10 Best Backpacking Jackets Reviewed & Compared
Being stuck out in the wilderness with nothing but your skin to protect you from the elements is a rookie move. That is why we researched and came up with the 10 Best Backpacking Jackets for 2019. We took out some of the hassle of you finding the best backpacking jacket by compiling a solid library of high standard evaluation criteria.
Scroll through our lineup and check out the competition as well as hit up our FAQs and Q&A. These sections give very detailed info on what makes our list the best of the best. We’re pretty certain there is something for everyone in our ranks.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
- Marmot Precip
- Columbia Pouration
- Marmot Minimalist
- Outdoor Research Foray
- Mountain Hardwear Whisperer
- The North Face FuseForm
- Arc'teryx Zeta LT
- Black Diamond Fineline Stretch
- Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic
- Mountain Hardwear Exponent
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Favorite Backpacking Jackets
1. Marmot Precip
The Marmot Precip continues to be a very popular jacket amongst hikers due to its unparalleled value for its functionality. Hikers get a waterproof, breathable jacket that features pit zips, an adjustable hood, and pockets for a price tag that screams great value.Read more
This highly water-resistant jacket is fully DWR coated and has proved durable over several months of testing. The outer shell is backed up by an interior lining, and the seams are fully taped, making this jacket weatherproof.
The proprietary Marmot NanoPro membrane helps to vent sweat, offering much better breathability than other jackets in the same price range.
Light and packable at just under 11 ounces, the Precip can also stow away into its own pocket when not being used, making it easy to stuff into a backpack.
Extra ventilation features are notable on this jacket, including pit zips and mesh-lined hand pockets. The Precip also includes a fully adjustable, stowable hood, a small fleece patch at the chin for comfort and a drawstring hem.
The DWR coated ripstop nylon on the outside of this jacket will keep you dry and warm on the trails. The relaxed fit allows backpackers to layer more insulation underneath.
The Precip is available in a variety of classic colors and traditional design. The relaxed fit runs slightly large, so backpackers looking for a trim fit might want to size down.
It’s hard to beat the variety of features and functionality of this jacket for its price tag under $100. The Precip is a great all-around option for the backpacker on a budget.
2. Columbia Pouration
Soft feel makes it comfortable
Folds up in its pocket for easy travel
Suitable for all seasons
Cheaper than other jackets
Hood runs big
Although the Columbia Pouration Jacket is light, it is loaded down with weatherproofing features galore while being breathable and compact. It claims a spot on our 10 Best Backpacking Jackets for its versatility, durability and all the advanced technology it has built into the epic design.Read more
Columbia swears by the Omni-Tech technology and consumers agree. The Pouration is sensationally arid but doesn't allow any water to leak through. It is a 100% nylon rip-stop material, making it warm and durable as well.
Columbia has actually pulled through and made a material that is undeniably unique. The Omni-tech that makes the Pouration 100% waterproof, also makes the jacket cooling and wicking; air just runs right through it.
The lining is a 100% polyester mesh and works as a light insulating layer without interfering with airflow. Columbia also equipped the Pouration with pit vents to add even more cooling to the construction.
While being labeled by users as having a perfect fit, the Columbia Pouration Jacket also packs into a perfect size for stowing away when not needed. The hood even rolls away into a compartment if you're just looking for a little extra protection but don’t need the coverage.
Actually, the whole jacket rolls into one of its waterproofed zipper pockets, compact is an understatement. The hood is also adjustable as well as the hems while adding a waterproof chest pocket and two zippered hand pockets for extra space.
Columbia Pouration doesn't just look light all balled up and compacted in its own pocket, it is light. It adds everything you need to protect yourself from the elements while still offering the minimalist weight design backpackers look for in gear. It is actually pretty impressive.
Columbia Pouration is a backpacking jacket with attitude. It’s a light shell design but works like a full-sized heavyweight. It sheds water so well it doesn't even have time to bead up, like a forcefield for the elements.
It also offers a taller shaped collar to keep the neck warm if you decide the hood isn’t needed. This is just another great fitting feature to the Pouration's roomy coveted design.
