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 backpack.
There are plenty of great products available but we’ve put together reviews of the best lightweight waterproofs that we’d want in our packs when summer skies turn grey.
Top Picks: Our Recommended Lightweight Rain Protection
- 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 Waterproofs – How to Choose
Best Lightweight Rain Jacket Reviews
At a Glance:
- Fully waterproof – Gore-Tex PacLite waterproof breathable fabric
- Velcro adjustable cuffs, pit zips for quick heat release
- Articulated patterning and gusseted underarms offer great mobility and range of motion
- Longer back length fits comfortably under a harness or when you layer jackets
- Performs well in warm and cooler weather
This great lightweight rain jacket is ideal to keep you dry in a summer downpour, but will also keep a cold wind out on those cooler days.
The Gore-Tex layer 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 fabrics which results in a lightweight 12 ounces total weight that packs down really small.
The pit zips allow for good ventilation performance and instant heat release – very important when you’re active – 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, an important consideration for backpackers.
The hood adjusts easily with one-handed cinch cords and provides full coverage to keep you dry without hampering your peripheral vision. If you don’t mind paying more for quality then this durable rain 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, whether on the mountain trail or the ski fields.VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI
At a Glance:
- Fully waterproof – 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+ keeps you dry
- Ultralight – Weighs around 6.5 ounces
- 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 lightweight 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 7 ounces, this minimalist 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. As breathable jackets go, it’s not the best, particularly if you are very active.
The smooth inner fabric and lack of ventilation – no pit zips – means it sacrifices breathability so you’ll want to take it off as soon as the clouds part and the sun comes out. It’ll keep you dry, though.VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI
At a Glance:
- Fully waterproof – 2.5 layer NanoPro layer fabric
- Quality feel and good features at a reasonable price
- Fabric and pit zips offer good breathability and ventilation
- Good packability – stuffs into its own pocket
- Adjustable hood rolls up into collar
- No interior or chest pockets
If you’re on a budget but don’t want to compromise on weight or performance in the rain then the Marmot PreCip is definitely worth considering.
For a very reasonable price you get a fully waterproof rain jacket with some nice features. At just over 10 ounces it’s still a pretty lightweight jacket and it stuffs easily into its own pocket. The fabrics are a bit more breathable 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. One of the better packable breathable jackets for keeping out the water in warm weather on the trail.VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI
Best Lightweight Rain Pants Reviews
At a Glance:
- Excellent weather resistance to keep those legs dry
- Great breathability
- Articulated design and gusseted crotch for 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
This is one of our favorite rain pants. They fit great, perform really well in the wet and have exceptional breathability. They’re not the lightest pants we’ve reviewed but at 12 ounces they’re still pretty light.
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.VIEW ON AMAZON
At a Glance:
- Exceptional weather resistance
- Lightweight and highly packable
- Waterproof side pockets
- Articulated knees give good mobility without feeling baggy
- Breathable for a waterproof
- No belt loops or cinching cord in waistband
- Side zippers are only ankle length
If you just want something to throw over your men’s hiking pants, then the Minimalist is a great choice.
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’ll keep the water out in 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.VIEW ON AMAZON
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
If you’re a trail runner, fast climber or engage in other high-energy activities then these minimalist rain pants are tailored just for you.
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. They aren’t the most breathable though.
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 to keep the water out that won’t budge the needle when you weigh your gear.VIEW ON AMAZON
At a Glance:
- Fully seam taped fabric is completely water proof
- Extremely light
- Stuffs into its back pocket
- Great mobility for active hikes or trail running
- Ankle length zips mean you’ll probably have to take your boots off first
At just over 5 ounces these are some of the lightest rain pants we’ve reviewed.
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, keeping the water out.
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.
Backpackers can pair these with the Helium II rain shell jacket and you’ll have total rain protection with hardly any space being taken up in your pack.VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI
Best Lightweight Waterproofs – How to Choose
Material & Fabrics
It’s easy to make fabrics that are water proof 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 with DWR.
Each manufacturer will generally have their own specific layer technology for their waterproof breathable fabric, 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 fabric.
Lightweight waterproof jackets are made from layered fabrics:
- Outer shell with durable water repellent (DWR) coating and waterproof membrane
- Inner layer either made of a ‘breathable’ polyurethane or light nylon mesh layer
Water Resistance – when the rain comes down
If you’re paying more than $50 for a lightweight rain jacket 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 – Can waterproof fabric ever be breathable?
If you’re active and working up a sweat on a trail run or uphill hike, 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.
Lack of breathability can mean that sweat builds up under the jacket layers and you overheat. And then get bitterly cold later on as you dry.
If the weather is alternating between rain and sun, a waterproof jacket can get warm pretty quickly. Having ventilation options like long side zippers or pit zips can help to dump heat fast.
This can also save you from having to put your gear on and off as the weather changes. In order to be totally waterproof, the fabrics used are by definition less breathable.
You’ll normally wear your wet weather gear as an outer shell to keep the water out, layered over your other clothing.
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, if you’re heading into very wet weather.
Remember that the lighter the rain jacket, the thinner the fabrics 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 a difference to how packable they are.
Ultralight and durable?
If you’re trail running then you’re probably not too 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, durable rain jacket. 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.
Features & Accessories
The lighter the gear, the more they need to leave out to save the ounces. 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 rain hood is helmet compatible and adjustable.)
- Pockets – An ultralight rain jacket will likely have 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 and help combat the lack of breathability, but waterproof jackets 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 adjustable and comfortable than having to go with an overly tight elastic waist.
Being prepared for rain in summer doesn’t have to mean taking along heavy, bulky gear. The jackets and pants above are some of the top packable waterproof 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 breathable.
Remember that in order to be 100% waterproof, that means much less breathability is possible than, for example, with a softshell jacket. The fabrics used are different.
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 to keep me dry more than the weatherman.
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