A dependable rain jacket is an essential part of any gear closet or running drawer, no matter the season. Rain jackets are designed for…well, rain…but they also come in very handy on windy days or snowy days. Even on a cold day when you need an extra layer, a good rain jacket can help you out in a pinch. This is why we’re going to dive into the ins and outs of the rain jackets leading the market today.
There are a few things that make a rain jacket truly waterproof — taped seams, protected zippers and waterproof rating.
When shopping for a rain jacket you’ll notice a few numbers being thrown around. Most running jackets start at a waterproof rating of about 10K. What this means is that the material being used can withstand up to 10,000mm of water pressure before it starts to leak. There is a fairly standardized way to test the waterproofing of material — water being added to a piece of material in a tube until it begins to leak. However, various brands and labs may tweak this technique so the numbers are ultimately subjective.
There is also a breathability rating for rain jackets. The testing for breathability has no standardization and is quite subjective between brands and labs. However, if you are comparing jackets within one brand you can likely trust the ratings from one jacket to another to compare appropriately. Breathability is rated either as millimeters of pressure or on a RET scale [Resistance to Evaporative Heat Transfer].
So, there is science behind these ratings but at the end of the day, the tests are done within a lab and only take into consideration a portion of the materials used in the construction of the jacket. A rain jacket with a waterproof rating of 30K won’t keep you dry if it does not have taped seams or if the zipper is completely exposed.
To check on the taped seams you’ll want to look inside the jacket. A taped seam looks like a regular seam…with a strip of scotch tape over it. Obviously this isn’t scotch tape as it is far more durable, but that is the look you’ll want to find inside your rain jacket. As for zippers, some jackets come with flaps of material to keep the zipper waterproof while others “tape” the zippers with a PU [polyurethane] coating. This will likely be specified on the jacket’s description tag, but you’ll be able to tell when using the zipper. When it doubt, compare it to a non-waterproof jacket and you’ll notice how much more secure the PU coated zipper feels.
Above and beyond a waterproof material, most rain jackets also come with a DWR [Durable Water Repellent] coating as well. This is a thin liquid layer that is added to the exterior of the technical material to repel the water. When you’re in the rain and see droplets forming on your jacket then rolling away you’re seeing the DWR coating at work. You’ll also notice this feature fading with time, as the DWR coating wears off your jacket. You can either reactivate your DWR coating or add a new layer. This is a fairly easy and affordable way to get more life out of a beloved waterproof layer. The jackets we reviewed all have a DWR coating in addition to a fully waterproof material.
While those specifications are important, a bigger factor is the fit of the rain jacket. A spec-heavy rain jacket isn’t going to do you any good if the hood doesn’t stay put or the sleeves don’t reach your wrists.
In this review we will definitely be sharing the technical specifications and we will also dive into how the jacket fits. You’ll see how the jacket fits in the photos, and the review write-up will include information on the size as well as at-my-desk measurements. The sleeves are measured from wrist to armpit seam and the back is measured from neck/shoulder seam to the lower hem. We also talk about the hood, but that is compared with adjustability and brim in mind rather than measurements.
Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody Jacket
The Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody jacket is made entirely of the latest Gore-Tex watershed technology — ShakeDry. This newer ShakeDry product technology allows the jacket to maintain all of the well-known characters of GORE-TEX [waterproof, windproof and breathable] without becoming stiff and bulky. You’ll find this jacket to be much more malleable than any other fully GORE-TEX jacket you’ve worn. It is also designed with additional room near the elbows to help maintain a full range of motion in the arms. This is a great rain jacket designed specifically to be a lightweight option when you’re out on the trails.
What We Loved: The overall fit of the jacket was great, from the brim of the hood to the length of the hem to the extra elbow space in the sleeves. It was comfortable to wear, which is a huge plus in a jacket packed with technical features.
- What We Would Change: The zipper makes the hood opening a bit snug when fully zipped and the material holds its wrinkles when you pull it out of the pouch [only a slight issue if you’re someone like me who uses trail gear to go into not-at-all-trail settings!]. Also, pockets…because I’m needy and I truly enjoy walking off the trail with my hands in my pockets, especially if it’s raining.
- Fit + Feel: Sized into a medium and it is a great fit. The jacket is designed with additional elbow room allowing for full range of motion no matter what you’re doing. The medium has sleeves that measure at 22 inches and a length of 28 inches.
- Pockets + Packability: There are no pockets in this jacket, but it does come with a small, bungee pouch to pack up your jacket.
- Hood Fit + Adjustment: The hood fits nicely with a small wired brim and a soft material around the outer edge. There is one adjustable bungee in the back.
- Waterproof + Breathability Rating: The jacket’s GORE-TEX material has a waterproof rating of 28K and not listed windproof rating.
- Seams + Zipper: All of the seams are fully taped and the zipper has a waterproof coating and internal flap.
