Anyone that regularly hikes in wet weather will know the importance of a lightweight rain jacket. Whether it’s on your back in your pack; it will allow you to keep hiking at speed without weighing you down.
Finding the best lightweight hiking rain jacket isn’t always easy. Despite the plethora of products on the market, many perform poorly in severe weather or can leave you feeling hot under the collar.
In this guide, we have compared and listed the best rain jackets that will keep you dry without added bulk. Every option is designed for a different type of hiker, making it easy to find the one that suits your style.
Ranking The Best Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
- Outdoor Research Helium
- Arc’teryx Zeta SL
- Black Diamond Stormline Stretch
- Marmot Precip Eco
- Rab Kinetic Plus
Best Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket Comparison
Supremely lightweight and packable with the capacity to keep you dry for many years
A stretchy jacket that provides freedom of movement without added weight
Incredibly waterproof and durable hiking jacket that is built with quality
Incredibly breathable jacket that provides superb comfort and mobility
A lightweight jacket with reliable overall performance for a great price
Ultralight, small packing size, durable, good water-resistance, ideal hood size
Stretchy, soft interior, good pockets, packable, adjustable, pit zips included
Standout waterproofing, durable, packable, high mobility, comfortable
Breathable, stretchy, comfortable, taped seams, attractive design, great hood
Decent water-resistance, taped seams, pit zip vents, roll away hood, comfortable
Not very breathable
Questionable durability, size runs large
Expensive, lacking vents
Not for heavy rain
Lacking breathability, not stretchy
30D Nylon Ripstop
110GSM Nylon, Elastane
40D Nylon Ripstop
Recycled Nylon Ripstop
Why Do I Need The Best Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
Reducing weight has become a favourite pastime of many hikers. Anyone that hikes in wet weather knows the importance of packing rain jacket, but will also be cautious about adding excess bulk.
Finding the lightweight hiking rain jacket will free up valuable space in your pack. It will also allow comfort and mobility while it’s being worn.
Anyone that wants a rain jacket to wear during warm weather hikes should also be looking for something lightweight. The reduced fabric thickness often leads to enhanced breathability that can help you keep your cool.
Hint: If you’re looking to complete your ‘weight saving’ wardrobe, we have also reviewed the best lightweight hiking pants.
How To Choose The Best Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
Hiking rain jackets are usually made to be lightweight and packable. However, the weight of each product can still vary significantly depending on material and features.
Most hiking rain jackets have a weight between 10-15oz. The protection they offer without excess weight is impressive, although breathability can be an issue with some models.
Anyone looking to go ultralight will be able to find a jacket that weighs 10oz or less. Despite sometimes lacking the robust weather-resistance of a traditional hiking jacket, they are supremely lightweight.
The jackets on this list aim to balance weight saving with performance. Every product is designed with the capacity to keep you dry with minimum bulk.
The level of weather-resistance offered can vary greatly between each jacket. Some will offer full ‘waterproofing’ that’s capable of withstanding torrential rain. Others are classified as ‘water-resistant’, meaning they are useful in light rain but not fully waterproof during a downpour.
Many of the lightest hiking rain jackets are rated as ‘water-resistant’. Despite being well-suited to anyone trying to save weight, their performance under extended water exposure is limited.
Once you slightly increase the weight, it’s possible to achieve full waterproofing. Many of these jackets use an outer membrane that is impermeable, with Gore-Tex being one of the most reliable options.
‘Fully taped seams’ is also a desirable rain jacket feature. It means they have placed waterproof taping along the interior seams to stop potential water leakage.
Durable Water Repellent (DWR)
Durable water repellent (commonly known as ‘DWR’) is an additional coating that is often applied to the outside of a rain jacket. It stops moisture from entering the exterior fabric by beading it into droplets.
DWR coatings are great at keeping you dry in light rain. It will keep the jacket material dry and reduce excess water weight that could otherwise have been absorbed.
It’s worth noting that DWR finish does not mean waterproof. ‘Waterproof’ and ‘water-resistant’ jackets can both be equipped with DWR, regardless of their ability to keep you dry.
Anyone that plans on hiking in warm weather should prioritize breathability. It refers to the amount of moisture allowed to leave the jacket without water entering from outside.
Most modern rain jackets are relatively breathable, although some perform much better than others. Gore-Tex is commonly known as a market leader in waterproofing, but their jackets are also some of the most breathable around.
