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No one’s particularly fond of being caught in a downpour, and in spring and summer months, they just seem to come out of nowhere on days where precip wasn’t even in the forecast. Whether on a thru-hike or just the daily commute, there’s a lot of value in the insurance a lightweight, packable rain jacket provides.
There’s likely nothing wrong with the waterproof raincoat you already own. But raincoats that give near equal attention to packability as waterproof properties, now that's the sweetspot. Read on as we outline what to look for in a packable, lightweight rain jacket and highlight some of the best options from brands we know and trust.
What Makes a Good Packable Rain Jacket?
Starting most simply, we’ll likely want a rain jacket that weighs little and packs small. Typically, designs will feature a chest or hand pocket with a double-sided zipper for the jacket to stuff into, forming a nice compact pouch for easy stowing. Other designs are even more creative, like Specialized's Short Sleeve Rain Anorak, which uses an inventive design that allows the rainproof layer to be worn as a hip pack when not needed, sidestepping the need for a bag or backpack altogether. But a jacket doesn't need to stuff into a specific pocket— if it's truly lightweight and easy to scrunch or fold up in the last cranny of your backpack, that counts as packable.
A rain jacket should, of course, be properly waterproof. If stated, look for waterproofing column ratings at 10,000mm to stand up in the heaviest rains. Jackets with ratings below 5,000mm might be more appropriately labeled as water-repellent or water-resistant. A three-layer construction will be more dependable in the long haul, but a 2.5-layer will save overall weight and improve flexibility, benefitting the ease of packing.
Inclusion and arrangement of pockets, hood shape, and points of adjustability are all features of necessity that boil down to personal preference. More features come with some added weight, so prioritize what you need most if total packed weight is of concern.
The Best Packable Waterproof Jackets
This ultralight shell jacket is well suited to harsh alpine environments thanks to a helmet-compatible adjustable hood and three-layer H2No fabric, faced with lightweight ripstop nylon fabric for durability and DWR treatment for beading away droplets. Each of the three pockets uses coated, watertight zippers, with the left chest pocket holding the entire jacket into a nice compact pouch when it’s not needed. All-in, this handy shell only weighs 8.3 ounces, so it'll suit even the most fastidious ounce-counting backpackers.
Gore-Tex’s 2.5-layer Paclite Plus material brings highly waterproof, breathable, and packable performance to Mountain Hardwear’s Exposure 2 rain jacket, which weighs in at a respectable 9.1-ounces. For further waterproof measures, technical tape covers sewn seams and polyurethane coats zippers. Casual wearers will appreciate the brimmed adjustable hood, which is not intended for alpine helmets. Once packed into its hand pocket, use the gear loop to clip the jacket to a pack or harness for easy access.
The North Face’s trim-fitting rain jacket favors hikers and backpackers putting in high-pace miles, no matter the weather. To manage excess body heat when the trail starts getting tough, a pair of pit zippers vent out excess heat quickly, and the breathable 2.5-layer DryVent fabric lets body heat vapor escape more gradually. Once packed into its hand pocket, the 11.6-ounce jacket makes for an easily transportable piece that hits just above ultralightweight figures.
Anorak style jackets make perfect rain jackets since they reduce central zipper lengths, an especially vulnerable point for water to make its entry. The half-length zipper also helps shave weight on the lightweight jacket, made from Arc’teryx’s ultralight, ultra-durable Hadron fabric, a three-layer, Gore-Tex-backed material for keeping out severe storms. Though the jacket doesn’t compact into a pocket or include a stuff sack, the 7.4-ounce packed weight shouldn’t be too much of a burden in your backpack.
Outdoor Research may not be a specialty ultralight brand, but the 6.3-ounce rain jacket (that's lighter than a minimal windbreaker) is the lightest on this list and a brand bestseller for 12 years and counting. But with such a low weight also come minimalist features: elastic, non-adjustable cuffs, a lightly adjustable hood, and a single chest pocket that serves as a stuff sack. If you can live without hand pockets or pit zips, you stand to win tremendous weight savings with the Helium. And, unlike most ultralight gear, the fully-taped 2.5-layer Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse fabric is robust thanks to the inclusion of ripstop.
One of our go-to brands for headlamps and camp lighting also puts out some excellent apparel, including this lightweight rain jacket that packs into its pocket for an 8.94-ounce carry. The brand’s BD.dry fabric uses a 2.5-layer construction to provide 10,000mm of waterproof protection with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to bead away droplets. Though lacking pit zips, a strategically placed vent between the shoulders allows heat and moisture to escape, as long as a backpack doesn’t cover it up.
It might be a brand name you’re less accustomed to seeing alongside some of these other standards, but don’t forget Eddie Bauer’s status as an OG outdoor brand with Seattle roots cemented in mountaineering history. This rain jacket is part of their new Super Sevens line, a three-piece outerwear system that includes the Fleece Pullover Hoodie ($99) and Wind Jacket ($129). EB’s WeatherEdge Pro fabric provides a deluge-proof 20,000mm waterproof rating with a StormRepel Super DWR coating. Hook and loop (unbranded Velcro) straps adjust cuffs, while drawstrings secure the hem and hood fit over additional Super Sevens layers.
With a packed weight of 10.7-ounces, the Meridian makes one of the slightly heavier options in our roundup, but with a very high waterproof rating—28,000mm to be precise—featuring breathable Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric. Features like slanted chest pockets, long pit zips, and a roomy cinch hood make for a versatile shell. Even without rainfall, it’s an ideal windproof layer to pull on atop high hills and summits. The Meridian might not pack into its pockets, but it includes a stuff sack for compact storage in a backpack.
A bikepacking trip or trail ride might be the most inconvenient time for a sudden rain shower–not only do you have rain falling from overhead, but tires can really kick water up at you once the ground fully saturates. Hailing from Squamish, bike apparel brand 7Mesh has experienced its share of riding in the wet. The Copliot Jacket is designed to carry all the time so you never get caugh unawares, deploying from its packable pocket and covering riders from a helmet-compatible hood down to the dropped back hem. The location of its side pockets might seem out of the ordinary, but they’re carefully positioned to hold cargo out of the way while riding.
The Frogg Toggs brand name may be less familiar to general outdoor types, but it’s well known in fishing and ultralight crowds for its beyond-reasonably priced and effective outerwear. The zero frills Ultra-Lite Jacket uses proprietary non-woven fabric that’s waterproof, breathable, and packable in an included stuff sack. At this price, you’d have a hard time finding another packable rain jacket with a weight this low and rep as dependable.