rain jacket reviews

Backpackers hiking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2023

By Michael Lanza

Glacier National Park. The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Southern Utah’s Escalante canyons. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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The North Face Ceptor Jacket.

Review: The North Face Ceptor Jacket and Bib

Winter Shell Jacket and Bibs
The North Face Ceptor Jacket
$430, 1 lb. 9 oz. (men’s medium)
The North Face Ceptor Bib
$410, 1 lb. 12 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes for both: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XXL

When you love skiing, you commit yourself to enduring almost any weather conditions for your sport—and that requires a shell jacket and pants that really protect you from the elements. Through numerous full days of skiing at Oregon’s Mount Bachelor and the full range of Cascades weather—dumping snow, cold temps and wind, occasional sunshine and, yes, even winter rain—TNF’s Ceptor Jacket and Bib kept my college-age daughter, a former ski instructor, smiling and ripping all day.

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The Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket.

Review: Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket

All-Season Shell Jacket
Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket
$500, 13 oz./369g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-3XL, women’s 2XS-2XL

From a pair of three-day backpacking trips and some dayhikes in the Canadian Rockies in early August to a four-day trip in the Wind River Range in mid-August and a seven-day hike in Glacier National Park in September, I logged countless hours walking through rain showers, steady rain, intense thunderstorms, and very strong, chilly wind in the Beta Lightweight Jacket. My takeaway: This is one of the most weather-resistant and comfortable all-season shells on the market.

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The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell.

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets of 2023

By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike or a long climb or trail run in the mountains. The weather forecast looked pretty good before you set out—but no one shared that memo with the wind that just started hammering your summit ridge, or the spitting rain and hail now pelting you as you contemplate the sudden drop in temperature and the miles between you and shelter. The question now is: What’s in your pack?

If you’re smart, it’s an ultralight jacket that takes up little space, but is about to gift you with just the right amount of weather protection when you need it.

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The Black Diamond Helio Active Shell.

The Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking of 2023

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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