pockets, and large pit zips, this jacket has it all. The price tag is a bit steep for most recreationalists, but if you are looking for something that will perform like the Energizer Bunny, look no further. The Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid was an easy selection as our Best Rain Jacket of 2021.

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L - Gear Hacker

Best Budget 3L Rain Jacket

 
  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 70% 70%
  • Features 70% 70%

Price: $150

Waterproofing: 3L H2No Performance Standard

Weight: 14oz/397g

What We Like: High Performance For Low Cost

What We Don’t: Less Movement Than Other Jackets

Very seldom do you find a 3L jacket like the Torrentshell 3L. It moves well, breathes well, and of course, sheds water extremely well. Made of 50-denier nylon, the shell seems bombproof and ready for any adventure. The fit can get a little boxy, but there are cinches to dial in the fit while on the move. The pit zips are massive to help dump heat, however, the hood is too small for a helmet. For $150, it is easy to argue that the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is an excellent rain jacket, and that’s why it made the cut as our Best Budget 3L Rain Jacket.

Black Diamond StormLine Stretch

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Black Diamond StormLine Stretch - Gear Hacker

Best Stretch Rain Jacket

  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 90% 90%
  • Features 70% 70%

Price: $150

Waterproofing: BD.dry 2.5-layer

Weight: 9.9oz/282g

What We Like: Mobility and Value

What We Don’t: Not As Breathable As A 3L Jacket

Black Diamond has impressed with their StormLine Stretch jacket. This lightweight highly versatile shell moves well, breathes well, and keeps the weather at bay while performing on the trails or in the mountains. The added mobility helps while riding bikes or scrambling around on rocks and ice. With a large hood and YKK zippers to keep water from sneaking in on the collar or the front, the StormLine is a great shell for moderate weather and conditions. For the price and performance, the StormLine is our Best Stretch Rain Jacket.

Other Rain Jackets

Arc’teryx Zeta SL

The Best Rain Jackets: Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%

Price: $299

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus

Weight: 10.9oz/310g

What We Like: Effective Minimalist Design

What We Don’t: Price

With a price tag of $299 and the use of Gore-Tex’s Paclite Plus, the Arc’teryx Zeta SL is an impressive jacket. The Gore-Tex Paclite Plus is one of Gore-Tex’s best lightweight membranes to keep the jacket packable and performing. The jacket was designed for hiking and trekking, so there’s no helmet compatibility, but the 40-denier face fabric keeps the jacket durable and ready for any adventure.

The North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: The North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 60% 60%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%

Price: $299

Waterproofing: FUTURELIGHT 3L

Weight: 11.99oz/340g

What We Like: Good Styling

What We Don’t: Futurelight Is Not Quite There Yet

This is a bit of a miss from The North Face, at least until they can solve the waterproofing issues that FUTURELIGHT seems to be having. For a $229 jacket, you do not want it to be wetting out really quickly. The material of the jacket is sturdy and the overall durability won’t be an issue, but if the waterproofing problem is not solved, then it could quickly become a very expensive windbreaker. The North Face Dryzzle has missed the mark for now, but it’s likely that The North Face will fix it soon.

Patagonia Rainshadow

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Patagonia Rainshadow - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 90% 90%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%

Price: $200

Waterproofing: 3L H2No Performance Standard

Weight: 14oz/397g

What We Like: Stretch Fabric

What We Don’t: Hood Too Small For A Helmet

Adding stretch to a rain jacket adds a world of versatility to the garment, and that is what Patagonia has done with the Rainshadow. A small amount of stretch can go a long way for performance, and it shows with this 3-layer jacket. Sure, the hood isn’t that big and the fabric is a bit thin at 30-denier weight, but at least you’ll be able to move your shoulders properly. The Rainshadow’s H2No waterproofing exceeds expectations as a proprietary membrane, making this jacket perfect for trekkers and just getting outside no matter the weather.

Outdoor Research Interstellar Ascentshell

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Outdoor Research Interstellar Ascentshell - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 90% 90%
  • Packability 90% 90%
  • Features 80% 80%

Price: $300

Waterproofing: 3L AscentShell Technology

Weight: 11.8oz/335g

What We Like: Lightweight, Breathable, Moves Very Well

What We Don’t: Durability Is A Concern

You know a company is confident in their shell’s breathability when they don’t even include pit zips. The Outdoor Research Interstellar Ascentshell breathability is, simply put, out of this world. While not as thick and warm as a traditional 3L shell, the Ascentshell provides exceptional water protection in a very lightweight package. The material is a bit on the thin side, so don’t plan on bashing into too many rocks and all will be well. At $300, it is an expensive coat, but the performance matches the price.

