Depending on the time of year that you’re traveling you might want to bring along a lightweight and packable rain jacket so that you can stay dry if the forecast ever calls for rain or if you ever get stuck in a downpour.
- 1 Choosing the Best Raincoat for Travel
- 2 The Best Rain Jackets for Traveling
- 3 Alternative Options
- 4 Further Reading
In this post I’m going to go over your options for the best rain jacket for travel that are that are lightweight, breathable and suitable to bring with you abroad.
Choosing the Best Raincoat for Travel
Before getting into your options I want to share with you some tips on what to look for when it comes to choosing a rain jacket that’ll keep you dry and is suitable to travel with.
Is it Waterproof or Water Resistant?
It’s not likely that you’ll find a rain jacket that will be able to keep you completely 100% dry if you happen to be stuck in the rain for an extended period of time. However, for general travel and if you’re just walking around in the rain for a few hours then you’ll be able to stay dry enough that any wetness or moisture shouldn’t become an issue.
When you’re looking at jackets you might have noticed that they offer either waterproof or water resistant protection.
Most of the rain jackets that you’ll find will be water resistant rather than waterproof.
What this means is that they’re able to handle light rain and a medium downpour but they’re not very well suited for long-term rain exposure.
Waterproof jackets on the other hand will be designed using Gore-Tex or another chemical-based coating that essentially blocks any water or moisture from entering the fabric that the jacket is made from. These waterproof jackets also will have reinforced seams and pockets with additional waterproofing features to further help keep you dry.
Unless you’ll be traveling somewhere where you expect it to rain every day for many hours at a time I really don’t recommend a completely waterproof raincoat.
They might seem like a better choice but they’re not very necessary in most conditions. They’ll make you a lot warmer since they aren’t typically breathable and tend to hold in moisture just as well as keep it out.
This means that if you are someone who gets warm very easily or you sweat a lot you’ll quickly overheat and start sweating if you’re wearing a completely waterproof jacket.
Many jackets are designed using a combination of different fabric layers.
Each layer has its own purpose from moisture wicking to ventilation and some of the better jackets that you’ll find will have up to three layers of waterproof protection.
When you’re looking at layers there are three different types that you need to consider:
Two Layer Jacket (2L)
Most entry-level rain jackets come with two layers of protection. There is an inner layer that’s typically made from mesh and an outer, waterproof or water resistant layer.
These jackets aren’t usually the most breathable and they tend to be very bulky so I don’t recommend them for traveling with unless it’s the only jacket option that you’re bringing with you.
If you’re on a tight budget you might want to consider a two layer jacket as they are typically the most affordable and they’re good enough for staying dry if it’s lightly raining.
Two and a Half Layers (2.5L)
A jacket with 2.5 layers of protection offers more comfort and waterproofing than the two layer options. These jackets work by having a thin interior fabric attached to the outer waterproof layer rather than using a mesh interior.
This helps to increase breathability and makes the jacket more packable and easy to bring along with you on your trip.
The only problem with these types of jackets is that the interior fabric tends to be a bit more plasticky, rather than soft and smooth, and some people don’t like how it feels.
Three Layers (3L)
If you’re looking for the best lightweight rain jacket for travel you’ll want to look for one that has a three layer design.
These jackets are made from three distinct pieces of material and, while more bulky than the other options, are the most comfortable, breathable and suitable for travel.
They are also the most expensive but you’re paying for a higher quality jacket that’s definitely going to keep you dry when it’s pouring rain outside.
Another thing to look for when you’re shopping around for a new raincoat are the features that it comes with.
Don’t expect much however, rain jackets don’t really come with a wide variety of different features but there are still some things that you can take advantage of depending on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.
Some of the features that you’ll want to look for or consider include:
- Interior pockets
- Pit zips or side ventilation
- Taped seams
- A hood
- Elastic waistband
These are just some of the features to look out for but each of them is important in their own way.
- Pockets are a good idea if you are traveling with a lot of accessories and you need somewhere to store them so that they will stay dry if you get caught in the rain.
- Ventilation and pit zips are a good idea if you’re someone that overheats very easily or you’re visiting a humid, warm location.
- Taped seams are ideal if you need all of the waterproofing that you can get and you want to ensure that you’re going to stay as dry as possible even in the heaviest of downpours.
- Hoods are typically found on most raincoats but you’ll definitely want one if you want your head and neck to stay dry when it’s raining. Personally, a coat without a hood seems pointless to me so I definitely recommend looking out for options that have one attached.
- The elastic waistband is something you want if you are visiting somewhere windy or if you’ll be doing a lot of hiking.
Since you will be traveling with your jacket you’re going to want to look for something that’s lightweight and easy to carry along with you.
If you’re not traveling light then you don’t have to worry so much about a lightweight waterproof jacket, otherwise try to keep an eye on how much the coat you’re interested in weighs because you have to carry it with you and if it’s too heavy you are more likely to behind.
As always, the more expensive and higher end jackets will be lighter and a lot more portable than the cheaper, budget friendly options.
Another important thing to look out for when you’re in need of a waterproof rain jacket is how breathable it is.
Many rain jackets aren’t that breathable at all but if you buy a higher end model you’ll definitely be up to enjoy a higher standard of breathability.
If you sweat a lot or you find yourself overheating even without wearing a rain jacket then you want to look for one that has ventilation, pit zips or one that’s even touted as being breathable.
