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The Best Rain Jacket for Hiking 2023

The Best Rain Jacket for Hiking 2023

Are you looking for the best rain jacket for your next hiking adventure? With so many different options in the market, it can be tough to choose the right one for you. So, to keep you dry and comfortable, let's explore what makes the best hiking rain jacket, along with key features, care and maintenance, and other important considerations to keep in mind.

Key Features to Look For in a Hiking Rain Jacket

Whether it's a misty morning or a sudden downpour, having a reliable rain jacket on-hand is crucial for staying comfortable and safe on the trail. Here are some key features you should consider before buying a hiking rain jacket.


Waterproofing ability is the most important feature to look for in a hiking rain jacket. After all, you need a jacket that can keep you dry no matter what comes your way.  When searching for the perfect waterproof jacket, pay attention to the fabric - usually synthetic materials like Gore-Tex, eVent, or DryVent are the best options. These materials have a membrane or coating that repels water while still allowing sweat to evaporate, promoting breathability.


Without proper ventilation, water vapor from your sweat can quickly build up, resulting in moisture build-up inside the jacket. This leads to discomfort and a clammy feeling, making it harder to maintain your body heat. A breathable hiking rain jacket allows air to circulate, keeping you dry and comfortable while still providing adequate protection against rain. Laminates like eVent are known for their robust breathability, making them ideal for high-intensity activities like hiking.


A hiking rain jacket can be a big investment, so you'll want it to last for the long haul. Buying a durable jacket that can withstand the rigors of the outdoors is crucial. Look for jackets that feature durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, which helps the fabric shed water instead of absorbing it. Also, prioritize jackets constructed with a higher denier fabric, which means a thicker material with stronger fibers. These thicker, more durable materials will hold up to the demands of the trail, like snags on tree branches or abrasions from rocks. Jackets made with recycled materials are also great options for eco-conscious hikers.


As with any hiking gear, the weight of your rain jacket matters, since you'll be wearing it or carrying it in your pack while hiking. You don't want to lug around anything too heavy and bulky. Look for jackets that strike a balance between weight and functionality. There are plenty of high-quality, lightweight jackets that adequately repel rain without weighing you down.


Finally, consider the packability of your jacket. Hiking rain jackets that can be stowed away in a small compartment or packable stuff sack are ideal for multi-day trips. Jackets made of lightweight, stretchy materials are best for effortless packability, allowing you to compress the jacket into a small size without creating bulk.

Types of Hiking Rain Jackets

When you are an avid hiker, you know that sometimes you have to face the elements, and rain in particular, on your outdoor adventures. Here is a rundown of the different types of hiking rain jackets to help you make an informed decision.

1. Hardshell Rain Jackets

Hardshell rain jackets, also known as 3-layer jackets, have a durable outer layer, a breathable middle layer, and a soft and comfortable inner layer, making them ideal for hiking in heavy rain and strong winds. They are usually made of Gore-Tex or eVent fabric, which are some of the most breathable and waterproof materials available. Hardshell rain jackets are often expensive, but they provide great rain protection and are durable enough to last you for years.

2. Softshell Rain Jackets

Softshell rain jackets are made with a flexible, non-rigid material, which makes them lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods. They provide excellent insulation, which is great in chilly, wet conditions. While softshell rain jackets are not 100% waterproof, they have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating, which provides sufficient protection in light to moderate rain. They are also ideal for hiking in milder conditions. Most softshell jackets are lightweight and super packable, meaning they are easy to stash in an outer pocket on your backpack. They are ideal for those "just in case" moments on the trail.

3. Poncho Rain Jackets

Poncho rain jackets are a convenient and inexpensive option for hikers who don't want to pay a lot of money for a rain jacket. Rain ponchos are designed with waterproof materials, such as nylon, and are shaped like a traditional poncho to keep you dry. The downside of poncho rain jackets is that they provide minimal protection against the wind, making them less effective in strong gusts. They can also be challenging to hike with since they often move around, which can be annoying and unsafe in certain situations.

4. Packable Rain Jackets

Packable rain jackets, also known as packable shells, are designed to be ultra-lightweight and compact, making them perfect for backpacking and hiking trips where space and weight are essential. They are made of breathable and waterproof materials, such as nylon, that can be easily compressed into a small pouch or stuff sack, taking up minimal space in your backpack. They don't provide as much protection as hardshell rain jackets, but they are a practical and budget-friendly option for hikers who want to pack light.

5. Hybrid Rain Jackets

Hybrid rain jackets combine the best of both worlds: the protection of a hardshell rain jacket and the flexibility of a softshell jacket. They are made of a waterproof outer layer and a flexible inner layer, which provides excellent breathability and comfort. Hybrid rain jackets are ideal for hikers who want a versatile jacket that can handle a variety of conditions and terrain. They can be more expensive than other rain jackets, but they offer excellent value for money, considering their durability and versatility.

Hardshell Hiking Jacket or Rain Jacket?

Hardshell jackets are typically made of more robust materials, making them ideal for heavy rain, snow, or ice. They provide great insulation against the elements, but their rigid structure can sometimes lead to reduced breathability. Rain jackets, on the other hand, score high in breathability and packability. They provide excellent protection from moderate rain and are ideal for short hikes. Ultimately, selecting a rain jacket or hardshell jacket depends on your planned hiking activity and the weather conditions likely to be encountered.

When to Consider a Soft Shell Hiking Jacket

A soft shell hiking jacket is a versatile piece of gear that offers increased flexibility and warmth for cold weather conditions. It features a more gentle, insulating fabric than traditional hiking rain jackets. If your hiking trail involves light rain, snow, or sleet, then a softshell jacket is an excellent choice. They offer greater breathability and insulation, ensuring you stay dry and warm even in increased moisture. Softshell jackets also have fewer layers, making them more functional for activities that require more movement, like hiking, running, and climbing.

