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.


Ver­sa­til­i­ty
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 stands behind their prod­uct line and are eager to assist.