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The Best Rain Jackets for Travel

By Kelly Bastone

Feb 20, 2019

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Photos courtesy Royal Robbins, Columbia, and Marmot; design by Emily Blevins

Good-bye plastic giftshop rain poncho. You’ll be proud to don these packable, stylish garments when the rain clouds roll in.

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Sure, a rain jacket should keep you dry—but its packability is equally important when you’re traveling. After all, even the soggiest destinations enjoy clear skies sometimes, and that’s when you’ll appreciate an outer layer that’s light and compact enough to be stowed conveniently in a waterproof backpack. These eight winning rain jackets do that and more: They fend off drizzles and downpours while looking good, too.

Marmot Bantamweight Jacket

For ultra-light packers

When weight-saving is your greatest priority, consider this tissue-thin jacket. At five ounces, the Bantamweight ($275) is as light and silky as some windbreakers, yet it delivers a lot more weather protection: It’s fully waterproof, thanks to rain-thwarting Pertex Shield fabric that’s treated with a durable water-repellent finish to make moisture bead off the surface.

It also leaves you feeling less clammy than many windbreakers do because the Bantamweight’s underarm fabric is peppered with laser-drilled perforations that vent heat and perspiration. We’ve worn it on drizzly hikes to jungle waterfalls and barely steamed up inside.

It’s fairly fitted to begin with, but for additional shaping (and to prevent the hem from blowing up in gusty winds) a thin cinch cord is built into the waistline. Two zippered hand pockets hold keys and a wallet. When packed, this jacket is as small as a softball, so it disappears into a purse or backpack. And because it barely registers on a luggage scale, it’s perfect for weight-restricted travel on small aircraft and other vehicles with limited cargo allowances. Available in men’s and women’s sizing.

Trew Pack Jack

For tote-averse travelers

Rain jackets generally have to ride out dry weather in a shoulder bag or backpack, but the Pack Jack ($159) eliminates the need for such extra luggage: This unisex anorak converts into a tidy little waist pack with a zippered pocket that holds a keycard and a few bills.

As such, it’s perfect for running errands on a hotel’s loaner bike or logging a morning workout on nearby trails. Should showers strike, it speedily morphs back into a hooded anorak that seals out rain—for a little while, at least. The 100-percent-nylon fabric is coated with breathable polyurethane that holds off short-lived rainfall but not sustained downpours. So while it isn’t up to the task of keeping hikers dry during daylong rain-forest treks, it does feel soft and comfortable (rather than plasticky) on the skin. That, plus the convenient fanny-pack option, makes this our go-to choice for “just in case” protection against passing rain.

Columbia OutDry Ex Reversible Jacket

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For adventure travelers

Ideal for hiking and backpacking in wet weather, the OutDry Ex Reversible Jacket ($150) is light, packable, and utterly rainproof. Unlike most Gore-Tex jackets, which sandwich a waterproof/breathable membrane between layers of fabric, this jacket’s water-thwarting OutDry film covers the exterior and makes it feel (and behave) like a rain slicker. Water simply sheets off the material, and that moisture-shedding property is particularly handy when it’s time to pack it away—one brisk shake removes virtually all the droplets.

That breathable membrane let us log long uphills without overheating, and the fabric’s four-way stretch allows for full freedom of movement. The jacket’s interior is lined with a soft, slightly fuzzy microfiber that wicks away sweat and feels soft against the skin, but it’s also tough enough to face the elements. Reversed, the garment is still waterproof and breathable. Turning it inside-out lets you hide the waterproof seam tape and glossy fabric (which look too sporty for some urban environments). We appreciated the more muted appearance when transitioning from New Zealand’s trails to Christchurch’s sidewalks. Available in men’s and women’s sizing.

Hillary Day Opera Coat

For sophisticated urbanites

Simple lines and fine Swiss fabric make the women’s Opera Coat ($475) a stunner. Instead of a zipper down the front, magnetic snaps embedded in the seams create an invisible, self-sealing closure. And the lustrous material looks sharp wet or dry: We found ourselves reaching for this topper on breezy days when no rain was forecast.

