The Best Lightweight Rain Jackets

These were the stand-out shells from about a dozen we tested this year. After calling in many of the new jackets for spring 2018, we separated them into two categories, roughly based on construction. This test category focuses on 2.5-layer, lightweight rain jackets.

The 2.5 layer jackets all feature a durable exterior, a waterproof-breathable membrane and a film or coating on the inside that keeps body oils and dirt from clogging the membrane’s pores. The jackets are distributed to a team of testers made up of professional mountain- and sea kayak guides, avid recreational climbers and hikers, mountain bikers and dog walkers. Most live in coastal British Columbia, a temperate rainforest. The jackets are tested throughout the fall and early winter, when the weather is at its worst – or best when it comes to testing the weather resistance of a jacket -through a variety of activities and intensities. Each jacket had a niche where it excelled, but testers noted a common thread: these jackets keep getting lighter and more durable. This category used to be a poor man’s waterproof-breathable jacket. Now they remain affordable, but are beginning to rival three layer shells in performance.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Marmot Eclipse EvoDry Jacket
89
Best in Class
2018
Weathershedding 10
Breathability 8
Function 7
Durability 9
Packability 5

One of the most sustainable jackets ever made

Permanent water repellent coating

User friendly function

A little heavy

Bulky

Sizing runs small

MSRP
$250.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Jacket
88
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 8
Function 7
Durability 7
Packability 9

Quality construction

Excellent mechanical breathability features

Lots of stretch in the material

Very packable

Small pockets

Hood not compatible with helmets

No wrist adjustment

MSRP
$205.00
BEST DEAL
Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II
87
Best in Class
2015
Weathershedding 8
Breathability 8
Function 7
Durability 7
Packability 7

Stretchy fabric didn’t constrict

Great venting and breathability

Hood provided lots of protection

Glove friendly design

Clammy next to bare skin

A little heavy for this category

MSRP
$225.00
BEST DEAL
Patagonia M10
87
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 8
Function 7
Durability 7
Packability 8

Super breathable

Light and compact

Versatile cuffs

Saggy brim

Stiff zippers

No pit zips

Pockets not harness compatible

MSRP
$399.00
BEST DEAL
Under Armour Moonraker GTX
86
Weathershedding 8
Breathability 8
Function 7
Durability 8
Packability 5

Very light

Pockets double as vents

Nice feel to the fabric

No pit zips

Hood not helmet compatible

Bulky

MSRP
$399.99
BEST DEAL
N/A
Sherpa Asaar Jacket
86
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 8
Function 8
Durability 4
Packability 9

Light weight & highly packable

Great breathability

Stretchy fabric adapts to movement

Helmet compatible hood

Fabric is loud

Fragile feeling

Stiff main zipper

MSRP
$200.00
BEST DEAL
Mammut Segnas
85
Weathershedding 8
Breathability 8
Function 6
Durability 8
Packability 5

Good breathability

Gore Tex guaranteed to keep you dry backing

Simple, functional design

Pricey

MSRP
$375.00
BEST DEAL
Mammut Segnas
85
Weathershedding 8
Breathability 8
Function 6
Durability 8
Packability 5

Super breathable

Feels tough

Lots of mobility

No chest pocket

Heavy

MSRP
$375.00
BEST DEAL
Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Flex Rain Jacket
85
Weathershedding 8
Breathability 8
Function 6
Durability 7
Packability 6

Lots of stretch for mobility

Good value

Great fit

Tons of venting

Small hood

Hand pockets conflict with pack straps

MSRP
$100.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell
85
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 7
Function 9
Durability 7
Packability 5

Soft next to skin and to touch

Stretchy fabric

Good value

A little heavy

Not the most breathable jacket

MSRP
$149.00
BEST DEAL
REI Rhyolite
84
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 7
Function 8
Durability 7
Packability 5

Highly breathable eVent fabric

Awesome price

Great design

Loud fabric

No third pocket

No pit zips

MSRP
$189.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
First Lite Vapor Stormlight Ultralight Rain Jacket
84
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 8
Function 7
Durability 6
Packability 6

Awesome hood

Articulated design moves with you

Good balance between weight & features

Higher price

Zipper pulls too small

Poor fit for stocky testers

MSRP
$275.00
BEST DEAL
Salomon Bonatti Pro WP JKT
84
Weathershedding 6
Breathability 9
Function 7
Durability 3
Packability 9

