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Published Sep. 22, 2021

Rain doesn’t have to ruin your parade—all it takes is a little preparation and having the right outerwear by your side. Adding a rain jacket to your wardrobe is a sound investment, especially if you pick one that complements your lifestyle and particular weather needs. First, you need to figure out what those are. 

For example, are you looking for a winter jacket that also happens to be rainproof? Or do you need a simple shell to add to your rotation for those times you’re caught out in an unexpected flurry of weather and just want something lightweight and dependable you can throw on over your clothes to keep you dry while you get wherever you’re going? Let our ultra-detailed knowledge of rain jackets wash over you, and then buy yours before the next storm! Before you know it, your wardrobe will be right as rain.

How We Picked the Products

Methodology

Rain jackets come in all shapes and sizes, from classic PVC fisherman styles to regular outerwear that’s treated for rain resistance. As a longtime fashion writer and product reviewer, I considered customers’ different situational needs for a raincoat when choosing my five.

  • Water-resistant vs. waterproof: A fabric that is waterproof can withstand massive amounts of water while keeping you dry; a water-resistant fabric cannot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just not for all situations. It’s important to consider what you need and want when you go looking for a rain jacket. I’ve provided both options.
  • Breathability: The surest way to stay dry isn’t always the most comfortable. A PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PU (polyurethane) rain jacket will repel all the water, but it also may leave you sweating. These types of rain jackets aren’t for everyone (e.g., anyone with sensory sensitivity), but they are dependable in a storm. I’ve included these options and noted which ones aren’t particularly breathable.
  • Bulkiness: For the most part, rain jackets are as bulky as any other jacket, with one exception on this list: the Columbia Men’s Watertight Jacket. If one of your criteria is being able to roll your jacket up into a ball so you can take it everywhere you go without extra weight or bulk, it’s an excellent option. What you sacrifice is style, but in the middle of a downpour, looking fab might not be the number-one priority.
  • Brand: Most of the brands on this list are legacy brands in the world of rain- and weather-resistant outerwear, like Columbia, Stutterheim, and Helly Hansen. They’ve stood the test of time and still have loyal customers hundreds of years after their founding.
  • Versatility: Some rain jackets are rain jackets, meaning you’re likely not going to bust them out unless there’s precipitation. Those are great, because jackets that are made specifically to be waterproof (the Stutterheim, the Columbia) will get the job done no matter how high the winds or strong the downpour. But other styles (like the Obermeyer) are midweight jackets that can double as your everyday outerwear and are also water-resistant, meaning if you happen to get caught in some weather, you’re covered. Others, like the Moerdeng, can stand in for your winter coat.

The Best Rain Jackets: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Rain Jacket Overall: Helly-Hansen Men’s Moss Rain Coat

100-Percent Waterproof

Polyurethane fabric repels water, ventilation holes under the back yoke allow airflow, and two front pockets give you a place for your phone and ID so you can travel light. Helly-Hansen

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Why It Made The Cut: This one is an OG fisherman style from Norwegian legacy brand Helly Hansen, founded in the 19th century. It comes in classic go-with-everything colors: bright yellow, khaki, and navy. 

Specs: 

  • Zip closure
  • Helox-fabric technology
  • Lightweight at just 1.3 pounds

Pros: 

  • Hooded
  • Lightweight
  • Machine-washable
  • Repair kit included

Cons:

  • Midlength (so your legs might get wet)
  • Not so breathable

Helox, Helly Hansen’s trademarked fabric, debuted in 1949 and was made of translucent, foldable PVC in loads of colors. The idea was that it was a totally rainproof outerwear garment that was also stylish. Today’s Helox—called Helox+—has the same classic look but without the PVC. HH’s raincoats are now made of polyurethane, which is lighter and more pliable. 

What’s nice about this pick is that the parts that it covers will stay bone-dry. The downside (as with any classic fisherman’s style) is that it’s not terribly breathable. If you’re a city commuter, for example, you might be happy to have it on when you’re walking to the bus, not so pleased once you’re on board (and sweating). Ventilation holes do what they can to keep your temperature comfortable, but this is definitely best when it’s actually raining. Unlike other more versatile waterproof styles—like a trench or weather-resistant puffer—this likely isn’t one you’d want to wear on a sunny, rain-free day. 