Consumers are raving about the Columbia Pouration and it isn't any secret that Columbia has high standards on gear at a decent price. Furthermore, for under a Benjamin, you're getting one heck of a Hiking jacket that is going to protect and last through tons of backpacking adventures.
3. Marmot Minimalist
Pit zips for ventilation
Fully taped seams
Some didn't feel it was as breathable as it should be
This is a lightweight option made from Gore-Tex that is breathable and durable. Fully taped seams make it pretty much bombproof when it comes to repelling moisture, and it has pit zips to help you manage ventilation. The waist has a drawstring to keep out even more weather, and there are zippered pockets on the sides and on the chest.Read more
Weather Resistance and Breathability
It's made from Gore-Tex which is a high-quality fabric that is both waterproof and breathable. The seams are fully taped and heat sealed to keep out moisture and reviewers felt it did this job very well. Most reviewers were happy with how it let moisture escape although a couple people felt it didn't wick moisture even though it's made from Gore-Tex.
Weight and Features
It's called the Minimalist because it's very lightweight at only 3.6 ounces. It has some pretty cool stuff included, such as weatherproof zippers and a fitted hood that does a good job of keeping out the weather.
4. Outdoor Research Foray
Full side zips
Adjustable and stowable hood
Drop tail hem
Slightly heavier than comparable jackets
This versatile multisport jacket from an experienced brand combines impressive durability with functionality and comfort. It offers excellent weatherproofing, freedom of movement and innovative venting features such as full-length side zips.Read more
Gore-Tex fabric with Paclite technology helps to make the Foray extremely waterproof and windproof. The laminate holds up well and can be retouched down the road by re-apply a DWR coating.
This jacket combines its weatherproofing with innovative ventilation features. The 2.5 layer Gore-Tex membrane is permeable and breathable. At the same time, the Foray includes full-length side zips as part of its “TorsoFlo” system that allows you to wear the jacket as a poncho. Perfect for variable temperature conditions and hikers who tend to overheat.
Weighing in at just under 16 ounces, the Foray packs well but is slightly heavier than comparable jackets.
This model gets points for its innovative side-zip venting system, drop tail hem and large adjustable hood that cinches down to stow away. Also includes two large hand pockets and a convenient chest-high media pocket.
The Foray is a versatile hard shell that doesn’t include any insulation, but its relaxed fit allows for layering underneath in cold conditions.
Classic colors and a minimalist design make this jacket a favorite. The fit allows for layering but doesn’t appear baggy.
The Foray offers good value for its incredible versatility in a variety of inclement weather conditions. This is an all-around hard shell that can hold its own while spring skiing or winter hiking.
5. Mountain Hardwear Whisperer
Warm 800 count down fill
Very lightweight only 8 oz.
Tapered, athletic cut
Limited lifetime warranty
Thin fabric may not be durable
Zipper is fragile
This is a down-filled option for those who want something that will keep them warm in the backcountry but won't take up a lot of room in their pack. It's extremely lightweight as well as windproof and water repellent. The company stands behind their products and it has a limited lifetime warranty that will cover you in case of any problems with the materials or construction.Read more
Weather Resistance and Breathability
This isn't meant to be a raincoat, but it will stop the wind and reviewers said it does repel a bit of rain. This isn't really breathable because of the nature of the product type.
Weight and Features
It's only 8 ounces, which the company claims it's the lightest product of its type. The fabric is woven very tightly so it will stop down from coming out of it while also making it waterproof. It also folds into its own pocket for easy storage in your pack.
It has an athletic, tapered cut, and is perfect for staying warm in the mountains without taking up too much space in your backpack.
6. The North Face FuseForm
The FuseForm checks all the boxes - waterproof, wind resistant, lightweight, and warm. It will keep an intrepid hiker safe from the elements. Its engineering includes highly functional extra features such as an adjustable hood and different fabric types for high-wear areas.Read more
This is a lightweight, technical rain shell that is built to last. Designed with mountaineering in mind, it will cut out even strong alpine winds. The FuseForm features HyVent waterproofing technology, consisting of a multilayer polyurethane coating that provides superior moisture protection. Fully sealed seams complete the deal.
