The Best Rain Gear for Travel

Stacey Ebert

Not every wet adventure is a beach day filled with surfing lessons, kayak excursions, and hours spent diving head first through the white-capped waves. No matter where we’re headed, there’s always the possibility of rain on any given day.

We’ve all been in those situations. Some are by choice, like the that spring trip to London, the wintery Seattle conference, or the epic days in Hong Kong, punctuated by monsoon rain. Others come out of nowhere, like lucking into rain in the desert, the typhoon that reroutes your flight, or summer thunderstorms interrupting an afternoon. Whether your wet weather is by choice, or an uncontrollable, spontaneous addition to your adventure, carrying some travel rain gear can save the day.

Travel Rain Gear for Everyday Adventures

Sometimes, rain gear is really handy, even when it’s not raining. Whether you’re headed to the beach, jumping on a ferry to Catalina Island, taking off on an urban hiking trail on a cloudy day, checking out the floating markets in Bangkok, or searching for whales on your Cape Cod excursion – you’re bound to have fun, make memories, and get wet. For those outings that cross the land/water barrier, when you know getting wet is likely, plan ahead.

Packing Light & Travel Rain Gear

Adding rain gear doesn’t mean that you have to check a bag. Consider items that will do double duty and simplify as much as possible. Bring a few ziploc bags for wet emergencies. Pack a travel towel. And choose your travel backpack and daypack with the possibility of getting wet in mind.

Water Resistant Backpacks

Both the Tortuga Outbreaker and Homebase collections are made of our waterproof sailcloth designed to take what Mother Nature can dish out.

If fully waterproof fabric seems like more than you need, then perhaps a simple rain cover will do.

The Setout raincover is coming soon!

Wet/Dry Bag

So, what do you do with the wet stuff after a rainstorm when you’ve got to pack it in with the dry stuff?

Answer: Wet/Dry Bag.

This little gem is a must have for containing all things wet and dirty while traveling. Treat yourself.

Outbreaker Daypack

The Outbreaker daypack is the ultimate weather resistant daypack. Made of the same waterproof sailcloth as the travel backpacks, this little bag has room for your computer, and everything you’ll need for your day’s adventure. 

If there’s any chance of rain, this  is your daypack.

Outbreaker Packable Duffle

If you prefer cross body carry and a compact size that will meet the personal item requirements of the budget airlines, but still want waterproof fabric construction, then the Outbreaker packable duffle is perfect.

This is a flexible bag that some people pack along for “souvenir overflow” on the way home, and other, more minimalist travelers, use as their primary travel bag.

Pair it with the daypack for a great, lightweight, combo that can take the rain!

What to Know About Purchasing Travel Rain Jackets

Laura Lopuch wrote deeply about the difference between waterproof and water resistant fabrics and pointed this out:

“The honest-to-God-truth is: no item of clothing is completely waterproof unless it’s welded seam rain gear. Why?

Because all clothing needs some breathability. Otherwise, no one would buy them because they’d be so danged uncomfortable.”

Waterproof vs Water-Resistant 

Unless you’re going for marine grade foul weather gear, waterproof is probably overkill.  Water-resistant will keep the rain off your skin but also allow for breathability while adventuring – it’s a “light rain for a limited amount of time” option. This will be adequate for most of the rain you’ll encounter on your urban adventures, but don’t be afraid to dive deep into that fabric research and find the perfect blend of form and function.

Layers & Coatings

Rain jackets have layers and coatings. They start at 2 layer and head up from there.

2 layer: Inner lining and outer layer with coating inside (most cost effective, most flexible for various sorts of travel – quietest option)

2.5 layer: Outer fabric that’s durable, laminate/coating inside and a protective layer over that coating/laminate (lighter and more budget friendly than the fully 3 layer ones)

3 layer: Outer fabric, liner, and a separate membrane in between (to protect you in the “it’s definitely going to rain and probably be cold” environs)

Many also come with “durable water repellent.” This kind of rain gear does require some maintenance; be sure to re-apply those durable water repellent treatments to keep your fancy gear up to snuff.

