Best Ultralight Rain Jackets for Backpacking

Best lightweight Rain Jackets

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This is a gear review of the Best Ultralight Rain Jackets of 2024.

There are quite a few choices of very high-quality rain jackets on the market right in 2024. But few combine the combination of high quality, lightweight, breathability, and compact design.

I compared the weight, durability, breathability, waterproofness, and design. Keep reading to find the best ultralight rain jackets of 2024.

Table of Contents

How We Tested

All the lightweight rain jackets in this review have been extensively evaluated and researched by the expert author who has more than 30 years of experience in Thru-Hiking, Backpacking, and Hiking. Some of the rain jackets were purchased and some were supplied by the manufacturer. They have been rigorously tested by the author in all kinds of weather. The research, testing, and experience of the author have combined to come up with the best lightweight and ultralight rain jackets for 2024. Read the Review Policy for further details.

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Best Lightweight Rain Jackets 2024

The Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Backpacking in 2024 are:

More High-Quality Backpacking Rain Jackets:

Rain Jacket Comparison Table

BrandWeightBreathability (g/m2/24-hour)Waterproof Level (mm)StoragePit Zips
ZPacks Vertice Rain Jacket5.9 oz56,00020,000NoneYes
Outdoor Research Helium6.3 oz20,00015,000PocketNo
Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket10.6 ozNot SpecifiedNot SpecifiedNoNo
Marmot Precip Eco10.3 oz17,00010,000PocketYes
Macpac Tempo7.8 oz40,00010,000PocketNo
Mountain Hardwear Exposure/29.1 oz15,00028,000NoNo
Patagonia Storm 108.3 oz15,00015,000PocketNo
Patagonia Torrentshell 3L14.1 ozNot SpecifiedNot SpecifiedPocketYes
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch11.3 oz10,00010,000PocketYes
Enlightened Equipment Visp5 oz75,00020,000NoYes
Arc’teryx – Zeta SL10.9 oz15,00020,000NoNo
Outdoor Research Helium6.4 oz20,00020,000NoNo
Source: Manufacturers

Rain Jacket Reviews

Best Backpacking Rain Jacket – Overall

Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket

Weight: 5.9 oz / 168 grams with pit zips
Outer fabric: 7 Denier 3-layer Ripstop Nylon
Breathability: 56000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating:
Chest Pocket
Stuff Sac: 

> Ultralight
> Pit Zips
> Very Breathable
> Very small pack size
> Not cheap

The Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket is a premium ultralight rain jacket that is possibly the most packable rain jacket you will find anywhere. This is an ultralight rain jacket best suited to backpackers and thru-hikers who want the maximum weight saving and most packable jacket possible.

The Zpacks Vertice weighs only 5.9oz / 168 grams. It comes with a good set of pit zips to assist in venting heat which is something that light and fast backpackers love. Not only does it have pit zips but the fabric is one of the most breathable in this review at 56000 g/m2/24-hour. Add to that the hydrostatic head waterproof rating of 20000mm and you have a good lightweight rain jacket that ticks a lot of boxes.

I tested and reviewed this rain jacket in both hot and cold weather and while hiking and mountain biking. I can confirm it has the best in class breathability, and with the addition of pit zips, this is the jacket to get if you want an ultralight, breathable, and packable rain jacket.

Overall, the Zpacks Vertice is the best ultralight rain jacket for 2024 and best suited to ultralight thru-hikers and backpackers.

Read the in-depth Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket Review from BikeHikeSafari.

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Best Lightweight Rain Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket Review

Total Weight: 6.3 oz / 178 grams
Outer fabric
: 30 Denier Ripstop nylon 2.5 layer waterproof Pertex Shield
: Not specified but I believe it is 20000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating
: Hydrostatic Head rating 15000mm
1 Chest Pocket only
Stuff Sac: 
Stuff into chest pocket

> Ultralight
> Small pack size
> Upgraded tear-resistant fabric.
> Not as breathable as other jackets in this review
> No hand pockets or pit zips

The Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket is the updated version of the very successful Helium 2. I used the Helium 2 to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail so I know and love it well, but is this new jacket an improvement.

