10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets Under $100

10 Best Backpacking Rain jackets under $100

You don’t need to buy an expensive rain jacket for hiking and backpacking because an inexpensive one will work just as well as one costing an arm and a leg. In fact, most backpackers use rain jackets that cost $100 or less for just this reason. While outdoor clothing manufacturers and the media rave about the breathability of Gore-tex, eVent, Futurelight (and dozens of other waterproof/breathable membranes, specialized fabrics, or coatings), the fact is they work poorly for hikers because they can’t keep up with the perspiration and condensation inside a rain jacket when you’re carrying a backpack in the rain all day.

Here are the top 10 rain jackets that cost less than $100.

Make / ModelAdj HoodPit ZipsAvg WeightWTBPrice
Marmot Precip Eco Rain JacketYesYes13.1 ozYes$99.95
REI Rainer Rain JacketYesYes13 ozYes$89.95
Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain JacketYesNo5.5 ozNo$24.99
Frogg Toggs Xtreme Light Rain JacketYesNo7.6 ozNo$39.95
Compass 360 Ultrapak UL Rain JacketYesNo7.8 ozNo$39.95
North Face Venture 2 Rain JacketYesYes11.5 ozYes$99.00
Lightheart Gear Rain JacketYesYes7.2 ozNon$99.00
Columbia Outdry Ex Blitz Rain JacketYesNo13 ozYes$99.00
Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Nano PonchoYesNo5.2 ozNo$99.95
Red Ledge Thunderlight Rain JacketYesNo13.5 ozNo$54.99

If staying perspiration-free in the rain is important to you while you’re hiking down a trail carrying a loaded backpack…maybe you should pick another sport.  Perspiring is inevitable. So is condensation, when the interior of your rain jacket is warmer than the exterior surface. Think of a rain jacket as part of your larger layering system instead. The main purpose of a rain jacket is to keep you warm when it’s raining or the wind is blowing hard when used in combination with a mid or base layer. Your goal should be to stay warm and avoid hypothermia.

Waterproof/Breathable or Not?

The ultimate question is whether you should bother buying a waterproof/breathable jacket with crummy breathability specs or one that’s waterproof but not breathable since you’re going to get wet inside anyway. While heavier, many waterproof/breathable jackets are better quality than non-breathable ones with more features, including taped seams. They’re often warmer too. Whatever you decide, pay close attention to the features of the jackets you’re comparing. We think the most important rain jacket features are three-way adjustable hoods, pit zips, zippered pockets, and taped seams, followed by velcro wrist cuffs and hem adjusters.

DWR Coatings

If you do buy a waterproof/breathable jacket that is coated with a chemical DWR layer (durable water repellent) that makes water bead when it hits the fabric and roll off. The downside of this design is that the DWR coating rubs off with use. When this happens your jacket will remain waterproof, but it will cease to be breathable at all. When that happens, most backpackers buy a new jacket, on average every 2-3 years, instead of trying to restore the DWR coating with a product like Nikwax TX Direct. Alternatively, many hikers and backpacks buy rain jackets that are made with non-breathable fabrics. Many of those rain jackets have pit-zips and other venting features to help reduce internal sweat build up when it rains instead of breathability.

1. Marmot Precip Eco

Marmot Precip Jacket
The Marmot Precip Eco is by far the most popular backpacking rain jacket because it’s inexpensive, but fully featured with pit zip vents, a fully adjustable hood, velcro-wrist cuffs, and a hem adjustment.  The jacket also has two mesh-lined front pockets which are great to store gloves or a hat and provide additional ventilation. The Precip Eco is made with Marmot’s proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric which gets the job done but will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. While the Precip Eco is priced at $100, you can usually find it for far less. The Precip Eco is available in men’s, women’s, and youth sizes. Read the SectionHiker review.

Check the latest price at:
Amazon | Moosejaw | Zappos

2. REI Rainier Rain Jacket

REI Rainier Rain Jacket

The REI Rainier Rain Jacket is nearly identical to the Marmot Precip.  It includes pits zips, a three-way adjustable hood, hook and loop wrist cuffs, and zippered side pockets, which are highly desirable on rain jackets intended for hikers and backpackers. The Rainier 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.  Read the SectionHiker review.

