How to choose the right rain gear

Anyone who spends time in the outdoors is inevitably going to do so in the rain.  Hiking, hunting, fishing or being anywhere outside of Arica Chile will end up dealing with rain.  Arica has a rainfall average of .03 in annually.  Being wet leads to being cool and eventually cold.  Being cold can lead to being dead in some cases of extreme hypothermia.  Having the right rain gear can be vital to staying alive.  This should help you make sense of all the terms and products out there to help choose what is the best option for you.

Each year underprepared people inevitably need to be helped or even rescued.  Just ask Brad Phillips and his step son about their experience with hypothermia on the Appalachian Trail.  They had to be rescued in the spring of 2015 while on a weekend section hike.  Being rained on is so inevitable Julianne wrote a candid article of 10 tips for hiking in the rain.

Waterproof and Breathable Laminates

Laminates are a membrane style waterproofing.  A thin porous membrane is laminated between an outer shell material and an interior protective layer.  The pores are small enough to not allow liquid to penetrate the membrane.  They are still large enough to be breathable and allow moisture to pass through. described it as wallpaper laminated to a wall.  Great analogy!


Examples: Gore-Tex brand, eVent, Dry Q

Pricing: $150-$500+

Warranty: “Thank you for purchasing your GORE-TEX® Brand product. With our Guaranteed to Keep You Dry™ Promise, if you are not completely satisfied with the waterproof, windproof or breathable performance of your GORE- TEX® product, Gore will repair it, replace it or refund your purchase price.” –

Pros: Waterproofing longevity, durability, breathability, warranty, flexibility

Cons: Price, possibly weight (depending on product)

Note: Water can be forced through this membrane.  If you walk through a grassy meadow in the spring your feet can get wet, ask any spring hiker or turkey hunter.

Marmott Minimalist Jacket $200

Montbell Torrent flyer Jacket $225 (I own this jacket & absolutely love it!  Only 8.6 oz!)








Waterproof and Breathable Coatings

The waterproofing is based off of a liquid  or spray applied directly to the fabric. describes it as paint spread on a wall.  Another great analogy!

Examples: NanoPro’s™ by Marmott, Hyvent by The North Face

Pricing: $30-$130

Warranty: “We warrant every product we make to be free of manufacturer defects. Should you have a warranty issue, return the item to us and we will repair it if possible or replace all valid warranty items.  Normal wear and tear, modifications, alterations, negligence, damage and use for a purpose other than for which it was designed, are not covered under Marmot Warranty. However, we do repair items for a reasonable fee, if they have been determined to not be covered. If this is the case, you will be notified of the amount prior to any action taken.”

Pros: Price, price, price, weight, but mostly PRICE

Cons: Waterproofing longevity, breathability

Marmott Storm Watch Jacket $130(I also own this jacket it lost its repellency after about 1 year of heavy use)

Frogg Toggs® Ultra Lite Rain Jacket $20


Waterproof Non-breathable Rainwear

This is a material that is fully coated to achieve it’s waterproofing but not permit moisture to escape at all.  This is the classic rain coat.  If you think of offshore fishermen, you’ll think of these style rain jackets.

Examples: Helox+ by Helly Hansen, PVC coated Polyester

Pricing: $10-$60

Warranty:  depends on manufacturer, many have no warranty

Pros: The only thing cheaper is a contractor bag, durability

Cons: Zero breathability, limited flexibility and stretch

Wealers Adult Portable Lightweight PVC Long Size Hooded Raincoat $9

Helly Hansen VOSS Jacket $55









Other Options

There are two other things that are definitely worth mentioned aside from traditional rain jackets.  Umbrellas and ponchos are both reasonable options for hikers.  Umbrellas can serve a dual purpose for rain protection and shade.  There are ultra light umbrellas out there and they can be attached to a shoulder strap, or a backpack for hands free use.  Big Tex did an article dedicated to umbrellas here.  Poncho’s have been around seemingly forever.  The offer great freedom of movement and protection for not just the hiker but also their backpacks at the same time.  They come in many different materials from PVC $2 Wal-Mart specials to the $155 ZPacks Cuben Fiber Groundsheet-Poncho.


ZPacks Ground-sheet Poncho $155

Montbell Trekking Umbrella $40



Personally I have owned soft shell and coating style rain jacket for years.  I would spend about $100 annually on a new jacket.  I wear my shells to death.  I wear it as a rain jacket, a wind breaker and as part of my winter layering system over a down jacket.

Spending several hundred dollars over the years on what I consider to be mid range products has come to an end.  I would rather spend the money upfront to get the right quality product that’s going to last years.

Related: Check out a few more recommended rain jackets in our suggested Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Gear List.

What have your experiences been with the different types of rain gear?  What keeps you dry and what needs to be sent to Goodwill?  Leave your comments below.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • Karl : Sep 6th

    Hmm…no mention of rain pants or skirts … maybe it should have been titled “Choosing the right rain jacket”?


What Do You Think?