From decades of traveling the world with my camera, I’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – that a camera rain cover is an essential part of any photographer’s kit. Here’s why: The most dramatic skies for landscape photography often occur during those brief moments before and after a storm. Either side of that moment, you’re probably going to get wet. If wildlife photography is more your cup of tea, I also have news for you: many animals don’t care about the rain. They’ll still be out there doing what they’ve got to do.
Having spent all that time, effort, and money getting yourself to the correct location at the right time, with the right gear, will you risk it all on “I’ll get the shot later when the weather is better”? The smart move is to carry a simple rain cover and get a shot in the bag. There’s a good chance it’ll have more natural drama and tell more of a story than a shot in dry weather.
Finally, if event shooting is your day-to-day gig, you will eventually get a wet one. And then your reputation as a professional is on the line. You still need to deliver. The lack of an essential accessory that can cost less than a visit to Starbucks will not fly as an excuse. For all these reasons, I always carry a camera rain cover in my camera bag. After much research and years of testing, from the jungles of Cambodia to the tundra of Canada’s Arctic Circle, I will outline my top picks in this guide.
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In a Hurry? My Quick Pick
If you’re in a hurry and need a quick solution that’s cheap, packable, and twenty times better than a garbage bag, you can’t go wrong with the Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover. Available in Small, Medium, and Large sizes, these covers work with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and don’t require the purchase of an additional eyepiece. I keep one of these in my camera bag at all times.
Best Rain Covers for Your Camera
Think Tank Hydrophobia V3
I have used Think Tank’s Hydrophobia rain covers for over a decade, using the V1 models, then V2, and now the latest V3 models. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could get a camera rain cover that’s just like my GoreTex rain jacket,” the Hydrophobia covers are the answer, and they are available in three sizes:
- Hydrophobia 300-600 V3 – For cameras with a lens size between 300mm and 800mm
- Hydrophobia 70-200 V3 – For cameras with medium-telephoto zoom lenses such as 70-200mm, 100-400mm, 100-500mm
- Hydrophobia 24-70 V3 – For cameras with short primes, wide-angle, and standard zooms such as 24-70mm, 24-105mm, 16-35mm, or 14-24mm
All of the Hydrophobia covers come with a front element cover that is tethered to the main cover and can be used to stop water from getting onto the front of your lens when you’re waiting to shoot or walking around. I’ve always found that useful, and it surprises me that none of the other rain covers on the market offer this simple feature.
Another cool feature unique to the Hydrophobia series is that all covers except for the 300-600 version come with an integrated camera strap. Inside the rain cover is a nylon loop that wraps around the lens to support the lens and body with the strap. That means that the weight of your camera isn’t hanging directly off the strap attachment point on the cover. Don’t worry; if you have a favorite camera strap that you want to use instead of the supplied Think Tank one, you can attach it just as you would to a camera. I like to use the Peak Design Slide straps with their quick-release system to quickly remove the strap from the camera and attach it to the rain cover.
As well as the lengthy feature list, you get Think Tank’s famed build quality and friendly customer service should you ever need it. All the zippers are seam sealed, and all the stitched seams in the durable 3-ply nylon are taped just like a waterproof hiking jacket would be. These covers are built for long-term professional usage, so they have price points reflecting that. Still, they certainly aren’t overpriced when you consider the quality of the construction and features that other covers don’t have.
The 300-600 V3 also has a neat trick to deploy the cover quickly. Rather than storing it in your bag, you can keep it on the lens hood of your super telephoto lens by strapping it on and then folding the cover into a pouch that wraps around the lens hood. This feature is designed for sports photographers who can’t afford to spend a lot of time attaching the cover if a rainstorm strikes midway through a game. If you think you might have rain during your game/match/race, pre-install the cover onto the lens hood, and then you can pull it over the camera in just a couple of seconds when the skies open. A quick scan of the sidelines at a major sporting event on a day with questionable weather will reveal many of these Think Tank Hydrophobia covers.
Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover
The Emergency Rain Cover series is the simpler sibling to the Think Tank Hydrophobia. Available in small, medium, and large sizes, these covers feature a rubber-covered hook-and-loop strap around the front of the lens and an ingenious hot shoe attachment that keeps the cover in place on the camera. The back of the rain cover has a clear plastic panel that lets you see the camera’s LCD screen. You can temporarily lift up the cover to access the camera’s viewfinder. An elastic drawcord around the bottom of the cover enables tripod mounting.
- Emergency Rain Cover Small – For cameras with short primes, wide-angle, and standard zooms such as 24-70mm, 24-105mm, 16-35mm, or 14-24mm
- Emergency Rain Cover Medium – For cameras with medium-telephoto zoom lenses such as 70-200mm, 100-400mm, 100-500mm
- Emergency Rain Cover Large – For cameras with a lens size between 300mm and 800mm
The Emergency Rain Cover series perfectly blends form, function, and price. Importantly, they are not so big and bulky that you never want to carry them with you. That’s the whole point, after all. They need to be there for emergencies. All three sizes are small enough to squash into even the smallest pockets in a camera bag.
Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket
These Vortex Storm Jacket rain covers are a simple tubular design with elasticated cords at both ends to cinch tight around the lens hood and the back of the camera. There’s plenty of room to slide your right hand under the cover to get to the camera, and once you push your eye up to the viewfinder, the cover has enough excess material that it still generally keeps the rain off the back of the camera.
