The Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Hiking & Backpacking
The following are our picks for the Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Backpacking. The cutoff weight for inclusion in this guide is approximately 12 ounces. We believe that for this weight you can get sufficient durability, features, waterproofness and breathability for all activities short of severe bushwhacking and intense alpine climbing (and even then… ). And while we do not exclude running or climbing/mountaineering jackets, they also need to be well suited to backpacking (and some are).
These jackets are at a sweet spot for performance and value! As such, they are likely the first choice for most ultralight and lightweight backpackers. They are the low cost, reasonably durable, and have a good to excellent set of features. In summary, a fantastic deal for folks not counting weight to the last gram.
- PRO: Low cost AND low weight. Good to excellent feature set. Usually a more durable outer fabric that is more resistant to tears and abrasions vs. the ExtremeLight Rain Jackets.
- CON: Almost double the weight and bulkier than most ExtremeLight Rain Jackets. The 2-layer / 2.5-layer WP/B liner membrane is more delicate to wear and more prone to leaking when worn long term under a pack vs. 3-layer jackets [please see more below on this important topic].
- BEST FOR: Lightweight backpackers looking for a great value in a full-featured, and reasonably durable rain jacket.
- NOT GREAT FOR: Week-after-week wear with a heavy backpack, e.g. wet climates like Pacific NW.
These are your first choice for a rain jacket that will “do it all.” They can stand up to day-after-day wear under a backpack. They are also a good choice if you have to do moderate bushwhacking and/or some scrambling where you might scrape up your jacket a bit.
- PRO: Durable 3-layer construction with a protective layer over the WP/B membrane will hold up longer worn under a backpack. That is, they are the best choice if you think you might wear your rain jacket for long periods of time each day. Heavier shell fabrics will stand up to more abuse.
- CON: About twice the weight of the ExtremeLight jackets and bulkier when stowed. Most are fairly expensive.
- NOT GREAT FOR: For a low weight and low cost jacket that that will be used in occasional rain. E.g. Utah or the Sierras in the summer.
A Caution: Many mainstream outdoor apparel brand offer “extremely durable” jackets. These jackets often use GORE-TEX pro with 50-70 denier fabric (or similar). They weigh 16-24 ounces and cost ~ $300-500. These have limited application for hardcore/extreme sports. We strongly believe they are far too heavy for hiking, backpacking or even lightweight mountaineering or climbing.
Many a thru-hiker and ultralight backpacker has used these light and cheap rain suits. Where else can you get rain jacket AND pants for under $15?!
- PRO: Very low cost and weight. And the O2 stuff is reasonably breathable. Frogg Toggs is readily available
- CON: Fairly delicate and mostly suited to trail hiking where you won’t scrape against rocks and brush. (Can be patched with duct tape tho.) Bulkier than most of the jackets in this guide.
- BEST FOR: Ultralight backpackers looking for a light bargain. Rainwear that doesn’t see a lot of use, e.g. desert hiking. Or for people that are careful with their gear. People who can do this get considerable use out of these rain suits, even when worn a fair amount.
- NOT GREAT FOR: Brush, rocks, frequent wear and/or hikers who can’t be gentle with their gear.
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