The upgraded Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket weighs in at only 6.3 oz / 178 grams. This makes it one of the best lightweight rain jackets for thru-hiking and backpacking.

The OR Helium Rain Jacket is a minimalistic jacket with no hand pockets and a small chest pocket just big enough for smaller-sized phones or other items that the hiker wants to keep dry. The small pocket in the chest also doubles as the storage sack for the jacket.

I like the elastic cuffs, waist drawcord hem, and everything about the adjustable hood. It comes in a range of colors including my favorite, Bright Orange. A great color for a rain jacket for cycling in dull weather!

The Helium Rain Jacket is quite breathable but I always seem to want more breathability than any jacket seems capable of providing. Having said that, I’m a big fan of the 2.5 Layer construction made from Pertex Shield Pro outer material.

The Durable Water Repellent Coating (DWR) seems to be just as good as the previous model, which was ok but not outstanding.

Overall, the Helium Rain Jacket Rain jacket can get a bit sticky after a while, especially when climbing up steep trails in wet weather. The jacket has no pit zips to vent the heat but that helps keep the overall weight down.

The upgraded 2.5 layer Pertex Shield Pro is 30 Denier and uses Diamond Fuse technology which essentially is upgraded ripstop nylon that is said to be 5 times stronger than the previous model.

Overall, the Outdoor Research Helium is one of the Best lightweight rain jackets for the Appalachian Trail due to the increased durability of the material and resistance to the abuse from the sharp sticks and branches that exist on many sections of the trail.

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Best Quality Rain Jacket

Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket

Arc'teryx Beta Rain Jacket

Total Weight: 10.6 oz / 300 grams
Outer fabric: N30p 3 layer Gore Tex
Breathability: Not specified but this jacket is quite breathable
Waterproof rating: Not Specified
Pockets: 1 Chest Pocket, 2 hand pockets
Stuff Sac: No, Stuff into hood
> Good 3-layer Goretex fabric
> High-quality Rain Jacket
> Hand pockets work well while wearing a backpack with a hip belt
> Not cheap
> Not as light as some other jackets in this review

The Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket is part of their large range of jackets which includes the Beta LT and more. It is rated as one of the best quality rain jackets on the market for 2024. While not as lightweight as some other jackets it is right up there with the Patagonia Torrentshell (which is cheaper) and the Patagonia Storm 10 as a premium rain jacket.

If you are looking for a good mix of durability and waterproofness then this could be the jacket for you. Add to that one of the best hoods of any of the jackets in this review.

The Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket comes with hand pockets in the perfect position to use when you are hiking and backpacking as they don’t interfere with your hip belt or sternum strap.

Despite being made with high-quality material it comes in at a premium price and is a little on the heavy side for some people wanting a lightweight rain jacket.

Overall, the Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket is the best rain jacket for backpacking and best suited for someone who wants a top-tier product that is durable and able to withstand most wet weather situations.

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Best Budget Rain Jacket

Marmot PreCip Eco Rain Jacket Review

Total Weight: 10.5oz / 293 g
Outer fabric:
100% Recycled Nylon Ripstop NanoPro Eco
17000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating:
2 hand pockets, 1 chest pocket, and pit zips
Stuff Sac
: It packs into the lefthand side pocket

> Pit zips and mesh pockets to vent heat
> Environmentally friendly
> 14 colors to choose from,
> Cheap
> Breathable but could be better
> Not ultralight

The Marmot PreCip rain jacket has been around since about 1999. This latest upgrade gives the Marmot Precip an eco-friendly conscience.

The Marmot PreCip Eco is made from recycled nylon face fabric and uses a PFC-free DWR which is one of the rain jacket’s best features.

The Marmot PreCip Eco costs less than $100 at some retailers which makes it one of the cheapest rain jackets for hiking, only the Outdoor Research Helium 2 is close in the quality vs price category. For those wanting a budget backpacking rain jacket and wanting something environmentally friendly, it ticks all the boxes.