Check the latest price at:
REI

3. Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket

Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket
The Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket (part of the UL2 rain suit, but also available separately) is an inexpensive, utility jacket favored by many backpackers because it’s so lightweight and inexpensive. It’s made with a non-woven polypropylene fabric that’s permanently waterproof. While the UL2 Rain Jacket does have an adjustable hood, it doesn’t have any pockets or other features that you find on most other rain jackets. The fit is also quite baggy and the material is easily ripped. But it’s easy to repair with duct tape, and for only $30, it’s a surprisingly good value that provides inexpensive rain protection and warmth. Unisex only.

Check the latest price at:
Amazon

4. Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite

Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite
The Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite is a big step up from the Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket in terms of fit and styling with a fully adjustable hood, zippered side pockets, velcro wrist closures, and a cord-adjustable waist. It’s also permanently waterproof and far more durable and better fitting than the UL2 rain jacket. While the Xtreme Lite is twice as expensive as the UL2 rain jacket, you can usually get it on Amazon for considerably less than its list price. Available in men’s and women’s models. Read the SectionHiker review.

Check the latest price at:
Amazon | Waders

5. Compass 360 Ultrapak Ultra-Lite Rain Jacket

The Compass 360 Ultrapak Ultra-Lite Jacket is quite similar to the Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite Rain Jacket in build and features. The jacket is made with the same DWR-free translucent waterproof fabric as the Xtreme Lite, and has taped seams, a three-way adjustable hood, elastic cuffs, water-resistant zippers, and a hem cinch to block drafts. While the jacket does not have pit zips, it has a large plaquette vent across the back, which admittedly has limited value when worn under a backpack. There are two big zippered side pockets and two large mesh pockets in the interior which are great for storing hats, gloves, and personal items. The Compass 360 Ultrapak weighs 7.8 oz in a size large. Sizing is unisex.

Check the latest price at:
Amazon

6. The North Face Venture 2

The North Face Venture 2
The North Face Venture 2 is a fully-featured rain jacket that is comparable to the Marmot Precip Eco, although it is made with heavier weight, more durable fabrics. It has a fully adjustable hood, pit zips, velcro wrist cuffs, zippered side pockets, and a drawcord hem adjustment. The Venture 2 is made with The North Face’s DryVent proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric which gets the job done but will need to be reproofed when the DWR coating wears off. This jacket is still a good value for the price and fairly lightweight. It’s also available in men’s and women’s sizes. Read the SectionHiker Review. 

Check the latest price at:
REI | The North Face | Amazon

7. Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket

Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket

The Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket is a fully-featured rain jacket with an adjustable hood, pit zips, velcro wrist cuffs, interior and exterior pockets and a drawcord hem. It’s made with a permanently waterproof fabric (your choice of silnylon or silpoly) although the seams are bound but not taped so there’s a slight chance that water can leak in extremely bad weather. Lightheart Gear is a cottage manufacturer that sews all of their jackets in the USA. Sizing is unisex. Read the SectionHiker review.

Check the latest price at:
Lightheart Gear

8. Columbia OutDry EX Blitz

Columbia Outdry Ex Blitz Jacket
The Columbia Outdry EX Blitz is a waterproof/breathable jacket that doesn’t have an external DWR coating, so you never need to reproof it. It’s a fully-featured rain jacket with a three-way adjustable hood,  two big mesh-backed side pockets with waterproof zippers, velcro wrist cuffs, and elastic hem adjusters. The breathability of OutDry is pretty impressive compared to Gore-tex, but OutDry Jackets tend to be relatively heavy and warm. The EX Blitz is a good choice if having a waterproof/breathable jacket is your top priority and gear weight is less important. It is available in men’s and women’s sizes.

Check the latest price at:
Columbia | Moosejaw | Zappos

9. Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp Poncho

Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho
The Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp Poncho is long enough that you can use it as a combination poncho and backpack cover but it still only weighs 5.1 oz. It’s made with 15D Silnylon so it’s permanently rainproof and comes with taped seams and an adjustable hood. Ponchos are a good alternative to rain jackets in warm weather because they provide so much ventilation.

Check the latest price at:
Sea-to-Summit | Campsaver

10. Red Ledge Thunderlight Jacket

Red Ledge Thunderlight Jacket
The Red Ledge Thunderlight Jacket is a 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable jacket coated with an external DWR layer. It has a rich feature set including a three-way adjustable hood, pit zips with waterproof zippers, large mesh side pockets, fully taped seams, hook and loop wrist cuffs, and an adjustable hem cinch. The back of the jacket is caped with a plaquette vent across the back for additional ventilation. The Thunderlight is available in men’s and women’s sizes.

