This is The Wise Adventurer’s roundup of the best packable rain jackets of the year. Packable rain jackets are the ones we go to when space is at a premium. Whether that’s inside your pack on an overnight hike, on your hip for a bike ride, or on your person for an afternoon around town, these are the lightest and most compact rain jackets money can buy.
After testing and reviewing dozens of the most popular options on the market, we found the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic and Arc’teryx Beta LT to be the best packable rain jackets overall. Our testers lauded the Stretch Ozonic for its outstanding comfort and packability, while the Beta LT got high praise for its durable 3 layer protection and outstanding weatherproofing.
Of course we know the Arc’teryx and Mountain Hardwear won’t be for everyone, which is why we’ve also selected four of our favorite alternatives, ranging from stretchy and breathable softshells to budget-friendly ultralight jackets.
In the article below, you’ll find our first hand take on the pros and cons of each, as well as a handy buyer’s guide down at the bottom to give you all the tools you need to make an informed decision for your next purchase.
Ready to brave the storm? Let’s get started.
|Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic: Best Packable Rain Jacket Overall||An incredibly light and packable softshell that delivers unmatched comfort with a four-layer stretch fabric. Outstanding protection and durability for such a breathable garment. See Review|
|Arc’teryx Beta LT: Highest Overall Quality||A rugged three-layer hardshell backed with Gore-Tex weather protection. Versatile all mountain protection without the weight penalty. See Review|
|REI Co-op XeroDry GTX: Best On A Budget||Lightweight packability backed with Gore-Tex waterproofing at a price anyone can afford. Outstanding quality and feature set for the money. See Review|
|Marmot Precip Eco||Rock solid weather protection and excellent packability on a shoestring budget. No other jacket does it better for less money. See Review|
|Outdoor Research Helium||The lightest and most compact jacket on our list. A true ultralight with impressive weather protection to boot. See Review|
|Black Diamond Stormline Stretch||Comfortable, stretchy, and affordable. An all around slam dunk for backcountry use of any description. See Review|
Our Picks For The Best Packable Rain Jackets
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic: Best Packable Rain Jacket Overall
– Price: $230
– Weight: 10.6 oz (300.5 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 2.5 layer DryQ 50D stretch ripstop
– Waterproofing Rating: N/A
– Number of pockets: 3
If you’re looking for the lightest wearing, most comfortable rain jacket available, look no further than the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. We’ve been living with this jacket for the better part of six months now, and are thoroughly impressed by both its versatility and all-around performance.
The main headline here is Hardwear’s updated four-way stretch fabric, a 50D mini-ripstop that remains highly breathable and incredibly stretchy. This makes for a jacket that’s all-day comfortable in the backcountry, and among the most durable we’ve seen for an ultralight softshell option.
As far as wet weather performance goes, the Ozonic’s 2.5-layer construction isn’t quite as robust as something like the 3-layer Arc’teryx above, but it still kept us dry and cozy over a multi hour day hike in steady rain. The material will slowly begin to wet out after a few hours, but thanks to Hardwear’s advanced inner lining, we never got the cold/clammy feeling typically associated with 2.5-layer membranes.
In terms of drawbacks, our biggest one here is that the Ozonic is a bit pricey for a fairly minimalist jacket, and there are quite a few options out there that protect just as well for significantly less money. None of them can compare to the comfort and breathability of the Ozonic, however, so if you’re looking for something light that performs well under highly aerobic activities, this jacket is well worth the extra cash. Read our full test and review of the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic…
|– Advanced four-way stretch fabric in the most comfortable 2.5 layer system we’ve tested|
– Great weather protection for a softshell
– Among the lightest and most packable jackets we’ve tested
– Weather protection can’t compete with hardcore 3-layer shells
Arc’teryx Beta LT: Highest Overall Quality
– Price: $450
– Weight: 13.9oz (394 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 3L Gore-Tex
– Waterproofing Rating: 28,000mm
– Number of pockets: 2
Taking top honors for the highest overall quality in a packable rain jacket is the Arc’teryx Beta LT, a fantastically versatile three-layer hardshell that still manages to be light and compact enough for a wide variety of backcountry applications.