How well a jacket can be packed down is also an important feature to consider. You don’t want something too bulky or else it won’t be ideal to travel with and you’re more likely to leave behind rather than bring it with you if it’s large and getting in the way.
Many rain jackets today pack down into a small bag, or even one of their own pockets.
I recommend looking out for a jacket that will pack down quite small so that you can easily stuff it in your suitcase or backpack and bring it with you during the day without having to sacrifice too much space.
And that’s all there is to it. Let’s take a look at your options for the best rain jacket for travel that’s lightweight, breathable and is going to keep you dry if you’re ever stuck traveling on a rainy day.
The Best Rain Jackets for Traveling
The North Face Men’s Resolve Jacket
The North Face Men’s Resolve Jacket is the first one I tried out when I was looking for the best raincoat for travel and it’s my top recommendation.
It’s a lightweight, breathable and comfortable rain jacket that is great at keeping you dry if you ever get caught in the rain during your trip.
It comes equipped with an adjustable hood that you can stow away in the collar, a comfortable and breathable mesh interior lining, hand pockets for additional storage, a cinch-cord at the waist for a better fit and a brushed collar lining for even more comfort.
This is a two layer rain jacket that’s made from 70D ripstop nylon and uses North Face’s own DryVent waterproof technology to help keep you dry.
Keep in mind that although this isn’t a Gore-Tex designed coat it has all of the features you need to keep dry if you’re ever stuck in the rain when you’re traveling abroad.
One of the features that I love about it is the small bill on the hood, which helps to prevent rain from dripping down onto your face and into your eyes.
There is also an elastic around the wrist and this further helps to keep you warm and dry even in rainy and windy conditions.
For even further rain and moisture protection there is a flap covering the zipper so it’s even less likely that any liquid is going to leak through to the interior.
When it comes to packability the Resolve backs down quite small and still be able to fit it into a 5″ x 5″ x 2″ space without too much effort. Try to avoid packing it away when it’s wet as this can cause mold to build up.
The Resolve is lightweight, comfortable and a suitable choice if you’re looking for a rain jacket that’s practical to travel with.
It comes in a variety of colors and I definitely recommend it if you’re heading somewhere that’s going to be wet, rainy and windy.
Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket
The Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket is another great option that I came across when I looking for the best lightweight rain jacket for travel.
I found this to be one of the higher-quality jackets that I used and it comes packed with features that are bound to keep you dry wherever you plan on traveling.
For starters, it’s designed to be very compressible and this makes it a suitable choice if you’re looking for a packable and lightweight rain jacket. The jacket itself is made from 100% nylon and it utilizes a 2.5 layer design to offer ultimate waterproof protection.
To further help keep you dry this jacket comes with fully taped seams and on internal storm flap to help prevent wind and rain from blowing up your coat.
The hood can be quickly adjusted depending on weather conditions and there’s even a zippered chest pocket where you can quickly store any important documents or travel essentials that you don’t want to get wet.
I definitely recommend the Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket if you’re looking for a packable, lightweight and breathable rain jacket that has been optimally designed to keep you wet in any severity of downpour.
While it’s not a three layer coat, for being a 2.5L it’s more than suitable enough to travel with and it will help you to avoid getting drenched regardless of how hard it’s raining.
Be sure to check it out online to see more of the different color options available.
Arcteryx Beta LT Hybrid Jacket
The Arcteryx Beta LT Hybrid Jacket is the final option that I recommend if you’re looking for the best rain jacket for travel. Arcteryx is known for their high quality gear and their Beta LT Hybrid jacket lives up to the quality behind the Arcteryx name.
It’s the only three layer jacket on this list and if you’re heading somewhere where you expect it to rain quite often then this would be the option that I recommend you to bring.
The Beta LT Hybrid is designed using Gore-Tex and features a Paclite technology that makes it lightweight, portable and well-suited for traveling.
For ventilation I love the pit zips that help to improve breathability while still keeping you dry and preventing any moisture from building up on the interior of the coat.
Additionally, the seams are fully taped for further weatherproofing and there are Velcro adjusters on the wrist cuffs that you can use to prevent any wind or rain from blowing up the jacket.
The exterior of this coat features a Gore-Tex fabric that is completely waterproof and still lightweight enough to give you all the mobility and comfort that you need to get around.
The hood is directly attached to the coat and it comes with a laminated interior so that you’re able to enjoy more head movement and visibility without any restrictions.
This is definitely the best option on this list if you are visiting somewhere that’s expecting a lot of rain and moisture.
It’s well ventilated which helps to keep you more comfortable during a downpour and with the lined seams and Gore-Tex fabric you’ll definitely be able to stay drier than if you were just wearing a regular coat.
If these rain jackets are out of your budget or you’re just not interested in bringing along an additional, possibly bulky, item of travel gear then you might want to consider bringing an umbrella instead.
Umbrellas are a good idea because you can easily put them in your backpack or luggage without having to worry about folding them or fretting about all the features.
They’re a pretty basic choice when it comes to staying dry in the rain and the only drawback really is that you need to hold it in one hand whenever you want to use it. Otherwise, toss it into your day bag and you’re good to go.
If you’re interested I recommend checking out my post on the best travel umbrella to see what your options are for staying dry in a downpour.