This 2.5-layer jacket is not the most breathable rain jacket in this review and hikers will wish it was a little more breathable during hikes with long uphill climbs. To address this the Marmot Precip Eco has pit zips to vent heat and there is a mesh lining for the hand pockets.

The Pit Zips and the pockets pit zips with mesh do a good job at regulating body heat and transferring moisture outside when needed.

Weighing in at 10.5oz / 293g, it is just light enough for hiking and backpacking, multi-day hikes, and cycling. Thru-hikers and ultralight hikers will look elsewhere as there are better options for the weight.

The fixed hood is adjustable with velcro tabs so you can easily wear it over a baseball cap or a hooded-down jacket. It also has two cord adjustments so you can quickly cinch it closer to your face to keep the rainwater out.

Marmot uses a unique name for the design of this jacket. It has a built-in “Angel-wing movement” design. When you reach overhead the sleeves will not want to move all the way up the lengths of the arms. A well thought out feature that appears to work well.

For the price, this is the best rain jacket for budget backpackers and hikers. If you are in the market for rain gear that is environmentally friendly and is a fan of circular economy, you can’t go wrong with the Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket.

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Best Rain Jacket for Australia and New Zealand

Macpac Tempo Rain Jacket

Macpac Tempo Rain Jacket review

Total Weight: 7.8oz / 220 grams
Outer fabric
: Pertex Shield Air
: 40000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating
: 10000mm
: Chest Pocket
Stuff Sac
: Packs into pocket

> Lightweight
> Very waterproof
> Very breathable
> Very packable
> Only available in Australia and New Zealand
> No hand pockets and no pit zips

The Macpac Tempo rain jacket is made from a rather new Pertex fabric called Pertex Shield Air which has next-level breathability.

The Macpac Tempo rain jacket is one of the most breathable rain jackets I have tested. It is made from Pertex Shield Air which is extremely breathable at 40000 g/m2/24hour. While there are a couple of jackets in the review that may rate higher this jacket is good about as good as it gets. If only it had pit zips which would turn this into the best rain jacket in this review! Maybe that might happen in the future.

The Macpac Tempo is like most lightweight jackets. It is minimalist in design with no hand pockets and only a functional chest pocket. The DWR finish is OK, but not the best, and will need to be reapplied over time. I like this jacket and it is my current jacket of choice that I wear in the rain when hiking, backpacking, and traveling.

Overall, the Macpac Tempo is one of the best rain jackets. It is lightweight and very breathable but only available in Australia and New Zealand.

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Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Rain Jacket Review

Total Weight: 9.1oz / 258 grams
Outer fabric
: 2.5 Layer Gore-Tex Paclite Fabric
: 15000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating
: Hydrostatic Head rating 28000mm
: Chest pocket and hand pockets
Stuff Sac
: None

> Good lightweight waterproof Gore-Tex
> Not packable

The Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 rain jacket is still lightweight at 9.1oz / 258 grams but there are still some jackets a bit lighter.

Made with Gore-Tex Paclite it is not only breathable due to the quality lightweight material but very waterproof. The build quality is also very solid and due to the high quality, it will last a long time.

This model lacks some of the features that were on previous models such as side zips to help with venting heat when climbing up a rainy but sweaty hill.

Overall, this is a good quality lightweight rain jacket. It has been discontinued so at the moment it is a bargain compared to the normal retail price. Check the prices below to see just how good the prices are at the moment, but hurry, they may not last for long.

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Patagonia Storm 10

Total Weight: 8.3 oz / 235 grams
Outer fabric
: 100% recycled 3-layer Ripstop Nylon called H2No
15000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating
: 15000mm
: Chest Pocket, 2 hand pockets
Stuff Sac
: The chest pocket is used as the stuff

> 100% recycled outer material
> Durable material
> Nice hand pockets
> Premium product at a premium price

The Patagonia Storm 10 Jacket is one of the few jackets that have made the commitment to be made from 100% recycled materials and uses certified fair trade sewing in the manufacturing process.  

The Stretch Storm 10 jacket is a 3-layer jacket made from a material called H2No. The shell fabric is made of 100 % recycled nylon fabric. The material also has a decent DWR coating.