Our testers gave the Beta LT high marks for its outstanding weather protection, which comes as no surprise considering this jacket is backed by a three-layer Gore-Tex membrane sporting a whopping 28,000mm of water resistance. This stout level of protection, combined with outstanding durability and versatility, allowed us to take the Beta LT along for the ride on rainy backcountry rock climbing missions as well as a snowy 14,000ft summit of Mt. Nadelhorn without a single complaint.
As is often the case with Arc’teryx hardshells, the LT also got high marks for its outstanding build quality and uncompromising feature set. Our testers loved the slim anatomical cut of the jacket, which allowed them to layer up underneath as much or as little as needed without ever impairing their freedom of movement.
As far as downsides go, there aren’t really any complaints here. Yes, the Beta LT is more expensive than your average rain jacket and yes, its burly three-layer construction is a bit heavier/bulkier than the other jackets on the test, but no other jacket does so many things quite so well as the Beta LT, and we found both the weight and size of the jacket were still plenty serviceable for backpacking and mountaineering use. Read our full test and review of the Arc’teryx Beta LT…
|– Rugged 3-layer Gore-Tex protection|
– Surprisingly light and packable for a 3L hardshell
– Versatile enough for pretty much any outdoor activity
– Heavier/bulkier than most 2.5 layer options
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX: Best On A Budget
– Price: $179/ $83
– Weight: 12.5oz (354 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite
– Waterproofing Rating: 28,000mm
– Number of pockets: 3
You can bet on the folks at REI to deliver outrageous value with their in-house Co-op brand. The REI XeroDry GTX is a top-of-the-line rain shell, yet it still retails for well under $200, which is a hell of a deal considering what’s on offer here.
The most impressive part of the bargain is that despite the XeroDry’s attractive price tag, it’s backed by name-brand Gore-Tex weatherproofing. The XeroDry uses Gore-Tex’s 2.5-layer “Paclite” technology, which is the lightest and most packable version on the market.
With that being said, it should come as no surprise that the XeroDry is both impressively light at 12.5oz and impressively packable as well. Our testers loved the light and airy feel of the jacket, and although it doesn’t include an integrated stash pocket, we had no issues stuffing it down into its own hood into a ball a little smaller than your favorite Nalgene water bottle.
We found the jacket to be impressively protective, never once wetting out during a long weekend of rainy backcountry hiking. Our only real complaint with this jacket is that although the material itself is impressively breathable, REI failed to include any direct ventilation (aka pit zips) as part of the package. For that price it is totally understandable, but we would love to see that feature included in the future. We will note that the jacket uses a mesh lining inside its pockets, allowing them to function as core vents when left open, but because these are relatively unprotected in anything heavier than a light drizzle, the jacket can get a little stuffy during more active pursuits. Read our full test and review of the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX…
|– Gore-Tex protection at an affordable price|
– Dual density fabric provides impressive durability
– Packed with features including impressive adjustability and an added chest pocket.
|– Needs more direct ventilation|
– Runs large, so you’ll likely want to size down
Marmot Precip Eco
– Price: $100
– Weight: 10.6 oz (301 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 2.5-layer NonoPro Eco
– Waterproofing Rating: NA
– Number of pockets: 2
When it comes to bottom-dollar packable rain jackets, the Marmot Precip Eco has been the industry leader for quite some time. We found this jacket to be simple yet incredibly effective, delivering the best protection and feature set you’ll find at around the $100 mark.
Our testers were particularly impressed with the Precip’s rain and wind protection, which held up to steady rain for several hours before eventually beginning to wet out. The Precip’s DWR coating is especially impressive in this regard, allowing the Marmot to outperform many jackets at twice its asking price in poor weather.
We’ll also give Marmot props for the sheer number of features they managed to pack into this ultralight and ultra-packable shell. The Precip includes dual pit zips, velcro adjusters at the wrists and hem, and even a stowable hood that can be rolled down and secured into the collar when not in use.
