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10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets of 2018

10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets of 2018

Buying a rain jacket has got to be one of the most confusing purchases a backpacker can make. With dozens of manufacturers and rain jackets to choose from, inflated expectations about the effectiveness of waterproof/breathable fabrics, and a constant flow of new jacket models each year, it’s a wonder that new backpackers and hikers can figure out what to buy.

We recently surveyed several hundred backpackers to answer the following questions:

  • What are the most popular backpacking rain jackets?
  • What are the most important criteria used to purchase a rain jacket?
  • How satisfied are backpackers with the jackets that they have purchased?

Our results may surprise you.

Top 10 Backpacking Rain Jackets

The most popular rain jacket purchased by the backpackers we surveyed is the Marmot Precip Jacket, perhaps the best known waterproof/breathable outdoor recreation jacket ever made. An astonishing 28.8% of our survey respondents own this rain jacket, far more than any other, as shown in the table below.

Rain Jacket% OwnedMSRP (USD)Satisfaction 1-5
Marmot Precip Jacket28.8100.004.07
Frogg Toggs UL Suit13.224.994.10
Outdoor Research Helium II8.14159.004.04
Patagonia Torrentshell2.7129.003.44
The North Face Venture2.499.003.60
Marmot Essence2.4199.953.43
Columbia Watertight II1.490.004.00
Mountain Hardwear Plasmic1.4139.953.80
Columbia Pournation1.490.003.75
Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket1.499.004.00

What do these results tell us?

First, slightly over 50% of our survey respondents purchased one of three rain jackets: the Marmot Precip, the Frogg Toggs UL Rain Suit, or the Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket. Knowing backpackers, it’s incredible that so many would share such a strong consensus about these three items.

Second, none of the top 10 rain jackets are made with a Gore-tex or eVent waterproof/breathable membrane. It would seem that having a Gore-tex or eVent membrane is unimportant to most backpackers when purchasing a rain jacket. That’s an eye opener.

Third, the backpackers who own these jackets are fairly satisfied with them (on a scale of 1-5, where 5 is the highest level of satisfaction,) but most of the ratings fall between 3 and 4, not approaching a 5. If you were reading customer reviews on an online retailer’s web site, I doubt these ratings would have a big impact on your decision-making for or against a product. This tells me that cost is probably the most important criteria behind the purchase decision to buy one of these jackets, not performance or features. We see further evidence of this below.

Most Important Purchase Criteria

What are the most important reasons that backpackers give for purchasing one jacket over another?

Criteria% Reported
Ventilation (Pit Zips)26.10
Manufacturer Reputation24.10
Pocket Distribution9.00
Hood Features8.50
Customer/Media Reviews6.8
Manufacturer Guarantee3.3

We asked respondents to pick the three most important factors that determined their rain jacket selection. As you can see in the table above, cost was the most important decision criteria, cited by 71.8% of respondents. This is consistent with cost of the top 10 jackets purchased by the survey respondents, shown in the first table above.

Light weight is the second most important purchase criteria, which gives you some indication to which backpacking gear and clothing weight has become an increasingly important reason to favor one product over another.

Surprisingly, breathability is less important than waterproofing, packability/compressibility, and ventilation (pit zips), providing further evidence that backpackers are less willing to pay extra for it when purchasing a rain jacket. This and the fact that the overwhelming favorite Marmot Precip Jacket has pit-zips, is a good indication that backpackers understand the breathability limitations of rain jackets in real world conditions.

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