A key part of your hiking gear is your hiking jacket. Whether you’re hiking in the depths of winter or need to be kept dry from summer downpours you ideally need to have a hiking jacket that will meet your needs all year round.
If you’re new to hiking and have never bought a waterproof hiking jacket before, check out the blog post how to buy a waterproof hiking jacket. That will walk you through all the many things you should consider when choosing a suitable jacket.
If however, you want to get straight to it I've added a short summary guide below to get you started.
Choosing A Waterproof Hiking Jacket - The Quick Version!
In short, in my opinion the best type of waterproof hiking jacket for most hikers is the rain shell jacket option which is normally a 2 or 2.5 layer construction. The reasons for this are covered in detail in the post referenced above but in brief, I think the main reasons for going with a rain jacket are:
- Rain shell jackets are perfect for layering
- They are much cheaper than their hard shell counterparts
- They are lightweight
- They give good protection from bad weather
Now, I stress, this is not to say that hard shell jackets aren't great for hiking purposes, not at all. They have a lot of great things to offer too and, in most cases, are better quality and will last longer than rain shells. However, I think the basic rain jacket advantages outweigh the advantages of their more elaborate hard shell relatives, for general hiking purposes anyway. Things like weight, packability and so on all come into play and the price difference can be significant.
I will be adding reviews on hard shells in the future too so you can learn more about them too. For now though, I've compiled some of the best rain shells available on the market today.
How This Page Works
There are many excellent rain jacket options on the market and they are always changing. The choice can be truly mind bending, but that is only a good thing in my opinion. More competition means rain shell jackets should only get better and better as time moves on. Technology, generally speaking, tends to get better and more efficient and so I think what will be available in terms of water resistance and breathability in the not too distant future, will just get better and better.
However, to help aid you in your search for that perfect rain jacket for the trail, below I list my favorite rain shell jacket of the moment. You can click on the picture to learn more. As with anything though, what floats my boat, may not float yours, so if my choice selection doesn't do it for you, I recommend you check out 10 of the best hiking rain jackets for men and 10 of the best hiking rain jackets for women (Note, I'm putting the finishing touches to the ladies page so will add a link very soon!).
These list out some of the best hiking rain shell jacket options available today. You will find a whole host of other excellent rain shell jacket options there, all of which are reputable options with good user ratings. Again, you can follow the links on those pages to learn more about any specific jacket.
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket
This is my new favorite rain shell. I bought it recently and have been taking it out on my hikes seeing how it would fair and I have been very pleased with it. As well as my own personal experience, the Marmot Minimalist rain jacket is a top performer all across the web. From gear review sites to user reviews it performs consistently well and has lots of great reports on its functional capability.
Best Rain Shell Jacket
For most types of hiking all year round, the best rain shell option is the Marmot Minimalist Jacket.
It is very functional sports a very comfortable fit allowing angel wing movement i.e. it doesn’t ride up your back when you swing your arms. It’s waterproof and breathable utilizing a Gore-tex membrane, which is of course a well known industry standard, and it performs very well in both of these key areas. The Minimalist is a good weight at 15 oz (approximately) and is durable and sturdy.
The hood is fully adjustable, performs well and offers a stiff brim which works well in tough conditions and is always handy to help maintain visibility in bad weather. Some other features of note are the DriClime® chin guard, the Velcro cuffs and the storm flap which all lend themselves to keeping you secure and dry. The Minimalist also features two very roomy zippered hand pockets which are very accessible, even with a pack on, as well as functional Napoleon chest pocket, handy for a map and compass.
Pros: Great breathability and ventilation, functional hood, pit zips, excellent hood
Cons: A little bulkier than some other jackets available in the same jacket category
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, general outdoor use, day-to-day use
OK, so that’s it for now. I hope you found this information useful and it helps you in the process of picking a rain jacket for the trail. The core fundamental piece of advice I give before buying any piece of hiking gear also applies, take your time and educate yourself well in the process of learning about what a decent rain jacket should be able to do in terms of capability and, most importantly, be clear about what you need your jacket for.
Remember, a basic rain shell jacket like the Marmot Minimalist will meet most average hikers needs, so you should be good if you stay in the rain shell category. Not only in terms of functionality, but you also won't break the bank. Moving towards hard shell jackets, expect the price to start to rise.
As mentioned above, things are always changing, so I’ll be updating this page as my preferences change but this is my recommendations for now. Happy hiking!