The Patagonia Storm 10 Jacket is one of the lightest rain jackets from Patagonia which weighs only 8.3 ounces / 235g. Although there are other lighter jackets in this review there are few that can boast the environmental credentials for materials and fair trade practices. For this reason, the rain gear comes at a premium price.

The Patagonia Storm 10 comes with good hand pockets that are in a place that can be used when carrying a pack and the hood fits well.

The Patagonia Storm 10 Jacket is breathability but like all the jackets in this review, it can get a bit clammy after a while. Some of the previous lightweight Patagonia Rain Jackets had pit zips to vent heat from the jackets but they are missing on this newer rain gear.

Patagonia Storm 10 Jacket is a better option than the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L because it is a much lighter rain jacket. It ticks all the boxes as being one of the great rain jackets, I just wish it had pit zips to vent heat build-up. If it had them, it would be the perfect jacket. If you care about the environment and want a fair trade certified jacket made from recycled materials then this could be a perfect choice.

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Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Patagonia Torrentshell 3l Rain Jacket

Total Weight: 13.9 oz / 394 grams
Outer fabric: 50 Denier 3-layer nylon waterproof fabric
: Not specified
Waterproof rating
: Not stated
2 Hand Pockets
Stuff Sac: 
Stuff into left hand pocket
> Good 3-layer material
> Good pockets
> Eco-friendly materials
> Heavy

The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Rain Jacket is the rain jacket you buy when you are confused by all the choices out there. You know it will be good because it is Patagonia.

The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L leans very heavily towards its eco-friendly heritage. It uses its own H2No 3-layer material which is a 100% recycled and fair trade sewn jacket. While it is a bit on the heavy side at 13.9 oz / 394 grams it is 3-layer material which most others in this review are not. It also comes with good hand warmer pockets, venting pit zips, and a decent DWR finish. And the hood has good coverage and cinches down well.

Overall, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L rain jacket does everything well and is a good, honest jacket to pick if you are confused with all the choices. If you do, you will be happy.

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Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell

Weight: 11.3 oz / 320 grams

> Good stretch material.
> Pit Zips.
> Reasonably priced.
> Waterproof and breathable.
> Good choice of colors.
> Lightweight but a bit heavier than others in this review.

The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is one of the better stretch rain shells in this review. It is a good all-weather jacket for the active backpacker.

The Black Diamond Stormline stretch jacket uses a 2.5-layer construction and pairs with a decent DWR finish. But one of the better things about the jacket is the use of pit zips. This adds another layer of breathability to the jacket.

It is also quite reasonably priced compared to others in the review. But at a weight of 11.3 oz / 320 grams, it puts this jacket at the higher end of lightweight jackets.

Overall, the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is one of the better stretch rain shells on the market in 2024 and well suited to the active backpacker.

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Enlightened Equipment Visp Jacket Review

Total Weight: 5oz / 142 grams (without Pit Zips)
Outer fabric:
7Denier Ripstop Nylon with ePTFE membrane
75000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating:
2 pockets for hands
Stuff Sac: 

> Ultralight
> Very Breathable
> Pit Zips
> Expensive

NOTE: The Enlightened Equipment Visp Jacket is out of stock hence why it is so far down the list. A new updated version is due soon. I will review the product as soon as it is released, stay tuned. In the meantime, the new model should be an improved version of the one written about below. Read what I thought about the older model.

The Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket was one of the lightest, most breathable, and most waterproof lightweight jackets available at the moment.

With its excellent protection against both rain and wind, it was best suited for ultralight thru-hikers. The Enlightened Equipment Visp would be the best rain jacket for the Pacific Crest Trail or a similar long-distance trail.

The 3-layer jacket is made from ultralight 7D ripstop nylon. This is a paper-thin waterproof breathable membrane that is ePTFE is soft to the touch, comfortable, and weighs around 5 ounces or 142 grams.

Being such a thin material it will be more prone to getting holes while hiking in the backcountry. If going off trail or on trails with lots of sharps sticks I would avoid this jacket in preference to heavier duty.

