Regardless of the season, finding the best waterproof lightweight jacket for hiking or any adventure travel really is a must-have. As hikers and trekkers, our gear should be light, and waterproof is essential, even more so if you most likely travel all year round and need a jacket you can wear in winter too.
Pretty much every apparel company has its adaptation of hard shells, yet finding the ones that work for you can be difficult. I went through hours exploring various brands and models for the two ladies and men, as both Bruno and I required another waterproof coat.
Here is our selection of what we think the best waterproof jacket for hiking for a day, or for trekking or traveling in severe weather are, and why we picked them. In any case, first let me start with the one jacket we bought, and the motivation behind why we suggest that brand following four years of continually wearing them in testing situations. For the complete list of our trekking gear and travel equipment, click here.
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THE BEST MEN’S LIGHTWEIGHT WATERPROOF JACKETS: 2019 GEAR GUIDE
See below the Best Waterproof Jackets for mens lightweight across each category. We reviewed over 30 lightweight waterproof rain jackets to establish our selection, and you can find in this gear guide more jackets for comparison. For each category, we listed a couple of options, from best value, top-rated, or with different waterproof membranes. Make sure to check them all!
Table of Content
- Top Lightweight Waterproof Jackets: Comparison Chart
- How to Choose Your Lightweight Waterproof Jacket
- Lightweight Waterproof Jackets Reviews
- Best Lightweight Jackets Under US$100
- Best for Day Hikes & Activities in Light Rain
- Best for Day Hikes & Activities in Heavy Rain
- Best for Multi-day Treks & Activities in Heavy Rain
- The Lightest: Arc’teryx Norvan SL
- Technical Features FAQs
|The North Face Venture 2 Jacket||2.5-layer DryVent®||11.6 oz / 330 g||Under US$100||Best Value||$||Check the latest price|
|Outdoor Research Foray Jacket||2-layer GORE-TEX® with PACLITE®||1 lb. 0.3 oz / 450 g||Day Hikes or Easygoing Activities in Light Rain||Best Value||$$||Find the latest deals|
|Arc’teryx Norvan SL||GORE-TEX® Active||4.4 oz / 125 g||Multi-Day Treks or Activities in Heavy Rain||Lightest||$$||Read about the Norvan|
|Outdoor Research Helium II||2.5-layer Pertex® Shield||6.4 oz / 180 g||Day Hikes & Activities in Light or Moderate Rain||Top Rated||$$||Read recent reviews|
|Rab Kinetic Plus||Proflex™ 3-layer||9.9 oz / 280 g||Multi-Day Treks or Activities in Heavy Rain||Best Value Non-GORE-TEX||$$||Check the latest prices|
|Arc’teryx Alpha FL Jacket||3-layer N40p-X GORE-TEX® Pro||11.1 oz / 315 g||Multi-Day Treks or Activities in Heavy Rain||Best Value GORE-TEX Pro||$$$||Find the latest deals|
|Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket||3-layer N100p-X GORE-TEX® Pro||1 lb 1.3 oz / 490 g||Multi-Day Treks or Activities in Heavy Rain||Top Rated GORE-TEX Pro||$$$$||Read the most recent reviews|
- Review ratings are calculated from Amazon, REI, and other relevant gear sites.
- Average weight from these 30+ jackets: 11.2 oz / 320 g
- Average price from these 30+ jackets: US$270
- Price brackets: $: <US$100 || $$: US$100-300 || $$$: US$300-US$500 || $$$$: >US$500
This selection below is based on the following criteria:
- Lightweight / Waterproof / Hood
- Hip-Length / Packable
- Average rating of +4 (over 5)
- Fit: Fit to relaxed.
- Activities: day hike to multiple-day treks, travel, and multisports
- Weather: light to heavy rain, and up to cold and winter conditions
The other important element is to define which level of waterproof protection you need. Below is a summary, but you can find more information here on what 2-layer, 2.5-layer, and 3-layer waterproof membranes means.
