Love to pack light and want to shed a few ounces in your luggage? Swap out your regular waterproof gear for one of the best lightweight rain jackets for men & women!
Packing a featherlight emergency shell is a must for any adventurer. On the trails or in the city, you never know what nature will throw at you. When you’re well prepared, wet weather won’t foil your plans.
Ultralight waterproof jackets are also the perfect travel companion in humid & wet destinations. (Don’t even dream about visiting places like Southeast Asia or Central America without one in your backpack!)
Not sure where to start? Get all the info you need with this complete guide to the top lightweight waterproof jackets of 2021 for men & women…
Reviews & recommendations for men
Outdoor Research Helium II
Weight: 6.4 oz.
Best Uses: Light hiking, emergency shell
Weighing in at 6.4 ounces, the Outdoor Research Helium II isn’t just one of the lightest rain jackets on the list. It’s one of the best overall.
When we say that you won’t notice carrying this waterproof jacket, we mean it. The Helium II packs down to the size of protein bar. It’s small enough to stuff into a tiny corner of one of these travel daypacks. It’ll even fit into the front pocket of your hiking pants!
The excellent waterproofing of the Helium II comes courtesy of the 2.5-layer Pertex® Shield+ water-repellent shell. It’s also got fully-taped seams and YKK® AquaGuard® zipper. They jolt the impermeability of this rain jacket up a notch.
Although this rain jacket is ultralight and breathable, it still functions best as an emergency shell to combat a sudden downpour.
The jacket lacks pit-zips for manual ventilation. (They were, presumably, omitted to stick to its lightweight reputation.) Unfortunately, this means that the jacket doesn’t hold up as well in hot and humid conditions.
Look to other rain jackets like the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody for something a little airier.
Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody
Weight: 4.2 oz.
Best Uses: Trail running, jogging, hiking
You don’t have to be a trail runner to get some serious mileage out of the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody. Rockin’ out at scant 4.2 ounces, this truly minimalist rain jacket is a travellers dream. It’s also highly compressible and packable, adding to its intrigue.
The Norvan SL Hoody depends on the latest Gore-Tex technology. It offers a permanent beading surface that’s both superbly waterproof and surprisingly breathable. This rain jacket designed for sporty travellers. If you love to spike along the trails with more fury than your average hiker, it’s a great choice.
In hot and humid weather, the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody shines among rain travel gear. The Venturi-style ventilation of this rain jacket replaces the more common pit-zips. It does an impeccable job of cooling you down when the sweat starts to ramp up.
For many situations, though, the Norvan SL Hoody is a little less waterproof jacket than you’ll need. Planning a fall trip to Central Europe? The cool autumn winds of the Alps or High Tatras will leave you chilled to the bone.
You could, of course, just layer-up. But that’s not the point of this rain jacket. The Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody is meant for active travellers who are obsessed with packing light. And in this role, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best rain jackets on the market.
Patagonia Storm Racer
Weight: 6 oz.
Best Uses: Active travel, hiking, cycling
Want to travel in comfort with less weight in comfort (and with a little style)? Give the Patagonia Storm Racer a hard look.
This ultralight waterproof jacket features a Featherweight H2No® Performance Standard nylon ripstop. It weighs in at just six ounces, placing it among the lightest picks in this guide.
Despite its feather-like weight, the Patagonia Storm Racer doesn’t lack in performance.
This three-layer jacket pairs a breathable waterproof membrane with a durable water repellent shell (DWR coating). It’s set alongside a tricot backer that’s soft and doesn’t cling to or chafe the skin.
When not needed, the jacket stuffs into its own chest pocket. Its extreme packability will put a smile on the faces of minimalist travellers.
Like many other lightweight waterproof jackets though, the Patagonia Storm Racer performs best as a shell. It’s not suitable for all-day wear in moderate to severe wet conditions.
To reduce bulk, the jacket also lacks adjustable cuffs and hems. It hamper the ability to fully customize the fit.
REI Co-op Essential Rain Jacket
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Best Uses: Backpacking, travel
An update on a simple classic, the REI Co-op Essential Rain Jacket gives you everything you need—and nothing you don’t. With this jacket, REI delivers an all-around performer that’s light on the wallet.
The breathable 2.5-layer construction battles both wind and rain. It’ll keep you dry in the harshest of travel conditions.
Despite its light weight, the REI Co-op Essential doesn’t dispense with important rain jacket features. You’ll still find “extras” like a drawcord hem and adjustable cuffs. With its fully-sealed seams and zipper, the jacket also keeps out nasty weather as well as any other on our list.