The proprietary HyVent weatherproof membrane provides excellent breathability, not only keeping out the rain but also allowing for moisture permeability through the layers of coating.
This lightweight jacket is a great option for stuffing into a loaded pack, tipping the scale right around 12 ounces.
The FuseForm is packed with extra features that will round out your comfort on the trail, including zipped hand pockets, a drawstring hem, attached adjustable storm hood and pit zips for extra ventilation. The jacket is also constructed to include extra-strong nylon fibers in areas of high wear on the shoulders.
This is an ultralight option that helps keep you warm by blocking wind and wicking sweat, great for summer and spring conditions, or as a shell with an insulating garment worn underneath.
Comes in a range of colors appealing to a variety of tastes, from a bold red to steely charcoal. The Dot Matrix pattern is subtle and edgy.
A great price for a packable, functional jacket that is a great all-around option for adventuring in all kinds of weather, and offers a variety of extra features.
7. Arc'teryx Zeta LT
No pit zips
This versatile shell provides top-of-the-line weather protection features. With excellent quality construction, durability, packability and the inclusion of a storm hood, hikers will have no problems weathering the elements, although the price tag reflects the excellent quality of these features.Read more
GoreTex 3 layer construction of this jacket combines the bombproof weather protection of a beefier hardshell jacket with the comfort and lightweight of a packable rain jacket. Watertight zippers are a plus.
The new “C-knit” inner fabric of the Zeta is a light, incredibly breathable lining that helps to transfer your body heat to the outside; it’s also soft and comfortable and mitigates that typical clammy feeling of a rain jacket against your skin.
At 11.8 ounces, the Zeta is impressively light for a heavier-duty, stormproof 3-layer jacket. It rolls up small particularly given the amount of protection that it offers.
The deep “StormHood” is a striking feature of this jacket that keeps the rain off your face and nose. High-set hand pockets are easy to access to stash small go-to equipment and snacks on the trail.
This is a slightly thicker shell than other options on the list, that will keep you warmest through its full weatherproofing capabilities. In the coldest conditions, layering underneath is still advisable.
This jacket epitomizes Arc’teryx’s signature sleek style. The Zeta LT offers a streamlined fit that comes in a range of modern colors.
This is a jacket of excellent durability and construction - and this is reflected in the price. If you’re going for the best quality out there, and you aren’t budget-limited, look no further.
8. Black Diamond Fineline Stretch
Packs into its own chest pocket
Not the most durable option
This option is super packable and can fold into its own chest pocket and then hung from your pack or belt from the included carabiner. It's incredibly waterproof and will really keep you dry in a downpour. It comes in four nice colors and the hood is climbing or bicycle helmet compatible.Read more
Weather Resistance and Breathability
The company claims that this product has an extreme waterproof rating and will stay breathable in the rain for up to 24 hours.
Weight and Features
It weighs just 8.1 ounces and the material is stretchy to allow you to move freely. It's designed to pack into its own chest pocket and then be hung from the included carabiner. The hood is highly adjustable and will fit a climbing or bicycle helmet comfortably underneath.
It has an athletic, tapered cut that flatters most physiques.
9. Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic
Flexibility allows freedom of movement
This is a great choice for runners who need waterproof protection as well as backpackers to stuff in their pack for when the rain rolls in. It's fully waterproof with taped seams and high-quality construction. It's also really flexible so it's great to run and hike in because the stretch allows great freedom of movement.Read more
Weather Resistance and Breathability
This option has fully-taped waterproof seams and Mountain Hardware's Dry Q fabric to keep water out. This fabric is will also let moisture from inside out to help keep you dry on all levels.
Weight and Features
The men's version is 9.7 ounces while the women's is 8.4 which is light for this type of product. It has velcro cuffs and a well-designed front zipper that keeps moisture out while giving you ventilation options. The hood is adjustable and keeps it shape in the rain and snow.
