You may like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, but the latter is less fun when you’re camping or on a hike. If you’re heading outdoors during winter then packing wet weather gear is a no-brainer.
In summer, those bulky, insulated hard shell jackets and pants are overkill for the odd bit of rain you may encounter. Packing a set of the best lightweight rain gear will mean that you’re prepared for the inevitable Spring shower without taking up too much space in your pack.
There are plenty of great products available but we’ve put together reviews of the best lightweight rain gear that we’d want in our packs when summer skies turn grey.
Top Picks: Our Recommended Lightweight Rain Gear
- Arc’Teryx Men’s Beta LT Hybrid Rain Jacket
- Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Rain Jacket
- Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket
- Outdoor Research Men’s Foray Pant
- Marmot Minimalist Rain Pant
- Montane Minimus Rain Pants
- Outdoor Research Men’s Helium Pants
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon
What You'll Learn
- Best Lightweight Rain Jacket Reviews
- Best Lightweight Rain Pants Reviews
- Best Lightweight Rain Gear – What to Look Out For
Best Lightweight Rain Jacket Reviews
At a Glance:
- Fully waterproof – Gore-Tex PacLite
- Velcro adjustable cuffs
- Articulated patterning and gusseted underarms offer great mobility and range of motion
- Longer back length fits comfortably under a harness
- Performs well in warm and cooler weather
This great lightweight rain jacket is ideal for summer downpours but will also keep a cold wind out on those cooler days.
The Gore-Tex fabric and taped seams offer excellent waterproof performance while still remaining somewhat breathable (as breathable as GoreTex can possibly be!). They’ve used the PacLite variant of Gore-Tex which results in a lightweight 12 ounces total weight that packs down really small.
The pit zips allow for good ventilation and instant heat release while the chest pockets offer convenient storage. We liked that the pockets were positioned high enough to be out of the way of pack straps.
The hood adjusts easily with one-handed cinch cords and has been designed to provide full coverage without hampering your peripheral vision. If you don’t mind paying more for quality then this jacket is a great buy.
It works equally well as a light summer rain jacket or a wind and rain outer layer in cold conditions.
At a Glance:
- Fully waterproof – 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+
- Ultralight – Weighs around 6.5 oz
- Packs easily and compactly into interior pocket
- Zippered Napoleon chest pocket and internal pocket offers convenient storage
- PrCheaper than some of the other top end jacketso
- Great hood
- Interior fabric doesn’t breathe very well and there’s no pocket venting or pit zips
- No hand pockets
If you want an ultralight rain jacket that absolutely has to fit in that last little spot in your pack then the Helium II is a great choice. It’s not a cheap rain jacket by any means but it’s the lightest jacket we reviewed by a long way so you’ll hardly notice it in your pack.
Weighing under 7oz, this jacket packs up really small into its interior pocket. The hood and the fully waterproof 2.5 layer shell do an excellent job of keeping the water out and it blocks the wind better than most other jackets we’ve tried.
This is a great “just in case” jacket to take on summer hikes but perhaps not ideal to wear for longer periods in warm weather. The smooth inner fabric and lack of ventilation means it doesn’t breathe very well so you’ll want to take it off as soon as the clouds part and the sun comes out.
At a Glance:
- Fully waterproof – 2.5 layer NanoPro
- Quality feel and good features at a reasonable price
- Fabric and pit vents offer good breathability
- Good packability – stuffs into its own pocket
- Adjustable hood rolls up into collar
- No interior or chest pockets
For a very reasonable price you get a fully waterproof rain jacket with some nice features. At just over 10 oz it’s still pretty light and it stuffs easily into its own pocket. The fabric breathes better than some similarly priced jackets and the pit zips offer good ventilation if it starts to get a little warm.
The adjustable hood attaches to the shoulders rather than the collar. This is a nice touch because it allows you to have the hood up comfortably even if you don’t want the jacket zipped all the way to the top.
It has hand pockets but you’ll have to store your other bits and pieces elsewhere because it doesn’t have interior or chest pockets.
Best Lightweight Rain Pants Reviews
At a Glance:
- Excellent weather resistance
- Great breathability
- Articulated design and gusseted crotch give great mobility
- ¾ length zippers offer good ventilation
- Rear zippered pocket doubles as stuff bag
- Packs up really small
- Very durable
- Only has one rear pocket
The fabric they’ve used is a 50D Polyester which is extremely durable. We really liked the ¾ length zips that made it easy to pull on over hiking boots and offered great ventilation when the rain let up. This combined with the exceptional breathability means you don’t need to pull these pants on and off during stop start rainy days.
Instead of external double storm flaps they’ve used a smaller internal storm flap over the watertight zippers to keep the overall weight down. It works well though with this minimalist approach having no negative impact on the wet weather performance.
The low profile waistband is very comfortable and cinches with an elastic cord for a snug fit. The cuffs won’t go over skiing or high volume hiking boots but they’re perfect for other all year outdoor activities.
At a Glance:
- Exceptional weather resistance
- Lightweight and highly packable
- Waterproof side pockets
- Articulated knees give good mobility without feeling baggy
- Breathes well for a waterproof
- No belt loops or cinching cord in waistband
- Side zippers are only ankle length
These pants are pretty light but the low 10 ounce weight comes at the expense of some features like full length zippers. It comes with ¼ length ankle zippers that allow the pants to go easily over trail running or light hiking boots but if you’re wearing something bigger then you’ll have to take your boots off first.