As expected at the lower price point, the REI Co-op Essential Rain Jacket isn’t perfect.
It’s not among the best performing rain jackets breathability. You’ll find it better suited for cooler temperatures than for hot, wet & humid summer days.
Montane Minimus Stretch
Weight: 9.0 oz
Best Uses: Backpacking, hiking, climbing
Designed for those who feel more at home in the mountain air, the Montane Minimus Stretch is a lightweight & packable rain jacket. It’s the perfection companion for weekend hiking or climbing trips.
At the heart of the jacket is Montane’s Pertex Shield+, a 2.5-layer fabric. It’s as at home in a downpour as on a cool, windy cliffside.
Travellers who can’t stop moving will dig the Minimus Stretch. The fabric is breathable and stretchable. The jacket also features an articulated design. It won’t restrict your movement—unlike many other waterproof coats.
Active travellers are further driven to love this jacket with its peaked hood. It opens up large enough to fit a helmet yet cinches enough to shield your face from the elements.
Unlike the ultralight jacket competitors, the Montane Minimus Stretch doesn’t dispense with storage. It features two hand pockets and an external chest pocket. Both are protected by YKK AquaGuard zippers for full waterproofing. The adjustable hem and cuffs go one step further in keeping you shielded from the elements.
Truthfully, there’s little to dislike about this waterproof jacket.
Sure, it weighs a couple extra ounces and will take up slightly more room in your daypack than other models. But the Minimus Stretch is an all-around performer and one of the most versatile choices on the list.
Endura MTR Emergency Shell
Weight: 5.6 oz
Best Uses: Emergency shell for hiking and cycling
Featherlight can’t even begin to describe the airy Endura MTR Emergency Shell. At just 5.6 ounces, this is the second-most ultralight rain jacket in our mix.
It’s so compressible and packable, you won’t even need to lug around a daypack. The shell can stuff easily into a pair of cargo pants or a fleece jacket. It’ll keep you prepared should the weather take a quick turn for the worst.
Designed for cyclists, the MTR Emergency Shell dispenses with common rain jacket features. You won’t find things like pockets, pit-zips and cinches. Instead, you’ll get lighter and more compressible materials.
The athletic fit of the jacket supports the whims of active travellers. If you don’t want to let a little rain stop you from hitting the trail or the streets, it’s a great choice.
The extremely light materials are both a blessing and a curse though.
The Endura MTR Emergency Shell does an excellent job of repelling moisture. But the fabric isn’t the most breathable among our top waterproof jacket picks.
No qualms here; the name says it all. Use this shell a reliable “just-in-case” travel accessory rather than an all-around travel rain jacket.
Reviews & recommendations for women
Outdoor Research Helium II
Weight: 5.5 oz
Best Uses: Emergency packable rain shell for hiking
At a feathery and airy 5.5 ounces, the Outdoor Research Helium II is one of the lightest women’s rain jackets. It’s among the true “stuff-it-and-forget-about-it” items in your rain gear collection.
You’ll hardly even notice carting around the Helium II. Compressed, the jacket jams down to a size comparable to your mobile phone. You can even clip it to your harness with the attached web loop.
The packability and cloud-like weight aren’t the only pluses. The water-repelling prowess of this rain jacket is also worthy of a thumbs-up. The jacket sports a stretchy Pertex Shield DS fabric. It’s not only effective at knocking off the elements but promotes a full range of movement.
All the seams on this jacket are fully sealed. The zippers are, too. They’re protected with the popular YKK® AquaGuard® waterproofing technology.
To keep the Helium II as light as possible Outdoor Research stripped away several common rain jacket features. Don’t expect frills like hand pockets or a hood visor to divert rain from your face.
Need extra storage space while maintaining a light weight? You’ll need to move towards the slightly heavier rain jackets in our recommendations.
Rab Kinetic Plus
Weight: 8.5 oz
Best Uses: Active travel, hiking, climbing
We’re fine with the couple added ounces that push the Rab Kinetic Plus out of ultralight territory.
What the jacket lacks in featherlight qualities it more than makes up for in the durability boost over it’s airier sisters.
As the name implies, the Kinetic Plus is adept at getting moving. The lightweight softshell of the jacket sports Rab’s Proflex™ fabric. It’s designed for maximum motion and mobility.
A flexible waterproof membrane delivers top-notch performance without hindering the jacket’s movement.
It’s remarkably breathable, too. Active travellers will love the jacket’s ability to glide across climatic changes without feeling too cool or too sticky.
