There’s a time and place for a classic yellow raincoat, but in most cases, that place is in the past. Long gone are the days of bulky, sweaty rain jackets with their sheen of rubbery exterior. Today, waterproofing technology and clever design have made the best lightweight rain jackets comfortable, breathable, and easy to pack away.
When people talk about lightweight rain jackets, they're typically referring to a thin waterproof shell without any sort of heavy lining or insulation. Lightweight raincoats are usually made from waterproof, breathable fabrics that keep precipitation out without trapping sweat inside. This includes options like Gore-Tex, or similar proprietary textiles from outdoor apparel brands (such as Columbia's Omni-Tech), as well as fabrics treated with a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) coating, which causes water to bead and slide off the surface of your jacket. But waterproof fabric alone isn't always enough — that's why some of the best jackets out there also have sealed seams to keep moisture from seeping in where the jacket is weakest.
While waterproof, breathable fabric allows for decent airflow, you'll also want additional ventilation features if you're planning to wear your rain jacket for hiking or other outdoor activities where you might break a sweat. These features include airy mesh liners or the especially important zippered underarm vents, which allow you to release heat and moisture from your pit area when needed.
Finally, if you want a jacket you can shove in your pack while traveling or trekking, you'll be happy to know that many lightweight rain shells are designed to fold up compactly into a pocket or pouch.
But whatever your needs, your search for the best lightweight rain jacket ends here. Whether you need a jacket to wear around town, out on the trails, or during neighborhood runs, you'll find something below that fits your needs. (And while this list is broken up into men's and women's jackets, the only real difference between the two is the fit, so go with whatever feels comfortable).
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1. The best for everyday wear
The streamlined Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket is made of two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, a super lightweight and breathable fabric that's fully waterproof. The jacket's front zipper and hand pocket zippers are all water-resistant, and the big storm hood will keep rain off your face. On top of that, the light and compact design makes it easy to roll up and pack into a bag or backpack.
The gusseted underarms give you lots of freedom of movement and the microsuede chin guard prevents uncomfortable chafing. The cuff and hem can both be adjusted to your desired tightness, and the slight drop hem covers your backside. This jacket is available in 13 different colors, and Amazon reviewers have praised it for its "exceptional quality."
One reviewer says: “I love it, it's a great rain shell. [Light] and breathable but wind and waterproof. Leave the umbrella home.”
- Available sizes: Men’s X-Small to XX-Large
The Arc'teryx Women's Zeta SL Jacket is essentially the same as the men's version but with smaller sizing. It has all the waterproofing technologies you'd want — Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, water-resistant zippers, and adjustable cuffs and hem. This jacket comes in 10 different colors.
One reviewer says: “Cute, well-fitted, great high-tech material.”
- Available sizes: Women’s X-Small to X-Large
The best budget rain jacket
There's a lot to like about the Columbia Men's Watertight II Rain Jacket, like its low price point, wide range of sizes, and dozens of color choices. Of course, it also holds up in wet weather, making it a worthy option for anyone in need of a rain jacket that doesn't cost a few hundred bucks.
It has a 100% nylon, waterproof shell with Omni-Shield technology, which means it not only repels moisture, but also dries quickly and resists stains. The jacket has two zippered side pockets, a chin guard to prevent abrasion, and adjustable cuffs, hood, and hem. Inside, you'll find a polyester mesh lining to give you that much-needed air flow.
This waterproof jacket is machine washable and it can be stuffed into its own hand pocket for compact storage.
One reviewer says: “It's stylish, relatively well-priced, and provides good waterproofing for those doing a casual trails or traveling to a new city and want some water protection without needing an umbrella. Would recommend.”
- Available sizes: Men’s Small to 6X Big, as well as Tall sizes
The Columbia Women's Arcadia II Waterproof Jacket has many of the same features as the Columbia Men's Watertight II Rain Jacket. It's made of waterproof nylon with moisture-repelling Omni-Shield tech. Available in over 30 colors, this pick comes at a budget-friendly price and packs into its own pocket. Even better: it's machine-washable.
One reviewer says: “Great product, especially for the price! The mesh lining makes it thin enough to wear on a warm rainy day, and it’s loose fitting enough to layer up for the cold ones. The sleeves have adjustable straps to keep water from blowing up them, and to prevent unnecessary and annoying movement on your arms. The hood is adjustable as well. It will keep you dry and you will look great in the meantime.”
- Available sizes: Women’s X-Small to 3X
The best rain jacket for active wear
The Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket is one of the most breathable jackets on this list, thanks to its Gore-Tex Paclite construction and heat-releasing pit zips. It's also reliably waterproof, with taped seams and DWR treatment. The front zipper features a storm flap and a snap closure, while the hood, drawcord hem, and cuffs are all adjustable, and the chest pocket has a water-resistant zipper. This jacket is available in more than 10 colors.
One reviewer says: “I bought this jacket for a fall trip to Iceland. The weather sucked, but this jacket did its part in keeping me warm and dry. It acted as a great barrier to the extreme winds, and kept me dry from both the rain and my own perspiration. It's very breathable, not once did I feel [too] warm, despite some rigorous hikes. I'm confident that this jacket with proper base and mid-layers can deal with anything mother nature will throw at me.”
- Available sizes: Men’s Small to XX-Large
The breathable, water-repellant DryVent treated fabric combined with zippered pit vents make The North Face Venture 2 jacket an ideal rain shell to wear when you're doing anything sweaty. The unlined, ripstop nylon fabric has sealed seams and a storm-flap with velcro closures to protect the front zipper from rain. The jacket boasts covered, zippered side pockets and Velcro-adjustable sleeves, and both the hood and hem can be cinched with elastic cords for a tighter fit. It also comes in more than 30 different colors and patterns.
One reviewer says: "I LOVE this rain coat. It is super lightweight, foldable, and has a good hood (it actually keeps your face/head dry. The [Velcro] at the wrist is great. The zippers at the arm pits make a huge difference. The pockets are roomy. This raincoat has kept me dry through some real downpours. [...] I've had it for almost 2 years i think and i love it."
- Available sizes: Women’s X-Small to 3X-Large