Best Old-School-Looking Rain Jacket: STUTTERHEIM Men’s Stockholm Rain Coat

Worth the Splurge

This roomy A-line option is cute as a button and perfect for style-minded shoppers of all genders. STUTTERHEIM

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Why It Made The Cut: PVC keeps you dry; underarm vents keep you cool. A simple on-and-off snap closure and a drawstring hood make it easy to weatherproof yourself in a jiff.

Specs: 

  • Handmade design
  • Double-welded seams for extra protection
  • PVC-coated rubberized cotton

Pros:

  • Super stylish
  • Unlined, so it’s more lightweight
  • Hand washable

Cons: 

  • Pricey
  • Unlined, so it’s not very warm

“Swedish melancholy at its driest” is the company’s motto. “We don’t believe in bad weather—only bad clothing.” (Lighten up, Stutterheim; you just make raincoats!) Actually, the fashionista-loved brand takes itself so seriously that you get the feeling it’s in on the joke. What’s not a joke are the clean lines and minimalist aesthetic of this super-stylish (and super-pricey) classic raincoat. The hood is nice and big, with drawstrings to adjust it.

Because it has no lining, the Stockholm isn’t insulated at all, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your location, layering, and plans for use. If it’s going to be your go-to rain repeller during summer storms or you want to throw it on top of a heavy sweater in light snow or sleet, you’ll be good to go. But this will absolutely not replace your winter coat (even if it’s so good-looking that you want it to). 

Best Rain Jacket for Extra Warmth: MOERDENG Women’s Waterproof Ski Jacket

Perfect for Winter Sports

This insulated pick is what you get when you cross a rain jacket with a winter coat. MOERDENG

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Specs: 

  • Adjustable cuffs to seal out weather
  • Fluff lining
  • 2,400-needle cotton filling to lock in warmth

Why It Made The Cut: Perfect for skiers, snowboarders, and other cold-weather-adventure types, this waterproof and windproof jacket will keep you dry and warm even when you’re whooshing down the slopes.

Pros:

  • Lots of colors
  • Windproof, waterproof, and stain-repellent
  • Detachable hood
  • Breathable

Cons:

  • At nearly 3 pounds, a bit cumbersome
  • More than you need if all you want is a rain jacket

If you typically teeter between way too hot and way too cold, consider this your Goldilocks-like solution. There’s comfortably, cozily warm, and then there’s sweaty, am-I-on-fire hot. This sport-friendly rainproof winter jacket is firmly in the former camp, thanks to a micro-pore polyester to help air disperse throughout the jacket.

Most Doesn’t-Even-Look-Like-a-Rain-Jacket Rain Jacket: Obermeyer Women’s Hazel Waxed Jacket

Adjustable Waist

This flattering, wax-coated style repels water but looks so cute you’ll probably want to wear it even when there’s nothing but blue skies. Obermeyer

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Why It Made The Cut: Sometimes you want a jacket that does the work of a raincoat without looking like one. That’s this! Obermeyer’s wax coating keeps you dry, but the sporty style will make this your go-to outerwear in medium-cold weather.

Specs: 

  • Multiple pockets
  • Removable hood
  • 100 percent cotton

Pros: 

  • Stylish
  • 100-percent cotton
  • Hand washable

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Short (so it won’t keep your legs dry) 
  • Requires some upkeep to stay water-repellent

A good question to ask yourself when you’re buying a raincoat or jacket is whether you specifically want a raincoat or you just want a jacket or coat that also happens to be waterproof or water-resistant. This style falls into the latter camp. A densely woven cotton that’s covered in wax naturally repels water, so this Obermeyer jacket will keep you dry. Unlike PVC and PU, which will stay water-repellent for the duration (thanks to the inherently nonbreathable quality of the fabric), the wax exterior of natural fabrics erodes over time. (And in general, waxed cotton is more water-resistant than waterproof, meaning it might not do the trick in very heavy rains.) It’s easy enough to rewax your jacket—you’ll need to buy some wax and just follow the instructions (basically: wash your jacket, let it dry, coat it in wax)—and likely will need to do it only once a year, but that step may mean the difference for you when it comes to your choice of rain gear. 

If breathability and versatile styling are what you’re looking for, this Obermeyer coat is a great pick. If you need something you can depend on again and again in torrential weather, it’s not. 