Where the Rab Kinetic Plus feels most at home is on the trail and on the mountainside.
This is one of the best women’s rain jackets for hiking thanks to both its versatility and durability.
Weather taken a turn for the worst? You can trust the YKK® AquaGuard® VISLON® front zipper and YKK® AquaGuard® A-line pockets. They’ll keep both you and your belongings dry.
Patagonia Storm Racer
Weight: 5.5 oz
Best Uses: Active travel, hiking, climbing
Living true to its name for active travellers, the Patagonia Storm Racer excels when weather elements turn from your favour.
This beautiful 3-layer jacket is built for peak performance. It slots in among the most breathable lightweight rain jackets of these picks.
Besides its feathery-light 5.5 ounces, wearers will love the Storm Racer’s airy and comfortable feel. The breathable membrane is among the finest in its class.
The soft tricot backer avoids leaving you with a sticky feeling. When you’re pushing the pedal to the metal on the hiking trails or on a rainy walk in the city, it adds plenty of comfort.
The water-repellent elastic cuffs and hem are designed minimally. It helps both keep down the weight and seal out wetness when the weather takes a quick turn for the worst.
Although it’s an absolute gem in a pinch, this rain jacket isn’t the best choice for all-day wear. It’s been known to lose its effectiveness in prolonged heavy rains.
Nonetheless, the Patagonia Storm Racer does what it needs to in a pinch. (And the fact that packable enough to fold into its own chest pocket, it’s an easy choice!) Overall, it’s a fantastic jacket for quick minimalist rain protection.
Arc’teryx Beta SL
Weight: 9.9 oz
Best Uses: Emergency shell for trekking
At 9.9 ounces, the Arc’teryx Beta SL barely made the cut-off for our top lightweight women’s rain jackets. That’s not to say it doesn’t deserve to be here.
What the Beta SL adds in a tiny bit of extra weight it more than makes up for in function. The jacket’s Gore-Tex Paclite waterproofing works wonders for repelling nasty elements. And it does it while remaining super compressible.
The jacket features a trim fit designed specifically for women. It also drops gussets in the underarms to extend the coat’s range of motion.
The Gore-Tex performance and mobility of the Arc’teryx Beta SL can’t be questioned. But it shares one common weakness with many lightweight rain jackets: durability.
The mini-ripstop fabric is more robust than most jackets in its weight class. But it can’t be counted upon in every situation. For backwoods hiking, where disaster is a brush-up with spiky pine branch away, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Stuff the Beta SL in your daypack for emergency rain protection though, and you won’t be disappointed.
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic
Weight: 8.4 oz
Best Uses: General travel, outdoor activities
Convinced that there’s always a trade-off between great performance and style? Take a look at the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic.
The jacket’s unique stretch fabric slims down the often bulky look of high-performance rain jackets. It creates a a stylish fit better suiting the needs of active travellers.
The Stretch Ozonic features a 2.5-layer fabric. It’s protected with Mountain Hardwear’s own Dry.Q™ Active technology. Moisture is further sealed out with Aquaguard® VISLON® treated zippers.
Unlike other lightweight jackets, the hood on the Stretch Ozonic features a structured brim. It helps to deflects water from your face.
Even with its ability to keep water out, the fabric is breathable. It’s further enhanced by the underarm pit-zip ventilation.
While its not the coolest or breeziest lightweight rain jacket, it fares well in warm weather.
For trips to hot & humid places though, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic might leave you feeling a tad sticky.
Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion
Weight: 10.0 oz
Best Uses: Backwoods hiking
The Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion is the heaviest pick among our lightweight women’s rain jackets. It’s built with hardcore travellers & adventurers in mind. When you need more durability than other ultralight jackets offer, this is your gal!
Better tear-resistance is set forth with its 2.5-layer construction. It features a tough 70-denier face fabric. Dry.Q™ EVAP technology seals water out. At the same time, the membrane allows sweat vapour to escape.
The pockets are similarly waterproof. They’re protected with Aquaguard® VISLON® zippers, keeping your belongings dry in nasty weather.
If there’s any downside to this rain jacket, it’s the hood.
Although it cinches up to protect your face, the adjustable hood lacks a visor. Presumably, it was one of the elements chopped away to reduce the coat’s weight.
With its abrasion-resistant face fabric though, the Plasmic Ion is a hit. It’s still one of the best rain jackets for backwoods explorers. When you’re facing tougher-than-normal conditions, you can count on it.
