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10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets Under $100 (2024)

10 Best Backpacking Rain Jackets under 100 Dollars

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), 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 / ModelAvg Weight
Marmot Precip Eco Rain Jacket10.6 oz
REI Rainer Rain Jacket12.5 oz
Frogg Toggs UL2 Rain Jacket5.5 oz
Frogg Toggs Xtreme Light Rain Jacket7.6 oz
Compass 360 Ultrapak UL Rain Jacket7.8 oz
REI Trailmade Rain Jacket11.5 oz
Columbia EvaPOURation Jacket12.0 oz
Warbonnet Stash Jacket5.3 oz
Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho5.2 oz
Columbia WaterTight II Rain Jacket13.5 oz

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 rolls 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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6. REI Trailmade Rain Jacket

REI Trailmade Rain Jacket
The REI Trailmade is a soft, 2-layer waterproof/breathable polyester shell that is seam sealed to keep you dry and comfortable. It has a breathable polyester mesh lining and an adjustable hood, adjustable drawcord hem, partially elasticized cuffs for added warmth and moisture protection, and zippered hand pockets when you want full protection from the elements. The sizing is generous so you can layer it over a mid-layer in colder weather and still have good freedom of movement for use trekking or skiing. The Trailmade jacket does not have pit-zips for ventilation or a packable pocket. If those features are important to you we suggest upgrading to the REI Rainier Jacket instead.

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7. Columbia EvaPOURation Omni-Tech Jacket

Columbia EvaPOURation Rain Jacket

The Columbia EvaPOURation Jacket is a fully-featured rain jacket with a fully adjustable hood, pit zips, velcro wrist cuffs, interior, and exterior pockets, and a drawcord hem. It’s a 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable jacket made with a durable 70d fabric that compresses well and stuff into its own pocket for easy transport. A droptail hem helps keep your butt dry when carrying a backpack, while the sizing is roomy, which is good for layering in colder weather. It’s also available in men’s and women’s sizes.

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8. Warbonnet Stash Jacket

Warbonnet Stash Jacket

The Warbonnet Stash Jacket is a lightweight 5.0 oz rain jacket made with the waterproof fabric that Warbonnet uses to make their backpacking quilts (it’s also available in a breathable non-waterproof fabric). It has torso-length pit zips, elastic cuffs, and an adjustable snug-fitting hood with toggled neck controls. I’ve been using one all spring, it packs up very small and works great as a rain jacket. It’s also available in a lot of colors including camouflage.

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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.

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10. Columbia Watertight II Rain Jacket

Columbia Watertight II Jacket
The Columbia WaterTight II Rain Jacket is a packable waterproof-breathable, fully seam-sealed jacket that will keep you nice and dry, even in the heaviest of rains. It has an adjustable storm hood with hook-and-loop cuffs, and a cinchable hem to seal out the elements, while zippered hand pockets secure your smaller essentials. The inside of the jacket is lined with breathable mesh which helps minimize internal condensation and wicks away moisture to keep you comfortably dry. It has a classic cut that is hip length with a center-back length of 29in.

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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. Anyone knows good rain jackets that are longer (above the knee)?

    • They’re called “cagoule” and are available in Amazon, and various outfitters selling back country items. Also terrific for canoeing!

  2. Montbell Versatile, best rain jacket I’ve ever owned

  3. I’d spend the extra $50 to buy the Lightheart Gear rain jacket. Made in the US and completely waterproof with no problematic DWR. Mine, purchased several years ago for around $100 has kept me dry on the PCT and Long Trail.

    • I really wanted to like my Lightheart Gear jacket, but after a couple of years it started peeling right at where the hood joins the torso, leaking water down my neck (exactly where every other jacket I’ve ever had gives out). I pickup up an Antigravity Gear jacket for $99 on sale (which you can do often enough I think it should make this list). It will probably do the same thing eventually.

      • the LHG is now made with a completely different fabric and seam-taped, so it really is a very different jacket than what you bought. It’s also more expensive and doesn’t make the $100 cutoff anymore.

  4. That’s pretty sexist as I don’t see any womens rain jackets here!!

  5. For the Warbonnet, why do you recommend the quilt fabric over the fully waterproof tarp fabric? Normally I subscribe to the “nothing is truly breathable, so mechanically vent” school. Do you feel the quilt fabric is sufficiently waterproof to use as a true rain jacket while actually being breathable?

  6. The EMS Thunderhead is my go to rain gear. I’m surprised it didn’t make the list.

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