- Waterproof Membranes:
- Day hiking or activity in light rain and mild weather: 2L
- Day hiking or activity in moderate to heavy rain: 2.5L
- Multi-day trekking or activity in heavy rain: 3L
- NOTE: Any of these jackets could be used for snow activities when adding insulated layers to compensate for the cold temperatures of the winter conditions.
And when looking for mens waterproof lightweight jacket options, the next question is Gore-Tex or another brand. We detailed here how to compare these membranes and help you decide which one is adapted for you.
Check out our Technical Features FAQsat the bottom of the gear guide for more details.
And if you ask us what jacket we bought for ourselves, it’s Arc’teryx all the way! See below why and what we think about that choice.
We selected three strong contenders for budget-conscious hikers and travelers.
A favorite all-year-round all-purpose rain jacket with a regular trim! A micro-fleece protects the collar, while velcro straps help tighten the wrists to prevent water from entering. The packable pocket goes into easy storage. The low price will make it for the perfect no-brainer companion versatile jacket for all hiking and outdoor adventures. Thanks to the choice of dark colors as well as more colorful options, this jacket can be worn in an urban environment as well as trails. Another bonus point to the REI Co-Op Rainier Rain Jacket: the bluesign® approved fabric will please those looking for sustainable material. And at 11 oz, the Rainer Rain Jacket is the lightest in the “Under US$100” category. Click here to see more reviews.
This jacket weight is slightly heavier at 11.6 oz (330 g) and also uses a 2.5-layer DryVent membrane. So still a waterproof lightweight jacket that can take you to cold weather without weighing a ton. Large pockets allow for storing your gloves or phone. It seems that the North Face Venture 2 Jacket might not be as fully breathable but works well for day hikes under moderate rain conditions. This jacket comes in the second position as a lightweight option in the “Under US$100” category. Click here to check the latest prices.
This Columbia jacket has a slightly heavier weight of 13.5 oz (380 g) and uses the Omni-Tech membrane. Velcro straps help tighten the cuffs as well as sealing over the zipper area. The inside is lined with mesh and the jacket packs into a compact hand pocket storage. A large variety of color options will please every’s taste. Even if somewhat heavier, this Columbia Watertight II jacket is the top-rated in the category Under US$100 lightweight waterproof jackets. Click here to read more reviews.
For short day hikes in light rain, or travel through an urban environment, or for any easy-going activity, a 2-layer waterproof membrane should be fine. In this section, the featured jackets will then all be 2L-membrane.
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket gets constant top scores across hundreds of reviews. Probably the best best waterproof hiking jacket, this waterproof jacket lightweight is redefined as its superlight design is for the minimalist outdoor enthusiasts or can serve as an emergency waterproof jacket when hiking in ever-changing mountain conditions. Its size and trim fit work well in urban settings as well. Click here for more reviews.
The Outdoor Research Foray Jacket is the heaviest of the three jackets, priced between the Arc’teryx and the REI jackets, but is rated almost as good as the Arc’teryx. As such, the Foray is the best value in the category, albeit slightly heavy, with the GORE-TEX® with PACLITE® seemingly of better quality than the Foray. Click here forthe latest deals.
Though the XeroDry GTX Jacket is slightly heavier than the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket, this REI coat offers a good combination of lightweight, high rated reviews, and Gore-Tex membrane. Some issues with the waterproof coating have been reporting. Still, with that more affordable price point, the XeroDry GTX is the best value for money jacket in the 2-layer membrane category for day hiking in moderate conditions. Click here to check the latest deals.
BEST FOR DAY HIKES IN HEAVY RAIN
If you are looking for a waterproof hiking jacket that holds for wetter conditions for day activities, a 2.5-layer membrane might be a better choice. These 2.5L-waterproof hiking jackets tend to be somewhat heavier and pricier, but their fabric will last longer under heavy rain, making them the best jackets for day hikes in the pouring rain.
This super small and lightweight waterproof jacket fits in a pocket while packed, and the hood even fit over a bike or climbing helmet. The light 2-5 layer membrane will be the perfect companion for day hikes, motorbike rides, or rock climbing adventures, or even urban trips. The regular albeit somewhat slim fit can only accommodate thin layers underneath, which means the Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket is better used for moderate weather conditions. The lightest and best rated in the 2.5L category, the Helium II is a strong contender for moderate conditions. Read more reviews here.