Its hoodless, collarless design means that when showers do arrive, you’ll want to pair the Opera Coat with an umbrella that can shelter your coif. But the fabric itself is marvelous at repelling rain (and spilled coffee) because it’s treated with Schoeller Nanotechnology, a high-performance fabric finish that keeps water and oils from soaking into the weave.

The low-bulk, collarless cut also makes the Opera Coat easy to pack; the unlined fabric rolls into a tidy cylinder that takes up precious little room in a tote or carry-on. Plus, its adaptable style complements everything from a business suit to torn denim—so when you need to bring one jacket for multiple guises, this is the one.

Burton Narraway Rain Jacket

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For playful festivarians

Some rain jackets feel stiff and plasticky, but not the women’s Narraway ($120). Its polyester shell and lining feel supple and stay quiet—rather than emitting the crinkly sounds of a potato-chip bag. We also love the whimsical colors and prints, which bring a merry vibe to outdoor concerts and farmers’ markets.

Its casual styling hides some serious technology: The lining fabric features tiny pores that open or close depending on the wearer’s temperature. That kept the Narraway from feeling stifling during brief periods of sun during a day out in Seattle’s Discovery Park. But once the clouds and wind returned, the jacket was cozy enough that an additional sweater was unnecessary. The two fleece-lined hand pockets even warm numb fingers.

Like most rain jackets, the shell is coated with a durable water-repellent finish, but the Narraway’s is free of potentially toxic PVCs. And all of the jacket’s materials are bluesign-approved—meaning that from production to disposal, they meet the highest safety standards for people and the environment.

Arc’teryx Sawyer Coat

For urban explorers

This company’s mountaineering jackets are celebrated for their clean lines and weatherproof construction, and the men’s Sawyer Coat ($475) delivers those same qualities in a city-ready look. The high-performance Gore-Tex fabric seals out sustained downpours, yet remains impressively breathable—it proved its mettle on New York’s streets during a subway closure in the middle of a torrential storm.

Because such sidewalk maneuvers don’t require the same high-stepping that skiing or mountaineering do, the Sawyer Coat is cut longer to provide better protection for the upper legs. Meanwhile, smartly tailored shoulder seams and underarm gussets provide full freedom of movement through the arms and chest, so the fabric doesn’t bind when wearers reach for a hand-strap on the subway or hoist luggage into an airplane’s overhead bin. And just like Arc’teryx’s mountaineering jackets, the Sawyer Coat is impressively lightweight (15 ounces) and packable (the size of a grapefruit when compressed).

Royal Robbins Oakham Jacket

For all travelers great and small

Even if you’re average-sized and enjoy a range of choices when it comes to rain jackets, the Oakham ($109) is still a worthy option. The buttery-feeling fabric fends off rain, a waterproof/breathable membrane vents sweat, its four-way stretch never feels confining, and the jacket can pack down into its own hand pocket.

But the Oakham’s real win is the extended size range. Women’s jackets are offered in XS to 3XL; the men’s versions run from S to 3XL. Guys can even get a tall option—which is offered in black only and costs $5 more, but we deem that a fair surcharge for proper-fitting rain protection.

Plus, as with the Burton Narraway Jacket, the Oakham features a nontoxic durable water-repellent finish: It uses no fluorine or other suspect chemicals, yet we can confirm that it effectively shed water during rainy-day outings.

Joules Golightly Packable Jacket

For fashionistas

Offered in nine flamboyant prints, this women’s trench adds splash to any outfit and proves that rainwear doesn’t have to look stodgy. The superlight fabric feels gauzy enough for summertime showers and also makes the Golightly ($75) ultra-packable, despite the fact that it extends to mid-thigh. (It folds into its own pocket for easy transport.)

The fabric and seams are waterproof but not breathable, so this isn’t the best choice for strenuous pursuits. Climbing hills or hurrying to make your dinner reservation will likely steam up the interior and leave you feeling clammy. But the lack of a high-tech, breathable membrane also makes the Golightly more affordable than performance-oriented jackets. After all, not everyone logs hours of activity in extended rain, and travelers who simply need basic coverage for short jaunts between the Lyft and the pub will find this jacket a pleasing accessory.

>>Next: The Best Waterproof and Water-Resistant Backpacks for Travel

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