Hiking is an outdoor activity with many benefits. It gets you out in nature, is an excellent workout, and is a great activity to do with friends, family, or all by yourself. A nice, sunny day is always preferable. However, inevitably you will run into rain if you are out and about hiking often enough. When the rain starts falling, having the best rain gear for hiking will keep you warm, dry, and moving forward.
Whether it’s a thunderstorm rolling in over the mountains unexpectedly on an otherwise sunny afternoon, or a trek in the Pacific Northwest where rain is pervasive during certain times of the year, there is no sense foregoing your hiking trip to avoid getting wet. With the proper rain gear for hiking, you won’t have any reason to let a little rain or even heavy rain stop you. We provide our recommendations on rain jackets, rain pants, and rain covers.
Rain Gear For Hiking Overview
The right gear for your chosen outdoor activity, in this case, hiking, will make your excursions all the more enjoyable. Rather than worrying about getting wet or cold, you’ll know you’ve got all the clothing and equipment you need in your pack. With this added confidence, you’ll be able to take off on hikes you might be afraid to otherwise, going further and staying out longer.
There are several essential pieces of rain gear to consider for hiking. A rain jacket and rain pants will be the most critical components to keeping you dry, along with a pair of waterproof trail shoes. Your hiking rain suit will likely be uninsulated, but some gear may be heavier duty than others. Which kind of pieces you choose will likely depend on the trails you are hiking.
If you are going down trails with minimal brush or not hiking frequently, you’ll be able to get away with lighter, cheaper gear. However, if you plan to hike down trails with lots of trees and foliage, or off-trail, you’ll want to consider rain gear that is a bit more durable. The best rain jacket for hiking and best rain pants for hiking will depend a lot on how you will be using them, the type of hiking you’ll be doing, and how long you’ll be out in the elements.
The best rain suit for hiking will be two pieces and consist of a rain jacket and rain pants. A single-piece suit will be difficult to take on and off as needed while hiking, and there aren’t many great lightweight options out there. The reason is they’re just not the best for hiking. So stick to looking for two separate pieces, and you’ll be set the next time you hit the trails!
Hiking Rain Jacket
A lightweight hiking rain jacket is preferable to keep your load light. If you’re planning on doing any backpacking, saving weight is the name of the game. For example, a lightweight rain jacket for hiking will save you space and ounces and can be easily carried in both a daypack and a multi-day pack.
When looking for good rain gear, you’ll also want a breathable rain jacket with breathable fabrics for hiking. Because you’ll be exerting yourself and likely sweating, you’ll need something that vents sweat. Many breathable rain jackets have zipper features under the armpits that allow you to open them up for extra air as you get hot. Additionally, many technical fabrics on the market offer one-way breathability, keeping the rain out but letting moisture from sweat vent outwards. This is a very desirable feature in waterproof jackets that are also considered a breathable jacket.
Rain Pants for Hiking
As you research and shop for lightweight rain gear for hiking, consider adding a pair of rain pants to your gear arsenal. You will want a pair of these if you’re doing a multi-day backpacking trip, but you’ll need to consider whether the added weight and bulk are worth it for day trips.
A good pair of lightweight rain pants won’t add significant weight. If rain is in the forecast, packing a pair with you won’t hurt. Luckily, there are many lightweight, breathable rain pants for hiking that don’t cost a fortune and will give you peace of mind if you end up in a downpour.
Best Packable Rain Jacket For Hiking
A packable rain jacket is going to be your best friend if you’ll be spending long days on the trail or deep in the backcountry. You’ll want a combination of durability and function, as well as something lightweight that you can pack small and throw in the bottom of your pack. Additional important features such as hand pockets help keep your hands warm. A chest pocket with waterproof fabric and waterproof zippers will keep items like your cell phone zipped up and protected from wet weather or rainy days inside its own pocket.
We like the Mountain Hardwear Men’s Stretch Ozonic Jacket for men or women. This is the jacket version of our favorite rain pants, which you’ll read about below, and for good reasons! Plus, if you combine the two, you’ll have the best rain suit for hiking as well.