The Angel-Wing Movement™ of the Marmot Minimalist Jacket allows for a good range of movements. While featuring heavier weight due to a robust 2.5-layer Gore-Tex PacLite membrane that is good for moderate rain and activities, make this jacket our #3 recommendation even if the price is somewhat higher in the category. Click here to read more reviews.
Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket is a good choice for looking at sustainable options, as the nylon is a bluesign™ approved fabric. While this jacket is the heaviest of the three, it’s also the most affordable and thus our best value choice. We did read mixed comments mentioned some potential issues with the waterproof coating when used under heavy rain conditions. So to be considered for moderate weather, preferably. Check the latest prices now.
For multiday treks with heavy rain up to snow, a 3-layer waterproof membrane is a must. Usually pricier, the added membrane is essential to withstand more sustained rain over a longer period. Many of these 3L-waterproof jackets can be used in winter and for snow activities, as well.
The type of membrane, Gore-Tex or not, will determine the prices, quality, and weight. And even in Gore-Tex, you might want to review the different versions of the famous waterproof, Gore-Tex Pro being the most robust option at the moment.
The double hood with fitted inner part covered by a waterproof outer cover and adjustable cuffs make more protective head and hands, respectively. The hood fits over a helmet but also without one. Deep pockets allow for carrying gloves or phone. Package and lightweight, the 3-layer membrane allows you to wear in winter conditions for skiing as well as summer hiking. The slim fit might require trying the size before buying, to ensure you can layer properly with additional fleece for insulation. Breathable in all outdoor activities regardless of the efforts, this awesome 3-layer membrane jacket for all seasons that doesn’t break the bank! Top-rated, one of the lightest in the 3L category, and at an affordable price for the features, the Rab Kinetic Plus is the definite best value choice. Click here to find the latest deals.
If you ask us, what are our own selection, we are REI and Arc’teryx fans all the way. We own several apparels from these two brands and could not be more satisfied with the quality. After many years traveling the world, trekking in rough environments, and even in snow conditions, our REI pants, shirts, and fleece are still in great shapes, and tour Arc’teryx jackets and fleece are our everyday companion. And talk about customer service, Arc’teryx replaced my Theta AR jacket bought in 2011 with a brand new Beta SV when I had issues with seams getting unglued. Not the cheapest but our Arc’teryx jackets survived horse-back riding in Mongolia, trekking in Papua, and snowboarding in California, and everything in between! But everyone is different, and you might need another type of jacket – see below what our selection process is!
The REI DryPoint GTX is the next best value for Gore-Tex membranes. A lightweight, 3L-Gore-Tex Active membrane that gets top ratings as well as being the sustainable choice thanks to some fabric being bluesign® approved. Click here for more info.
This jacket features an N40p-X GORE-TEX Pro membrane and weighs slightly more at 11.5 oz (320 g), and costs about twice the price of the Rab Kinetic Plus. What comes with that is a helmet-compatible hood that can be adjusted with drawcords, articulated elbows, and a trim fit design targeting climbing and alpine activities, but that works well for fast hikers looking for a snug jacket that works in tough weather conditions. This hardshell is also great for skiing and snowboarding, given its 3-layer membrane and helmet-ready hood, making it perfect for extreme trails all-year-round. A small stuff sack with a loop comes with the jacket, a loop where you can add a clip and secure it on your pack. Click here for the latest prices.
Featuring an N100p-X GORE-TEX Pro membrane, this Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket is the highest-rated of the 3L jackets, with 7x the numbers of top reviews. With a weight of 17.3 oz (490 g), the Arc’Teryx Alpha SV Jacket is heavy and robust. Even at a price the triple of the Rab Kinetic Plus, the high rating seems to reflect the popularity and quality of the Arc’Teryx Alpha SV Jacket, the top of the cream. With alpine focused activities, this jacket does great in severe weather. Highly durable, it’s perfect for snowboarding and skiing, as well as for multiday treks in heavy rain, or in the freezing temperatures of high altitude winds. The regular fit permits the addition of insulating layers underneath, ideal for cold conditions. Click here to read more reviews. And if you are looking for a jacket with a little longer, check the Arc’teryx Beta SV that goes mid- thighs, similar to Theta AR Bruno purchased a few years back and still appreciate for any outdoor activity today.