A combination of a rain jacket and soft shell jacket is recommended for hiking in variable weather conditions. With this combination, you can remove layers or add them as needed, ensuring your hiking experience is pleasant and enjoyable.

How to Choose the Right Hiking Rain Jacket for You

Now that you know a little more about the different types of hiking rain jackets some key features to look for, let's examine some of the other factors that go into picking the best rain gear for your next hike.

Consider Your Hiking Environment

Your hiking environment is the first factor to consider when choosing a rain jacket for hiking. Different climates and regions demand different types of rain jackets.

If you're hiking in a humid and wet environment like a rainforest, you'll need a rain jacket with superior water repellency. It should also have good breathability to permit moisture to escape and prevent you from feeling hot and stuffy. But if you're hiking in a colder environment like a mountain, you require an insulated rain jacket. An insulated rain jacket provides warmth and keeps you dry, helping you avoid hypothermia. Or, if you're hiking in a mild temperature environment, a lightweight and stretchy rain jacket will work. It should have a durable water repellent finish (DWR) to help prevent water penetration.

Determine Your Budget

Your budget is the next factor to consider when selecting a hiking rain jacket. You can find rain jackets that range from $50 to over $500. Consequently, having a budget in mind before beginning your search can help limit your options. It's essential to remember that, while it may be tempting, cost should not be the only primary factor when you're deciding on a rain jacket. Choose a jacket that will suit your hiking environment and provide optimum protection.

Proper Hiking Rain Jacket Care and Maintenance

If you're an avid hiker, you know how important it is to have a reliable hiking rain jacket. However, like any other outdoor gear, your hiking rain jacket requires care and maintenance to keep it in good condition.

Washing and Drying Guidelines

Proper washing is important for maintaining your hiking rain jacket. As you wear your jacket, dirt, sweat, and oil can accumulate, which can affect its water-repellent properties. Here are some guidelines you should follow when washing your rain jacket:

  • Read the care label: The care label on your rain jacket will provide instructions on how to wash it. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging the fabric.
  • Use a gentle detergent: Use a detergent that is specifically designed for technical fabrics. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as these can damage the water-repellent coating on the fabric.
  • Wash in cool water: Use cool water when washing your rain jacket, and avoid using hot water, as this can damage the fabric.
  • Don't overload the washing machine: Avoid overloading the washing machine, as this can damage the fabric and affect the performance of the jacket.
  • Avoid using the dryer: Avoid using the dryer to dry your rain jacket, as the heat can damage the fabric. Instead, hang the jacket in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

Regular Inspection and Repairs

Another important aspect of maintaining your hiking rain jacket is to regularly inspect it for signs of wear and tear. Over time, the fabric can become worn or damaged, which can affect its effectiveness in keeping you dry. Here are some tips for inspecting and repairing your rain jacket:

  • Inspect the jacket before and after each use: Before you head out on a hike, inspect your jacket for any signs of damage or wear, such as tears, holes, or frayed seams. After each hike, inspect your jacket again to look for any signs of damage caused by the elements.
  • Repair any damage promptly: If you do notice any damage to your jacket, such as a tear or frayed seam, repair it as soon as possible. Delaying repairs can cause the damage to worsen and affect the performance of the jacket.
  • Use a patch kit for small repairs: For small tears or punctures, use a patch kit to make the repair. These kits typically come with a patch and adhesive that can be used to patch the damaged area.
  • Send the jacket for professional repairs: If the damage to your jacket is more significant, such as a larger tear or a damaged zipper, it's best to send the jacket to a professional repair service. They can repair the jacket and ensure it maintains its water-repellent properties.

By regularly inspecting and repairing your hiking rain jacket, you can ensure it stays in good condition and continues to keep you dry and comfortable on all your hikes.

About Stio

Stio connects you with the outdoors through quality products infused with a mountain soul. Proudly operating from Jackson Hole, WY, we take inspiration from our natural surroundings and put it into every piece of apparel we make. From technical performance to aesthetics, Stio outfits you with exceptional products for unforgettable outdoor experiences.


What features should I look for in a rain jacket for hiking?

The best rain jackets for hiking should be waterproof, breathable, and durable. Look for a jacket with a good waterproof rating, such as Gore-Tex, to ensure that you stay dry in even the heaviest downpour. Breathability is also important to help keep you comfortable on warm and humid days. Finally, durability is key for a jacket that will stand up to the rigors of hiking.

What is the difference between a rain shell and a waterproof jacket?

A rain shell is a type of lightweight jacket designed to protect you from rain and wind. It is typically made from a thin, waterproof and breathable material, and may not have insulation. A waterproof jacket, on the other hand, is designed to be more heavy-duty. It is typically made from a thicker material and may include insulation to keep you warm as well as dry. While a rain shell is suitable for mild weather, a waterproof jacket is a better option for cold and wet conditions.

What should I look for in the fit of a rain jacket for hiking?

A rain jacket for hiking should fit snugly but allow for a full range of motion. Look for a jacket with adjustable cuffs, a cinchable hem, and a hood that can be tightened around your face to keep out the rain. Make sure there is enough room for wearing layers underneath, but not so much that the jacket feels bulky or uncomfortable.

What’s the best way to care for my rain jacket?

To prolong the life of your rain jacket, it’s important to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. This may include washing the jacket separately from other items, using a mild detergent, and avoiding the use of fabric softeners. You may also need to reapply the DWR coating periodically to maintain the jacket’s water resistance.

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