Best Value: Columbia Men’s Watertight II Jacket

Loads of Colors

This lightweight zip-up that’s 100-percent nylon on the outside and 100-percent polyester on the inside is the perfect garment to carry around and pull on at a moment’s notice when the skies open up. Columbia

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Why It Made The Cut: Columbia is one of the first names in weather -protection, and this reasonably priced style is just 12 ounces but dependably keeps the rain (and cold) out. 

Specs: 

  • Abrasion-resistant chin guard
  • Elastic cuffs and hem
  • Zippered side pockets for extra protection

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Extras like zippered pockets and chin guard
  • Breathable
  • Affordable price

Cons: 

  • Basic utilitarian style (i.e., probably not for fashionistas)

Columbia guarantees the Watertight to be waterproof, meaning it’s impermeable to water (as opposed to water-resistant, which can keep out a certain amount of moisture but not all of it). Design-wise, the brand has thought of everything you might need on a rainy day: zipper pockets, so that if you’re storing anything you can rest easy knowing it’ll stay dry even in high rains and winds; adjustable Velcro cuffs so your wrists and arms stay dry; and an adjustable drawcord to make sure the jacket fits snug to your bod when it’s raining.  

One of the best things about the Watertight is how compact it can become, making it perfect for rolling up and shoving in a bag or just throwing into your car so you always have it when you need it. It’s more like a shell than an actual jacket. It weighs less than a pound, so it won’t feel cumbersome on your body and is easy to stow. It’s a great go-to rain jacket but also situationally perfect for when you need something expendable but not cumbersome, like an outdoor concert: While everyone else is making do with refashioned garbage bags, you can pull this baby out of your bag of tricks and enjoy a dry evening, no trash fash required. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Rain Jacket

What you picture when you hear the words “rain jacket” should help you narrow down with you’re looking for: For example, if a bright yellow A-line style is what pops into your head, then you’re likely looking for form and function and can find it with a waterproof fisherman style that’ll keep the rain away but not do much else (e.g., keep you warm in freezing temps or cool when it’s sweltering). 

If utility is your number-one priority, consider a more versatile and/or streamlined option. Something like a waterproof snowboard jacket can double as your rain jacket and warm winter coat, killing two birds with one stone; on the other end of the spectrum, a lightweight, rollable, watertight rain jacket is there in a pinch whenever you hit unexpected weather.

The biggest things to consider when buying a raincoat is whether you just want to use it as a raincoat (i.e., not have it double as your warm winter coat); how important breathability is; how important style is; and price point. The five options on this list are all terrific in different ways, with each style offering something the others do not: The Stutterheim isn’t breathable but is super stylish—and super expensive; the Moerdeng is perfect for outdoor sports but could be more than the casual rain-jacket-seeker needs; the Columbia is so easy to stow and will keep you bone-dry, but it’s not particularly cool-looking. Figure out what you need, then let that inform your purchasing decision!

FAQs

Q:

What is the best rain jacket brand?

The best rain jacket and raincoat brand is, of course, subjective, but some heavyweights in the field include Columbia, Helly Hansen, Patagonia, Stutterheim, Marmot, REI, The North Face, Burberry, Canada Goose, L.L.Bean, and many, many more. It’s a crowded field!

Q:

Which is the best waterproof jacket?

Slightly different question, exact same answer! The best waterproof jacket for you may not be the best one for your neighbor. It all depends on your particular needs, wants, and plans for your jacket. Will you be using it to whoosh down the slopes on skis? Or do you just want something you can carry around in your bag in case you get caught in a downpour? One person’s “best” is another person’s “so-so,” so, figure out what features are crucial to you and then check out some favorite brands—Columbia, REI, Canada Goose—to find the one that’s in your price range and has all the bells and whistles you need.

Q:

What is the best rain jacket for heavy rain?

The best rain jacket for heavy rain is, first and foremost, one that is described as “waterproof” as opposed to “water-resistant” or “water-repellent.” Of the three, waterproof is the one that will keep you the driest and stand the test of time (over multiple seasons, but also in the midst of a torrential downpour). Another important quality to look for in a heavy-rain jacket is adjustability: You want to be able to pull the cords of your hood tight, adjust the Velcro on your wrists, and draw the cord around your waist nice and snug so that no water creeps in.

Final Thoughts

Buying a rain jacket isn’t rocket science, but there are things to consider before you plunk down some coin for a new piece of outerwear.

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