The minimalist design also means that the ankle zippers are all you get in the way of ventilation. When the rain starts that’s where these pants really start to perform. They will stand up to a serious downpour and are pretty breathable.
These are great no-frills, storm worthy rain pants that are so light and compact that there’s no reason ever to go out without them in your pack.
At a Glance:
- Extremely light and highly packable
- Pertex Shield delivers solid weather resistance and good breathability
- Velcro ankle tabs cinch down to eliminate bagginess
- Soft feel to the fabric
- Side zippers only ankle length
- No pockets
At a shade over 5 ounces it just doesn’t get any lighter than this. Probably the only way you’ll know that you’re wearing these is when it starts to bucket down and you realize that your legs are bone dry.
We prefer ¾ length zippers but the ankle length zippers make sense to keep the weight down. The zippered ankles will make it over most shoes but you’ll struggle to get them over bigger boots. We really liked how the velcro tabs kept the cuffs from flapping about.
If you’re wearing winter hiking pants then bear in mind that these are a slim fit so you may want to go up a size. These are great “just in case” pants that won’t budge the needle when you weigh your gear.
At a Glance:
- Fully seam taped fabric is completely waterproof
- Extremely light
- Stuffs into its back pocket
- Great mobility
- Ankle length zips mean you’ll probably have to take your boots off first
If you’re looking for excellent freedom of movement and solid wet weather performance then these pants will do nicely. The fit is very comfortable with the low profile elastic waistband keeping the pants from sliding down without feeling too tight.
The internal fabric has a nice feel to it and although there aren’t any venting options these pants do breathe really well.
The sizing on these pants definitely runs a little small so it’s best to go up a size.
Pair these with the Helium II rain jacket and you’ll have total rain protection with hardly any space being taken up in your pack.
Best Lightweight Rain Gear – What to Look Out For
It’s easy to make material that’s waterproof but to get it to breathe well at the same time is pretty tough. Make sure that the pants you choose make use of breathable layers like Gore-Tex.
Each manufacturer will generally have their own specific layer technology so if you’re seeing terms like “Pertex Shield” or if they mention multiple layers then you’re probably onto a good thing. The thickness of the material will have an effect on both the weight as well as the durability of the rain gear.
If you’re paying more than $50 for lightweight rain gear you can be pretty sure that the fabric is going to be waterproof. The DWR coatings used today are all pretty good. The biggest differentiator is usually in the construction of the pants or jacket.
Make sure that any pockets or zippers are water resistant and that there are storm flaps and fully sealed seams to keep any driving rain out. Also, make sure that you get the pants leg sizing right. If it’s too short the cuffs will gather above your shoes and the water will run straight in.
Breathability & Ventilation
If you’re working up a sweat and the rain is coming down you definitely want your gear to breathe well. You want to stay dry on the outside and the inside. If the weather is alternating between rain and sun, rain gear can get warm pretty quickly. Having ventilation options like long side zippers or pit zippers can help to dump heat fast. This can also save you from having to put your gear on and off as the weather changes.
Weight & Packability
Lighter and smaller is always better when you’re trying to fit everything into your pack but don’t let a few ounces be the big deciding factor.
Remember that the lighter the rain gear, the thinner the material and the less features it will have. If you can get your jacket and pants to stuff into their own pockets then it’s going to make it a lot easier to store them in your pack.
If you’re trail running then you’re probably not overly concerned with durability. If you’re going to be moving through some thicker brush or doing some climbing then it’s worth thinking about. The ultralight materials are getting better as far as abrasion resistance but they all have a weakness for sharp points.
If you’re tough on your gear then sacrifice a few ounces and get a thicker fabric. You could probably get away with a lighter weight jacket but your pants are more likely to get punctured or torn due to kneeling and sitting.
The lighter the gear, the more they need to leave out. Some of these may seem like “nice to haves” but they can be a pretty big deal in certain circumstances.
- Hood – There’s no point keeping everything except your head dry. (If you’re going to be wearing a helmet then make sure the hood is helmet compatible.)
- Pockets – Most lightweight rain gear has very few pockets. Decide where and what you need to store and then decide if the absence of certain pockets is a big deal. If your jacket has pockets does it really matter that the pants don’t?
- Vents – Vents are great for dumping heat but rain gear with poorly sealed vents defeats the purpose. Make sure the vents have water-resistant zippers and storm flaps.
- Pants Zippers – When it starts to rain you don’t want to have to take your shoes off to get your rain pants on. Zippers or velcro to make it easy to get pants on in a hurry. If you’re using larger boots then make sure you get full or ¾ zipper pants.
- Waist cinching – As you move around your rain pants will tend to move down. Having a built-in cinching cord makes them so much more comfortable than having to go with an overly tight elastic waist.
Being prepared for rain during summer doesn’t have to mean taking along heavy, bulky gear. The jackets and pants above are some of the best lightweight rain gear available.
Don’t be too distracted by the simplicity or lack of features that some of them have. The most important factor is whether you can get them on and off quickly and if they will keep you dry while remaining somewhat breathable.
Do remember that in order to be 100% waterproof, that means much less breathability is possible than, for example, with a softshell jacket.
The fact that they weigh so little and pack so compactly means that there’s really no reason to leave home without them. Even if the forecast is for nothing but sun I always trust my gear more than the weatherman.
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