Super lightweight

Incredibly packable

Fits over a pack

Excellent breathability

Treat it with care

Little room for adjustment

Only one pocket

MSRP
$200.00
BEST DEAL
Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Jacket
83
Weathershedding 3
Breathability 9
Function 9
Durability 4
Packability 8

Great weight & packability

Best in class breathability

Great mobility with stretch panels

Versatility extends beyond storm shell

Not as waterproof as others in test

Fitted style too snug for some applications

MSRP
$125.00
BEST DEAL
LL Bean Tek O2 2.5L Element Jacket Review Tek O2 2.5L Element Jacket
79
Weathershedding 7
Breathability 6
Function 5
Durability 6
Packability 5

Three pockets

Pit zips help with breathability

Good weight to features ratio

Least refined function

Noisy fabric

Early 2000s looking design

MSRP
$160.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Marmot Red Star Jacket
76
Weathershedding 3
Breathability 8
Function 3
Durability 7
Packability 5

Great breathability

Durable feeling

Ineffective Cuffs

Weak DWR coating

MSRP
$285.00
BEST DEAL
Marmot Eclipse EvoDry Jacket

The Marmot Eclipse EvoDry is one of the most sustainable jackets and not just because it’s easy on the environment, using less water, dyes and chemicals. It’s also built with an innovative water repellant treatment that’s baked in at the molecular level so it never needs to be reapplied and performs as well or better than just about every other jacket in its category. Yes, you can be green and get performance and durability, too.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at

Salomon Bonatti Pro WP JKT

Named after famous Italian mountaineer Walter Bonatti, the Salomon Bonatti Pro WP JKT is made for going fast in the mountains. It weighs a slight seven ounces, stows into its chest pocket and provides enough protection for a long day in the rain. We wouldn’t recommend relying on the Bonatti for trips with any bushwhacking, but it’s perfect for low abrasion light and fast missions and/or as a back-up jacket.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Jacket

The Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Jacket is made for moving fast in the mountains. It walks a fine line better than most mountain shells: rugged, quality construction, but also light and very packable. It’s adaptable to a variety of temperatures, weather conditions and exertion. It’s a great choice for mountain running, speed hiking, mountain biking and other short duration, high output activities.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Sunny Sports

Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II

The Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite II is built for mountain weather, where it can go from winter to spring to summer in an hour. When it’s cold and gross out snuggle deep in the protective armor of solid weatherproofness and helmet friendly hood. Then as the conditions improve crack the vents, unleash the hood or just pack the lightweight jacket away. The versatility means it works well just about anywhere and any season.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at REI.com

Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell

A do it all jacket, the Black Diamond StromLine Stretch Rain Shell is a good choice for just about any low aerobic activity. It’s baggy enough to cover a few layers and is full of handy features. But it’s still light and packable enough for fast paced adventures. And it’s wonderful to wear with built in stretch and a soft touch that made it the most comfortable jacket we tested this year.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Backcountry.com

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Lightweight Rain Jackets Review Results

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For this test our testers evaluated five criteria — weather shedding, breathability, function, durability and packability — for each lightweight rain jacket. They used them back-to-back and individually in a range of activities, temperatures, weather conditions and intensities over a couple of months of use. Once we’d dried out, the Marmot Eclipse EvoDry stood a slim shoulder above the Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Jacket. Though, it’s worth noting only five points out of a possible 100 stood between our top ranked and lowest ranked jacket in this year’s test. That speaks to the continuous improvements in function, weight and breathability we’ve seen in 2.5 layer jackets. Every year manufacturers find ways to improve performance, while keeping prices affordable. These jackets breathe better than many three-layer shells while protecting from the elements. And they keep getting tougher. Where we would usually reserve these for day trips and fair weather expeditions, they’re steadily convincing us that lightweight waterproof jackets are worthy of longer trips and harsher conditions.

Weathershedding

This is the primary function of a waterproof jacket: keep the rain outside and your upper body dry. When rating jackets in this category we consider the jacket as whole, from seams to zippers, hood to wrist closures and of course the fabric construction. The jackets in this test use a variety of membranes, some proprietary, like Marmot’s MemBrain in the Eclipse, while a few use branded ones like Pertex Shield in the Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra and Salomon Bonatti. They’re all very similar in function and performance. Brands rate fabric waterproofness using a water column test. We use a more subjective real world test of using the jackets in the pouring rain and observing how long it takes for water to absorb and leaking to begin. All the jackets scored well in keeping the rain out. The Salomon Bonatti had the lowest score not because the Pertex Shield membrane didn’t keep rain out, but because the minimalist hood didn’t provide as much coverage as the others. The Marmot Eclipse scored the best because of its molecularly bonded DWR coating that never wears off or wets out.

