CNN has a fairly detailed article on many rain jackets it tested recently. The winner, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L, was one of the less expensive ones at $149. CNN also identifed a solid, less-expensive option in the REI Rainier:
The REI jacket is on sale currently for $63. Not sure I like the colors.
I got the Patagonia on sale just before summer and, while I have yet to put its full waterproof capabilities to the test, it is a good jacket indeed; lightweight, reasonably breathable (wore it to keep warm on hikes) and it did keep me dry in a few showers. The lack of an inside pocket being the main drawback to me.
Thanks for the link. Those folks seem to be able to test anything and arrive at reliable results that can be used to buy good products once. Patagucci's shells tend to be built for backpacking and trekking through monsoons, way over-engineered for casual tourists, but, yes, an excellent rain garment as evidenced on other sites. If you wish to save money, weight, and space, OR's Helium along with a selection of REI, Eddie Bauer, North Face, and Marmot rain shells do a perfectly acceptable good job in what might be considered far less hostile environments. I'd stick with good brands.
Thanks acraven! I thought this, about the REI Rainier, was funny: “if you’re looking for a cheap jacket, the Rainier is a fantastic option.” I don’t think $90 + tax is cheap, lol.
Me either, but when you start getting into technical materials, the only place to buy cheaply is a thrift store. Which is where I found an Eddie Bauer (or equivalent) rain jacket for $4.99.
I travel with a Marmot ultralight rain shell, never let me down yet! The Patagonia Torrentshell is excellent though and if mine wears out that is what I will get.
Bear in mind this isn't normal objective CNN type reporting, these articles are usually advertorials. Take it as you will. And if you follow their links and buy anything, they get a slice. So again, YMMV.
Good score acraven!
'Thrift store'? Luxury!
I get mine from Goodwill, or found put out on the curb.
My most recent Marmot shell, though, I won in a raffle.
(One side benefit of these garments came up on a rainy early morning some years back in downtown Phoenix when an earnest young church volunteer approached me and offered me a plastic-wrapped care package of food. Score! [Not really -- I thanked her but declined the handout] Honestly, I don't think she realized that I wasn't homeless, but figured I was too proud/stubborn to accept help)
Don't give up on brick and mortar stores. Last January, I saw Marmot Pre-cips like the one I have on sale at 75% off at a Dillards (department store chain). If you haven't been to a real store in a while, some of them are carrying more well-known brands like Columbia, North Face, etc.
I have a good Eddie Bauer rain parka. It's too long for hiking, however. So, I will be using a rain jacket I bought from Costco. Way cheaper than the stuff mentioned by the CNN article. I am also bringing a big poncho with me. In this case, my backpack will be protected too.
Remember that Amazon is chock full of this stuff at all price points, and most clothing has free returns. Which is good, because the trench-coat style raincoat I bought from them was just awful.
The Torrentshell is a very noise and crunchy jkt, lots of compromises were made to get the price down. While very inexpensive for a 3-layer constructed design, the face fabric is like a potato chip bag.
Alternatives to consider:
The North Face Dryzzle Jkt -a more reasonable 3L jkt with a softer fabric
The North Face Venture Jkt- $99 LOTS of colors and a favorite amongst travelers
Marmot Minimalist Jkt - If you prefer Gore-Tex in a inexpensive 3L
Marmot PreCip- $99 competes with the Venture, has a collar