Bells & Whistles

What should you look for when choosing this rain jacket over that one? Much will depend on where and how you’ll use the jacket, as well as personal preference, but look carefully at:

Zippers: Look for a rubber coating around them or a storm flap to keep pockets dry and inner layers dry.

Hood: Depending on your needs, look for adjustable or packable options. 

Vents: Look for underarm vents and the extra possibility of mesh liners or torso vents. 

Pockets: Depending on your needs, look for hidden pockets or ones with cord accessibility.

Seam taping: Standard for fully waterproof construction, optional in the water resistant category.

Adjustable cords: To improve fit and seal up potential leak points. 

Packability: Some come with packable pouches, others roll into a pocket as a built in pouch.

Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket (Men/Women) $110-120

This baby is a great option for keeping the water out and staying dry inside. The deep hood is the key to keeping your skin dry while the sky is crying.

This 2.5 layer jacket with lined pockets, double-storm zipper flaps, and awesome armpit vents remains breathable.

Torrentshell Jacket takes the top spot for both men and women.

The North Face Venture Jacket (Men/Women) $65-230

A slimmer cut than the Patagonia option, the Venture is more flattering but leaves less room for those layering options.

Mesh-lined pockets (which do tend to allow moisture to seep through), provide another vent for breathability.

Velcro on the storm flap can be seen both as a positive and a negative for travelers.

Columbia Watertight II Jacket (Men’s/Women’s) $45-125

Good breathability, lightweight and packs into one of its own pockets.

Prana Women’s Martina Jacket $85

For when you want rain protection but still get the look of a trendy cut.

Arc’teryx Zeta LT Jacket $425

Three layer awesomeness and lightweight; pricey, but they really are that good.

Helly Hansen Men’s Seven J $60-$120

Complete with a hood, this waterproof and windproof option comes complete with snazzy adjustable sleeve cuffs.

Outdoor Research Helium II $100-300

A bit pricey, but one of the best in the lightweight category.

North Face Resolve Plus $70-130

Excellent for multi-seasonal use.

Travel Umbrellas: Should You Pack One?

All things being equal, I’d ditch the umbrella option in favor of the benefits of a rain jacket, waterproof fabric of my bag, or the rain cover option. If you’re traveling carry on only, space in your bag is at a premium and an umbrella is something you could buy when you get there if you decide you need it. Anytime I’ve been stuck in Manhattan in a rain storm there’s always been someone selling a $3 umbrella that might not be the best of the bunch, but manages to keep me dry from point A to point B.

Consider your options before packing an umbrella. 

Repel Easy Touch Umbrella $23

This umbrella is made of incredibly sturdy 9-rib construction and amidst others which sell for more than 2x it’s price, this little guy stands up to those gale-force winds that smack us in the face in the middle of a magical travel day.

Amazon Basics Automatic Travel Umbrella with Wind Vent $15-19

Through all the testing and gusting that’s done for product reviews, this vented umbrella stood up to the big guns that cost more than it does. It’s a solid pick for travelers.

Shoes for Wet Days

If you’re thinking about shoes that will power through the wet weather, Sean gives us two great options in his article about shoes for urban adventures.

Scarpa Crux Approach ($77-89)

According to Shawn, who wore these puppies walking all 500 miles of the Camino (including rain) they, “Handled wet, rocky trails, mud, rain, cobblestones, and city streets in stride. Best part—they only weigh 1 lb 11 oz.”

Xero Cloud ($50)

At just 4.6 oz each these sandals are the lightest and most comfortable sandals on the market. They roll up to nothing when they’re in your bag, and put up with wet weather while keeping the soles of your feet safe.

Travel Rain Gear for Your Gear & for Fun!

