Best Waterproof Rain Jackets and Tactical Jackets
The author has grown up around rain all his life, from hurricanes and flood to the light constant rain of the Pacific Northwest. An excellent rain jacket that is dependable, fashionable and most of all functional is an absolute must have. A few considerations before purchasing your rain jacket.
What You Need in a Rain Jacket or Parka
- What temperature extremes do you experience?
- What kind of rain are you often exposed to?
- Does camouflage need to be integrated into your clothing?
- Is the jacket able to integrate into your entire wardrobe?
- What is your budget and how dependable do you want your gear to be?
- How breathable does your gear need to be?
Breathability is one of the most important factors for rain gear. High humidity from the rain and physical exertion is a recipe for becoming very sweaty. While this is just not pleasant, there is a serious safety factor as well, for instance, if you sweat too much, you can of course become dehydrated, but also in freezing temperatures you could become hypothermic very quickly from sweating in your base layers. MTN tactical recently did a study as to the different kinds of breathable waterproof fabrics and their relation to cost and determined that
- Breathable jackets can help decrease sweat by as much as 500% when compared to non-breathable jackets.
- Sweating at baseline can affect how well the “breathable” fabric works. This was evident in a few places in the study’s data. First, heavier sweaters were less effected by the jackets. Second the harder an athlete worked the less effective the breathability was at removing base layer sweat. And lastly, anecdotally, the heavier the jacket, the more the athlete sweated and the more sweat was retained in the base layer.
- Jacket pricing is a product of, among other things, durability, fit, features, fabric, waterproofness, windproof performance and, finally, breathability. The study showed almost no relationship between price and breathability. In fact, based on this study, less than 9% of the jacket’s cost can be accounted for by its breathability.
And finally, their recommendation is that if an athlete’s only concern is finding a cost-effective, waterproof, breathable jacket then, based on this study’s findings, Gore-Tex does not appear to be worth the price. This study showed that breathable coatings (like the NanoPro) offer superior breathability at a much lower cost.
The very idea of a waterproof and breathable shell poses an important question: How can it be breathable, which implies permeability, yet waterproof, which would seem to mean closed like a plastic bag? The outdoor industry has almost decided simultaneously on an answer in the form of a three-layer fabric.
This can also be done with less material, but the best winter gear is best made from three layers, made up of an exterior textile, a technical membrane and a backer textile. These are all bonded together and then used to create a jacket. The fabric then prevents outside water from seeping in while also allowing sweat and heat to escape, creating a piece of outerwear that is not only more comfortable but much safer as well especially in cold weather. Heat is allowed to escape so that you can thermoregulate yourself by taking off or putting on more layers as opposed to sweating which can pose problems.
Let’s take a look at some jackets that meet these requirements.
- What You Need in a Rain Jacket or Parka
- EZRUN Men’s Packable Raincoat
- North Face Venture Jacket
- Fireforce Military Ripstop Poncho
- Outdoor Research Infiltrator Jacket
- Carhartt Insulated Shoreline Jacket
- Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket
- Amazon Essentials Waterproof Rain Jacket
- Marmot Men’s PreCip Rain Jacket
- MONTANEFurther Faster Outdoor Tactical Rain Jacket
- SITKA Vapor Men’s Waterproof Running/Hiking Jacket
- Final Thoughts on Tactical Rain Jackets
EZRUN Men’s Packable Raincoat
If you don’t have it with you, you can’t wear it. A tiny rain jacket (or poncho) is not what many folks might think of as a viable purchase for serious use but using it as a windbreaker or a rain jacket, this packable rain jacket can provide you with a serious advantage in a situation where the weather has changed quickly. One issue that folks face especially on a trip is that jackets is just take up so much space.
The EZRUN men’s packable raincoat is specifically designed to be packed into a very small space, exactly 7 inches square. If you can’t fit this into your pack, you might need to reconsider your priorities. This packable jacket is ready to keep you dry or make the bite of the wind just a bit less, while taking up a very small amount of space in your bag or backpack. This is definitely a budget option but being able to pick up a few of these and throw them in any pack is a great advantage of not having to remember your expensive rain jacket.
North Face Venture Jacket
Giving you the option to dress for cold, rainy and windy, or just rainy, this jacket truly gives you they ability to take off layers as the weather change even when raining. North Face is a great brand that stands by their product and is used all over the world by adventurers and normal folks alike, so you know it’s going to be a great garment to buy.
This is a slightly less expensive jacket than some of the ones on this list, but with low key branding this should be a great choice for international travel as well as domestic. The included sweatshirt interior is a great choice for a chilly morning run and having an option to take only the rain jacket aspect is wonderful as well.
Fireforce Military Ripstop Poncho
The military has been using rain ponchos like this since World War II and before! While these may not be the most stylish for walking around town, a rain poncho is a staple in kits for a reason, it just keeps you dry and able to move around easily while keeping your stuff dry as well. Ponchos can also be used as a makeshift tent if needed and are easily stored.
With different styles of camouflage, you can use these on a hunt as well, but be careful about traveling in thick brush, as the nylon makes a LOT of noise when branches go past the poncho. Again, this is not the most stylish rain option, but years of military service can’t be too far off the mark, put one of these on the ATV for your next hunt so you don’t end up soaked. A lightweight rain jacket like this can be the difference between a miserable day in the field and a comfortable outing, so be prepared.