Some manufacturers are now making fabrics that can rival the ‘tried and trusted’ Gore-Tex. Materials such as ‘eVent’ are using technology that is adept at allowing perspiration to escape, with every brand offering an equivalent solution.
It’s worth noting that many ultralight jackets offer decent breathability thanks to the use of thinner materials. Paying the required premium for a quality product is usually the way forward if you want to guarantee comfort in all conditions.
Hikers are always concerned about packing size. Finding a reliable rain jacket compresses enough to save pack space can be invaluable on the trail.
The best lightweight hiking rain jackets are generally some of the most packable on the market. Weight is a great indicator of how small a jacket can compress or fold when not in use.
Some jackets are able to fit into their own pocket or hood, which can make them easy to manage. However, keep in mind that it’s not always a clear indicator of packing size.
The last thing you need is to feel restricted when you’re hiking and scrambling. Many modern hiking rain jackets are designed to improve mobility and can give you enhanced freedom of movement.
The use of stretch fabric blends is starting to become common place amongst high-end hiking jackets. It allows the jacket to move with your body at all times and reduce any restriction.
More traditional lightweight rain jackets tend to use a slightly relaxed fit that will give your arms space to move. It is often the most suitable option for ‘weight conscious’ hikers looking to save a few ounces.
It’s worth noting that stretchy rain jackets will often cost significantly more than a standard shell. However, the outlay is often worth it if you’re hiking challenging trails.
Every hiking rain jacket will come with a different selection of pockets. Most substantial rain jackets come with hand pockets, while some ultralight options will forgo pockets altogether.
If you’re serious about saving weight, you will probably find that your new jacket only features a chest pocket. However, if you can afford an additional ounce, you will find a jacket with multiple pockets that can improve practicality.
Anyone that’s been caught in a downpour will know the importance of a hood. Having a wet head is rarely fun, especially if you’re on a prolonged excursion.
The most important thing to assess here is adjustability. You need to make sure the hood conforms to your head when facing strong winds without blocking your vision.
Ventilation zips have become a popular feature of modern hiking jackets. It will allow you to release hot air quickly during an intense hike or in warm weather.
Pit zips, side zips and core vents are the most common options found. Each one of these offers unique benefits that can keep you cool, although they will usually add weight to your jacket.
Almost every hiking rain jacket uses a cinch at the waist hem. It’s essential to keeping out water and can also improve overall fit and mobility.
The lightest hiking rain jackets usually come with a toggle cinch on one side, while heavier options will have a cinch on both sides. Either way, they are usually incredibly user friendly and their importance should not be underestimated.
Best Overall Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
Finding an ultralight rain jacket that is capable of putting up with the strain of hiking in severe weather is never easy. However, we were incredibly impressed with the overall performance and impressive packability offered by the Outdoor Research Helium.
Weighing in at just over 6oz and easily stowing into its chest pocket when not in use, the Helium was the lightest and most packable jacket in our review. What’s most impressive is the level of performance offered despite its compact design, with the use of Pertex’s ‘Diamond Fuse’ fabric making sure durability is maintained.
The jacket features decent water-resistance for its size; combining DWR, Pertex ‘Shield’ fabric and fully taped seamed for reliable protection in moderate rainfall. The simple design uses only basic features due to its ultralight build, but we did find the hood to be snug fitting without obstructing our view of the trail.
If you’re a self proclaimed ‘speed hiker’ that’s serious about saving weight, we are delighted to recommend the Outdoor Research Helium. Its ultralight and packable design combined with reliable performance makes it one of the best lightweight hiking rain jackets on the market.
- Super lightweight
- Tiny packing size
- Good water-resistance
- Well-fitted hood
- Leak proof seams
- Not very breathable
- Lacking pockets
- Could use some vents
Best Stretchy Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
Anyone that enjoys scrambling up treacherous terrain will know the importance of a flexible jacket. In our opinion, the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch is ideally suited to anyone looking for a lightweight comfortable jacket that doesn’t feel restrictive.
The exceptional freedom of movement is achieved by incorporating elastane into the nylon face material for a super stretchy fit. The fabric also uses 4-way stretch to make sure your covered in every scenario.