10. Mountain Hardwear Exponent
Zipped hand pockets
May need to size up to allow layering
The proprietary Mountain Hardware VaporDry technology will keep you dry inside and out hiking through a storm with this good value option.Read more
The 2.5 L membrane of the VaporDry material, combined with the water resistant AquaGuard front zipper,l makes for a lightweight, durable rain shell that will keep you sheltered in the storm. The dense weave of the 100% nylon ripstop outermost layer doubles to cut out harsh winds, too.
Mountain Hardwear’s proprietary membrane offers excellent breathability, wicking away sweat as you work hard going uphill with a heavy pack.
Notching a weight of around 9 oz for the women’s jacket, this is a light option that won’t drag down your pack over a long trip.
The Exponent doesn’t sell short on key features. A cinched hem that keeps out wind, two zipped front pockets, a two-way adjustable hood, and pit zips combine to keep you comfortable and dry out in the woods or on the mountaintop. The jacket stows away into its own pocket for packing convenience.
This is a midweight rain shell compared to others on this list, that will keep out the elements. The relaxed fit leaves ample opportunity for layering.
The Exponent has an athletic fit and comes in both bright and traditional colors with a two-tone design for those who prefer an understated but modern look.
A great price for a light, packable jacket that is functional, stylish and versatile and offers performance that will last.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The essential role of any backpacking outer layer is to keep out inclement weather. While you are running, it can be easier to warm yourself up once you start moving, and it’s often quicker to move to shelter in case of an emergency. When backpacking, though, you should consider that you move more slowly, take longer to warm up, and might be far away from protection if a storm hits. It’s crucial for both comfort and health to have a shell stashed in your pack that will keep harsh weather at bay. We looked for jackets that offer excellent protection against both water and wind.
Maintaining your body temperature on the trail is important, for your own comfort, and particularly for your safety. Exposure and cold can be very dangerous when you are far away from quick methods to warm yourself up. We focused on jackets for this list whose all-around weatherproofing capabilities, thickness and allowance for layering will ensure that you can stay warm and dry on your trip. In many cases, we selected jackets that act as a hard shell and will allow you to wear insulating clothing underneath when traveling in the coldest conditions.
Water protection in your jacket should come from the inside out: it doesn’t matter that your jacket can keep out a downpour if you are still getting soaked in your own sweat. The jackets that we selected are not only waterproof but also breathable; special membranes help to vent excess moisture from your body, so that the inside of your jacket stays dry, too. That means that when you stop for a photo op or a trailside snack break, your body temperature will stay more regulated, as you won’t have a large quantity of pooled sweat to cool you down quickly.
Different hikers respond to exertion differently. Not everyone will sweat the same amount trekking the same trail. If you tend to overheat while walking, the breathable membrane in a jacket’s fabric may not be enough for you to keep cool. Try to select an option that allows you to manually vent excess heat through pit zips or full side zips. This can help to regulate your temperature over the long run, particularly important during longer hikes – too much sweat building up can leave you shivering later once you stop walking.
Weight is one of the first specifications a true hiker or backpacker looks at when searching for gear. Every ounce adds up and the lighter the pack the easier the stroll.
Forunately, with all of todays high-tech advancements, finding weight friendly backpacking gear is easier than ever. Lighter Goretex and ripstop nylon, among other technologies have taken out the bulk while still maintaining above average weatherproofing.
We made sure stick to the backpacking formula with our 10 Best Backpacking Jackets, choosing shells that can breathe, protect and won’t weight you down. They all offer minimal weight with maximum coverage.
Different jackets offer varying combinations of extra features that add functionality and comfort. In the final 10, we made sure to include jackets with a range of feature combinations, from ultralight minimalist jackets with few pockets, to options that are loaded with extras. Your personal preference, and how you intend to use this piece of outerwear, will influence which jacket is best suited to you.
