Pick the right rig, zip up, then get out.
The North Face Cesium Anorak
Best For: Affordable Tech
The Cesium has the soul of a poncho but the smart detailing of a performance shell. We threw it over our other layers in a rainstorm—it has a huge helmet-compatible hood and is made of surprisingly stretchy fabric—and stayed bone dry. It sheds ounces by forgoing extra pockets (there’s one) and an inner liner.
Helly Hansen Enroute Shelter
Best For: Ditching Your Yellow Slicker
This is the workhorse of the rain-jacket world. It’s dependable (the 2.5-layer fabric kept us dry during a squall), smartly cut (we like the extra-long cuffs), and breathable (the front pockets double as mesh-backed vents). But what really sets it apart are the fun details, like the bright, splotchy print and pink zips.
Arc’teryx Atom SL
Best For: Lightweight Warmth
If a puffy married a rain shell, this is what you’d get. The synthetic Coreloft insulation in the body is so thin it’s practically see-through, but it kept us warm during high-output activities down to 30 degrees. It won’t keep you dry in a downpour, but the Atom’s thin face fabric sheds light rain and proved durable on a bushwhacking odyssey outside Santa Fe.
Voormi High-E Hoodie
Best For: Getting Snuggly
The wool High-E is warm and durable, with its water-repellant outer surface, and super cozy. We didn’t take it off once during a three-day backpacking trip. (A major benefit of wool: no stink.) Too hot for runs and bike rides but perfect for long treks or chilling at base camp.
Dynafit Traverse Gore-Tex
Best For: Big Days in the Mountains
Think of the Traverse as a ski shell on a diet. Cut from Gore-Tex Active fabric, it weighs about half a pound and played well on all our adventures, from runs above tree line to multi-pitch climbs. We even took it on a few spring ski tours. All that performance is pricey, but if you want an all-in-one thoroughbred, this is it.
United by Blue Day Coat
Best For: Hiding Your Inner Gear Nerd
You won’t find any fancy membranes or taped seams here, just 100 percent organic cotton and a classic military-inspired design, with four pockets and a snappable zipper flap. On cool days, the buttery-soft top worked great as outerwear, but we just as often found ourselves wearing it to work.