THE LIGHTEST WATERPROOF JACKET
THE LIGHTEST: Arc’teryx Norvan SL (Super Light)
Being the lightest waterproof jacket doesn’t mean it’s not packed with cool features. Elastic cuffs, reflective strips for visibility, fitted hood, extremely breathable, and of course, a waterproof GORE-TEX® Active membrane to protect against the rain makes the Arc’teryx Norvan SL perfect for trail running and power hiking. Click here to read more reviews about the Norvan.
You might have seen these numbers on jackets and wonder what they mean. They relate to how the waterproof membrane was built. The more layers, the thicker the fabric, and the more water-resistant the material will be. But what does it mean in day to day activities, and how much rain can each layer take?
For Moderate Rain & Easygoing Activities:
In a 2-layer shell, the Gore-Tex membrane is laminated together with the outer shell, but not to the inner fabric which hangs separately. To avoid abrasion and protect that membrane from oil, dirt, and sweat from the body, many of these 2-layer membrane jackets feature a mesh net.
PROS: More flexible fabric. More comfortable to wear. More breathable. Best for moderate activities, or activities without heavy bags or rough conditions.
CONS: Loose fabric might create friction when wearing a backpack. The mesh tends to make the jacket somewhat more cumbersome. Usually cheaper than the other layered membranes.
BEST USE: Occasional light rain during day hikes or easy activities.
For Moderate Rain & Activities:
In comparison to the 2-layer membrane, the inner side of the layer is laminated (or coated) instead of using a mesh net, which cuts on weight. 2.5L-membranes can be among the lightest and more breathable of the three different membranes.
The 2.5L-membrane is a compromise with a stronger fabric than the 2L but more flexible than the 3L, offering reliable waterproof protection for most day hikers in most weather conditions. The 2.5L might, however, not be resistant enough for longer trips in heavy rain or snow.
PROS: Lighter than the 2-layer membrane. The added durability of the membrane.
CONS: The coating tends to be less durable and might become delaminated over time.
BEST USE: Moderate to heavy rain during day hikes or easy activities, minimal weight, and sweat.
Heavy Rain & Intense Multi-day Activities:
In a 3-layer shell, the Gore-Tex membrane is laminated between the outer shell and the inner fabric of the jacket, laminating these three layers together. The third layer of material protects the Gore-Tex membrane against abrasion and body sweats. While many features are similar to the 2-layer membranes, the performance of the 3-layer jackets is unparallel for keeping the water out. Added to high wind resistance, their overall quality tops the three options.
PROS: Thicker, stronger, and more durable fabric. Best performing against the rain. Adapted for a broader range of outdoor activities. Great wind resistance. Better insulation. It can be used as an outer hard-shell for snow sports and winter activities.
CONS: Less breathable. Less comfortable. More expensive. Heavier.
BEST USE: Heavy rain, multi-day treks, intense outdoor activities.
CONCLUSION: These three choices of waterproof levels give balanced quality assurance, yet are utilized for various purposes, for example, climbing, trekking, or cycling. Indeed, each activity demands distinct features, requiring the jacket to be more or less flexible, hence more or less lightweight and durable. In general, the lighter, the less durable the fabric. Therefore, depending on the usage, you might want to choose one or the other membranes.
- For less active and moderate weather, a budget entry 2-layer will be fine, where the slightly heavier jacket won’t be an issue
- For keen outdoor enthusiasts in moderate to heavy rain, upgrade your budget for a 2.5-layer laminate for added waterproofness and lightness.