As far as drawbacks go, our biggest issue with the Precip is its simplified 2.5-layer membrane, which is one of the more plastic-feeling liners of the bunch. This liner holds its own in poor weather, but starts to feel clammy after a few miles of wet weather hiking. We’ll also note that in our past experience, 2.5-layer systems with this sort of thin film tend to break down and lose their effectiveness much faster than 3-layer alternatives as moisture and oils from your skin make their way inside over time. These are negligible complaints considering the Precip’s asking price though, so if you’re shopping for reliable rain gear on a shoestring budget, nothing delivers better bang for the buck. Read our full test and review of the Marmot Precip Eco…
|– Wildly affordable|
– Reliable rain protection with a long-wearing DWR treatment
– Outstanding feature set for the money
– Extremely light and packable
|– No frills design lacks premium features and finish|
– Basic membrane not expected to last for more than a year or two
Outdoor Research Helium
– Price: $170
– Weight: 6.3oz (179 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 2.5 layer Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse
– Waterproofing Rating: NA
– Number of pockets: 1
If you’re looking for the lightest and most packable jacket you can buy, the aptly named Outdoor Research Helium gets the nod from us. Weighing in at a scant 6.3oz, wearing the Helium feels as close to wearing nothing at all as you’ll find, and the jacket practically disappears inside a pack when not in use.
OR’s secret ingredient here is the Helium’s ultralight 30D Pertex Diamond Fuse fabric, which is remarkably thin and lightweight while still boasting an impressive degree of abrasion and tear resistance. OR claims this new material is a full 5 times tougher than the outgoing model, which gives us more peace of mind when taking it off trail or stuffing it down into a full backpack on the move.
As far as weather resistance goes, the Helium is utterly windproof and also provides an impressive degree of water resistance for its ultralight build. The fabric is prone to wetting out under pouring rain after a while, but for light to moderate showers, it’ll keep you dry all day long without weighing you down.
Our biggest complaint with the Helium is that it uses a traditionally plastic-feeling membrane to keep weight to a minimum, which means that once the fabric starts to wet out (either from sweat or driving rain), the jacket starts to feel cold and clammy in short order. This issue is exacerbated further by the Helium’s lack of direct ventilation, which kept it from making our choice as the best overall. With that being said, if keeping a jacket around the 6oz mark is high on your priority list, you’ve gotta cut the features somewhere. We’ll also note that as is often the case in hardcore ultralight shells like this, pocket options on the Helium are limited to a single chest pocket, which is large enough for a few quick-access essentials, but lacks the space for larger smartphones or snacks.
|– Incredibly lightweight|
– Ultra packable
– Surprisingly tough for an ultralight
|– Minimal storage options|
– Middling ventilation
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch
– Price: $170
– Weight: 11.3 oz (320 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 2.5-layer BD.dry
– Waterproofing Rating: NA
– Number of pockets: 2
If you’re liking the sound of the Ozonic’s stretchy comfort but aren’t looking to make quite so large an investment, the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch is a smart alternative for backcountry use. Its combination of stretchy nylon fabric and articulated underarm gussets provide exceptional comfort and mobility, and do it with only a marginal penalty to weight and packability.
Weighing in at just 11.3 ounces, the Stormline delivers the goods for packability, but we love that it still manages to include an attractive list of features as well. Dual hand pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, a waterproof main zipper, and an integrated pocket/stuff sack are all included for the money, making this one of the most well-rounded jackets in our lineup.
As far as weather protection goes, the Stormline sports a standard 2.5-layer membrane supported by a high-quality DWR treatment, which is more than sufficient to keep you dry in anything from a light drizzle to a serious downpour. We also appreciate that Black Diamond includes dual water-resistant pit zips and sizeable storm flaps over the Stormline’s hand pockets, which double down protection for whatever base/mid layers you pair the jacket with.
Our biggest gripe with the Stormline is breathability, although all things considered, it still performs well for a 2.5-layer system. The textured interior lining is a notable improvement over simpler films found on jackets like the Marmot Precip above, but it still gets a bit clammy when you’re sweating, even with the pit zips fully open for optimal ventilation.
|– Stretchy and all-day comfortable|
– Impressive feature set for the weight
– Great weather resistance at an affordable price
|– Ventilation struggles for more active pursuits|
– A bit heavier/bulkier than some 2.5 layer options
Buyer’s Guide For The Best Packable Rain Jackets
Whether you’re considering one of the jackets in the list above or something that didn’t make our top picks, there are a few key features you’ll want to look out for when making a purchase. Below you’ll find a breakdown of all the metrics we evaluate when selecting a jacket for our list that you can apply to any packable rain jacket on the market.