Hiking and Backpacking Rain Jacket
This jacket is a favorite among hikers and backpackers. Packability is a significant consideration when out on the trail, and this jacket doesn’t disappoint. It packs up into itself and is easily stowed away. Based on feedback, outdoor enthusiasts consider this as one of their favorite rain jackets.
While this jacket is not an ultralight hiking rain jacket, it does weigh in at a mere 10.2 ounces (women’s medium). Not bad in comparison to other ultralight rain jackets. Its definitely comparable to the the lightest jacket. It is made of a soft, quiet material not found in more traditional rain jackets, making it super comfortable.
As any good rain jacket should, this one has pit zips critical for hiking. One of the best rain jackets with pit zips. Being able to vent will keep you cool as you sweat. It has an adjustable hood, although not as adjustable as some competitors, which may be this jacket’s only downside. It also has an adjustable drawstring at the bottom so you can cinch it down where you want it. The length will keep it from riding up under a pack.
Finally, it comes in a variety of colors so you can choose something that suits your fancy!
Best Lightweight Rain Jacket for Hiking
One of the best lightweight rain jackets for hiking is the Arc’teryx Zeta SL (mens or womens). This jacket is well made but the focus on this jacket design is geared towards being light weight and packable. This is still a waterproof rain jacket with plenty of water resistant properties with its outer layer. Although this is a nice rain jacket this particular weather shield will not be your most durable rain jacket. Use this jacket when you are trail hiking or trekking and you need to focus on your overall comfort and effectiveness on the trial. The jacket is made of superlight materials and can be used when hiking long distances.
Best Budget-Friendly Rain Jacket for Hiking
The Outdoor Research Women’s W’s Apollo Jacket or Outdoor Research Men’s Apollo Jacket is an excellent, high-quality rain jacket from a reputable company at a reasonable price. This is nice option for in the category of best budget rain jacket.
This jacket is made with Ventia technology. It will keep out rain, snow, sleet, and wind. As we talked about before, it also has pit vents so you can unzip as you heat up. A well thought out feature for letting out body heat, sweat and allowing in a breeze.
While this jacket is not insulated, it is suitable for many outdoor activities where you will sweat. It makes a great summer hiking rain jacket. Use it for an outer shell when running, cross country skiing, camping, fishing, hunting , or anything else outside to keep out the elements.
This jacket is also long enough to go halfway down your rear and not ride up. This is beneficial when you’re doing something requiring lots of movement. It has a drawstring waist, so you can cinch it up or let it out to hang loose. It also has Velcro cuffs. Velcro is excellent for tightening around a pair of gloves to keep wind and cold out. Finally, this jacket comes with a big enough hood for flipping over hats or helmets.
It is a packable rain jacket, weighing around a lightweight 12 ounces, depending on the size. To save space, pack it into its pocket and shove it in your pack, whether you’re backpacking or just day hiking.
The most fabulous feature of this jacket is the inside lining. It is designed as a topo map. While not a measure of functionality, it does add a “cool factor” amongst your outdoor friends. It also comes in various exterior colors, so pick one that suits your fancy.
Best Multi-Season Rain Jacket for Hiking
If you’re searching for a good fall hiking rain jacket, the Arc’teryx Beta LT (mens or womens) is one to consider. As with other high-end rain jackets, this lightweight jacket offers breathability while protecting against rain, snow, and wind. A good option for the best lightweight rain jacket.
A Gore Active membrane allows this jacket to breathe more than some. This helps make it an excellent option for activities like hiking, where you’ll be sweating. The new version of the LT features pit vents, which is an upgrade from its previous version.
3 Layer Construction Rain Jacket
It has 3-layer construction that adds a bit of durability and warmth that other lightweight jackets lack. A layer jacket is a good option for activities requiring more durability, like hiking off-trail. Depending on the weather conditions, it’s suitable for shoulder season hiking and as a shell for skiing or other cold weather sports.
Drop Hem Rain Jacket
This jacket features a drop hem, which helps keep it in place under a pack. It has a generous hood with an elastic drawstring and a brim. This allows you to pull it up over a beanie, ball cap, or helmet and cinch it tight. This one rolls up into its hood, which is handy for carrying around.
