I want the #1 packable raincoat - or, failing that, one that works.
July 25, 2010 10:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the best packable raincoat/jacket/poncho out there.

I walk a lot, and almost never drive, and don't always check the weather. I used to carry a small umbrella in my bag, but even small umbrellas can get a little bulky and heavy after carrying them for a while. I'd much rather have a good lightweight raincoat that I can fold up and stuff in there.

A couple months ago, I found a lightweight waterproof raincoat on the clearance rack at Old Navy - it was exactly what I was looking for, and for $15. It hung out in my bag for a while, and soon enough I found myself getting off the train in a sudden downpour, so while all the other commuters were hanging out inside waiting for the rain to subside, I pulled on my new coat and thought, ha ha, suckers.

Turns out the sucker was me: after two blocks, it was pretty obvious that this magical raincoat was not waterproof after all.

So now I'm suspicious of all packable raincoats, and I don't want to get burned (or soaked) again. I still want a coat I can stuff in my bag, but I want to be sure it works before I buy.

My ideal raincoat is: super lightweight, comfortable, cute (I'm thinking in a sporty sense rather than a Burberry sense), not a tarp or a trashbag like those drugstore ponchos. Preferred but negotiable: a full-zip style, under $50, available locally in Boston/Cambridge. Non-negotiable: must actually keep me dry.

I can find raincoats online that might be okay, but I want one I'll love. If you have a supergreat coat and you've just been waiting for an opportunity to sing its praises, I want to hear from you.
posted by Metroid Baby to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My girlfriend adores her LL Bean Stowaway. We live in the Seattle area so it gets a lot of use and is definitely waterproof. It packs up neatly into an integrated mesh pocket. It's outside of your preferred price range but she swears it is worth it.
posted by zjacreman at 10:57 AM on July 25, 2010

Update: apparently you can get older, used Stowaways on eBay for much closer to your price target.
posted by zjacreman at 11:01 AM on July 25, 2010

Man, it's gonna be tough with such a budget. I would recommend going to REI and checking out what they have. Doing a quick search of REI.com, I found this helly hanson jacket for just at your price point. They are a good company and I have no doubt it's gonna be very stowable.

I'm guessing you are female, not explicit in your profile, and I don't know any guys who would reference burberry when it comes to fashion and rain coats.
posted by TheBones at 11:02 AM on July 25, 2010

Tough as in hard to find an outdoor, activewear jacket. Sorry, finding a rain jacket for that price shouldn't be hard. I'm an avid outdoor guy, so my first thought is technical, serious gear.
posted by TheBones at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2010

My boyfriend seems pretty happy with his stowable Sierra Designs raincoat with a stuff sack about the size of a 14 oz can of, eh, tomatoes, but I see that the reviews are generally negative (although it might not be the exact same model).

I have, like every other Seattleite, a somewhat more elaborate but still light Columbia Kona raincoat that was cheap (less than half-price on sale or at Ross, I don't recall) and has worked perfectly for the past five years.
posted by halogen at 11:10 AM on July 25, 2010

This is the correct link to the Sierra Designs jacket I mention (I certainly didn't pay $100 for it, like the one I mistakenly linked to above).
posted by halogen at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2010

I don't have a specific coat recommendation.

But, you can buy a waterproofing product from places like REI or LL Bean or wherever that you can apply to spray onto your current raincoat or windbreaker that will make it pretty waterproof. I've used it on a windbreaker and it works.

Go in and talk to someone in one of those kinds of stores. I know that LL Bean also provides really good phone assistance. And check Sierra Trading Post to get stuff on discount.
posted by reddot at 11:15 AM on July 25, 2010

Well since price is "negotiable" and keeping you dry isn't...

The North Face Grace

It has no insulation so it's basically just a very breathable waterproof shell. The no insulated liner will help make it much more packable. The "Stella Grace" is lightly insulated if you'd prefer that.

Marmot Oracle Jacket

This thing would get your through a 10 hour monsoon. It has fully taped seams and a 20k waterproof rating. It's also not lined.