Your personal habits and style might make one jacket stand out to you over others. Do you like to listen to music or a podcast as you cruise the trail? Then, you might want to investigate a jacket that has a pocket to accommodate a phone or media player. If aesthetics are important to you, be sure to search the list for a jacket whose design fits well with your personal style.
A jacket that suits your personal style can make you feel confident and enthusiastic as you stride the trail. In this list, you will find different style types, from more traditional and classic cuts and colors to bright, bold, and modern options.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
A good backpacking jacket is basically a necessity for outdoor activity, so make sure your purchase has a decent warranty and reputation.
You'll definitely want to look for these if you're often out in the rain with your electronic devices.
Other Factors to Consider
Last, but certainly not least, your backpacking budget will inform your choice of jacket. We’ve included a range of prices in our jacket selection, with options to splurge and save, but never to lose out on quality, features, and durability. We chose backpacking jackets that provide great value for the features and functionality that they offer for their price tag.
As every experienced backpacker knows, weight can be a crucial factor when packing items for a trip. For the longest trips and thru-hikers, every ounce matters. Think about what types of trips you usually go on, whether they may be casual day excursions, weekend trips, or weeks- to months-long adventures. If you plan to be out on the trail for extended periods of time, you may want to select a jacket that prioritizes lightweight over extra features like pit zips. You shouldn’t have to compromise on essential functionalities, like keeping out inclement weather, with any of the options on this list.
The temperature and weather conditions in which you plan to hike will be important factors in your selection of a backpacking jacket. For hiking in humid, tropical conditions, the jacket with the best breathability will be necessary. It will allow you to keep dry in rainstorms, but won’t let you overheat as you keep walking in high-temperature conditions. If you plan to be up on a mountain-top in wind, cold, and rain or snow, you may want to consider how you can best prepare yourself with your jacket. Look for options that offer a cinched hem to keep out wind, and a large, fully adjustable hood that will keep your head and neck dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How can a jacket be waterproof and breathable?
This dual functionality of many pieces of outerwear seems like a bit of a paradox. How can the fabric keep water out, while also letting moisture from the inside pass through? The answer lies in the well-engineered design of most waterproof, breathable materials. The fabric is fully waterproof jackets consists of multiple layers, including an outer coating and an inner membrane. The inner membrane, a microporous material, is permeable and intended to let water vapor pass through while keeping water droplets out.
The outer coating is usually a first stopper for rain or wet that has been treated with a “Durable Water Repellent” (DWR). Different companies may have different proprietary membranes with special names that they have designed to be waterproof and breathable.
q: What do “2.5 L” and “3 L” mean?
These pieces of jacket jargon refer to the construction of different fabric layers that work together to create a waterproof and breathable system. As you might guess, a 3 L or 3 Layer jacket is the most robust option. In this case, there are three layers: an outer durable face fabric treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR), a middle membrane, and an inner lightweight backing that protects the membrane. This combination is rugged and the most expensive option.
Alternatively, a 2.5 Layer jacket consists of an outer DWR treated fabric bonded to an inner membrane, with a very fine protective sheen sprayed onto the innermost layer (the “half layer”) that helps to protect the membrane from your skin. This option is slightly less advanced, and less expensive as a result, but allows for ultra lightweight jackets.
q: What is sealed or taped seams and zippers?
During the sewing process, the needle creates tiny holes in the fabric of a jacket along the seams and zippers. This is an opportunity for water to seep into an otherwise impermeable garment. To mitigate this, some jackets have a very thin waterproof tape with a rubber backing applied using heat to seal the seams and zippers. While this might seem overly cautious, this procedure makes a noticeable difference to the waterproofing level of a jacket over a longer period of time.
q: Should I buy a raincoat or an insulated, down filled option?
That depends on your needs and the nature of your trip. Even in the summertime the mountains can be cool at night so if that's where you're headed you may want to bring something insulated and warm. Even if you don't think there's a chance of rain, it's always a good idea to have a raincoat with you. Getting wet in the backcountry can quickly lead to hypothermia if you don't have a change of clothes, and with the small size and weight of these products it doesn't hurt to have one of each, just in case.
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