Check the latest price at:
Amazon | Sunny Sports | Bob Ward’s

HOW TO BUY A BACKPACKING RAIN JACKET

What are the most important features to look for on a hiking and backpacking rain jacket?

Adjustable Hoods

When choosing a rain jacket make sure the hood is NOT helmet-compatible, unless you have a huge Godzilla-sized head. Unfortunately, many rain jackets are intended for skiers and climbers who wear protective helmets. What you should look for is a fully adjustable hood with a rear volume adjustment so you can shrink the hood size to fit your head, side pulls so you can adjust the size of the face opening, a wire or shapeable brim to shield your eyes from wind and snow, and a high collar that covers your neck and mouth. All of these features will help protect your face from the cold and wind and help you stay warmer.

Zippered Pockets

You can’t have too many rain jacket pockets. They’re great for carrying spare gloves, hats, and keeping navigation tools in easy reach. They’re also good for keeping snacks close at hand so you can eat while you hike. I view rain jacket pockets as an extension of my backpack because the extra storage cuts down on the number of times I have to stop to get clothes or food out of my pack.

Venting Capabilities

When you have to hike in cool wet weather, you want to limit the amount you perspire by actively managing your warmth level. The key to doing this involves venting excess warmth by removing or venting layers. A good rain jacket should provide several ways for you to dump excess heat without having to take it off completely. Here are some of the most important features to look for when comparing different jackets.

  • Adjustable Hook and Loop (Velcro) Wrist Closures: These help regulate the body heat at your wrists where the blood flows close to the surface of your skin. They can be worn under gloves or over them depending on your preference and the glove type.
  • Two way-front zipper: If you pull the bottom half up, you can dump a lot of excess torso heat, poncho-style.
  • Hem drawcord: Cinch it closed to keep the wind from blowing up between your legs and robbing your torso heat.

Breathability Ratings

What should you look for in terms of breathability ratings when looking at hiking rain jackets? For inexpensive rain jackets, the best you can hope for is 10,000 (g/m^2/d) MVTR (movable water vapor transmission rate), which is pretty lackluster. Most of the manufacturers listed above don’t publish the MVTRs for their jackets, because they’re not that competitive with more expensive garments,

But to be honest, I don’t trust the breathability ratings published by manufacturers because they’re measured in ideal laboratory conditions that have little to do with actual use. Pit zips and active venting trump breathability claims any day. If you get too hot, venting your rain jacket is going to cool and dry you off far more quickly than waiting for water vapor to move across a breathable membrane while your zipper is closed.

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11 comments

  1. I’d admit when I was less experienced I fell into all the marketing hype about breathability and my quest to stay dry while hiking in the rain. But as was mentioned above, I eventually realized I had two decisions. Warm and wet or cold and wet… That being some, I’ve found some jackets/technologies to be less clammy, and feel better even if I’m still damp on the inside.

    I’ve never considered a poncho interested in the Sea to Summit ultra-sil option. How does that material hold up to pack abrasion or other minor durability concerns?

  2. i never knew a rain jacket that i loved hiking in until i met my frogg toggs xtreme lite. the lack of pit zips is a blessing to me, because any time i am wearing a rain jacket, i am wanting to get myself warmer than i am currently anyways.

    • Yes! I love mine. In my second season with one. My first disappeared. It was literally spirited away somehow at the end of last season. I love them because they fit well, and are WATERPROOF. I can wear a down layer underneath without concern it will get wet. Perfect for high mountain wet weather in Colorado. Normally, the wet doesn’t last long here, but moves through, so I’m not moving in warm, wet weather to the extent I have to worry about overheating. If you are more concerned with staying dry and warm, this is an effective, light layer.

      Thanks to Section Hiker for the tip on this one.

  3. Hello
    Lots of good advice here. I just want to chime in with the White Sierra rain jackets you can get for $25-30. I like the fit and I believe they are sil-nylon, light weight and they do have a full back plaque vent, but of course like Philip mentioned a backpack blocks that feature. They come in one million colors. There is always one in my day pack.