Black Diamond FineLine Stretch Rain Shell
The Black Diamond FineLine Stretch Rain Shell is all of the things the name implies — it is stretchy and it is a legitimate rain jacket. The stretchy feel of the material allows for a full range of motion no matter what you’re doing, and this includes running, snowboarding, snowshoeing and packing the car. At no point, in the rain or snow, did this jacket let me down. It is a bit heavier than the ultra-light trail running jackets but it is designed as an alpine jacket. As a trail runner, a lot of the adventuring happens in the alpine — a similarly unforgiving environment — so it is easy to find an excuse to use the BD FineLine jacket as a running rain jacket.
What We Loved: Overall, this is an impressive rain jacket. The comfort of the fit and the range of motion is great. Also, it’s packable…into itself!
- What We Would Change: Considering this is a jacket designed for alpine mountaineering [ie: often wearing a climbing harness] it’s a bit counterintuitive to ask for pockets…but pockets would be ah-mazing. This jacket is great for off the trail and pockets to stash your hands while walking in town is the only thing I request of it! [The chest pocket is great for your phone, on and off the trail].
- Fit + Feel: Sized into a medium and it is a good fit throughout. It fits comfortably when standing still or in motion, allowing for a full range of motion in the arms. The medium has sleeves that measure at 23 inches and a length of 26.5 inches.
- Pockets + Packability: This jacket has one pocket on the chest that can also be used to pack away the jacket.
- Hood Fit + Adjustment: There is a lot of hood, including a wide brim and a zipper the comes up your chin. When standing still, this is amazing. When you’re on the move the brim can feel excessive, but you can fold it back. There is one adjustment for the hood, pulling it tighter against the back of your head. The hood is helmet-compatible, making this a multi-sport rain jacket!
- Waterproof + Breathability Rating: This jacket is made with the BD.dry 2.5L material which has a waterproof rating of 10K and a breathability rating of 10K.
- Seams + Zipper: The seams are fully taped and the zipper has a PU coating.
RaidLight Extreme MP+ Waterproof Jacket
The RaidLight Extreme MP+ Waterproof Jacket comes with a handful of great features that are not limited to above standard waterproof and breathability ratings. You’ll find extra adjustments on the hood, loops for each thumb, a window to view your watch on your left wrist and variable material throughout the jacket. The most functional feature is easily the variability of material. When you’re running around the trails you get sweaty, even on the rainiest or coldest days. RaidLight found a solution to keep a waterproof jacket more breathable — adding a more breathable material under your arms! This does not affect the overall waterproofness or the durability of the jacket but it does help regulate your temperature.
What We Loved: This jacket has some great features, including the thumb loops, a watch window on the left wrist and extremely breathable underarm material.
- What We Would Change: The fit is a bit awkward, especially if you have longer arms and really value your full range of motion. The thumb loops help, but it would be nice to get another two inches on the sleeve length [said a very long-armed lady!].
- Fit + Feel: Sized into a medium and the fit is okay. The sleeves are a bit short and even with the thumb loops, there is some restriction in movement if you’re trying to keep your wrists dry. The medium has sleeves that measure at 21 inches and a length of 27 inches.
- Pockets + Packability: There are two pockets at the waist and one of them has a reverse zipper, becoming a zipper pouch for the jacket when you want to pack it down.
- Hood Fit + Adjustment: The hood fits snuggly with three points of adjustment — one in the back, one at each side near your ears. The top of the zipper is a bit tight against your chin when the hood is secured, but you can also unzip this slightly.
- Waterproof + Breathability Rating: This jacket has a waterproof rating of 15K and a breathability rating of 15K-20K [15K body rating, 20K underarm rating].
- Seams + Zipper: The seams are fully taped and the zipper appears to have a PU coating [websites/tags state “waterproof zipper”].
The North Face Flight FUTURELIGHT
The North Face Flight FUTURELIGHT rain jacket is the latest in their Flight Series of legitimate adventure apparel. It is a lightweight, fully waterproof jacket designed for running. When wearing this jacket you’ll immediately notice how soft and malleable the material is, unlike some of the stiff rain jackets out there. It is also very easy to pack into the small pocket on the back [a new take on rain jacket pockets that is appreciated!]. You’ll find this jacket to be great for a variety of outdoor activities.
What We Loved: The jacket is incredibly lightweight while still feeling durable and it is designed around running which makes for a nicely fitting hood when you need peripheral vision.
- What We Would Change: The sleeves are a bit snug when wearing anything more than a tank top, so you may want to size up if you like to layer your jacket with a long sleeve.
- Fit + Feel: Sized into a medium and the fit is okay. The sleeves feel tight when you’re wearing a thin long sleeve shirt under the jacket, although they are comfortable if you’re wearing just a tank or t-shirt. The medium has sleeves that measure at 21 inches and a length of 26 inches.
- Pockets + Packability: There is one pocket in the back, along the waistline hem that can be used to pack the jacket.
- Hood Fit + Adjustment: The hood fits nicely and has a single adjustment in the back to tighten it down if needed.
- Waterproof + Breathability Rating: This jacket is touted as fully waterproof/breathable/windproof due to the FUTURELIGHT technology; however, numbers to justify this rating were not readily available.
