Gore-Tex jacket reviews

The Outdoor Research Helium AscentShell Jacket.

The Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Shop for a rain jacket for dayhiking, backpacking, trail running, or climbing in the backcountry and you’ll see shells for adults ranging in price from under $100 to over $500 and in weight from less than half a pound/227 grams to over a pound/454 grams—with just as huge and confusing a range of opinions on them from reviewers and consumers. Look no further. This review spotlights the best rain jackets for the backcountry and provides expert tips on how to select the right one for your adventures.

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Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket.

Review: Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket

Rain Jacket
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket
$299, 11 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL

Sometimes, mountain weather refuses to cooperate with your plans. On an August trip backpacking in the Wind River Range with my son, we saw patches of blue sky only on our first afternoon—followed by a couple of days of rain, culminating with us hiking out nine miles in a wind-driven tempest and temps in the 40s Fahrenheit. On days like that, I’m happy to have a shell that will reliably keep me dry and comfortable like the Zeta SL.

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The REI XeroDry GTX Jacket.

Review: REI XeroDry GTX Rain Jacket

Rain Jacket
$179, 12 oz./340g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL, men’s tall M-XXL, women’s plus 2x and 3x

How much rain shell do you want in mountains with variable weather? How much should it weight—and how much should you pay? Those questions came to mind when I wore the REI XeroDry GTX rain shell through hours of cold wind and steady rain, with a bit of wet snow, at the tail end of a five-day September backpacking trip in the Bechler Canyon area of Yellowstone National Park. I was happy with its moderate weight and packability for three-and-a-half days of sunny, mild days at the outset of that trip, when this shell stayed in my pack. But I was even happier that it has features that kept me dry when the weather turned ugly. And paying much less for any gear makes anyone happy.

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Review: Black Diamond Helio Active Shell

All-Season Shell Jacket
Black Diamond Helio Active Shell
$400, 12 oz./340g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL

The rain began before we hit the trail on the second morning of a five-day June trek in northern Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains; by late morning, we reached the snow line, and the light rain turned to wet snow, accumulating several inches on the ground. The wind came from various directions, blowing 40 to 50 mph as we got higher and crossed a pass. It felt more like Scotland’s Northern Highlands than mountains in the north of Spain. For that entire day, most of it spent hiking through falling rain or snow, I wore the Black Diamond Helio Active Shell—and it basically saved my butt on a day when cold wind and wet precipitation could have tipped me into hypothermia.

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