Rain jackets are worn by hikers, backpackers or people who want to continue with their outdoor activities in case of heavy rain.

They come in all kinds of styles, fits, materials and even different degrees of weather protection.

While choosing a rain jacket,it is important to know the exact purpose you need it for.

Given below are some tips to choose the best rain jacket.

1. Look At The Degree Of Weather Protection

Rain jackets are usually labelled as water resistant or waterproof.

Water resistant jackets - Water repellent jackets have a durable water repellent finish which is applied to the outside of the jacket. This will cause water to bead off the fabric. 

These jackets are more suitable for light rain and will most probably last only a few weeks before it starts being effective. In case of heavy rain, water will start leaking in. 

These jackets can be used for protection against wind or as casual jackets for short hikes or outdoor trips.

Waterproof jackets - Waterproof jackets not only have a durable repellent finish but also an interior coating which keeps the water out. 

The waterproof fabrics used for these jackets are usually tested in the laboratory using a water column test. 

These jackets are more expensive than water resistant ones because of their better quality fabric. The higher the water resistance capacity, the higher the cost of the jacket. 

These kinds of jackets are great for thru-hiking where you will be spending multiple days outdoors. 

While choosing a rain jacket for hiking it is important you choose a lightweight one to lighten your pack. You can check out some of the best lightweight rain jackets at resmarty.com

2. Consider Fabric Layers

Rain jackets typically come in 2, 2.5 and 3 layer constructions.

2 layer - In a 2 layer construction, the outer fabric like nylon or polyester is bonded to the inner waterproof membrane. 

This provides durable water repellency and makes the water droplets bead off the fabric. These jackets are quite flexible and comfortable but don’t offer a lot of protection from rain.

2.5 layer - A 2.5 layer construction is similar to a 2 layer construction except that a thin coating with a raised print is applied to the inside of the waterproof membrane. 

These jackets are very lightweight and packable. They are not very durable and can be used as a rain jacket for short hikes or other short outdoor trips.

3 layer - In a 3 layer construction, all the layers are laminated together including the outer fabric, membrane and protective liner. 

These jackets are more on the expensive side since they are very durable and offer a high degree of protection from elements. 

If you are someone who spends a lot of time outdoors or goes on hikes very often, you can consider investing in this kind of jacket.

3. Sealed Seams

It doesn’t matter how water resistant your jacket is if the seams are not sealed properly. 

Unsealed seams will let the water leak into the jacket and this will leave you feeling very wet. Make sure all the seams are sealed very properly with a special waterproof tape before purchasing a rain jacket.

However a lack of seams doesn’t mean that the rain jacket is poor quality. Seal taping is required for a jacket to be fully waterproof. 

If you want a casual rain jacket which is simply water resistant, you can go for cheaper jackets which don’t have seam taping.

4. Breathability

The breathability of a rain jacket is something which is overlooked very often. 

If your rain jacket is not breathable, all the moisture will be retained and you will feel extremely hot and uncomfortable. A breathable rain jacket will not allow the rain to come in but will also let the water vapour and perspiration out.

Different rain jackets have different breathability ratings. For example, a 25,000 breathability rating means that 25,000 grams of rainwater is able to pass through the fabric in the other direction.

If you aren’t going to be extremely active or working up a sweat, you can go for a low breathability rain jacket. On the other hand, if you are going to be engaging in high intensity running, hiking or other activities which will cause you to sweat a lot, go for high breathability rain jackets.

5. Type Of Shells

Depending upon how much weather protection you need, you should look at the different shell categories rain jackets come under and select one according to your needs,

  • Hard shells - They are waterproof, breathable shells which are stiffer than other shells. They are generally used as hiking rain jackets.
  • Soft shells - This includes a combination of an insulating layer and a water resistant shell. They are suitable for intense activities which work up sweat.
  • Insulating shells - They can be either hard shells or soft shells but with insulation.

6. Extra Features

There are several other construction features you should consider,

  • Hoods - If you don’t want your neck and head drenched in water, a proper hood will be a useful feature to have. Some rain jackets have adjustable hoods which prevent the hood from falling down.
  • Vents - Rain jackets with underarm vents or mesh liners can improve breathability. Go for rain jackets with vents if you participate in strenuous activities.
  • Pockets - Most casual rain jackets have inner and outer pockets for storing daily essential items. Depending upon the kind of activity the rain jacket is designed for, the pockets can be in different places. 

For example in hiking rain jackets, pockets are located a little higher up in order to make space for a climbing harness or hip belt. Cycling jackets tend to have very few pockets.

  • Packability - Rain jackets which are made from light and non bulky fabrics are easier to pack. 

If you are going to be camping or hiking for a few days, make sure you choose a rain jacket which is packable.Some rain jackets can even be folded into a storage pouch.

Author Bio

Founder of resmarty.com, Res Marty is passionate about hiking and climbing and shares his best tips and reviews about the best hiking equipment on his blog. His aim is to help people find the best gear for their personal hiking trip.