The muddy season is upon us, and with it comes a full range of weather: surprise snow showers, mid-run soakers, blustery breezes and maybe even a hail storm or two — all of which make getting outdoors particularly tricky. Luckily, there’s a myriad of waterproof gear made specifically to combat the elements. Every outdoor brand has its take on the waterproof rain jacket and now we’re taking stock of our favorites. Mud season got you down? Let it roll right off your back with these top-of-line shells.
Basin and Range Spiro Rain Jacket ($129.95)
Rain shells typically come in two color ways: bright and brighter. The Basin and Range Spiro Rain Jacket remedies the neon-overload with a capsule of jackets—available in black, olive, and camo — that look just as good on the trail as they do in the brewery tasting room. The Spiro isn’t just about good looks, though: A two-layer nylon shell and zippered underarm vents work together to keep you dry, inside and out. Bonus points for the handy front pockets (a feature that's surprisingly hard to come by in many rain shells).
Cotopaxi Tikal Active Shell ($139.95)
If you're looking for a four-season shell that covers all your bases, from exploring foreign cities to hiking in the backcountry, the Cotopaxi Tikal Active Shell is a sure thing. Lightweight, fully waterproof and actually breathable, this shell blocks the elements and is comfortable enough for all-day wear thanks to its unrestricted four-way stretch. With a laminated visor to keep rain off your face, two zippered hand pockets, and perforated underarm panels that vent body heat (negating the need for bulky zippers), this jacket blew some of the offerings from bigger-name brands right out of the water.
The North Face Fuseform Cesium Anorak ($199)
There's something to be said about falling back on the big brands: they know what they're doing. Years of research and prototype testing went into creating the revolutionary weaving process used in The North Face’s FuseForm Cesium Anorak, resulting in lighter, lower-density fibers where you need them and thicker, more durable threads where don’t. That reduces the overall weight and provides tougher “zones” in high-wear areas. This pull-over jacket is fully waterproof and made for the mountains—but what really sold us was the dry-touch coating that eliminates the need for a liner.
Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket ($159)
The Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket was built specifically for flash-storm protection, so the brand got the fully waterproof shell down to an extremely light 5.5 ounces and compressible to the size of a granola bar. That means you can stuff it in your pocket or the top pouch of your backpack and forget it’s even there — until the downpour hits. That’s when you’ll be thankful you brought this ultra-breathable, fully seam-taped jacket along (there’s even a carabiner loop for climbers wanting a quick-grab shell for their harnesses).
Western Rise Bitter Creek Anorak ($255)
Not every outdoorsman needs a hyper-lightweight, technical rain shell, and the Western Rise Bitter Creek Anorak cuts a clean, classic look for the river and the woods. Warm and dry for cold, rainy days, this jacket is both durable and comfortable thanks to 20K waterproofing, a gusseted collar to block wind, and core venting that offers supreme breathability. You can tell a lot of thought went into crafting this jacket, but you won’t have a second-thought about pulling it on when the weather demands it.
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