How to Pick the Perfect Rain Jacket

A lot more should go into selecting the perfect raincoat than you might think. Whether you plan on hiking, climbing or cruising around the city, here’s what you need to take into account before throwing down your hard earned cash on this important purchase.


Nobody likes a one-trick pony, so choose a raincoat that can be your go-to for most of your excursions to maximize value. Consider the likely conditions in which you expect your raincoat to perform. If you’re planning a multi-day trek through the constant rain and damp of Emei Shan in Sichuan Province—or even just cycling for the day through Seattle—you’ll want a raincoat that’s hardier than one you might take on an overnight into Joshua Tree National Park.

Your expected activity level matters a lot here, too: the more you think you’ll sweat, and the greater your need for maneuverability, the more closely you’ll want to look at features that increase the stretchiness and breathability of your coat without sacrificing protection from the expected elements. Armpit zippers and other means of mechanical venting are your friends here, but consider too that the answer may be a softshell and a can of durable water repellent.

Fit With Gear
Does it fit over however many layers you’ll be wearing below it? If you’re planning to wear a pack with it, does it fit comfortably under those straps? Will you waste untold minutes constantly tucking it back into your hipbelt as precipitation leeches its way into your midlayers because the bottom rides up when you reach for that next scramble? Can you cinch the hood snugly around your head and helmet, if you’re wearing one, and does the hood move easily with you and your gear or do you need to adjust it every time you turn your head? Have you got enough range of motion, or do you feel more like Randy “I can’t put my arms down!” Parker? Put your prospective coat through its paces before you purchase.

Maintenance Cost
Ongoing costs of upkeep are one of those hidden price tags when it comes to some clothing. Read the wash instructions carefully, and figure out the cost of any specific cleaners, waxes, or DWR treatments that may be required between adventures.

Company’s Reputation
One person complaining of a sticky zipper might be an outlier, but several reviewers mentioning a tendency to get stinky is worth further consideration. Another raving about the indestructibility of the fabric is great, but the more the merrier. Reputation also means looking at the company’s customer service record. Manufacturer defects may be covered by the store from which you purchased them, but if not, you’ll have to deal direct—and future you will be beyond grateful if present you has the presence of mind to pick a company who stand behind their product line and are eager to assist.