With a claimed breathability rating of 75000 g/m2/24hour, this is the most breathable jacket in this review. They now come standard as a rain jacket with pit zips. The pit zips do a good job of venting heat when needed.

There is additional cost and weight but this could be one of the rain jackets best upgrades that you could do. The sizes run a bit big in this jacket. Be aware that at the time of writing there may be supply issues with this jacket, so click the link below and check if they are in stock.

It has a waterproof rating of 20,000mm which is more than enough for any backpacking rain jacket.

Overall, Enlightened Equipment’s Visp Rain Jacket is one of the best waterproof breathable rain jackets for thru-hiking. With class-leading light weight, best-in-class breathability, and the option of pit zips for better ventilation there is little to dislike about this rain jacket.

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Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Review

Total Weight: 10.9oz / 310 grams
Outer fabric
: 40 Denier Ripstop 2 layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus
: 15000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating
: 28000mm
: 2 hand pockets
Stuff Sac
: No

> Lightweight
> Large color choice
> Gore-Tex
> Very Expensive
> Wish it was more breathable
> Discontinued and hard to find.

The Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket is manufactured with Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabrics with the usual waterproof zippers and two hand pockets and a nice adjustable hood.

Weighing almost 11 ounces / 310 grams, this jacket is more than twice as heavy as the Enlightened Equipment Visp making it slightly heavy for those looking to buy the best rain jacket on the market.

It may not be an ultralight jacket but this Gore-Tex active rain shell just works.

It has a decent DWR, superior waterproof rating, and is quite breathable but like all the other rain gear it can get a bit clammy over time. With no pit zips to vent excess heat and moisture.

Overall, the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket is a great 2-layer Gore-Tex hiking and backpacking rain jacket but for those wanting an ultralight jacket. This jacket has been discontinued but I have kept it on the list because if you can still find one you can pick up a high-quality bargain.

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Outdoor Research Helium 2 Review

Outdoor Research Helium 2 waterproof jacket

Total Weight: 6.4oz / 180 grams
Outer fabric
: 30D (denier) 2.5 Layer Pertex Shield
: Not specified but I believe it is 20000 g/m2/24-hour
Waterproof rating
: Hydrostatic Head 20000mm
: 1 chest pocket
Stuff Sac
: No, the chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack

> Lightweight
> Packs up small
> Very cheap right now
> Becoming difficult to find as it is now on clearance due to the new model.
> The DWR coating could be better.

The Outdoor Research Helium 2 has been one of the most popular lightweight rain jackets for many years. It has now been discontinued and replaced by the Helium Jacket so it is becoming difficult to find. If you can find one they represent very good value.

I used this jacket for Thru Hiking Triple Crown while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, and also the Te Araroa Trail New Zealand! More than 8000 miles of use!

The Helium ii is one of the many 2.5 Layer jackets made with high-quality Pertex Shield Ripstop Nylon fabric. The Helium II is not only lightweight but works great as a wind jacket or full-featured water-resistant jacket for use in torrential rain.

Like every single ultralight jacket in this review, I wish this jacket had a better DWR. It is not as good as I would like so I needed to reapply the coating many times over the years.

The quality of DWR used on the face fabric is not the best. But this is common with every jacket in this review.

It has an adjustable hood that is good enough in all but the worst kind of windy conditions.

At only 6.4oz Helium ii is one of the lightest jackets on the market and the fact that this jacket has proved so popular over the years is a testament to its quality and the trust many hikers like myself have placed in the jacket to keep me dry over thousands of miles of trails over the years.

This jacket is getting harder to find as it is now discontinued in favor of the upgraded Outdoor Research Helium (Read the review above).

If you can still find one on clearance you will get a bargain-priced rain jacket that would be one of the Best rain jackets for the Pacific Crest Trail or any long-distance hiking trail.

If you are looking for a cheap, lightweight, and high-quality rain jacket then look no further.

Check out the links below to retailers that still may have them in stock at a very cheap price, but hurry, once they are gone, they are gone.

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Backpacking in New Zealand and using a Rain Jacket as a Windbreaker on cold mornings. Using the Helium 2 rain jacket
Gear Testing in the Mountains of New Zealand with the Outdoor Research Helium ii

More Rain Jackets

There are many other jackets that could have been included in the best backpacking rain jackets review including some of the other jackets mentioned below.