This jacket is less crinkly than other more traditional rain jackets, making it quieter. It is much softer and doesn’t get as clammy when sweating as some rain jackets tend to get. It also has strategically placed fleece material to add softness in all the right places, like the back of the neck.
While this particular jacket is on the expensive end, Arc’teryx is a reputable outdoor brand that makes high-quality gear. This jacket stands up to the best of other brands in this category. This rain jacket offers a bit more refinement than some jackets priced a little less.
Best Rain Jacket With A Storable Hood
The North Face Men’s Resolve Waterproof Jacket is a versatile jacket that has a convenient hood that can be stored within the jackets itself. This jacket is true to size and is made of 100% nylon ripstop DryVent material. The jacket has strong water resistance and wind resistance as well as adequate breathability ratings. Easy to clean as well. A great jacket from The North Face trusted brand.
Best Rain Pants For Hiking
Rain pants won’t be necessary for all situations. Sometimes a good rain jacket is all that is needed for an afternoon hike where there might be a chance of rain, and you won’t be out for a long time. Other times, such as all-day, long-distance hikes, or when backpacking, you’ll want to pack along a good pair of rain pants. In the long-term, it pays to spend a bit more money on a good pair that will last you a long time and be sure to keep you warm and dry.
Versatile Rain Pants
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic (women’s) are great all-around rain pants. They fall in the middle of affordability and come from another known brand for quality outdoor gear.
These are slightly heavier than some rain pants. Coming in at around 11 ounces depending on the size but pack up nicely to throw in a pack. The added weight comes from a heavier fabric, which lends to durability. Therefore, these pants will be better if you’re brush-beating or need something that will hold up much longer in harsh conditions.
Another thing that adds weight to pants is zippers. However, a full side-zipper is something the Stretch Ozonic’s have that not all rain pants do. You can take them on and off without having to put your shoe through them. They unzip from top to bottom. This is an awesome feature not found in many rain pants, and well worth the slightly extra zipper weight. The zippers are also good for venting since you can zip up or down to let in some air.
These rain pants are also stretchy and soft, so they don’t rustle when you walk. They are easy to wear over various pants, including leggings or jeans. Overall, these are great rain pants for hiking to throw in your pack and are pretty popular among experienced hikers.
Best Backpack Rain Cover
Finally, don’t forget to keep all that gear you’re carrying around in your backpack dry. Whether you’re planning a day hike with a day pack or on a multi-day backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest, not only do you want to keep yourself dry, but all your stuff as well.
As the rain starts falling and you put on your rain jacket and rain pants, you’ll be glad to have this Waterproof Backpack Rain Cover with a Reflective Strap in your pack to cover what’s on your back. This cover comes in multiple colors and a variety of sizes. Order one to fit each of your packs.
The best part is they won’t break the bank. They’re super affordable, so you can get one for each pack you own. They are lightweight, so you can throw them in the bottom of your bag and forget them until you need them.
The adjustable cord will allow you to cinch it down around your pack for a snug fit. This is also good if you’re backpacking and need to hang your pack in a tree to keep away from bears. Put it over your pack before hoisting to ensure it stays dry should you experience an overnight rainfall.
Final Rain Gear For Hiking Thoughts
Good rain gear for hiking is one of the best investments you will make for your time in the outdoors. Hiking can be a fun experience, allowing you to get in nature and exercise. However, it can quickly turn miserable if you’re not prepared with the proper clothing and gear. There is a perfect jacket or hiking rain gear combination available for you that you can match to the outdoor conditions. Conditions such as warm weather, wet conditions, snow, high winds, wet days, and even humid conditions.
A good rain jacket should always be tucked away in your pack. A pair of rain pants should be a serious consideration depending on what type of hiking you’re doing and how long you’ll be out. Neither have to break the bank, but there can be a significant difference between good and cheap gear.
If you’re willing to spend a little money for higher quality gear, you can find pieces like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic’s. This rain gear will last you a long time and work well in various scenarios. It comes in a jacket and pants and both men’s and women’s fits. Along with all the great features, it is available for everyone and all body sizes.
Next time you’re out on the trail and the sky opens up, you’ll be so thankful you have the proper rain gear and can continue happily on your adventure.