Discontinued models (2019 and before)
Weight: 6.3 oz
Best Uses: Trail running, hiking, climbing
There’s hardly a more fitting name for the Marmot Essence.
This rain jacket strips down to the bare essentials. And it does it without sacrificing its ability to repel wind and water. Weighing in at 6.3 ounces, it’s one of the lightest in the pack.
At the core of the Essence is Marmot’s own Stretch NanoPro™ Membrain® nylon ripstop fabric. All the seams are taped. It ramps up the waterproofing on the jacket and keeps you dry in rough conditions.
Built-in ventilation helps the jacket perform better in warmer conditions. It gives it a boost that its watertight construction would otherwise not allow.
If there was any question who this rain jacket was designed for, the Angel-Wing Movement answers it. The technology allows for a full-range of motion. It points the jacket towards its true masters: active travellers. Whether trail runners or hikers, this rain gear is a great choice.
The Marmot Essence is also affixed with full 360-degree reflectivity. Combined with the helmet-compatible hood, the jacket’s appeal to alpinists in need of a featherweight shell is obvious.
Like other ultralight men’s rain jackets, plummeting temperatures will require extra layers. There are no hand-warming pockets on the Marmot Essence. It relies on just one chest pocket with a water-resistant zipper in a bid to keep the jacket as light as possible.
The North Face HyperAir GTX
Weight: 7.2 oz
Best Uses: All-around sports & travel rain jacket
It’s ever-so slightly heavier than some of our other recommendations. But The North Face HyperAir GTX performs with the best of its ultralight buddies.
The jacket’s high quality hinges on its Gore-Tex Active shell. It features TNF’s unique SHAKEDRY™ technology. It help keeps rain and wind at bay while allowing sweat to escape.
What’s special about Gore-Tex Active is that it doesn’t need a face fabric. The membrane itself provides the protection. It’s the outer layer that faces the elements.
The technology enables the HyperAir GTX to stay ultra-lightweight. At the same time, it’s able to stack up among the most breathable jackets on the market.
There is a downside. The lighter weight and extreme breathability comes at the price of durability.
The HyperAir GTX is not the waterproof jacket of choice for rough backwoods hiking. Brushing up against a spruce tree or taking a fall into gravel could mean hundreds up the creek.
It is, however, an impeccable choice for trail running or more urban adventures. Articulated sleeves allow for a full range of motion as you frolic in the rain.
There’s even a media-compatible internal pocket to slip your headphones through while keeping your iPod dry.
Weight: 7.0 oz
Best Uses: Minimalist travel, hiking
Like all the best ultralight rain jackets for men, the Marmot Mica dispenses with many of the frills found in more robust jacket shells. Instead, it focuses a single goal: to be as light as possible. And at seven ounces, we’d have to say: Marmot did a stand-up job.
The Mica wields Marmot’s own MemBrain® Strata™ fabric. It’s highly breathable and waterproof. It features fully-taped seams and a water-resistant zipper. In tandem, they propel water away from where water should not be.
For travellers obsessed with saving space, the Mica packs into a tight package. It secures safely into its own pocket for extreme portability.
An extra dash of rain protection is provided by an adjustable hood, hem and Velcro-laden wrist cuffs. Running around or performing intense activities in the rain will be a breeze. The jacket features full-motion capabilities thanks to Marmot’s unique Angel-Wing Movement technology.
For a lightweight jacket, the nylon ripstop face fabric is surprisingly durable. It’s less anxiety-inducing than other thin, but expensive, waterproof membranes. Many lack a protective outer layer.
Weight: 5.0 oz
Best Uses: Active travel, trail running
Tonight we crown a new featherlight champ: the Marmot Essence.
Coming in at an unbelievable five ounces, this waterproof jacket punches well above its weight. It’s the best choice for anyone needing to shed a little poundage in their carry-on luggage.
Marmot went to town applying its NanoPro® MemBrain® fabric to its most ultralight women’s rain jacket to date. Not only is it waterproof and breathable, but stretchy with a slimmer athletic fit.
Combined with Angel Wing Movement, the design of the Marmot Essence is never limiting. You’ll always be able to carry on with whatever travel throws at you while wearing this jacket. Whether you’re bolting down a trail or taking pictures in the city, you’re covered.
To cut down its weight, the Essence dispenses with a few features like handwarmer pockets.
We hardly see that as a deal breaker. The slew of other bonuses like a moldable hood visor, side ventilation and drawcord hem to seal out moisture make up for it.