  • Frogg Toggs – These include one of the best budget jackets called Frogg Toggs which are very cheap and do a good job. Despite the very cheap price, it is a waterproof breathable jacket used by many backpackers on a budget.
  • Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket LT: The Arc’teryx Beta Rain Jacket LT is a slightly heavier version of the Beta but is a good option.
  • REI Co-Op Rainer: The REI Co-Op Rainer is a good budget option with good features.
  • REI Co-Op Xerodry GTX: The REI Co-Op Xerodry GTX is another good Gore-Tex waterproof option.
  • RAB Kinetic: The RAB Kinetic is being reviewed at the moment and may be added to the list soon.
  • Montbell Versalite – The Montbell Versalite is being reviewed at the moment and may be added to this review in the future. The best features of this ultralight rain jacket are the weight or lack of it, the pit zips, and the best quality DWR.

Best Ultralight Rain Jacket for Thru-Hiking

All the best rain gear in this review could be improved, whether it be shaving off a couple of ounces in weight, having a better DWR or they could be cheaper. There is no such thing as the perfect rain jacket.

A couple of the jackets stood out from the pack like the Zpacks Vertice, and Outdoor Research Helium. All of these are ultralight, very packable, and full of everything a lightweight thru-hiker would need.

Best Overall Rain Jacket

Overall, my choice of the Best Rain Jacket for 2024 is the Zpacks Vertice. This is a great rain shell and easily one of the best backpacking rain jackets on the market right now. If you want the best waterproof and windproof jacket for ultralight hiking then this is your jacket. The best option for ultralight thru-hikers. The Outdoor Research Helium is also one of the best ultralight rain jackets for backpacking.

Best Rain Jacket with Pit Zips

Pit zips are the underarm zips on rain jackets used to shed heat quickly. Rain jackets with pit zips are great for reducing the build-up of heat and sweat when active. In most cases, they are a great idea but there are downsides to pit zips.

Pit zips on the best lightweight rain jacket can fail quickly due to the fact that they are in a very high-wear area. They also add weight and cost to the rain jacket.

Ultralight rain jacket with pit zips

Best Environmentally Friendly Rain Jackets

For those who want the most environmentally friendly rain jackets, the choice is clearly either the Patagonia Storm 10, Patagonia Torrentshell 3L, or the Marmot Precip Eco. These environmentally friendly and eco-conscience jackets will help you feel like you are doing something good for the environment while hiking and backpacking.

Best Budget Rain Jackets

The best budget option is the Outdoor Research Helium 2 which is discontinued and there are not many left in the world, so the Marmot Precip Eco is a better option. Either way, both can be purchased for below $100.

How to Choose a Lightweight Rain Jacket

There are 5 things you must take into consideration when purchasing Backpacking Rain Jackets.

  • They must be waterproof, of course.
  • They must have a quality DWR Coating, this is super important.
  • They must be breathable, the more the better.
  • They must be packable, the smaller the better.
  • They must be lightweight, preferably ultralight.
Wearing and testing a lightweight rain jacket in the snow
Using a waterproof breathable jacket in the cold of northern Montana on the Continental Divide Trail

Waterproof Rating of Rain Jackets

The waterproof rating for rain jackets is often called the Hydrostatic head, rated in millimeters (mm). It refers to the amount of water pressure needed to leak through the rain jacket material.

A rain jacket with a hydrostatic head rating of 20000mm is the equivalent of placing a cylinder of water 25mm (1 inch) round on a jacket and filling it with 20000mm of water before it will leak through.

For a hiking rain jacket to be waterproof while wearing a backpack it is generally accepted that it must be rated at 15000mm or above. Only rain jackets being worn in the city and not in the backcountry should be rated lower such as 5000mm.

A good waterproof membrane is essential to keep the water out. The best waterproof breathable fabric is also lightweight such as Gore-Tex, Pertex, and ePTFE.