No matter where you are in the world, the possibility of rain is there. It could start to pour as you leave your Uber on the way to your Airbnb, deluge while you’re riding bikes around Amsterdam, or be in the annoying constant drizzle stage as you grab your Starbucks mid-sightseeing adventure. Pack a few things in anticipation of the possibility of rain, particularly if you’re going somewhere known for wet. *cough*London*cough*

In our best waterproof gear for travel guide, Shawn shares a ton of options for weatherproof gear that performs on the road. Depending on your travel habits, these little extras might add fun to your adventure, rain or shine.

Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers

No matter where you go, your tunes go with you. When you’re ready to bring the party, pool side or on a wet afternoon, waterproof bluetooth speakers the way to go. Sean reviewed a bunch, but these two rose to the top:

Polk Audio Boom Swimmer Speakers ($24)

As far as budget pool speakers go, this one is top notch. Wrap it around handles of your scooter or bike and take your tunes for a ride.

JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers ($120)

This, more expensive, option has a 20 hour battery life, great sound design, and claims to be fully waterproof – give it a try, submerse the speaker and still hear the music.

Waterproof Phone Cases

You know, for the times when a ziploc bag is definitely not enough! Our phones are our lifelines, our guidebooks, GPS navigation, restaurant and activity planners, work and family connection, as well as our cameras and so much more. A waterproof case is a great investment if you’re going to a place where your phone is likely to encounter water.

If you don’t like the extra bulk for every day use, consider packing the waterproof one along as an “extra” and just putting it on only when you need it.

Here are two that go the distance:

Catalyst Waterproof iPhone Case ($79)

If you’re looking to road test this guy yourself, drop it 5 meters deep and watch your phone stay dry. Keep the case on and continue to use the touch screen and thumb ID!

Lifeproof FRE Waterproof iPhone Case ($39)

Lifeproof lives up to it’s name. While nothing lasts forever and never fails, these are the best bang for your buck. Slap one on your phone and leave your DSLR at home, use your phone camera instead.

Waterproof Camera

Gone are the days of point and shoot waterproof cameras. Some phones with cameras are waterproof enough to take them snorkeling, so rain isn’t an issue. But if you’re serious about recording your adventures, rain or shine, the GoPro is the way to go. Not ready to buy one? Consider renting a GoPro instead.

GoPro Hero 5 Waterproof Camera ($250-300)

Rated waterproof up to 10 meters, GoPro is the king of underwater cameras. Wifi, bluetooth, 4k video and an intuitive user interface. These are worth the investment if you love to take video.

Rain or Shine: Be Ready for Whatever an Adventure Brings

Those days that start sunny and end in a downpour? Be ready for everything with sunscreens that take you from sunshine to rain and back again.

Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 ($10)

Waterproof and retains effectiveness after 80 minutes of water activity or sweating. It’s not going to wash off in the rain either!

Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick ($13)

If packability is important, go with a stick sunscreen, like this one, instead of worrying about the TSA liquids rules. It’s still water resistant and it’s non-comedogenic, which is good news for your skin!

Zinka ($15)

Zinc is a great option for those of us with more sensitive skin, or to cover vulnerable skin where scars are present. And, if you’re going to rock the zinc, why not do it in an array of bright colors?

Liplux SPF 30 Organic Sunscreen ($12)

Grossed out by putting sunscreen on your lips? Worried about what’s IN that stuff? Me too. Get a sunscreen stick made of organic ingredients and formulated especially for tender lip skin.

TL;DR

Wet weather adventures come in all shapes and sizes, expected and unexpected. Aim for a stress-free adventure and plan for the possibilities of changing weather by investing in travel rain gear that is ready for whatever a day throws at you.

  • Invest in a travel backpack made of waterproof fabric and never worry about a wet travel day again.
  • Make the investment in a quality rain jacket, you won’t be sorry!
  • Make your second pair of shoes a pair that will take a wet day in stride.
  • Carefully choose the best waterproof gear for your travel

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