Staying Dry: Picking the Right Rain Jacket

Gear / Ideas & Advice

Alright – so you’ve just walked into your closest Eastern Mountain Sports and you’re on a mission to find the ideal jacket for this seriously finicky and often wet time of the year. You know – that kind of moody season where the weather is 37F one second and then 76F the next, raining sideways, then sleeting, and then you’re being blinded by sun and rainbows. Typical New England stuff, right?

But what jacket should you get? Between an array of vibrant oranges, subtle greens, rich purples, lightweight materials, and heavy-duty designs there is definitely a jacket in here for you. Picking out just the right jacket for the rainy season first starts with identifying the answers to two critical questions.

First, what are you planning to do in this jacket? Are you going to be tackling 4k’s, rock climbing, walking the dog, or coaching soccer? These questions are important as they help you identify the range of motion you’ll need, what type of material is ideal, and the inside moisture factor – which brings us to the second question.

Some of us need five layers to keep warm until mid-May and even then we’re still rocking long sleeves or more (that’d be me). Others find 40F toasty and are sweating lakes by the time New England hits 70F. Knowing how your body handles temperature and sweat is key to nabbing the right jacket. So, are you constantly cold? Does physical exertion equal being drenched?

By now, you’re probably wondering why inside moisture matters so much. The ideal jacket for spring is a waterproof /breathable jacket – not a full out traditional fully coated rain jacket like those plastic-like things we wore as kids. As active adults, we naturally create a lot of moisture on our own. To keep comfortable and dry it all needs to go somewhere else, preferably by means of evaporation. While a traditional rain jacket keeps us dry from outside elements, it totally hinders our ability to get rid of internal moisture making for one very muggy experience. On the flip side, a breathable waterproof jacket does a pretty awesome job of keeping rain/sleet/snow out, but lets the moisture you create escape via tiny little pores built into the material (think of them as one way roads).

When it comes to what EMS has in store, there are basically three levels of jackets. While we could totally dive into the highly technical aspects of them, here’s what you need to know:

The Marmot Precip jacket is a great all-around waterproof/breathable rain jacket.

Waterproof/Breathable Rain Jackets Under $100

If you don’t sweat a lot, have no big crazy plans yet, or just need a good intro to the great outdoors jacket – you’re going to want to start off with jackets such as EMS’s Thunderhead, North Face Venture, or the Marmot PreCip. Why? Well, to start off with the price point is ideal at under $100. This level of jacket is designed to be comfortable, hardy, and handle outside moisture like a pro. Rain jackets at this price point feature a durable nylon rip-stop shell and an easy to wear fit with adjustable features such as Velcro wraps on sleeves and a drawstring cord at the waist.

Waterproof/Breathable Rain Jackets Under $150

If you’re in that intermediate phase and looking for a seriously phenomenal all around rain jacket, check out something like the North Face Super Venture or Marmot RinCon. These jackets are designed to give you more range of motion for activities such as rock climbing and kayaking. The extra money you spend on these jackets gives you a more comfortable experience.


The North Face Super Venture jacket is a great choice for intermediate, done-in-a-day adventures.

The EMS Storm Front jacket looks a lot like The North Face Super Venture jacket above, but the combination of materials has an altogether different feel.

Waterproof/Breathable Rain Jackets Under $200

For outdoor enthusiasts who just know that they will be in some seriously wet situations and want the best, EMS has two jackets to fit the need: the EMS Deluge Rain Jacket and the EMS Storm Front Jacket.  Both jackets are made with rip-stop nylon to handle whatever terrain you throw at them and feature underarm zippers for ventilation, coated zippers, and sealed seams. As for materials, both utilize the best of the best. The Deluge features Gore-Tex Paclite – an extremely lightweight, breathable, easily packable material. The Storm Front uses an awesome combination of three layers: nylon rip-stop, System III, and a superfine knit. Altogether, the design of both jackets keeps you dryer, more comfortable, and gives you a jacket that’s easy to pack and go.

The EMS Deluge jacket is made with Gore-Tex Paclite fabric for exceptional waterproof performance without weighing you down.

So now that you’ve found your perfect jacket and those looming rain clouds (or is it sleet?) don’t seem so threatening, get out there!
Jillian Bejtlich

Jillian is a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of adventure along with a serious inability to sit still. Thanks to her love of travel and her willingness to try any relatively sane and safe thing once, Jillian is uniquely prepared to fulfill her number one goal in life: "Get people outside!"

1 Comment

  1. August 5, 2013, 2:38 pm

    Yes Jillian, you nailed it with this one. The right jacket (or wrong, for that matter) can truly make or break a trip. My current fave is the 4 in 1 Systems Parka

Comments are now closed on this post.