Sep '23

Stay Dry and Comfortable: The Ultimate Guide to Breathable Rain Jackets

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As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, I know how important it is to have reliable rain protection. Nothing can derail an adventure faster than getting drenched by an unexpected downpour. But with so many rain jacket options on the market, how do you choose the best one for your needs?

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about breathable rain jackets – from how they work to my top picks for both men and women. A good breathable jacket is crucial for staying dry without getting soaked in sweat. Let’s dive in!


I’ll never forget the time I got caught in a torrential rainstorm while hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Without a rain jacket, I was immediately drenched to the bone. My cotton hoodie clung to me, doubling in weight from all the water. I was wet, cold, and miserable for the rest of the hike. It was then that I realized the importance of a high-quality breathable rain jacket.

Unlike regular raincoats designed to keep water out, breathable jackets have special membranes that allow sweat vapor to escape. This prevents that clammy, damp feeling you get when moisture has nowhere to go. A good breathable jacket will keep rain from soaking through while also letting excess heat and humidity escape.

In this guide, I’ll share my top picks for breathable rain jackets – for both men and women. You’ll learn the key factors that impact breathability and comfort. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about how to choose, use, and care for modern waterproof, breathable jackets. Let’s get started!

Top 5 Breathable Rain Jackets

When shopping for a breathable rain jacket, you’ll encounter a dizzying array of brands, fabrics, features and prices. To help narrow down the options, I’ve highlighted my top 5 picks:

1. Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket

The Patagonia Torrentshell is my top choice for an affordable, high-performing breathable jacket perfect for hiking and backpacking. I love the adjustable hood, zippered pockets, and versatile 3-layer H2No Performance Standard fabric. It’s durable, packable, and excels at releasing moisture. around $129

2. Outdoor Research Foray Jacket

Outdoor Research’s Foray Jacket gets rave reviews for its breathability. The AscentShell fabric is very air permeable and the jacket features zippered underarm vents. It also has an adjustable hood and robust waterproofing. It’s great for active pursuits like hiking, climbing, and mountain biking. Around $215.

3. Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket

This jacket is at the high end for a reason – it’s built for alpine environments and rugged adventures. The GORE-TEX fabric is light and breathable while also being seriously waterproof. The fit is trim and articulated. Around $425.

4. Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket

For a good value, the PreCip Eco is tough to beat. It uses a proprietary NanoPro fabric for waterproof/breathable protection. I like the angel wing movement design and packable stuff sack. It’s a great choice for budget-conscious hikers and travelers. Around $100.

5. The North Face Venture 2 Jacket

From a leading outdoor brand, this jacket performs impressively well given its reasonable price point. The Venture 2 utilizes DryVent fabric and is seam-sealed for waterproofness. It packs into its own pocket and comes in a variety of styles. Around $100.

When comparing these jackets, you’ll notice a wide range of prices. This comes down to the brands, fabrics used, and technical features. For occasional use, a budget-friendly option from Patagonia or The North Face is perfect. For extreme weather, it’s worth investing in a premium jacket from Arc’teryx or Outdoor Research. Take into account your needs and budget.

How to Choose a Breathable Rain Jacket

Beyond the top brand name options, there are a few key factors to consider when choosing a breathable rain jacket:

Price Range

Breathable jackets range from $75 to $500+. In general, under $150 gets a solid entry-level jacket from reputable brands. $150-300 provides added durability, features, and performance for regular use. Above $300 are premium jackets with the highest-end waterproof/breathable fabrics.


Popular waterproof, breathable fabrics include GORE-TEX, eVent, H2No, DryVent, and proprietary branded materials. High-end choices like GORE-TEX offer impressive breathability and weather protection. But less expensive brands like Marmot’s NanoPro provide good performance on a budget.

Breathability Ratings

Look for the MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate). The higher the number, the more breathable the jacket. 10,000-20,000 is decent, while above 20,000 is very breathable. These numbers help quantify a jacket’s ability to ventilate.

