Ultralight Rain Jackets & Pants for Camping & Hiking; Best Options
In my neck of the woods, rain is always a possibility. If you're planning to spend some time in the great outdoors, you're well served to be prepared for inclement weather.
Tracking down the best rain gear for hiking is a good idea, especially if you'll be spending several days on the trail. The right apparel can make or break an adventure; you'd be surprised how cold you can get when soaked.
Rather Wet Poll
Rain gear for outdoor adventures is an essential thing, and it's well worth your time to research the top options available. It's tricky though. Lightweight rain pants and jackets tend to be less waterproof, but who wants to haul around something bulky on the off chance that there's precipitation?
Luckily, there are some good options out there that meet the twin requirements of weather resistance and light weight. In this article, I plan to review five sets of jackets and pants that are waterproof, affordable and effective.
Hopefully you'll find some effective camping and backpacking rain gear in this mix, the kind that will give you the confidence to tackle your next adventure! Let's begin.
(PS, as I'm a guy, this article is written from a male perspective, but most of the reviewed items are either unisex or available in female versions!)
The Ideal Rain Gear for Hiking & Backpacking
Opinions differ, but I have a pretty good idea of what you want in hiking and backpacking rain apparel, and what you don't. Here's the list:
Packable Rain Gear:
If it's not packable, it's not worth bringing, in my opinion. You don't want a jacket or pants that you have to wear all day long. The best rain jacket and pants for hiking expeditions can be rolled up to a small size.
On a hike, the last thing you want is a jacket or pants that don't breathe well. Even in heavy rain, you'll still be sweating at times. Make sure that your outwear has some air flow or you'll be uncomfortable.
HIGH WATER RESISTANCE:
There are varying degrees of waterproof-ness. In the lightweight and ultralight rain gear categories, there isn't really such thing as full waterproof (if you're being absolutely soaked), but many are capable of keeping you quite dry even in a torrent.
With these features in mind, lets take a look at five great sets of rain gear.
Helium II: Ultralight, packable rain gear for hikes and camping trips
This set is a perfect example of the emergency storm gear I have been talking about. Packable and practical, this ripstop style jacket and pants is the perfect addition to your minimalist hiking expedition.
Outsoor Research Helium II Jacket
Starting with the jacket, it's a form fitting and attractive piece of outerwear that doesn't have excessive bulk or billowing. All the seams are fully taped, and the material is a thin yet durable 30D polyester. It's a shell type jacket, meaning that it doesn't have padding or insulation. It's meant to be thrown on over a sweatshirt or tee.
It has an adjustable hood with a built-in hood that helps to maintain its shape, and the cuffs and waist can be cinched to seal against water.
Another neat feature: the whole jacket can be stuffed inside the chest pocket, allowing you to easily store it when packing. It weighs in at a little over 6 ounces, incredibly light (it's not called Helium for nothing.)
Outdoor Research Helium Pants
The pants also feature taped seams and the same ripstop material as the jacket. They're generous enough to let you wear the pants over top of your clothing, but not super baggy or bulky. In fact, the ankles feature zippers to let you put them on while wearing footwear.
The pants weigh in at a spritely 6oz, making this whole set a mere 12oz. As compressible, ultralight rain gear goes, you're unlikely to find much better!
The whole ensemble is very breathable, yet it sheds water nicely. As packable rain gear goes, it's practical and easy to put on and take off. It's one of the best rain gear sets for hiking that I've come across.
Gage: Hiking rain gear by an expert in this field, Grundens
When it comes to rain apparel, it's hard to find a better equipped company than Grundens. They're a Swedish company that has a history of outfitting fishing boats. They've seen their fair share of inclement weather, and their clothing reflects that.
Grundens Gage Weather Watch Jacket
The Gage series is a set that's very practical for both work and play. Grundens uses a metric for measuring both the breathability and waterproof nature of their outerwear, and this set fares well in both categories.
The jacket and pants both feature a waterproof rating of 8,000mm. That means that the membrane can repel up to eight metres of water in a column stacked on the membrane. In effect, this shell will keep you quite dry; not quite as dry as, say, Gore-Tex, but still very comfortable.
They also feature an MVT (moisture vapour transfer) rating of 3000, which indicates that they're very good at allowing moisture inside the jacket (think sweat) to escape.
So what does that mean in practical terms? Well, these shells are able to repel a good deal of water while still allowing some humidity inside to escape, pretty impressive.
Grundens Gage Weather Watch Pants
The jacket also features taped seams and a drop hem in the back, good for when you bend down. Two vertical zippered pockets help keep your possessions nice and dry. For your head, there's a nice adjustable hood. It's a very versatile set of hiking rain gear.
The pants have identical stats, and include a large, elastic belt and generous leg zippers to let you put them on while wearing shoes. A velcro cinch at the ankle keeps your boots dry.
Overall, this is an impressive and capable set of backpacking rain gear, packable and ultralight. It's not quite as waterproof or breathable as some of the other hiking rain gear sets we'll be looking at today, but it's by far the most affordable, so I'd recommend giving it a hard look.
Practical, compressible, packable hiking rain gear that breathes, by Marmot
Marmot has a lot of excellent quality rain gear in their retinue, and this combination of jacket and pants (Aegis and Precip) are built for keeping an outdoor adventurer dry and comfortable in a mixture of conditions.
