Ask Me: What’s the Most Breathable, Three-Season Rain Jacket?


I sweat profusely while hiking. I love winter and fall, but summer kills me. In your opinion, what is the most breathable, light rain shell out there? Money is no object, and I was hoping I could use it for three-season hiking, if possible.


Everett, MA


David Ports on a rainy day on the High Divide Trail, Olympic National Park.
David Ports on a rainy day on the High Divide Trail, Olympic National Park.

Hi Mike,

The best jackets for weather resistance and breathability when you’re moving for long periods of time in rain are, in my opinion, still those made with a membrane (Gore-Tex and eVent are the best known). And to oversimplify, breathability vs. waterproofing basically comes down to how the manufacturer calibrates the membrane’s permeability. Better waterproofing often means less breathability and vice versa. Gore-Tex has long been known for its highly reliable waterproofing and eVent for its breathability.

For a lightweight, fully technical, three-season shell that places a premium on breathability, the two best jackets I’ve reviewed are the Montane Featherlite Shell Jacket, which uses the newest iteration of eVent, and the Westcomb Focus LT Hoody, another nice, lightweight shell that uses a previous version of eVent. Read my reviews (which I’ve linked here); there are some differences between the two jackets.

See also all of my reviews of rain jackets.

Good luck!


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I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu. See also my stories “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun,” and “Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

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2 thoughts on “Ask Me: What’s the Most Breathable, Three-Season Rain Jacket?”

  1. Sorry, but no one who lives in the humid East Coast, who says that they “sweat profusely,” and who wants a rain shell for summertime backpacking is going to be served well by a conventional waterproof-breathable jacket. Even eVent, which is fairly described as the most breathable of WPB laminates, offers vastly insufficient breathability for this user.

    The entire technology rests on the humidity differential between the inside and outside of the jacket. In humid, summertime conditions, the fabric breathability will be imperceptible because it’s nearly as humid outside as it is inside the jacket. That’s going to be true for everyone; and with a profuse sweater, all of that perspiration is going to be trapped inside.

    The conversation about rain gear needs to change. Given current fabric technologies, much more attention needs to be put on garment ventilation instead of fabric breathability, which simply cannot keep up with human perspiration. Ventilation is multiples more effective.

    • Hi Andy, nice to hear from you. You and I have had this conversation before, and I think you know I agree with my of what you say. If I’m in a light rain and warm, I may wear no jacket. Ventilation is critical; I agree. But many hikers, depending on temperature and their metabolism (and how much they’ve eaten and how well hydrated they are, etc.), will get cold in the rain and need some kind of shell. The New England mountains (where I’ve hiked thousands of miles) can certainly get cold in summer and especially in fall, a prime hiking season there. I’ve seen hikers and backpackers get hypothermic from Maine to the California coast to New Zealand. Many hikers are logically looking for a highly breathable rain jacket for conditions like that.

      Thanks for adding your informed thoughts on the topic, I welcome your comments anytime. It’s a good subject.