REI Rainier Rain Jacket Review
The REI Rainier Rain Jacket is an inexpensive but well-featured waterproof/breathable rain jacket that can be used year-round for hiking and backpacking. Priced at $89 dollars, but often discounted, the Rainier is virtually identical to the Marmot Precip Eco Rain Jacket and includes pits zips, an adjustable hood, hook and loop wrist cuffs, and zippered side pockets which are all must-haves for rain jackets intended for hikers and backpackers.
Specs at a Glance
- Gender: Men’s Fit (13 oz size L), Women’s Fit (11.4 oz size M)
- Type: 2.5L Waterproof/Breathable
- Membrane: Peak (REI W/B Proprietary Laminate)
- Center Back Length: 31″
- Center, side pocket, and pit zippers: YKK, all one-way and backed with waterproof zipper flaps
- Hem adjustment: Tes
- Fit: Runs a full size large
While the Rainier Rain Jacket is made with REI’s proprietary Peak 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable laminate, I wouldn’t get too excited about that aspect of this jacket. Most Gore-tex knock-offs like this have pretty lackluster breathability performance. Companies use them to reduce the cost of jackets and because a waterproof/breathable layer is considered a check-box feature with consumers, regardless of their effectiveness. The important thing is that the jacket is waterproof and all of the seams are seam-taped to prevent leaking. This doesn’t mean that you won’t sweat while wearing the Rainier or experience internal condensation which will make your clothing damp, but the jacket isn’t going to let outside moisture leak in when you wear it in the rain.
One of the nice things about the Rainier is that it comes with pit zips to help prevent you from overheating. I prefer buying waterproof/breathable rain jackets and hard shells that include pit zips even when they have a breathable membrane because venting body heat is such an obvious way to reduce perspiration. All of the rain jackets and winter shells I use when I’m not testing gear have pit zips or torso-zips for that reason.
The Rainier’s pit zips have one way-zippers, with storm flaps to prevent water from dripping into them. They’re easy to reach and unzip while wearing the jacket and do a good job at dumping excess heat without letting in additional moisture when it’s raining. I keep my pit zips open all of the time and only close them when I get chilled.
The Rainier Rain Jacket has a large and partially adjustable hood with side neck toggles so you can reduce the size of the face opening and block drafts from entering. The hood comes with a front bill, but it doesn’t have a shapable wire sewn into it like more expensive jackets. There is a velcro tab on the back of the hood that you can adjust to raise or lower the bill to keep it out of your eyes, which is useful, but there isn’t a volume adjuster to shrink the volume of the hood to a more form-fitting size. This isn’t a showstopper, but you’re likely to experience loud flapping in high wind unless your head is the size of a bowling ball and fills out the hood (or you’re wearing a climbing or ski helmet.)
When the hood is not needed, it can be rolled away into a high collar. The interior of the collar is lined around the neck and very comfortable when fastened tight. There isn’t a garage (a small flap) for the front zipper at the top of the collar, so there’s a chance your mustache or hair can get caught in it.
All in all, the Rainier’s hood is quite workable when worn with a billed hat, but lacks some of the features you’d get if you bought a much more expensive jacket.
Hook and Loop Wrist cuffs
The Rainier’s arms have hook and loop wrist cuffs that you can cinch closed to prevent heat loss. You have a lot of blood flowing through the wrist that’s close to the surface of your skin, so preventing cold air from reaching it is an important way to keep your hands warm. They also prevent cold rain from dripping down your arm and wetting your mid-layer.
If you’re overheating, you can undo the wrist cuffs and slide the Rainier’s sleeves all the way up to your elbows before refastening them. The forearms are large enough to permit this and it’s a useful and effective temperature regulation technique.
Side Pockets/Interior Pockets
The Rainier Jacket has two zippered pockets, both lined with mesh. Both pockets are enormous and can hold lots of gloves, hats, or snacks. They can also be used as a stuff pocket to store the jacket when not in use. The side pockets are not hip belt compatible, however, and will be covered if you’re wearing a backpack. More expensive jackets have hip belt compatible side pockets or an additional chest pocket.
The mesh pockets liners also form interior pockets, but you have to be VERY careful in how you use them because there are gaps at the bottom where food bars, cell phones, glasses, and small items can fall out. This is easy to forget. If you do use these internal pockets, I’d limit their use to wet hats or bulky insulated gloves. I don’t understand why REI didn’t sew these gaps shut and it’s my least favorite part of this jacket. I doubt these “pockets” were included with this use in mind…but they are a design oversight.
The Rainier Jacket is made with recycled ripstop nylon. REI is mum about the denier thickness of the fabric that they use in the Rainier, but it feels slightly heavier than the 40 denier recycled ripstop denier used in the Marmot Precip ECO Rain Jacket, which I’m also in the process of reviewing. (The two jackets are virtually identical.)
The Rainier has a standard DWR coating to help bead rainwater when it hits the jacket so it will roll off and not soak the exterior fabric. Many new rain jackets (including the Marmot Precip ECO) are beginning to use PFC-free DWR coatings: PFC is a toxic chemical that bioaccumulates in animals and plants and has health side effects. REI doesn’t provide any information about their DWR-coating, so you should assume it’s old school and not PFC-free. Knowing the Co-op, I’m sure they’ll switch over to PFC-free DWR coatings as soon as they’re more widely available. However, if you feel strongly about wearing a rain jacket with PFC-free DWR, I suggest looking at the Marmot Precip ECO. While the Precip ECO retails for $100, it’s usually on sale for $60-70 dollars.
Be advised, if you’re a hiker and backpacker, all DWR coatings rub off quickly in areas of high abrasion, particularly under shoulder straps and hip belts. That doesn’t make them any less waterproof, but it reduces their breathability, which is already pretty poor in jackets like the Rainier or the Marmot Precip ECO.
Comparable Hiking and Backpacking Rain Jackets
|Make / Model||Adj Hood||Pit Zips||WP/BR||Avg Weight||Price|
|Marmot Precip ECO||Yes||Yes||Yes||13.1 oz||$100|
|Outdoor Research Helium II||Yes||No||Yes||6.4 oz||$159|
|Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket||Yes||No||No||5.5 oz||$20|
|Patagonia Torrentshell||Yes||Yes||Yes||12.1 oz||$129|
|Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite||Yes||No||No||7.6 oz||$45|
|Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket||Yes||Yes||No||7.2 oz||$99|
|Columbia Outdry EX Eco||Yes||No||Yes||13.0 oz||$199|
|The North Face Venture 2||Yes||Yes||Yes||11.5 oz||$99|
The REI Rainier Rain Jacket is a comfortable waterproof rain jacket that can serve double duty as a winter shell. It’s less expensive than many comparable jackets because it uses REI’s proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane and isn’t as richly featured as a premium jacket. I do like the fact that it has pit-zips which are good for releasing excess body heat and arm sleeves with velcro cuffs that are large enough that you can push them up your arms for additional temperature regulation. The hood is serviceable as long as you wear a billed cap with it and avoid using the back of the side mesh pockets to store anything small or valuable.
While the REI Rainier Jacket will get the job done, I still prefer the Marmot Precip ECO which is made with slightly lighter weight fabric and is true to size compared to the REI Rainier, which runs almost a full size large.
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