If you don't like anything posted and start looking for yourself, look for gore-tex or gore-tex equivalent. That will give you bomb proof reliability. You can also look for taped seams too which will up the water proofing.
Make sure you find some mention of breathability too because some of those jackets can become a sauna if they don't breathe well.

I don't trust a lot of the other stuff that says it's water proof. They are usually just highly water resistant unless it's basically plastic and those things sort of suck to wear. You'll still get wet but from your sweat instead of the rain =]
You can find closeout deals of about up to 60% off on sites if you keep an eye out too. It'll be down to 1 size and usually a funky color.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:18 AM on July 25, 2010

Seconding bones suggestion of REI or your local outdoor shop -- what you are describing (light, packable) is basically a backpacker's shell. It is hard to give a specific recommendation because, like with other types of clothes, models and styles change every year. I've got a great Sierra Designs shell I would recommend to you, except they don't make it anymore.

You might have to look around a bit to hit your price point, but I can tell you what features to look for. If you get wet in raingear, it usually isn't because the fabric isn't waterproof, but rather because of the seams and bad design. Seams because the the needle holes where the stitching goes the through the seam will stretch a little with wear, giving water a way to leak in, and bad design may funnel water down your neck or your wrists as you are moving around. So look for something with as few seams as possible (unfortunately, it may not qualify as cute, because that usually means it is going to be one color). Also look for a full hood with a drawstring or velcro, wrists that seal up, again with either elastic or velcro, and a flap that goes over the zipper in front (and possibly velcros shut). If you see those features, you'll know the designer is trying very hard to keep the occupant dry. If you really want to go the distance, you can buy seam sealant at REI or any other backpacking store and treat the seams.
posted by kovacs at 11:28 AM on July 25, 2010

Best answer: I have this North Face number and it's supremely packable. This is a good value, too, as it's typically more than about $84.
posted by Mertonian at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! To clarify, the $50 price point is not a strict budget, just more of a personal preference. I'd rather pay more for quality than get something cheap and disappointing.

Also, yep, I'm female.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:38 AM on July 25, 2010

Patagonia Houdini. On sale at Patagonia now. I LOVE mine.
posted by k8t at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2010

A K-Way! On-line store
posted by kmennie at 12:27 PM on July 25, 2010

Well, then I'd recommend an arcteryx jacket, hands down, no questions asked. Yes, you will pay for it. Yes, it's gonna hurt the wallet, and yes, you will always stay dry, no matter what (unless you go swimming, or you don't wear it).

And it's even helmet compatible. Yes, a little overkill, I know, but they are the only brand I trust in outdoor gear anymore (well, them and black diamond).
posted by TheBones at 12:28 PM on July 25, 2010

I have this cagoule from Campmor. It's very light and it keeps me dry. I'll be darned if I can get it back into the travel pouch it came with, but someone more dexterous (or determined) probably could. And it comes in cobalt blue, so it can be your famous blue raincoat.
posted by bricoleur at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2010

I have one of these stash ponchos from Eastern Mountain Sports, it fits in one of the water bottle pouches in the side of my backpack. It's a poncho, so it's loose and will be of marginal use in windy weather, but it's just rain you'll be fine. I'm quite happy with it.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:44 PM on July 25, 2010

nthing Marmot - I have one of their Men's rain shells, and the lining is amazing, it's made with some kind of crazy technology that doesn't feel like the sticky inside of a rain jacket so it doesn't stick to your skin like other rain shells do or feel sweaty. I'd go to Eastern Mountain Sports, tell them what you're looking for and have them show you the options. They make one called 'cloudburst' I think which is a good option, but sometimes with sales the name-brands are the same price and a bit better. There are some really super thin lightweight jackets, but they're usually over $100. Mine packs easily in a bag, and was around $120.

Whatever you chose, there's one feature you don't want to go without: underarm zippers
posted by jardinier at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2010

Just came across this while looking at some other items on this gear review site. This jacket by Outdoor Research is waterproof, very light and very packable.
posted by jardinier at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2010

Response by poster: Delayed thanks to all of you! I ended up getting the North Face Venture since it seemed to be the best combination of price, weight, and features. It's supposed to rain today so I should get a chance to see how it holds up.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:19 AM on August 16, 2010

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