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Rain Jacket vs Trench Coat – Differences? Similarities?

Woman wearing a red rain jacket faces the lake.

Rain jacket vs. trench coat. Which one do you prefer? These two can be confusing when choosing since both are outerwear items designed to protect the wearer from rain, snow, and cold temperatures. While they may be similar in function, these two garments have distinct differences.

If you’re a hiking enthusiast, a rain jacket may be your best choice because of its breathability. But if you’re in the fashion world, the ‘trench’ coat is one of the most versatile and practical jackets available today. I have the best of these worlds: a rain jacket and a trench coat.

I love my trench coat because of its style and versatility. However, I also love my rain jacket because it’s lightweight, breathable, and easy to move around in. In this article, I will go into some details about how each one is different.

What Is a Rain Jacket?

A rain jacket is a water-resistant coat that keeps the wearer dry in areas or times of rain or snow. The jacket prevents water from entering and soaking into clothing. In addition, the waterproof material keeps the inside of the jacket dry when it faces intense moisture from outside weather.

What Is a Trench Coat?

Stylish woman wearing a beige trench coat.

A trench coat or trench is a long coat typically made of heavy-duty waterproof cloth. It often has deep pockets and a belt. Its primary purpose is to provide more warmth than a rain jacket.

Trench coats are typically cotton gabardine, although you can get others made from other materials such as polyester and a double-breasted front with large buttons.

Brief History of Rain Jacket vs. Trench Coat

The rain jacket and trench coat’s popularity is linked to the military since they used them during World War I and II.

Rain Jacket

The story of the rain jacket starts in Scotland in 1824—the year that Charles Macintosh invented a fabric made from tarpaulin fabric. The material was such a hit that by 1847 it had been patented and was the standard outerwear for British officers and soldiers. As a result, the rain jacket became known as a “Mackintosh” after its inventor.

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Even though Charles Macintosh stopped manufacturing his jackets after a few years, others took up where he left off, refining them and changing them over time. George Spill, a London manufacturer, discovered a way to eliminate excess perspiration. He achieved this by adding metal eyelets on the coat’s underarms.

The earliest rain jacket designs were still stiff and bulky, but lighter-weight models became popular during World War I and II. By the 1950s, lightweight plastic had been invented, which allowed for new possibilities. Finally, they could make rain jackets that weigh just a few ounces, with bright colors, lengths, shapes, and designs folded up into small bags.

You can get all kinds of rain jackets these days, but they are mostly waist-length.

Trench Coat

Mature woman in trench coat in the city.

Trench coats are believed to have a military origin, but two British manufacturers, Burberry and Aquascutum, created them in 1879. They were referred to as trench coats when the military started using them. The British army was the first to use them, but it wasn’t until World War I that they became a staple in army gear.

The name “trench coat” comes from the fact that soldiers would wear them in the trenches to protect themselves from water. The coat was modified later and included straps and a D–Ring for holding military accessories such as swords and maps. The trench coat design kept soldiers dry and decent-looking as they fought in the mud of trench warfare.

It was a waterproof garment that soldiers could button up and wear under their uniforms. They were made from wool, which is an excellent material for soaking up water, and they were lined with fabric that repelled it better. Trench coats were practical garments but also had to look nice—they had to hold up even when soldiers were sitting for hours in muddy trenches, knee-deep in water.

This explains why trench coats have many pockets, buttons, and flaps—all useful for keeping items safe and out of the way of water. During world war II, the trench was still used on battlefields in inclement weather. Later, the trench coat became popular among civilians and gained popularity.

Other countries also made coats with trench coat styles. Initially, the colors were black and khaki only, but now, they come in different colors and styles.

Similarities of a Rain Jacket and Trench Coat

Although they are made from different materials, they are designed to keep their wearer warm and protect against rain. This is because they have a waterproof fabric and lining that helps keep you dry.