The Storm Jackets come in two variations: Standard and Pro. The only difference is that the Pro version has a hook and loop closure along the bottom of the cover that can be used to poke a tripod or monopod through to the camera. As you can see in the photo above, it’s also handy for a gimbal head. To find the correct length for your needs, combine the length of your camera and your lens and then add 2 or 3 inches. The covers are highly compressible, so it’s possible to buy one for your largest lens and still make it work with a much shorter lens.
- Small — 11″
- Medium — 17″
- Large — 23″
- X-Large — 27″
- XX-Large — 31″
I love that these covers are so light that you can carry them in your bag all the time “just in case.” Some other rain covers are so big and bulky that you’d never take them with you unless you thought there was a good chance of rain. With the Storm Jacket, you can stash it in a tiny pocket in your bag, and you’ll forget it’s there until you need it.
Ruggard P18 Rain Cover
There are several cheap, clear plastic camera rain covers on the market, but the Ruggard P18 stands out from this crowd by offering enough additional plastic at the back of the cover to protect your hands from the rain. A single cover is available for under $7, and the P18 is available in a selection of different sizes to suit different cameras and flash combinations.
If your budget is constrained, this is certainly better than nothing and better than a garbage bag. Personally, I think it’s worth spending $40 on something far more robust like the Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover, but I wanted to include a super cheap option on the list as I know some people will appreciate that. If you’re going for the affordable plastic solution, I think this is the best.
LensCoat RainCoat RS (Camo)
LensCoat has an extensive and confusing range of camera rain covers. I have tested them, and there are two worth considering. The first is the LensCoat RainCoat RS (rain sleeve). This is the most straightforward rain cover they make. It has the same open-backed design as the Vortex Media Storm Jacket or the Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover but is made from much thicker materials.
Since the RainCoat RS uses a much heavier material than the Vortex or Think Tank options, it’s bulkier and heavier. That’s a definite disadvantage for a more expensive cover, and it doesn’t offer any more protection from the rain to compensate for that.
LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard (Camo)
The LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard is a beefed-up version of the RainCoat RS with two arm holes to reach the camera body and the lens barrel. Unlike other big covers, such as the Think Tank Hydrophobia, the RainCoat 2 Standard has an open-back design that some people find easier to use. The more straightforward design also keeps the price point a little lower.
Peak Design Shell
The Shell Rain Cover from Peak Design is an excellent little cover for anyone using the Peak Design Capture Clip. The Capture Clip allows you to carry your camera on a belt or the strap of your backpack, but this exposes it to the weather. The Shell rain cover is designed to slip quickly on and off the camera while attached to the Capture Clip.
Altura Photo Professional Rain Cover
The Altura Professional Rain Cover is this list’s best-value camera cover. From an environmental standpoint, I’d love to see people spending a few dollars more on this cover than the plastic ones that won’t last as long. This is one of the most popular rain covers, with a 4.3/5 rating on Amazon after well over 3000 reviews.
When you handle the cover, there’s very clearly a difference in quality between the Altura rain cover and the more expensive options. Still, with care, it will be acceptable for occasional emergency use. It’s undoubtedly a significant step up from the clear plastic covers. The downside is that this cover doesn’t have an eyepiece, so you must peer through the plastic to see your LCD screen or viewfinder.
The cover is available in just one size and only from Amazon, which is a limitation since it feels big if you use it with a small prime lens or a wide-angle zoom. It’s large enough to fit a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 100-500mm zoom.
Rain Covers for On-Camera Flash Users
A reader emailed me and asked for advice on which rain cover they should use if they need to mount a flash on top of their camera. Most rain covers completely cover the camera’s hot shoe, and they don’t have clear material on top to allow for flash use. While there used to be flash-compatible versions of the original Think Tank Hydrophobia and several other popular covers, these have been discontinued as photographers have transitioned away from this shooting technique.
The main reason is that flash photography doesn’t look great in the rain. It tends to light up all the raindrops more than the intended subject, creating bright spots of distraction across the image. These days, people are more likely to use modern cameras’ much-improved high ISO capabilities to compensate for low light on a dark, rainy day. That said, Ruggard does make a flash-compatible version of the P18 rain cover. The downside is that if you use it without a flash, you have some extra material to deal with, flopping about on top of the camera.
Rain Covers for Use With On-Camera Microphones
Another question asked on this topic was a recommendation for a rain cover that would work with an on-camera microphone. If you plan to use a microphone in the rain, you’d have to be careful not to pick up the pitter-patter of raindrops on the rain cover. Still, you might get acceptable results with a good shotgun mic that rejects sound around the camera. In this case, whether shooting with a mirrorless camera or a dedicated video camera, a video camera rain cover will be your best bet. The Manfrotto CRC series covers have a waterproof sleeve to enclose a shotgun microphone.
A Note for Side-Mount Gimbal Users
Most rain covers have an opening in the bottom that allows you to use them with a tripod. If you use a side-mount gimbal such as the Wimberley Sidekick or an RRS PG-02 without the cradle, this can narrow your rain cover options because you need an opening on the side of the cover and not the bottom. There are no rain covers on the market that are designed with this in mind, but you can make do by using a rain cover with two arm holes.
When using a rain cover with arm holes, you simply put the gimbal attachment through the left-hand arm hole, and if you need to control a zoom ring, you put your left hand up through the hole on the bottom of the cover that is meant for the tripod. This solution works very well with the Think Tank Hydrophobia 300-600, so that would be my pick for side-mount gimbal users.