Every time I slip on a rain jacket, I give thanks that we no longer have to wrap ourselves in smelly sealskin to stay dry. Advances in weatherproof textiles and apparel design mean that rain jackets today are more comfortable and watertight than ever. But depending on the climate and your level of activity, sorting through different styles, technologies, and waterproof ratings can be confusing.
Every year, I test around 10 to 12 rain jackets through the wet Pacific Northwest winter. I hike, bike, run, and walk my dog; sometimes I stand in the shower with my clothes on when the weather isn’t cooperating. I also got advice from Amber Williams, a consumer science educator and lecturer in textile science and pattern making at Utah State University’s Outdoor Product Design program. These are our favorite rain jackets.
Updated May 2022: We added new picks, like the Patagonia Houdini, and removed older ones.
- Best Everyday Rain Jacket
- Best Rain Jacket for Running
- Best Rain Jacket for Biking
- Best Rain Jacket for Hiking
- Best Affordable Rain Jacket
- Honorable Mentions
- Understanding Rain Jacket Tech
Right now, every outdoor gear company is desperately trying to figure out how to make effective rainwear without the use of carcinogenic perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Modern durable water repellents (DWRs) use PFCs in the manufacturing process, which then migrate from your clothing into soil and streams as you tromp around outside.
I’d argue that one of the best ways to avoid PFCs in an everyday jacket is to use a polyurethane jacket or a classic rubber raincoat. Technical rain jacket manufacturers tend to shy away from polyurethane, because it feels, well, rubbery. But the material is durable, long-lasting, windproof, and waterproof, and it’s also PFC-free! The coats are made from RPET, a plastic derived from recycled water bottles.
The Trawler is not a rain jacket made for climbing or intense activities, but I did go hiking and boating while wearing it. The polyurethane outer fabric did a great job of repelling rain and breaking strong, gusty winds while still being stretchy enough that I could move my arms and torso comfortably and put on backpacks. It’s not amazingly breathable, but it does have armpit vents, in addition to pockets and an adjustable hood.
This spring in Portland has been exceedingly soggy. In fact, it has broken the record for the city’s rainiest April ever, and softshell rain jackets with fewer features just haven’t been cutting it. For the past several months, I’ve been reaching for Patagonia’s lightweight windbreaker, the Houdini.
It’s overwhelmingly simple. It has a slim fit that doesn’t rustle while you’re swinging your arms back and forth, and the hood fits my proportionately oversized head. It has one single chest pocket for keys or a snack that doubles as a stuff sack, and it packs down to nearly nothing (3.7 ounces!) in my tiny Nathan running vest or in a backpack while traveling. I also like that the cuffs are elasticized, so you don’t have to fiddle with Velcro to keep water from running up your arms.
In the past few years, Patagonia has made a few more Earth-friendly moves that make me more inclined to recommend its jackets. The nylon is recycled, and the company recently made the switch to PFC-free DWR. However, this is not not terribly breathable. If you want to achieve that magical combination of being a little protected but not clammy, I’d recommend something lighter, like Nathan’s Vamos track jacket ($100) or Smartwool’s merino anorak ($130), which uses a PFC-free DWR. These don’t pack down as small, though.