DWR Coating: Almost as important as the Fabric

A DWR Coating, also known as Durable Water Repellent Coating is arguably the most important feature needed for a rain jacket.

It is a chemical coating on the face fabric of a jacket that caused the water to bead and run off the surface of the rain jacket. All the Best backpacking rain jackets have a good DWR.

Think of it as similar to the way water runs off the surface of a car after it has a layer of wax applied.

How long does a DWR Coating last?

A DWR coating will not last forever. It will usually last for several backpacking trips before it wears off and needs to be reapplied. Hikers and backpackers will need to take note of when the DWR treatment is starting to wear off.

Without a quality DWR, your rain gear will ‘Wet Out’. The water will sit on the surface of the jacket instead of beading and running off the jacket making the waterproof breathable membrane useless.

DWR coating on a rain jacket during testing

Rain Jacket Wetting out

When the jacket ‘Wets Out’ it will not allow the waterproof and breathable membrane of rain gear to allow the transfer of moisture from the inside of the jacket to the outside.

This leads to a build-up of moisture inside the waterproof jacket and the feeling of clamminess. Some hikers will think the jacket is no longer waterproof when in fact, it is just the sweat and build-up of moisture inside the jacket.

This feeling is made worse if hiking uphill as the build-up of moisture is not able to transfer through the fabric anymore. It can be prevented by reapplying a new chemical layer of DWR, but more about that later.

Rain jacket wetting out while thru hiking in the rain
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with a Rain Gear that has lost its DWR. The jacket is ‘wetting out’ and is no longer breathable.

Is DWR Environmentally Friendly?

Many years ago waterproof raingear used the non-environmentally friendly C8 DWR. It was long-lasting, durable, and did an amazing job at repelling the water for a very long time.

When the C6 environmentally friendly DWR was developed it was much better for the environment but honestly, it was not as durable and long-lasting as the old C8.

As a result, the DWR coating on all new jackets needs to be reapplied more often to keep the jacket waterproof and prevent ‘Wetting Out’. It is super important on an ultralight rain jacket to have a good DWR treatment.

Fortunately, it is possible to add a new chemical coating of DWR by using products such as Nikwax to make the jacket breathable again and keep you dry.

In conclusion, the DWR Coating is incredibly important to the function of the rain jacket and easily fixed. The video below will help explain how more.

Rain jacket with quality DWR coating
This is what a rain jacket looks like with a good quality DWR that allows the water to bead and run off the face fabric to keep you dry

How to restore a DWR Treatment Video


Breathability is measured by the amount of moisture that transfers through the fabric in grams per square meter of fabric (g/m2) in 24 hours. The minimum standard of breathability of a high-quality rain jacket is 15000g/m2.

The highly breathable fabric on a rain jacket will allow 15000 grams of water vapor to pass through a square meter of fabric in a 24 hours period.

The Backpacking Rain Jackets Breathability is one of the key features to staying warm and dry when hiking or backpacking.

For the jacket to be at its best it needs to be used in combination with a good DWR. In this review, I rate breathability as more important than the waterproof rating of the jacket. The higher the breathability rating the better the backpacking jacket will be.


There are a couple of important features to look out for on lightweight rain jackets. Apart from the obvious ability to keep the hiker dry, there are some things that set one jacket apart from another. There are 4 important features to consider when purchasing a high-quality rain jacket:

  • Pockets
  • Hood
  • Waist Cinch Cord
  • Pit Zips
  • Waterproof Zipper
Waiting for a large storm to hit while putting on the rain jackets
Putting on the rain jackets just before a large rain storm is about to hit while hiking in the Australian Alps

Rain Jacket Pockets

Pockets are a great feature but they add a bit of weight to the rain jacket. Most ultralight rain jackets do not have hand pockets, usually, the chest pocket is as complicated as it gets.

Having used a jacket without pockets for many years I don’t feel they are important, others feel they are super important.

Most backpacking rain jackets pack into an internal pocket for storage, some have a stuff sack, and some roll into the hood for storage when not in use.

The compressed pack size of the jacket when not in use is important for an ultralight hiker.