- Seams + Zipper: The seams are fully taped and the zipper has a waterproof coating as well as internal flap.
**Yup, I managed to forget to take a photo of the TNF FUTURELIGHT jacket when I put it through the ringer in the PNW so you get a snowy photo from Colorado instead — works good in snow too, fwiw!**
Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 is the second rendition of this runner specific rain jacket. It has very high waterproof and breathability ratings [30K!] which rank it among the most waterproof running jackets on the market. The overall fit and function of the jacket is quite good with the unique feature of hidden mitts to keep your hands dry as well. This is a great concept and UD does an okay job of executing it in this jacket. That said, I find the jacket to be most functional without the mitts — my arms are too long for my hands to fit outstretched in the mitts. Overall, this is a solid, packable jacket that has accompanied me on may adventures.
What We Loved: There is some great innovation and creativity in the build of this jacket, including the mitts, under arm breathability and cinched back. These small variations make for a comfortable fit and function of the jacket.
- What We Would Change: The mitts are great…but if you’re hiking with your hands at your side the mitts quickly fill with water dripping off your sleeves. You won’t notice this until you pick up your arm to have all that water stream from the mitts into your sleeve. A small drainage hole at the bottom of the mitts would mitigate this unpleasant experience.
- Fit + Feel: Sized into a medium and the fit is okay. When you’re running the fit feels fine, but if you’re reaching or stretching the sleeves and shoulders get a bit tight. The medium has sleeves that measure at 21 inches and a length of 27 inches.
- Pockets + Packability: The jacket has no outer pockets but there is one small pouch with flap on the inner left chest. This pouch can be used to stash the jacket.
- Hood Fit + Adjustment: The hood is great and has an adjustable wire brim. There is also an adjustment at the back of the hood to secure it if needed.
- Waterproof + Breathability Rating: The jacket has a waterproof rating of 30K and a breathability rating of 30K.
- Seams + Zipper: All seams are fully taped and the zipper is waterproofed as well.
Salomon Lightning Race WP JKT
The Salomon Lightning Race WP JKT is an incredibly lightweight jacket designed for running adventures where weight truly matters. This jacket meets all the waterproof and breathability requirements of many ultra trail races while still keeping it simple. Without pockets or hood adjustability the jacket stays lightweight and functional. That said, the sizing seems to be a bit small so sizing up is recommended if you intend to add any layers under your jacket.
What We Loved: This jacket is very lightweight while still being completely waterproof. It is a minimalist rain jacket without many additional features but the simplicity is still very functional.
- What We Would Change: Having a designated way to pack down this jacket would be nice — I always fear I will tear such a thin, lightweight jacket when I’m simply shoving it into my pack.
- Fit + Feel: Sized into a small, which is very tight. Would recommend sizing up, especially if you prefer to layer your rain jacket with long sleeves. Mobility and range of motion were limited by tightness of the jacket. The small has sleeves that measure at 19.5 inches and a length of 25 inches.
- Pockets + Packability: There are no pockets in this jacket, meaning there is no designated way to pack this jacket but it is very lightweight and easy to stash in your pack on the move.
- Hood Fit + Adjustment: The hood fits snugly with a small brim but no adjustability.
- Waterproof + Breathability Rating: This jacket is made with AdvancedSkin Dry 10K/10K, which has a waterproof rating of 10K and a breathability rating of 10K.
- Seams + Zipper: All seams are fully taped and the zipper is waterproof with both internal and external flaps.
|Jacket Brand||Waterproof / Breathability||Taped Seams||Hood Adjustments||Sleeve Length||Neck-to-Hem Length|
|Arc’teryx||28K / unlisted||Yes||1 in back||22 inches||28 inches|
|Black Diamond||10K / 10K||Yes||1 in back||23 inches||26.5 inches|
|RaidLight||15K / 15K-20K||Yes||1 in back, 1 on each side||22 inches [+ thumb loop!]||27 inches|
|The North Face||unlisted||Yes||1 in back||21 inches||26 inches|
|Ultimate Direction||30K / 30K||Yes||1 in back, 1 on each side||21 inches||27 inches|
|Salomon||10K / 10K||Yes||no adjustments||19.5 inches [size small]||25 inches [size small]|
We hope this detailed review provides the information you need to purchase a new rain jacket, whether for your running drawer or your dog-walking kit!
My husband had been raving about his BD Fineline jacket for months so I finally got one late last fall. He’s right, I love it! BD nailed the fabric with its stretch, breathability and repellency. I confess that I haven’t run in it yet but I’ve XC skied, shoveled and walked in it and have been quite pleased and have no doubt that it will serve me well on a wet or snowy run.
The sizing seems spot on and I wear my normal XS for BD.
Thanks for this gear round up!
Yes — BD did an amazing job with the Fineline and I’m with you, I’ve used it more for snowsports than running!
Not sure how jackets are selected but would love to see Oiselle products included….their Vim jacket is awesome!