There's no faster way to ruin a beautiful hike than by getting caught in the rain. In order to be prepared, you need one of the
best rain jackets for hiking. However, any old coat won't do. There are certain qualities you want in a hiking jacket that you don't necessarily need in a regular raincoat.
The biggest distinction is breathability. When you're hiking, you get hot and sweaty easily, so proper ventilation is critical. Materials like nylon, polyamide, and other airy fabrics are typically the best. It's also helpful to have armpit zippers or other similar features designed to cool you down. It's hard to make a coat that's both breathable and fully waterproof, so the best solutions are usually constructed with breathable fabric and then coated with a
waterproof treatment like DWR.
The other hiking-specific feature you want is packability. You probably don't want one of those big, bulky jackets with multiple layers that takes up half your backpack. Instead, your jacket should be extra lightweight and easy to pack down small. The degree of packability needed will depend on what kind of hiking you're doing. Multiday backpacking trips or longer day hikes will require the lightest, most compact jackets, while shorter hikes usually allow you to take more weight.
Additionally, it's nice to have features you'd want in other jackets, too, such as an adjustable hood, hand pockets, a cinching waistband, or adjustable cuffs.
Given these characteristics, take a look at the
best rain jackets for hiking below. My picks all come in a men's version and a women's version (with the exception of one pick that's unisex). 01 The best overall MEN'S VERSION: WOMEN'S VERSION: What's great about it: I personally have this lightweight rain jacket, and it's one of my favorites for hiking. On top of being exceptionally waterproof, it's also breathable, so if you tend to get sweaty trekking, you won't feel damp and sticky. This is largely due to its airy nylon construction combined with a StormRepel DWR treatment, which causes water to roll off the material. It packs down tightly and has an adjustable hood, as well as pit zips to provide extra ventilation. What fans say: "Perfect rain jacket for people who want to go hiking on a cool, fall day or someone who wants to throw something on quick and go out on the town. If you want to see how well this jacket performs, wear it during a rainy day just above freezing or while hiking at a high elevation. If you are not the sporty type, you can still wear this out wherever it is raining and have no worries of getting wet." 02 The runner-up MEN'S VERSION: WOMEN'S VERSION: What's great about it: Constructed with 100% polyamide, this lightweight rain jacket is waterproof, breathable, and extremely comfortable. It keeps water out, yet it doesn't have that stiff, plastic feel. Like the Eddie Bauer selection above, it has armpit zippers to cool off and a fully adjustable hood. It also has an adjustable waistband and cuffs to perfectly customize the fit. What fans say: "I brought this jacket to Costa Rica to have a light-weight, waterproof shell for hiking in the rain forest [...] It really held up well during the downpours (there's a reason they call it a rainforest!) And, the price here was much lower than comparable jackets, including used ones on eBay. I would highly recommend it!" 03 The most lightweight MEN'S VERSION: WOMEN'S VERSION: What's great about it: I have this one, too, and it is by far the lightest, most compact rain jacket I own. It has an extremely thin design with an ultra-low profile, but it still does a remarkably good job of keeping you dry. The men's version is only 7 ounces and the women's version is 5.5 ounces. The lack of weight and bulk does come with a couple of drawbacks: It doesn't have any hand pockets, which I do find kind of annoying, and the overall design lacks the sturdy, thicker feel of some heavier jackets. Still, if you want something that's exceptionally small and lightweight that you can throw in your hiking bag for simple rain protection, this is the best choice. What fans say: "I bought this rain top for a 9-month motorcycle ride through East Africa and across Asia because it's the smallest, lightest top out there. Weight and volume are important on a long ride, same for bicycling, hiking or any overland travel. It's a great top that kept me dry and packed up at like one-third the size of other options. Fabric is impressively rugged and durable despite its thinness." 04 The best budget option UNISEX: What's great about it: If you don't want to spend a lot of money but you still need a jacket that keeps you reasonably well-protected from the rain, this high-quality unisex rain jacket is a great choice. It's made with water-resistant nylon and coated in an anti-splash treatment to repel additional moisture. Fans say it's breathable and packs down small enough to fit inside your pocket. It's not fully waterproof, so I wouldn't recommend it for multiday trips or extremely rainy situations; however, it's a fantastic option if you simply want something to keep you from getting soaked during a light rain. What fans say: "This rain jacket is exactly what I expected - lightweight, comfortable, true to size, and compact. I can keep it tucked away in my car to have ready during a rain shower, or pack it in a backpack when I’m hiking or traveling. The best part is that it has a self contained pocket for storage in a backpack, suitcase, or car when not in use!" 05 The best with insulation MEN'S VERSION: WOMEN'S VERSION: What's great about it: Whether you're hiking in cold weather or you're simply someone who gets chilly easily, this insulated three-in-one rain jacket is a wonderful choice. The versatile coat features a tough, Teflon rain shell with a fleece interior that zips out, allowing you to wear either piece separately. The result is that you end up with a soft fleece jacket, a waterproof rain shell, and a fully insulated coat all in one. Although it's technically made for skiing, tons of reviewers vouch for its compatibility as a hiking jacket, too. What fans say: "This jacket kept me warm in 10 F degree weather when I went hiking in Vivicunca, Peru. It rained, snowed, and I was warm and dry all the time! It has also kept me dry and warm these last two weeks of winter storms in California." 06 The most reflective MEN'S VERSION: WOMEN'S VERSION: What's great about it: If you often log long days on the trail that spill into dusk, this ultra-reflective jacket will make you more visible when it starts getting dark. The color-reflective material is constructed with millions of small glass beads that reflect light, so when your hiking companions shine their flashlight, you'll be easy to spot. It is fully waterproof and extremely breathable, too, with multiple vents and an airy lining made of cotton mesh. While the women's version is technical a cycling jacket, it a great pick for hiking, too. As a bonus, it's also perfect for keeping you visible off the trails, whether you're walking the dog, riding your bike, or jogging. What fans say: "It is a stylish jacket that is designed for a rainy day. It is VERY lightweight and reflective. I highly recommend this jacket to any night runners out there!" Mic may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently of Mic's editorial and sales departments.