Breathability

This score speaks to how well the jacket allows excess heat to escape from inside the jacket. When hiking, paddling or during any other exercise, our bodies warm up, releasing heat. The breathability is how well the jacket allows that heat, in the form of moisture vapor, to escape the micro-climate between the body and fabric. As with weathershedding, breathability is a factor of construction, both the materials used and any mechanical venting built into the jacket like pit zips, perforations and soft shell panels. Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid led this category thanks to the solid breathability of the Pertex fabric and soft shell panels on the side. Both the L.L. Bean Tek O2 Element and Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Flex make up for okay membrane breathability with pit zips.

Function

Often it’s the little things that make or break a jacket and it’s those miscellaneous features that we’re reviewing here. Pocket size and placement, zipper function, fit and how the jacket wears as we walk, run, bend over and reach up are all in play. For instance, the Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Flex scored high because it looks sharp and never constricted with built-in stretch throughout. The Black Diamond StormLine won this category in 2018 because of its soft and supple hand feel, both on the inside and exterior. Meanwhile the Salomon Bonatti’s minimalist design scored the lowest, but for those looking for lightweight it wins.

Durability

This test time frame doesn’t allow us enough use to really see how these shells will stand up over months and years of wear, but we can tell pretty quickly where the weak points lie. From years of beating up jackets our testers can look at the seams and overall construction details and immediately see potential issues before we’ve even worn it. Then we bring on the hard use and put these jackets through bushwhacking torture. We didn’t rip any jackets this year, but we think the lightweight Sherpa Assar fabric needs to be treated with more care, while the high thread count and low tolerance for mistakes during production of the Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra speaks to quality construction. Also of note is the permanent durable water repellent treatment used on the Marmot Eclipse EvoDry. Where other DWRs are a coating that wears off and needs to be reapplied, the Eclipse’s is molecularly bonded.

Packability

We measure packability in two ways: ounces and volume. These matter because extra weight on the back generally hurts speed on the trail and bulkier items gobble up pack or pocket space, often a scarce and valuable resource. The difference between the heaviest shell (Marmot Eclipse at 13 ounces) and the lightest (Salomon Bonatti at 6.7oz) is only six and a half ounces, less than a snack bar. Volume stacked up similarly. In both cases it’s a measure of the weight of the fabric and number of features, since every strip and extra zip adds weight and bulk.

Test Methods

Over more than six months, a team of testers use the jackets in a variety of conditions and activities. They took the jackets hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, sea kayaking and rock climbing, pulling them out of their pack any time conditions warranted a shell. In addition, we put the shells through a series of standard tests. We wore all the shells in an uphill run in 65 degree weather to test breathability, in a shower for 10 minutes to test weathershedding and on a bushwhack hike to test durability.

Throughout the real-world testing, our testers recorded their observations on our five criteria: Weathershedding, the ability of the jacket to shrug off wind and rain; Breathability, how well the jacket released excess heat and moisture; Function, a catch all for features, fit and other factors that influence what it’s like to wear the jacket; Durability, how well made that jacket is and how much abuse it can take; and Packability, the weight and bulk of the jacket.

What Is A Lightweight Waterproof Jacket?

Lightweight Waterproof Jackets could also be called 2.5-layer jackets. All share the same construction technique, which involves sandwiching a waterproof and breathable membrane between a protective outer fabric and a thin film barrier on the interior of the jacket. This style of construction has been around for a couple decades as a less expensive and generally lighter option than 3-layer storm shells.

Typically 2.5-layer shells are best reserved for lighter duty, day trips, shorter overnights and fairer weather. They are not as waterproof or durable as three-layer shells and since there is just a thin barrier between the membrane and pore-clogging grease and dirt from the body, they need more washing and care to perform optimally. Increasingly these concerns are less relevant as the materials companies are using in this category continue to improve.

Most of the jackets in this test lean toward the lightweight and minimalist side. They tend to use elastic at wrists and waist, little structure in hoods and only hand pockets. This helps keep weight low, but impacts performance in harsher situations. A sub-category is hybrid jackets, which mix waterproof materials in more exposed areas and more breathable materials in more sheltered or hotter parts of the body. This category sacrifices weather shedding for breathability, a trade off that’s not a big deal for day trips, but should be carefully considered on more exposed and longer outings.

Overall, because of their low bulk and weight and their affordable price, Lightweight Waterproof Jackets are ideal for day trips and as the go-to waterproof-breathable shell for weekend warriors.