Weight & Packability
Since we’re talking specifically about the best packable rain jackets, both weight and packability will be high priorities here. Most folks looking for a packable shell want it for hiking, backpacking, hunting, or some other outdoor activity that requires carrying the jacket on their person at all times, so our goal here is to find a jacket that takes up as little space and adds as little weight to your pack as possible.
To that end, while all rain jackets are comparatively light to other forms of outerwear, some are considerably lighter than others. In our experience the ideal packable rain jacket tips the scales at somewhere under a pound, although much lighter jackets are out there and are well worth the money for many outdoor enthusiasts.
As far as packability goes, we want our jacket to pack down as small as possible regardless of weight. How small your jacket needs to be depends largely on your pack size and how much space is available in said pack after the rest of your loadout has been accounted for.
The best options tend to pack down to around the size of a grapefruit, while larger jackets in this category can typically be compressed to around the size of a Nalgene water bottle. We will point out that there’s often a tradeoff between durability and packed size (more on that below), as “ultralight” (and therefore ultra-packable) shells tend to sacrifice a degree or durability in exchange for a more compact size and less weight.
While all packable rain jackets differ in the level of water resistance they offer, it’s important to understand that no shell is 100% waterproof. Even the mightiest three-layer Gore-Tex Pro shell will eventually wet out and allow moisture to creep through its waterproof-breathable membrane at some point, so figuring out how much (or how little) water resistance you actually need for your intended use is important.
More often than not, as a jacket’s water resistance increases, its breathability decreases. We’ll talk more about breathability in the next section, but for now just know that protection generally requires some degree of compromise in a jacket’s ability to shed interior heat and moisture.
When it comes to determining the water resistance of your jacket, the main indicator to look for is its “hydrostatic head” rating, which is typically expressed in millimeters. There’s a long explanation to how these ratings are achieved and what they mean, but for now just know that the higher the hydrostatic head rating (10,000mm, 15,000mm, 25,000mm etc.), the more protective the jacket.
The other big player is your jacket’s water resistance is its durable water repellant coating, or “DWR” for short. DWR coatings are chemically applied processes that boost the water repellancy of your jacket’s outer fabric. The best DWR coatings prevent the “wetting out” of this fabric by repelling water for hours on end, and you can see it working by watching falling rain or other precipitation bead up and roll off the jacket rather than soaking into the fabric. There’s really no good way to measure the effectiveness of a jacket’s DWR treatment other than getting it out into the rain first hand, which is why reviews and field testing like ours is invaluable to consumers.
As we mentioned above, breathability is another major factor that impacts both the comfort and effectiveness of your rain jacket. Breathability refers to your jacket’s ability to transport heat and water vapor from inside the shell back out into the atmosphere, which is essential for regulating body temperature and keeping the inside of the jacket from getting wet or clammy.
Rain jackets achieve breathability in two important ways: Through the fabric itself, and through direct ventilation via pit zips, mesh pockets, and other similar features that vent directly from the body to the atmosphere.
In terms of fabric breathability, one of the best indicators you’ll find is the number of layers in a jacket’s waterproof/breathable system. Packable rain jackets come in 2, 2.5, and 3-layer construction, and each has its own pros and cons when it comes to breathability.
Without getting into too much detail, we tend to think of each system as follows: Two-layer systems provide outstanding waterproofing and breathability, but do it as the cost of weight and bulk, which typically rules them out as packable jackets. Shells with 2.5 layer systems tend to be the lightest and most packable of the lot, as they don’t require the extra “lining” layer of a 2-layer jacket, but they also tend to be the least comfortable and the least durable.
Three layer systems, on the other hand, are arguably the best of both worlds, combining a goldilocks combination of durability, weather protection, and breathability. These jackets typically won’t pack down as small as 2.5 layer systems, but they tend to last much longer and provide much more comfort against the skin. The choice between 2.5 and 3 layer systems will likely come down to how much weight and space in your pack you’re willing to sacrifice in the name of comfort and durability.
Fit & Comfort
Due to their comparatively low weight and packability, 2.5 layer systems are arguably the most popular option when it comes to packable rain jackets. The most important thing to understand about these systems, however, is that they tend to lack some of the comfort features of their 3-layer cousins, so we’ll take a moment to explain why here.