(Oh, and let’s not forget the extreme lightweight and packability!)
The North Face HyperAir GTX
Weight: 6.7 oz
Best Uses: Active travel, trail running
We’ve always loved The North Face rain jackets, even if they weren’t the most lightweight on the market. All that changed, however, when they released The North Face Women’s HyperAir GTX.
What’s most impressive is how the HyperAir GTX did it. It achieved its minimalist weight without stripping away too many essential features.
This ultralight waterproof jacket features a Gore-Tex Active shell. It repels rain and wind without getting sticky underneath.
The secret of the HyperAir GTX lies in eliminating the face fabric. It’s an unusual feat that saves several ounces. At the same time, it increases breathability of the jacket.
Even if airiness were in question, pit-zips further enhance the jacket’s ventilation.
To protect from the harshest of elements, the cuffs and hem adjust to seal in warmth and keep out moisture.
There’s even a set of watertight hand pockets. They’re usually one of the first features to go in a bid to drop a couple extra ounces.
How to choose a lightweight rain jacket: A quick buyer’s guide
Do you live to pack light? You’ll love swapping out your regular rain gear for an ultralight rain jacket!
Nearly every major rain jacket manufacturer—whether its The North Face, Arc’teryx, Outdoor Research, Mountain Hardwear or Marmot—has tinkered with lightweight designs that weigh in at less than 10 ounces. Some of the lightest rain jackets even push the limits to half of that!
Why should you buy an ultralight waterproof jacket
The main advantage of going ultralight with your rain jacket is to lighten the load. In fact, the top-rated lightweight rain jackets are so light, you’ll barely notice you’re carrying them. And in a time of ever-increasing baggage handling fees and a lust for cool new travel gear, that’s a huge bonus.
These coats are not only super light but ridiculously packable. Some scrunching up so small that they can fit in the front pocket of your pants.
For those unpleasant emergency afternoon showers we’ve all endured, these will be life-savers. They might end up being one of your smartest travel accessory purchases ever!
Why should you NOT buy an ultralight rain jacket
Yes, carrying around a jacket that can balance on your pinky and stuff into your back pocket is pretty rad. But you have to remember that there are certain trade-offs.
Keeping the weight down to a minimum means fewer features and less durable fabrics. Ultralight jackets are meant to keep you dry in a pinch. They’re not designed to endure tough conditions. For activities like backwoods hiking in all-day rain, you’ll need full-on rain gear.
Fabrics & Materials
Textiles might seem less-than-exciting. But top outerwear brands like Arc’teryx, The North Face, Outdoor Research and Marmot are far from boring!
Their dedication to creating materials to shelter you from harsh elements borders on obsessive. Each is constantly refining their rain jacket products and pushing their technologies further.
Every year, better jackets emerge onto the scene. The quality today is far superior to even just five years ago. Fabrics are always becoming more durable and more watertight, all while adhering to a quest to shave off a couple ounces here and there.
In general, rain jacket shells feature three basic components:
- face fabric (outer layer)
- waterproof membrane (middle layer)
- lining (inner layer)
You’ll also notice when purchasing that rain gear is listed as having different “layers”:
- 3-Layer: Features a face fabric treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating along with a waterproof membrane. The third layer is generally made of a thin polyurethane (PU). It keeps skin oils and sweat away from the membrane of the rain jacket and allows it to remain breathable. Generally, 3-layer jackets are more expensive than 2.5- or 2-layer ones.
- 2.5-Layer: The most common type of construction in most ultra-light jackets. It’s similar to a 3-layer except the third layer is “painted” onto the membrane. 2.5-layer jackets tend to breathe less than 3-layer ones.
- 2-Layer: This construction isn’t as common among lightweight coats. 2-layer construction often features a light mesh inner layer instead of a polyurethane. These tend to be less expensive, heavier and harder to pack.
One of the most important advances in rain jacket technology has been improved breathability.
Breathability is a hot topic among travel & hiking enthusiasts. First, let’s tackle the biggest misconception about waterproof jackets.
Better breathability does not mean complete breathability.
Even if you pick the highest tech rain jacket on the market, it won’t hold up in all conditions. You’ll still get warm & sticky from the inside of your jacket if you’re: a) in a warm climate; or b) exerting yourself.
Even so, when you’re looking for a the perfect ultralight waterproof coat, you’ll want to check how good its breathability is.
In hotter weather, a top-notch 3-layer jacket, for example, will outperform a cheap 2-layer one in terms of comfort. Keep this in mind before you settle.