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Differences Between a Rain Jacket and Trench Coat

Both items have one similar goal; keeping you dry when it’s raining. However, they also have some differences in appearance and materials used.


Rain jackets are often shorter than trench coats and are more casual. Also, rain jackets will always have a hood, while some trench coats do not come with hoods. In addition, the rain jacket is for one purpose; preventing you from rain or cold weather.

They mostly come with zippers, unlike trench coats which come with buttons. Trench coats are longer, and people consider them more official, meaning you can wear them in the office. Despite it being for cold and rainy weather outerwear, wearing a trench coat gives you a classy and stylish look, unlike rain jackets.

Additionally, the belt, buttons, and the deep pockets on a trench coat make it look more decorative.


Synthetic material texture.

Rain jackets typically have more waterproofing features than trench coats and are made of 100% synthetic materials (nylon/polyester) that repel water. Additionally, these jackets are breathable, so they can take away some sweat to make you comfortable. Also, these jackets are lightweight, and they are easy to carry around when not in use.

Trench coats may have some waterproofing, but they are made of natural fibers like cotton or wool, so they do not repel water, as well as rain jackets. Also, they are thicker because they need to keep you warm enough for cold weather on top of being waterproof.


The rain jacket is usually more water-resistant and durable than the trench coat. This is because, unlike trench coats, rain jackets are made from a synthetic material that makes them durable and easy to maintain. On the other hand, trench coats are made from natural fabric, which gives them an attractive appearance and needs more care.

Cost of a Rain Jacket vs. Trench Coat

A rain jacket and a trench coat have a slight price difference. However, trench coats are more expensive because they are more fashionable since you can wear them in formal settings. You can easily get a rain jacket for $25 to $150or higher depending on their design.

On the other hand, trench coat prices range from $35 to $200. You can get this coat even at a higher price depending on your supplier, material, and design.

Benefits of Rain Jacket vs. Trench Coat

No one loves soaking up, especially when going for official business. So, these two types of outerwear provide you with different benefits that might help you choose the right one depending on your needs.

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Rain Jacket Benefits

Jogging girl with rain jacket.

  • Rain jackets are not as bulky as trench coats because of their lightweight material construction.
  • They are great for keeping you dry during the rain, which can be helpful if you’re going to be outside for extended periods.
  • Rain jackets have a hood that you can use as an umbrella if no other shelter is available.
  • The materials are light and breathable and allow the jacket to dry quickly if it gets wet from rain or sweat.
  • They are more durable and need less care compared to trench coats.

Trench Coat Benefits

  • This coat is waterproof and windproof, so you can wear it outside in the rain without worrying about getting wet.
  • A trench coat is comfortable to wear and uses robust materials.
  • You can match your trench coat’s style with other clothes, either formal or casual.
  • Trench coats come in many styles, so there’s one that will suit everyone’s needs.
  • They are long, so they cover most parts of your body.

How Long Should a Trench Coat Be?

Young woman wearing beige trench coat outdoors.

There’s no official rule, but you’re clear if it comes to your knees or below. For most people, a trench coat should fall between the calves and the ankles; this means having a 42-inch coat. That said, it’s always good to check the size chart for each trench coat you buy.

This will help you be sure that you’re getting a trench coat that fits you properly. In addition, consider your body shape when choosing this attire.

What Should I Look for When Choosing a Rain Jacket?

When you’re looking to buy a rain jacket, the waterproofing feature should be at the top of your list. Other things to think of are breathability, length, and whether you need a hood.

Final Thoughts

If you’re asking yourself which is better, a rain jacket vs. trench coat, the answer really boils down to your priorities. Do you need something waterproof and packed up small, so you can easily carry it in case the weather changes? Then a rain jacket is probably the best choice for you.

If you’re looking for something to wear day-to-day that makes you look like an international spy, then we could argue that a trench coat wins out. It may not be as durable as the rain jacket, but let’s be honest: how often do you get caught in the rain?