  4. Interesting reviews. Thanks.

    Right now I’ll stay with my old REI Kimtah eVent parka and pants. Over 7 years they have worked very well and been the most breathable WPB gear I’ve ever owned.

  5. Great article. I’ve terrible luck with rain jackets. On a rainy trek to Fort Mountain, my Marmot was soaked in the first hour! Made for a long, chilly hike. My husband’s low priced North Face never failed him that day, nor did his EMS rain pants.

    When I complained about the Marmot, I was told by friends (and REI) that it was sweat – not rain -that was making my skin/clothes wet. Not until I held the jacket sleeve under running water was I able to prove it was the jacket. Decided to go with a really nice, but a bit heavy Outdoor Research Goretex raincoat which has kept the rain out but even with pit zips wide open, it’s too heavy for hiking. I think I’m going with North Face, glad you agree it’s in your top ten. (And Nikwax.)

  6. I’ve used both the bottom line frogg togg, and the lightheart rain gear. I’d recommend either, actually the cheap frog tog has a tad bit of a lining to it that’s really good at blocking wiind too. Of after all the duct tape, you realize maybe either get a new set (miles per set ?), or move to something more durable, the frog togg extreme looks tempting, but I wanted to try the lightheart gear. I prefer warm and wet to cold and wet, and am not sure how waterproof the pitzips are. What I (I guess everyone else too) would love is to avoid after the warm and wet is the next morning frozen stiff clothing, but I guess not going to happen. After hiking with custom made size light heart gear jacket (the folks there are awesome to work with) in the rain for 5 hours or so I got pretty wet. I suspected the pit zips (not waterproof zippers), so got some lukatape from Grandpa and closed them up. After hiking in rain still got just as wet, so perspiration or maybe seams I didn’t know. So time for an experiment, after removing the pit zips tape (ughh, not fun), decided to take a shower with wearing just the jacket. I stayed dry the whole shower, armpits we’re a bit sticky :( but stayed dry.

  7. I scored a set of Frogg Toggs on sale at my local hardware store. I left the trousers at home (I carry a sheet of Tyvek to use as a ground sheet/rain skirt). The jacket now has excellent underarm ventilation on one side as a carabiner on my pack caught something — I’m at a loss as to what, as there’s nothing to ‘catch’ — and tore a 12″ long hole in it my second day of wearing it. I kept it, as I’m frugal and I hate sending things to landfills if I can avoid doing so.

    A few months after that trip, I found a Frogg Toggs poncho in a thrift store for $3. OMG OMG OMG – hiker happy dance!

  8. My problem while hiking in the rain is perspiration. I get heated so fast and perspire so much. Then I cool off too quickly if I take a break.

    I have an REI Co-op Rhyolite Rain Jacket (discontinued) made with 3-layer eVent waterproof breathable membrane. It has no pit-zips and has 2 side zippers with small mesh inside pockets. It is not a fancy one like Vertice.

    One November night 2 years ago my group had to hike in the pouring rain for 3 hours to reach cars due to bad weather. It was 40-45 degrees. Whenever we stopped to take a break, I would cool off too quickly and started to shiver. After reaching our cars I got disoriented & nauseated, and eventually started vomiting. I had to take 3 cups of hot chocolate to get better.

    Last August on a 7 day trip my group got rained on all day, quite heavy at times. It was about 60-70 degrees. I got more cautious this time and tried to not get overheated. I would take my arms out and/or open my front zipper to vent often. But still got soaked inside to a point where I would take my shirt off and wring sweat out (Sorry for being disgusting) even though my jacket’s breathability appeared decent.

    1. Should I get a new rain jacket with pit zips? or
    2. Should I get a fancy rain jacket with superior breathability like very expensive Zpack’s Vertice?
    3. What about getting a poncho? Despite no breathability, it may give more interior space for my body to vent out.

    Thanks.

    • One of the things you didn’t mention is how you layer under a rain jacket. I almost always wear a fleece sweater under a rain jacket when it’s raining except if it’s tropically warm. It will keep you warm even if it’s soaked. This appears to be a lost art, but most experienced hikers do the same. Even better than wool.

      Now if you get cold when it rains and you stop, I’d probably get a jacket and not a poncho because it will keep you warmer. As for a super breathable jacket, why bother. I mean, do you actually expect it to work? I would definitely get a jacket with pit zips. But I’d focus on features like the hood instead of breathability. Good luck.

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