Fit and Sizing

Try on jackets to ensure a trim athletic fit. Take your typical size or size down if between sizes. Look for adjustable waists, cuffs, and hoods to dial in the fit. Light, stretchy fabrics also allow for better range of motion.

Key Features

Look for a stowable hood, zippered pockets, adjustable hems, and underarm venting. These allow you to adapt the jacket for maximum comfort and protection in varied conditions.

Intended Uses

Light rain calls for an ultralight poncho. Cold weather and storms demand a jacket with more insulation and weather resistance. Make sure to get a jacket suited for your climate and intended activities.

Care and Maintenance

Follow washing instructions to preserve the DWR coating. Periodically reapply DWR treatment to maintain water beading. Use repair tape to fix small holes. retire a jacket once it has suffered extensive abrasion or delamination.

By keeping these factors in mind, you’ll be equipped to select the perfect breathable rain jacket for your needs and budget. Try on various styles and fabrics to see what works for your body type.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Breathable Rain Jackets

How is breathability measured in rain jackets?

Breathability is measured by the MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) – the amount of water vapor that can pass through a fabric over a given time. The higher the MVTR, the more breathable the jacket.

What fabrics are most breathable for rain jackets?

GORE-TEX Pro, eVent, Polartec NeoShell and other proprietary fabrics offer the highest breathability by using densely packed microporous membranes. But less expensive options like DryVent also provide good ventilation.

Do you need a breathable jacket for light rain?

Breathability becomes more important as the intensity and duration of rain exposure increases. For a quick sun shower, even a basic plastic poncho may suffice. But enduring heavy rainfall demands a breathable jacket to avoid drenching sweat buildup inside.

How to re-waterproof a breathable jacket?

Wash the jacket according to instructions, then apply a DWR (durable water repellent) spray once fully dried to restore water beading. DWR chemicals cause water to roll off the outer fabric while still allowing air exchange inside. Reapply DWR every 1-2 years.

Are all Gore-Tex jackets breathable?

Yes, breathability is a key property of any Gore-Tex jacket. But within the Gore-Tex line, a Pro or Active jacket will provide higher breathability than basic Gore-Tex. Pay attention to the specific technology used.

How breathable are rain jackets for hot weather?

Some are designed specifically for humid and warm conditions, like the Columbia Watertight II. Look for ventilation features like pit zips and mesh lining or back panel. But in hot and humid weather, increased breathability comes at the cost of reduced waterproofness.

Why do some rain jackets have pit zips?

Pit zips are zippered underarm vents that allow you to increase airflow as needed. This provides enhanced temperature and humidity control through added ventilation. They are useful for aerobic activities in hot weather.

What are common sizing issues with rain jackets?

Some models run big to fit over layers, so consider sizing down. Athletic fits are ideal for mobility. Look for adjustable cuffs, hem, and hood for dialing in the fit. If stuck between sizes, size down for a trim profile or up for more room to layer.

How to wash a breathable rain jacket?

Check label for specific directions. Use a gentle detergent without fabric softener. Turn jacket inside out and use a front-loading machine on the delicate cycle. Tumble dry low or line dry. Harsh detergents and high heat can degrade waterproof membranes over time.

What are signs it’s time to replace your old rain jacket?

Once the inner membrane is compromised, moisture will soak through. Check for delamination, large holes, loss of water beading, accumulated grime, fabric breakdown, or excessive odor that won’t wash out. If repair is not possible, it’s time to replace your faithful jacket with a new one.


I hope this guide has helped shed light on the critical factors to consider when choosing a breathable rain jacket. The right jacket provides that perfect balance of waterproof protection and sweat-wicking ventilation. It can make the difference between soggy misery and comfortable enjoyment in wet weather.

Test out different jackets to see which fabrics and features work best for your climate and needs. Look for durable waterproofing, breathable membranes, and adjustable designs that allow for custom airflow. With proper selection, care and maintenance, a breathable rain jacket can be your trusty companion for years of adventures ahead!

Let me know if you have any other questions as you shop for the perfect jacket. I’m happy to offer more personalized recommendations. Stay dry, and keep exploring!


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