Rain Jacket Chest Pocket

Rain Jacket Hood

It should make sense that an adjustable hood is designed to keep the water off the head and prevent it from running inside the jacket.

Hooded rain jackets come in so many designs with some that are simple elastic and that pull the hood tight over the head.

Rain Jackets with an adjustable hood often use a cinch cord and toggles to prevent wind or water from entering the body around the head and neck much better than simple elastic hoods.

When things turn nasty and the wind is blowing hard with sideways rain the toggles or cinch cord are worth the extra weight.

The toggles and cinch chord add weight and the backpacking rain jackets that use simple elastic on the hoods will be much lighter.

Lightweight Rain Jacket hood

Helmet Compatible Hood

For those that spend time in alpine areas and require an Alpine rain jacket then they may also need a helmet compatible 3 layer jacket.

The helmet-compatible jacket is usually heavier but this is not always the case. Most of the jackets in this review would not be recommended for climbing in Alpine areas. Better to look at heavy-duty 3-layer Gore-Tex Jackets or similar which are much more abrasion-resistant.

Backpacking in the rain with a quality rain jacket
Not every day of thru-hiking is fun when it is raining!

Rain Jacket Waist Cinch Cord

A cinch cord on the bottom of the jacket is used to restrict the amount of cold air entering the jacket from the weight and provide the best fit. Not all jackets have this feature. Some jackets use simple elastic stitched into the jacket to provide a tight fit around the waist or hood.

The cinch cord does add a small amount of weight and cost to the jacket but for the most part this is considered well worth it. It is also important that the hip belt of the backpack does not dig into the waist cinch cord of the rain jacket or it will be too uncomfortable to wear all day.

Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket cinch cord around the waist

Rain Jacket Cuffs

The Rain Jacket cuffs come in several options. There are elastic cuffs which are the most common on most waterproof and breathable jackets. Most full-featured jackets use adjustable cuffs. The adjustable cuffs use velcro or similar.

Pit Zips on Rain Jackets

Pits Zips are under the arm or sometimes zips in the chest area of the jacket that can be unzipped to vent heat. This is a useful feature when climbing up hills on warm days when there is just enough rain to warrant the use of a rain jacket but not enough that having the jacket opened up a bit will get you wet.

While they are good at venting heat they are in a high wear area and can fail a lot quicker than normal zips. While most people will not experience this issue, if you own and use a rain jacket with pit zips long enough you may experience this kind of failure.

Pit zips also add to cost and weight.

Waterproof Zippers

All the rain gear in this review uses a quality water-resistant zipper. YKK is the current gold standard for quality waterproof zippers for outdoor use.


All the Rain Jackets Tested in the Ultralight Rain Jacket Gear Review are great and worth buying. But the ultralight ZPacks Vertice Rain Jacket and Outdoor Research Helium are the two best choices.

Another one of the Best Outdoor Clothing Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best ultralight rain jacket for backpacking?

The best ultralight rain jacket for backpacking is not only waterproof and breathable but it will pack up to a small size and be very light weight. Here are the best ultralight rain jackets available right now: Enlightened Equipment Visp, ZPacks Vertice Rain Jacket, and the Outdoor Research Helium.

Are lightweight rain jackets worth it?

A good quality lightweight rain jacket will be durable, waterproof, lightweight, and pack down to a small size. For most hikers and backpackers a lightweight rain jacket is better than a heavy-duty rain jacket, and they are usually cheaper.

What is the Best Breathable Waterproof Jacket?

The best breathable waterproof Rain Jacket is not only lightweight but allows moisture generated from exercise to pass through the fabric out to the atmosphere. Not all breathable rain jackets are the same. The best breathable waterproof jackets on the market right now are the Enlightened Equipment Visp, ZPacks Vertice Rain Jacket, and the Outdoor Research Helium.

How do you measure the breathability of a rain jacket?

Breathability is measured by the amount of moisture that transfers through the rain jacket fabric in grams per square meter of fabric (g/m2) in 24 hours. A high-quality rain jacket should have 15000g/m2 of breathability. Therefore it will allow 15000 grams of water vapor to pass through a square meter of fabric in a 24 hours period.

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BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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