- For multi-day treks, highly active users in rough and strenuous activities, all in severe weather, including heavy rain and snow, consider investing in a 3L-membrane as the durability and waterproofness will be worst the cost in the long run.
Gore-Tex or No Gore-Tex, that is the Question!
Gore-Tex is by far the more popular breathable waterproof fabric on the market and has been the reference point for many years. However, many other companies have launched their technologies, and it might get confusing when it comes to comparing Gore-Tex with other alternatives.
Gore-Tex is such a household brand when it comes to a waterproof membrane that this name is usually what other layers are compared. So let’s review each of them and see how they fare.
As a reference, industry standards to refine breathability and waterproofness use these baseline numbers:
- The waterproof rating: minimum of 10,000 mm water column.
- The breathability rating starts at 15,000 g/m2.
Created in the early 70s, Gore-Tex has been for decades the leader in waterproof material. The fabric has been improved over time; thus, not all Gore-Tex membranes are equal. Let’s compare them.
- Gore-Tex: the original 2-layer membrane, lightweight, breathable, and minimalistic.
- Gore-Tex Active: lightweight 3-layer membrane, fitting for extremely active sports and aerobic activities where a highly breathable jacket is necessary.
- Gore-Tex PackLite: Extremely light and package, fitting for most outdoor activities. Different versions exist: 40-denier ripstop (N40r) and 100-denier ripstop (N100r)
- Gore-Tex Pro: More durable than Gore-Tex Active. The most durable 3-layer membrane fitting for serious outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers in the extreme conditions over the roughest terrain.
- New Gore-TexINFINIUM™: This latest fabric focus more on comfort and performance than waterproofness, so don’t expect high waterproof performance, especially compared to the other Gore-Tex membranes.
Gore-Tex water column starts at 28,000 mm, and the breathability rating is between 17,000 to 25,000 g/m2.
Hamilton Pertex® Shield: Package & More Affordable
Founded by Hamish Hamilton in 1979, the concept of the original Pertex is based on a thicker piece of nylon placed inside and the thinner one outside. The body heat helps push the moisture from the inner thicker part to the outer thinner one for faster breathability with quick evaporation and drying. The more recent Pertex Shield added waterproof and windproof to the existing breathability feature and comes in 2, 2.5, and 3-layer laminate variants.
Pertex Shield fabrics are incredibly packable, a noticeable difference with other technologies. In general, Pertex Shield is cheaper than Gore-Tex. Pertex Shield+ water column is 20,000mm, breathability rating at 20,000g/m2. Pertex Shield is lighter, more packable, and breathable, as well as cheaper, but Gore-Tex offers better water resistance and durability.
Columbia Omni-Tech / OutDry / OutDry™ Extreme
Also created by Columbia, four different technologies offer different levels of waterproofness.
- Omni-Tech is a multi-layered system with a waterproof outer layer and breathable inner membrane for moderate activity in light to medium rain and weather conditions.
- OutDry: Robust waterproof membrane for moderate conditions from medium to heavy rain and snow.
- OutDry Extreme: Fitting its name, aim for heavy rain and snow, in extreme conditions
- OutDry Extreme ECO: Similar to OutDry Extreme usage in extreme conditions; however, the ECO version is made from 100% recycled, dye-free fabrics with no intentional PFCs.
A specific note on the OutDry Extreme, the particular process doesn’t need the required DWR coating that other technologies use. Indeed, the OutDry Extreme technology is based on two layers of fabric joined together through heat, which removes any potential gap and seals the outer membrane entirely without the need for DWR treatments.
OutDry Extreme has a waterrating ofaround 20,000 mm but keeps its waterproof conditions as it doesn’t require any DWR usage, a coating that degrades over time. The construction of the fabric also reduces the breathability compared to Gore-Tex.
North Face DryVent® (formerly HyVent)
Developed by the North Face, the DryVent water rating is around 15,000 mm, its breathability rating at 12-15.000 (G/M2), meaning it’s barely up to the minimum standard. In that case, DryVent compares unfavorably to Gore-Tex. However, the DryVent fabric is considered stretchy, making it more comfortable to wear but also less durable.