Marmot Aegis Jacket
With the Aegis, we have a jacket that you could conceivably wear all day long. It has a lot of great features, such as the integrated hood which rolls up into the collar when not in use, and the Pit Zips, which you can open to allow air to circulate more easily in hot or humid conditions.
When it comes to water resistance, Marmot knows how to get things done. Their proprietary coated MemBrain material is created using a lamination process, meaning that it's thin and packable. This rain gear is ultralight as a result.
It has a lot of water resistance too. By the scale mentioned earlier, this jacket is resistant to up to 20,000mm of water in a column.
The cuffs and collar have a special DriClime lining, which prevent that icky jacket humidity you'll often feel. The hem is elastic, and the cuffs have velcro to tighten when the rain takes a turn for the worse.
Marmot Precip Pants
The Precip pants complete this set of awesome rain gear for hiking and backpacking. They too have the same 'dry touch' technology as the jacket, meaning you won't have that clammy feeling after a vigorous hike.
They are just as compressible and packable as the jacket, and they feature a fabric that has porous holes that allow water in vapour form to escape, while blocking raindrops. It has an elastic waist and zippered sides for easy on and off while wearing footwear.
Taken together, this is a very good set of rain gear for hiking; it's packable, durable and lightweight. In short, it's one of the best choices you'll find.
The Aegis jacket weighs about 13oz, while the Precip pants weigh 9oz, so they're ideal for ultralight hikers and backpackers.
Minimalist: Ultralight rain gear for hiking, backpacking and adventure
If you like the sound of Marmot's excellent water shedding technology, but you are concerned about the material keeping you totally dry, you have another option. Their Minimalist series features some of the best rain gear for backpacking around.
Marmot Minimalist Jacket
It primarily features a Gore-Tex outer shell, which means this is one of the most waterproof hiking jackets you're likely to run across. Gore-Tex is renowned for being waterproof, windproof and durable, and in this application it's no different.
The Minimalist wastes no material. It's an attractive and form fitting set of rain gear for hiking, and there's no billow or bulk to snag on things.
It features PitZips in the jacket for ventilation (a good feature on a Gore-Tex jacket), and an integrated hood with a high face guard for when it's really blowing. The seams are all taped, and the zipper on the front features a full storm flap.
It breathes quite well, especially with the zips opened, and you'll be impressed by its ability to shed water. Gore-Tex simply doesn't absorb moisture.
Marmot Minimalist Pants
The pants are equally impressive. They're quite attractive as hiking rain gear goes, and feature some of the best water resistance you're likely to find. Full Gore-Tex means they're durable and waterproof, yet they breathe pretty nicely too. Zippered legs make them practical to put on.
My favourite feature of these rain pants for hiking trips? The articulated knee, built for someone on the move.
Put these two items together, and you have a highly water resistant set of packable backpacking rain gear. Weighing in at 15oz for the jacket and 10oz for the pants, they're perfect for that ultralight backpacking expedition.
Minimus: Very breathable, among the best ultralight rain gear for hiking in bad weather
This is the most expensive set on this list. It also happens to be the most capable, and it's an ultralight set of rain gear that hikers, backpackers and campers will absolutely love.
Montane Minimus Jacket
Beginning with the jacket, it's hard to find something to dislike. It has a water resistance level of 20 metres, and a breathability rating (MVT rate) of 25,000. It's got that holy grail combination of air flow and water repelling.
The seams and zippers are all taped, and the jacket features an attractive integrated hood that rolls up nicely into the collar when not in use. The elbows are articulated, allowing for greater freedom of movement, and it has a drawstring waist and velcro cuffs to seal off in a downpour.
It's one of the best minimalist rain jackets for hiking and camping because it fits so well. There's no wasted material, and it hugs your body to help preserve body temperature. As for weight, it comes in at an incredible 7.5 ounces, making it an ultralight backpacker's dream.
Montane Minimus Pants
The pants make use of the same PERTEX fabric that the jacket does. The waist is elastic and the ankles feature both a zippered size and velcro calf tabs, letting you tighten that point as much as you like. They come with a compression bag, letting you keep its bulk down while not in use.
They weigh only 4.4 ounces, so together the jacket and pants combination comes in around 11 ounces. You'd be hard pressed to find a more capable set of packable, outdoor rain gear for hiking that weighs so little.
Rain Day Poll
Packable Camping Rain Gear: What's the Big Deal?
You may have noticed that I gave deference to any set that can be packed easily. It may not seem like a big deal to wear your jacket for the whole hike, but you'd be surprised.
Hiking is an incredible exercise and exertion. By the end of a good hike or camping expedition, you're likely to be pretty warm; the last thing you'll want is to be wearing a jacket.
I made note of the weights of each of the sets, where possible. If you adhere to the minimalist, ultralight backpacking philosophy, you know that every ounce counts. You only have so much space in your pack, and the less weight you're carrying, the more efficient your hike will be.
All of the jackets listed above are compressible and packable, and they should serve you pretty well in a downpour. I hope this article was helpful!
Kelly Taylor (author) from Vancouver Island, West Coast Canada on November 28, 2014:
Thanks for the suggestions, there really are lots of great options out there. Outdoor wear technology has come a long way in recent years. My favorite is the Marmot Aegis jacket, ultra light, ultra waterproof and just seems to fit me well.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on November 28, 2014:
I'd go for an OMM cypher or kamleika jacket personally as they're ultralight but exceptionally breathable. My downside is that having long arms many jackets simply don't fit me properly