Along with providing a superb fit; the jacket also comes equipped with hand pockets, pit zips and adjustable hood. We also found the Stormline Stretch’s waterproofing capability impressive, with Black Diamonds classic ‘BD.Dry’ membrane and a DWR finish making sure you stay dry in heavy rain.
The mobility offered by the Black Diamond Stormline stretch makes it stand out from the crowd, but its overall performance is also impressive. The lightweight design is packed full of features that will keep you dry and provide practicality.
- Excellent mobility
- Armpit vents included
- Useful pockets
- Great hood
- Reliable weather-resistance
- Well-sealed seams
- Outer fabric can pill over time
- Lacking breathability
- Size runs large and baggy
Best Waterproof Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
Arc’teryx are a technical brand that are famed for their outstanding quality, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see them appearing as one of our top picks. The Zeta SL is their best lightweight hiking rain jacket, providing outstanding weather-resistance that seriously impressed during review.
The jacket features a super tough 40-denier outer shell that is supremely durable and inner lining that feels comfortable against the skin. The 2 layer nylon material also combines with Gore-Tex to make it fully waterproof, with a DWR finish applied just to make sure.
Another area the Zeta SL excels is mobility, with the fabric proving stretchy enough to allow freedom of movement on any occasion. Despite the lack of ventilation zippers, the breathability was one of the best on test and makes it a versatile option for year-round usage.
The Arc’teryx Zeta SL is by far the most expensive jacket in our review, but its overall performance is incredibly impressive. Standout waterproofing, breathability and durability with a lightweight design; it’s perfectly suited for any type of hiker looking for a premium product.
- Superb waterproofing
- High mobility
- Packable size
- Exceptional durability
- Great hood design
- Very expensive
- No ventilation zips
- Size runs large and baggy
Best Breathable Lightweight Hiking Jacket
Breathability is a feature that can turn a good hiking jacket into a fantasticly versatile addition to your wardrobe. If you find yourself regularly getting hot under the collar; we highly recommend the Rab Kinetic Plus as a way to keep cool, dry and comfortable.
Despite having the thickest 3 layer fabric in our review, the Kinetic Plus maintains breathability thanks to the use of Proflex material that allows hot air and moisture to escape. The outer shell is also extremely flexible and allows superb mobility during challenging climbs.
The overall comfort of the Kinetic Plus is also enhanced by a cosy interior and close-fitting stretch hood. In order to keep you dry, they have included a waterproof membrane and fully taped seams that are capable of putting up with unexpected rain.
Anyone looking for the comfort that comes with breathability won’t be dissapointed by the Rab Kinetic Plus. Its a flexible jacket that is great for year-round usage and high-energy hiking.
- Standout breathability
- Soft interior
- Small packing size with stuff sack
- Well-fitted hood
- Water-resistance falls short under prolonged exposure
- Size runs ‘slim’
Best Budget Lightweight Hiking Rain Jacket
Finding a budget rain jacket that is reliable enough to cope with the demands of a long hike is never easy. However, we found the Marmot Precip Eco did a great job of ticking the performance boxes without breaking the bank.
The lightweight jacket weighs in at just over 10oz and conveniently stuffs into it’s own pocket to enhance packability. Despite its reduced weight and budget price, we were impressed by reliable water-resistance displayed by the 2.5 layer ‘NanoPro’ outer shell in prolonged rain.
The jacket also features taped seams and cinches that nicely seal off the hood for all-round protection, while the DWR coating also did a great job in driving rain. In terms of durability, the Precip Eco lasted well under intense scrutiny thanks to its nylon ripstop fabric and an overall quality design.
The Marmot Precip is a tried and tested range that has proven its worth to the hiking community for many years. The Precip Eco is the latest in a line of reliable lightweight rain jackets; providing waterproofing and practicality for a sensible price.
- Good waterproofing
- Value for money price
- Well-sealed seams
- Practical hood
- Good overall fit shape
- Pit zip ventilation
- Breathability could be better
- Not stretchy
Finding the best lightweight rain jacket isn’t an easy task. The market is flooded with products that are vying for your attention, with each option having unique benefits.
The aim of this guide is to make your choice easy. In our detailed analysis, we have picked out the best options that are all designed for a different type of hiker.
Be sure to analyse each product carefully and find the one that suits your style. Every jacket on this list is sure to keep you dry without adding excess bulk, giving you the freedom to enjoy your outdoor adventure.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.