Coming in 2L, 2.5L, and 3L membranes, DryVent is the right choice for high-performance and more economical products, though Gore-Tex remains the product of choice for consistent performance in the long run.
Patagonia is behind the 2L, 2.5L, and the 3L H2No fabrics, coated with DWR for extra rain repelling. H2No makes for the durable process, and the product is equally breathable and packable.
The H2No Performance Standard for waterproof shell garments is 20,000 MM.
The 2.5-layer fabric compares similarly to Patagonia H2NO and North Face HyVent. A solid choice for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a waterproof lightweight jacket men will appreciate at a moderate price.
The MARMOT NanoPro waterproofness is at 10,000 mm and breathability at 17,000 gm.
Made by Direct Venting technology, eVent is thought to be the closest option to Gore-Tex. In terms of breathability, eVent might even beat GORE-TEX but is still one stop behind GORE-TEX waterproofness.
- DVstorm: moderate weather and active outdoor enthusiasts
- DValpine: a 3-layer laminate for heavy rain and snow
- DVexpedition: the highest durability for all weather conditions
DVstorm offers 10,000 mm water column and 30,000g/m2, DValpine 20,000 mm water column and 20,000 g/m2, and DVexpedition 30,000 mm water column and 10,000 g/m2.
CONCLUSION: GORE-TEX is still the leader when it comes to waterproofness with a 28,000 mm water column, though eVent has reached that similar level with its new DVexpedition fabric. Now, not all jackets need to have GORE-TEX protection either, as it again depends on how you will use the coat. A coat for a day hike in mild weather will do fine with most of the brands and types of laminate we mentioned. But if you are looking for a jacket you can wear in all conditions while you experience extreme adventures, you might want to focus on GORE-TEX.
Sustainable and Recycled Fabrics
Some brands used recycled material or bluesign® approved fabric. Bluedesign is tracking the fabric manufacturing process, looking for sustainable and safe environments for people to work.
While features are important, so are the guarantee and customer service after your purchase, especially as you are considering investing in GORE-TEX products. Knowing that brands will stand behind their products is essential, but again, not all are equal. Note that these policies change rapidly, so even as we try to keep our content up-to-date, please make sure to verify each brand’s website for their most current versions.
- REI (US-based market): While you can shop for other brands at the popular US gear stores, REI produces numerous products and items under its name. Generally speaking, the quality is high and prices affordable, and they are a brand we trust and can recommend. We have bought many pieces of clothing and gear over the years, and many are still in excellent shape and conditions today. Plus, REI will you return any item you are not satisfied with a replacement or refund within one year of purchase, even on items you wore and used. So for our US friends, if you don’t have an REI membership yet, don’t wait any longer. You won’t regret the services, and will love their regular 20% promotions throughout the year!
- Patagonia “Iron-Clad Guarantee” is similar to REI. If you are not satisfied with their products, you can return for replacement, repair or refund – except in case of extreme wear which would be repaired at a reasonable fee.
- The North Face TNF protection covers the “original owner against manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the product.” In this case, The North Face will repair or replace the item for you. Some exceptions apply.
- Arc’teryx Limited Warranty and Practical Product Lifespan: Arc’teryx customer service is also one of a kind. Items can be returned up to 60 days after the purchase, and items protected under our Limited Warranty will be replaced or repaired at the discretion of Arc’teryx for the practical product lifespan. Product damaged through wear and tear, misuse, or neglect may be repaired at a reasonable price. Items covered under our Limited Warranty (like Apparel) will be replaced or repaired at the discretion of Arc’teryx for the practical product lifespan, which will be determined in the reasonable discretion of an authorized Arc’teryx Customer Service representative.
- Outdoor Research® Infinite Guarantee® is similar to Arc’teryx and states that gear is guaranteed to perform throughout the lifetime of the item.
- RAB® Warranty: The guarantee covers the original owner, with proof of purchase, for the usable lifetime of the product.
- Marmot Warranty: where they warrant every product they make to be free of manufacturer defects.
Any other recommendation to add? Any feedback on these products? Please comment below!
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