Outdoor Research Foray

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Outdoor Research Foray - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Packability 60% 60%
  • Features 80% 80%

Price: $215

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite

Weight: 16.3oz/463g

What We Like: TorsoFlo Venting, Helmet Compatibility

What We Don’t: Weight and Packing Size

It is always refreshing to see a piece of gear or garment use a technology that no other item does. For the Outdoor Research Foray, these are the pit zips that run all the way down to the hem and can turn the jacket into a poncho. This is a very cool feature that increases versatility. The Foray uses Gore-Tex Paclite and is constructed with a 50-denier face fabric for long-term durability. It can be a bit boxy but that allows for layering, and the hood is large enough for a helmet. While not the lightest jacket, the Foray is quite versatile and durable, and it makes for an excellent shell when the weather gets rowdy.

Columbia Outdry Ex Reign Jacket

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Columbia Outdry Ex Reign - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 90% 90%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 50% 50%
  • Features 70% 70%

Price: $150

Waterproofing: OutDry EXTREME

Weight: 14oz/398g

What We Like: Waterproofing

What We Don’t: Not The Best Looking Jacket

Innovation is rarely a bad thing, and Columbia is always out there innovating. The OutDry Ex Reign Jacket takes the waterproof membrane and uses it on the face of the jacket, leaving you with a waterproof yet highly glossy jacket. The seam taping is on the exterior of the jacket and can give the jacket a “safety vest” look. What this allows for is a softer interior fabric that is used to wick sweat away. It’s a very interesting design that is in some ways futuristic in both design and looks. There are still pit zips and a massive hood, so all in all, if you like the look, you’ll like this jacket.

Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Stretch

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Stretch - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%

Price: $100

Waterproofing: 2.5L WeatherEdge

Weight: 9.6oz/272g

What We Like: Lightweight and Packable

What We Don’t: 2.5L Durability Is A Concern

Eddie Bauer has made a budget rain jacket for the recreationalist who also spends most of their time running around town. The Cloud Cap Stretch does not come overly featured but uses a very strong DWR and Eddie Bauer’s proprietary WeatherEdge waterproofing. These ingredients combine to create a good waterproof jacket for travel or local hiking. The 2.5L design does add concern over the longevity of the waterproofing and overall jacket durability. With easy use and care, it will handle moderate weather well.

REI XeroDry GTX

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: REI XeroDry GTX - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 60% 60%
  • Breathability 60% 60%
  • Packability 90% 90%
  • Features 70% 70%

Price: $160

Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite

Weight: 12.5oz/355g

What We Like: Budget Friendly Gore-Tex and Lightweight

What We Don’t: Waterproofing is Not The Best, Gets Hot

REI is well known for its budget-friendly performance gear. The XeroDry GTX is the least expensive Gore-Tex jacket on our list, and great for anyone looking to get out on the trails without breaking the bank. While the Gore-Tex Paclite is not the highest performing of the Gore-Tex membranes, it still is usually better than proprietary-brand membranes. The XeroDry GTX would benefit from the addition of pit zips to help with breathability. The DWR does wet out fairly quickly and could use an upgrade. For a low-budget Gore-Tex shell, the value is there if you do not rely on your jacket every day or expect monsoon weather.

Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-tex Paclite

Best Rain Jackets of 2021: Mountain Hardwear Exposure2 Gore-tex Paclite Stretch - Gear Hacker
  • Weather Resistance 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Packability 70% 70%
  • Features 70% 70%

Price: $220

Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Paclite 2.5 layer

Weight: 12.5oz/355g

What We Like: Stretch Fabric

What We Don’t: No Pit Zips

A quiet and stretchy rain jacket did not seem possible even five years ago. However, today companies are introducing technology that keeps jackets quieter and allows more movement while still maintaining top-level protection from the elements. The Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 uses elastane to improve mobility while maintaining the waterproofing. It is missing some features that would have helped overall, like pit zips. The jacket can get warm while on the move and pit zips would have helped to regulate temperature without having to open the front zipper. All in all, the Exposure/2 is a great jacket.

We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!