Best Lighweight Rain Jackets for Summer
In theory, wearing a rain jacket for summer should be an oxymoron. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, summer can be even wetter than winter. However, with the increased heat you need something which is light enough to not overheat, but still manages to keep the summer pour from soaking you through. They are jackets which can be packed away easily and taken out when the clear skies become heavy. This is why oneHOWTO goes over the best lightweight rain jackets for summer. They'll help you consider both your practical necessities as well as maintain summer style.
Water resistance vs water proofing
A jacket is called waterproof when it has sufficient water resistance to keep the rain off completely. However, there might be confusion on terms of test standards. There are different types:
- Water resistant: This kind of rain jacket is breathable and is able to keep you dry during light rain conditions. Common examples would be featherweight jackets or windbreakers. However, in times of heavy rains or heavy sweats, water resistant jackets may fail to do their job.
- Non-breathable/waterproof: If you just need a jacket that can keep you from getting wet, and if you are not planning to get involved in any physical activity, then this kind of jacket may be just fine. It comes very cheap and does its job well to prevent rain water from seeping in. But if you do some exertion, or if it is summer and you sweat inside, then this kind of jacket may drench you in sweat instead.
- Breathable/waterproof: This kind of rain jacket prevents rain from reaching your skin and at the same time let the sweat from your body evaporate into the atmosphere. While you are planning a hike or trek during summer, you need a rain jacket that can keep rain out, but also let your sweat absorb or evaporate. Towing this line of breathability and being waterproof is not easy. This is why many of these jackets will come at a premium.
Soft shell vs hard shell
Soft shell rain jackets are made up of soft and stretchy material that can handle light precipitation and wind conditions. They are not, however, completely waterproof. These jackets are found to be effective in cold and dry weather, but may not be an ideal wear for highly rainy and sweaty conditions. A hard shell jacket should have a breathable/waterproof membrane. A traditional rubber rain slicker that fishermen used to wear provides 100% waterproofing. But as soon as you put it on and start doing some activity, even as moderate as walking, you may become damp with sweat. The kind of material used in this kind of jacket blocks water vapor and sweat which should escape your skin.
The basic idea is to choose a rain jacket that not only keeps rain out, but also lets it escape through your body. In misty and light rain conditions, a soft shell jacket may be enough to handle. Most of them are equipped enough to keep out light sweat and provide good breathability. However, hard shell jackets may have limited breathability and it may be impossible to wear it while doing strenuous activity. But you would need it during heavy rainfall. Many manufacturers are coming up with innovative ideas to maximize breathability and retain waterproofing. They are also making efforts to improve durability and reduce weight.
Layered rain jacket
Polytetrafluoroethylene is the material used for providing waterproofing to a jacket, but it is very thin and weak. You can’t walk around wearing just this sheet. To make a rain jacket from it, manufacturers sandwich it between a couple of protective layers. This makes your jacket a 3-layer construction. All the three layers stay together to create a single fabric. You will feel as if you are wearing a single piece only. When these layers are put together, you get a rain jacket that is breathable, waterproof, comfortable to move around in and strong enough to withstand cuts, tears and abrasions. All the seams in this jacket are taped, as untaped ones may allow water to enter in.
The inner side of the jacket, that touches your skin, is a soft liner that keeps your comfortable and breathable. Some new jackets may also have a wicking layer made of synthetic material which is helpful in absorbing sweat. Next is the polytetrafluoroethylene membrane itself. The outer layer on top is the one that protects the membrane from the outside climatic conditions.
You will see some rain jackets in the market that have 2 or 2.5 layers. The 2-layer jacket has a free-hanging, stitched-in mesh instead of a layer specifically attached to the membrane. On the other hand, a jacket with 2.5 layers is light in weight, as it replaces the inner layer with a protection coating instead of an attached fabric. Rain jackets with 2.5 layers are great for sudden rainfall. You can easily stuff it in your bag, in case an unexpected storm hits in. It is durable too, but not as good as a 3-layer jacket.
What to look for in the best lightweight rain jacket for summer
Apart from the material, breathability and waterproofing of the jacket, there are several other features that make it comfortable, durable and appropriate. Some of them are:
- Fitting: the jacket that you choose should suit your body shape, size and type. Since you would be wearing your jacket on top of your clothes, you should make sure that it is the appropriate size to give you freedom of movement comfortably.
- Type of activity: consider the type of activity you would be doing while wearing the jacket. For instance, if you are planning for a hiking or climbing expedition, make sure it has underarm gussets so that the lower part of the jacket does not lift up when you can raise your arms over the head.
- Zipper: Some rain jackets have zip-open vents in the armpits. This maximizes the breathability of your jacket and still keeps you dry under light rainfall.
- Collar: the best rain jacket is the one that that has collar going over your chin, and wrapping around your neck. This kind of collar keeps the rain out so that it does not drip down your neck when you remove the hood.
- Hood: the hood is a necessity in rainfall, but you should be able to hide or remove it at other times. If you are going to do something for which you need to wear a helmet, then make sure that the hood is big enough to cover the helmet too. It should also have a drawstring so that you can adjust as per the size of your head or helmet.
- Cuffs: a good jacket would have cuff adjusters which allow you to tuck in the gloves or cover the wrists. Some jackets have Velcro straps, some have elastic cuffs, while others are made of stretchable neoprene.
- Pockets: there is no use of a pocket in a rain jacket if it is not waterproof. A manufacturer can easily do this by sticking the pockets inside. If you want pockets outside, then make sure that they have a waterproof zip.
Although these are some of the features you should look into your jacket, the final choice depends on your personal preference, type of activity you would be doing while wearing it and your individual requirements.
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