Best Backpacking Jackets of 2018
Protecting yourself against exposure is a key part of staying safe in the wilderness. A trusty rain jacket and a warm puffy coat will help you enjoy your trip and control your body temperature in harsh conditions on the trail.
The lightweight jacket market is constantly evolving and innovating. Jackets are obviously a highly personal decision that will depend on your preferences and budget. Opinions vary widely about the best jackets and below you'll find a few of our favorite choices.
There are lots of expensive rain jackets out there, but you shouldn't have to break the bank to keep yourself dry in the woods. Affordable options like the Frogg Toggs rain suit (10oz) and O2 Original jacket & pants (10oz) will get the job done, but they will also have durability issues. That's why we generally prefer stronger rain jackets and pants.
We also like jackets from companies like Patagonia and Arc’Teryx, but those choices can sometimes be pretty expensive. Still, their quality is excellent and we often feel they're well worth the cost if taken care of properly. We hope our jacket guide will help you to narrow down your choices and find a good fit for you.
Learn the foundations of lightweight clothing and raingear with this video:
BACKPACKING RAIN JACKETS
Lightweight jacket manufacturers often cut out unnecessary extras from their coats to save weight. Many ultralight coats have a smaller amount of pockets, cinches, and zippers that add weight. Ultralight jackets also tend to be built with thinner materials, which makes them not quite as durable as heavy-duty jackets in the long run. That said, in our experience, ultralight rain shells will still last for many years if treated with care, and we tend to find the weight savings well worth it on the trail.
WEIGHT: 11.4 OZ
The Marmot Pre-Cip (men's and women's) is one of the most popular and time-tested rain jackets in the backpacking community. It offers a solid balance between weight, functionality and cost. It's not the lightest jacket on this list, but it's full of features we like, such as an adjustable/ stowable hood, hand pockets, and pit zips. The Pre-Cip also conveniently packs down into its own pocket. For a full-featured, affordable rain jacket, the Marmot Pre-Cip is a great buy.
Note: If you don't mind carrying a little extra weight and bulk for increased toughness, the Marmot Minimalist may be a good option as well.
WEIGHT: 6.4 oz
The Outdoor Research Helium II (men's and women's) is extremely light, comfortable, and stylish. It packs into its single chest pocket for easy storage and has a simple and effective design. Outdoor Research cut out all the extras to keep weight down, so this model doesn’t have front pockets, adjustable wrist straps, or pit zips. It's a great option for minimalist backpackers, but won't be nearly as functional around town.
Note: If you're looking for a rain jacket with more features and durability, yet still only 11 oz, the Outdoor Research Realm is a good option.
WEIGHT: 12.1 oz
The Patagonia Torrentshell (men's and women's) is a durable and affordable rain jacket. Though heavier than most minimalist jackets on this list, the Torrentshell is a more affordable offering from Patagonia and comes with practical features: adjustable hood and wrist cuffs, large venting pit zips, handwarmer pockets, and it can be stuffed inside its own pocket. Though not quite as light for backpacking, we still find the Torrentshell to be a stylish and effective value buy.
WEIGHT: 7.5 oz
The Montane Minimus jacket is well crafted and stylish. It packs down to about the size of an apple and is very light. One of the best qualities about this jacket is it's fit and precision tailoring. It has one chest zipper pocket, an adjustable hood, wrist cinch straps, and an elastic waist cinch (no pit-zips or front pockets). It has a higher MSRP than the similar-in-style OR Helium II, but we think it's worth the price tag.
BACKPACKING DOWN JACKETS
A great down jacket might be the most beloved piece of gear in your pack. We find that even on summer trips, we usually wear our down coat multiple times every day. We generally prefer hooded down jackets that are lightweight, warm, sleek, and highly compressible. Down jackets can be expensive, but their warmth-to-weight value is nearly unbeatable, and if you treat them with care they'll last for many years.
WEIGHT: 8.4 oz
The MontBell Plasma 1000 has quickly become one of our favorite ultralight backpacking coats. It has a steep price tag, but we find it's quality to be exceptional, and think its cost will be worth it for the ravenous outdoor adventurer looking to get many years of backcountry use. Stuffed with 1000 fill power goose down, the Plasma has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios on the market. Its puffy, comfortable, fits well, and has great hood and hem adjustments. The biggest downside to the Plasma in our eyes is it's price, which will make it prohibitive for many. However, if you're a thru-hiker or avid backcountry traveler looking for top-of-the-line ultralight warmth, the Plasma 1000 is pretty great.
FIND IT HERE: MontBell
WEIGHT: 7.5 oz
The 850 fill Ghost Whisperer (men - women) is comfortable, stylish, light, warm, and it comes with all the features you're looking for. It has a hood and two small front pockets which make it a great choice for lightweight hiking and it packs into its own pocket for easy storage. Mountain Hardwear designed this fabric specifically for lightweight performance, which is why the price tag is so large, but we think it's worth the cost for frequent backcountry travelers.
WEIGHT: 9.3 oz
Patagonia’s Ultralight Down Hoody (men - women) is stylish and functional with 800 fill down. It comes with nice extras like two large front pockets, a small chest pocket, and an adjustable hood. It compresses well, will keep you warm, and comes with a small stuff sack for storage. The price tag for this jacket is big as well, but it is an extremely well-built product, so it's worth a good look.
If you enjoyed this review, you'll probably like the CleverHiker Backpacking Gear Guide as well. Here are a few links to some popular articles:
- CleverHiker Top Backpacking Gear Picks
- Best Lightweight, Ultralight, & Budget Tents
- Best Backpacks & Stoves
- Best Sleeping Bags & Sleeping Pads
- Best Hammocks
We hope this guide was helpful for finding the backpacking gear you were looking for. If you want to provide feedback or recommend an item we missed, please use our contact form to get in touch.
Thanks for reading and happy trails!
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