Outdoor Research Infiltrator Jacket
Outdoor Research jackets are not cheap, and they are not cheap for a reason. Stretching of waterproof fabric is something that is a very recent innovation, and this should not be taken lightly. There will be a day when this technology is available cheaply, but at the moment, the cutting edge of Gore-Tex technology is stretchable fabric that is also flexible.
Outdoor Research jackets are chosen by only the top operators that need the best gear possible to accomplish the mission. The jacket is also designed to be worn underneath body armor, which presents many problems that Outdoor Research has solved for folks that need this sort of feature. Outdoor research is a company that makes equipment for the bleeding edge of combat operations, and if you need something with this much innovation, get ready to pay for it.
Carhartt Insulated Shoreline Jacket
Carhartt is a very well-known brand in the United States for work wear, and this jacket is no exception. Often when raining, it is also very cold, and neglecting insulation means that you will have to layer, and that is sometimes not a great option. This rain jacket includes storm defender waterproof breathable membrane with fully taped waterproof seams.
This means that not even in the most vulnerable parts of the jacket will you have water intrude, keeping you dry during a downpour. Carhartt is known for being a very durable clothing brand with mostly work oriented clothing, and this carries over from their overalls and coveralls to the rain jackets.
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket
Another super small rain jacket option. This rain jacket from Outdoor Research (but without the price tag) folds down to the size of a granola bar and weighs in at 6.4 ounces.
That is less than a bag of snacks and easy to carry in the pocket of a backpack or even in the pocket of another jacket you’re wearing. This product is not breathable like something using Gore-Tex; however, it will keep you dry, and with a footprint that small, it is a great addition to your pack whether traveling, hunting, or just going back and forth to work. There is something to be said about the difference between an umbrella and a rain jacket, and when it comes to weight alone as well as size, it’s pretty hard to beat this offering from Outdoor Research, especially with the OR name behind it.
Amazon Essentials Waterproof Rain Jacket
Amazon branded products are built for a reason, they see a market that is open and making large sales, so they get into the product line quickly with something that they know will be a good choice for their buyers. Amazon has been doing products from computer mice to seatbelt extenders, and this rain jacket is no exception for a great price for a good quality item.
Coming in 4 colors and a relatively stylish (if a bit low key) look, this is a good option for a rain jacket, especially if you need something that doesn’t only look good with one outfit. Jackets have become a fashion statement all over the world, and sometimes you just want to fade into the background, this is a great option to keep a low profile while staying dry.
Marmot Men’s PreCip Rain Jacket
Marmot Precip is a great option for a low-cost Gore Tex like fabric. Marmot NanoPro™ coating utilizes a new microporous technology with a pore structure that is 30% smaller than previous generations. These very small, very densely packed pores allow for enhanced breathability while maintaining excellent waterproof performance. This pore structure is also air permeable allowing for air exchange.
This air permeability combined with the enhanced breathability creates a fabric that is incredible comfort through a wide range of activities. Marmot is a leader in outdoor gear made for relatively active individuals but definitely not made for military style operations, so that should be taken into consideration when selecting this jacket.
MONTANEFurther Faster Outdoor Tactical Rain Jacket
Montane provides us with another Gore-Tex alternative for breathable fabric that is waterproof as well. With a YKK Aquaguard zipper, the zipper is water resistant as well, which is a common ingress point for water, solved by the most trusted zipper company in the clothing industry. While this may sound like a small selling point, the zipper is usually the first thing to break on a jacket, and the thing you have to interact with every time you put on the jacket, so think about it as an extra nice part of the jacket you get to feel.
NeoShell is made by engineering optimal pore size and placement, NeoShell releases heat and perspiration without high pressure build up. Continuous air exchange enhances natural thermoregulation, while still providing the needed protection from all outside elements. All of this at a cost of much less than Gore-Tex jackets, with performance to match.
SITKA Vapor Men’s Waterproof Running/Hiking Jacket
Sitka is one of the top outdoor brands right now, with camouflage clothing that is unmatched by any older camo like Mossy Oak, this jacket incorporates Gore-Tex technology at a lower price than many other jackets. With Gore-Tex shakedry technology, the jacket features a streamlined laminate construction that creates a permanent beading surface and removes the face fabric of the garment, resulting in an incredibly lightweight and 100% waterproof jacket.
This is a very durable rain jacket, that will serve you for many years, and be extremely stylish while doing so. Whether hunting or on a morning run in some drizzle, this is a great choice for staying active and dry at the same time.
Final Thoughts on Tactical Rain Jackets
All of these jackets will keep you dry, some staying in your pocket and some being worn under body armor. Keep in mind that these are only for your top half, and rubber boots and a rain suit are great options depending on what you’re getting involved with. Any of these products will keep you singing in the rain, instead of toting a dorky umbrella, or coming into work soaked to the bone while you figure out how to go to a meeting in wet clothing.
For more tactical gear, check out our review of 3V Gear’s Backpacks…the perfect companion on a rainy trek.