The chief culprit is in the design of the jacket’s membrane, which in the case of a 2.5-layer shell, puts a plastic-like surface directly against the wearer’s skin/base layers. Technically there’s a laminated coating or “film” that stands between you and the membrane itself, and the overall comfort of a 2.5-layer jacket is entirely dependent on the character of that membrane.
Less expensive options, like the Marmot Precip seen above, use thin and “plastic like” films to save on weight and cost. These membranes generally perform well in terms of protection, but don’t feel particularly nice against the skin, and will start to feel cold and clammy as the exterior fabric takes on more and more moisture.
2.5 layer systems are getting better every year, however, and options like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic and REI XeroDry GTX use advanced coatings on the interior of the jacket that feel softer and more “fabric-like” feel against the skin. These options still tend to fall a bit short of the bonded fabric layer found in three-layer systems, but are a major improvement in comfort to traditional 2.5 layer construction.
In terms of fit, the best packable rain jackets are fit in a way that allows ample freedom of movement, leaves room for base layers and warm mid-layers, yet minimizes any unnecessary bulk as well. Some jackets achieve this using stretchy face fabric, some do it using anatomically-designed shapes, and others do it by simply using larger/bulkier shapes.
Each design comes with its own pros and cons, but in our experience the best packable rain jackets toe the line using carefully cut patterns that move with the body, allowing for a tailored profile that still manages to never feel restrictive. This is one of the reasons why high-dollar shells like the Arc’teryx Beta LT are worth every penny for many hikers.
The durability of your packable rain jacket largely comes down to two main factors: The toughness of the face fabric, and the interior protection of the waterproof membrane. Both are important considerations, so let’s touch on each briefly.
In terms of face fabric, thicker fabrics with higher denier ratings tend to hold up better to the rigors of constantly being stuffed in backpacks and exposed to abrasive elements like brush, rocks, and branches. Some brands use thinner fabrics with ripstop patterns for a blend of packability and durability, but again, the only way to really gauge the overall toughness of a fabric is to get it out in the wilderness, which is exactly what we do here at The Wise Adventurer.
As far as the interior goes, this is one major place where three-layer designs distinguish themselves from their lighter 2.5 layer alternatives. Because three layer systems use an actual layer of bonded fabric along the inside of the shell, the waterproof membrane is effectively “sandwiched” between two durable layers, protecting it from both abrasion and deterioration from moisture and oils from your skin.
2.5 layer systems, on the other hand, rely on only a thin coating between your skin and the lining, which tends to break down and lose its effectiveness much quicker than 3 or 2 layer systems. Some are built better than others, mind you, but as a general rule of thumb, we don’t expect even the most premium 2.5 layer shells to last as long as simpler 3 layer systems.
Last but not least, a word on the features of your packable rain jacket. This refers to all the little design elements that make your jacket both functional and livable, which can range from the cinches/adjusters at the hood and hem to the size, location, and number of pockets on a jacket.
Adding features to a jacket tends to add both weight and size to the design. More zippers, extra fabric, and internal pockets all add up bit by bit, so more often than not you’ll find yourself weighing creature comforts versus total weight and packability.
There’s no hard and fast rule here as to what’s best, but we recommend deciding which features you need and which ones you don’t, and going from there. Most hikers want a minimum of hand pockets, an adjustable hood, and a pair of pit zips to help shed heat, but whether you choose to add or subtract from there is entirely up to you.
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict
Taking the above factors into consideration, we found the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic to be the best packable rain jacket overall, as it’s one of the most comfortable and well-made soft shells we’ve ever used. The Ozonic’s four-way stretch fabric is impressively comfortable and breathable, as well as one of the most fast-drying textiles we’ve ever come across.
If you’re digging the premium build of the Stretch Ozonic but prefer something a bit tougher and more protective, the Arcteryx Beta LT gets our vote as the highest in overall quality. Our testers loved the LT’s combination of three-layer performance and lightweight packability, a combination that no other jacket on the market can match in our experience.
Of course both of those jackets are on the pricey side, so if you’re looking for reliable protection that won’t break the bank, we’ve found both the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX and Marmot Precip Eco to be outstanding contenders. The XeroDry edges out the Precip due to its high-performance Gore-Tex liner and added comfort, but both jackets represent outstanding value for their respective price points.