When the weather closes in, you need a jacket you can trust. Our guide to the best waterproof jackets around has been tirelessly assembled in the worst weathers imaginable. So read on to reap the fruits of our labours.
Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day … Actually, you know what? Bring it on. Because we’ve just put together the ultimate buyer’s guide for the best waterproof jackets you can buy. So whether it’s summer showers or winter storms, put on these coats, throw open your door, and charge into the great unknown.
In this guide, we’ll be listing some of our favourite rain jackets, as well as telling you why they’re so great, and where they’ll excel. That way, you can buy the best waterproof jacket for you. Hiking the mountains, shredding downhill trails on your bike, or just bracing the elements in the city. We’ll cover it all. Ready? Let’s jump in.
In a rush? Check out this season’s latest styles over at Ridestore.
You might think that a waterproof jacket’s quality comes down to its water column (don’t worry, we’ll explain this later). And you’re right for the most part. But there are some other features we look for too, and below you’ll find a quick rundown of what we think makes a waterproof jacket truly awesome!
When we talk about waterproofing, we’re looking for that ascribed number. Sometimes it looks like 10,000mm, or even 10k, but what does that mean? We’ll cover it in detail later, but for now, all you need to know is that the higher the number the longer you can stay in the rain before moisture gets in. This is an essential element when it comes to finding the right rain jacket, and works in tandem with all other features. But be aware, higher may not always be better!
If you’re running around on a rainy mountainside, out for a jog, or peddling up a craggy hill on your bike, you’ll be working up a sweat. And while waterproofing keeps the water out, breathability is what keeps it from being locked in. Measured in the amount of grams of water that pass through a square metre in a 24 hour period, a high breathability rating allows you to push as hard as you want, and not feel clammy!
This is a tricky one as it’s a little bit subjective. But what we’re trying to quantify is, beyond it’s ‘technical stats’, how useful is this jacket actually going to be when you take it out in adverse conditions? We’re going to be averaging hiking, biking, and running here, so that you get a general feel for the practicality of the rain jacket for those with what we like to call an ‘active lifestyle’. Which basically means you’re a rad person who does loads of cool stuff.
How much bang are you getting for your buck? More expensive isn’t always better. These jackets need to take a lot of punishment, so how do they stack up for the cash? Do we think they’re expensive, or do we think that they’re practically a steal? We’ll be laying out the price, and whether or not we think that you’re getting a lot for your money.
These are our 4 metrics, and using some seriously complex mathematical algorithms, we’ll be finding the average score and ranking them for you below. So check out this quick rundown of our top 5 waterproof jackets for men, and our top 5 waterproof jackets for women, and then read on to get the lowdown on each one.
Note: for the full effect, you should play ‘Africa’ by Toto while reading this. Or ‘It’s Raining Men’, by The Weather Girls, if you’d prefer.
The Blizzard LIGHT is a new outdoor focused version of our super popular winter jacket. Made using a new 2-layer fabric that cuts down on bulk without sacrificing performance, this hike-ready coat has plenty of waterproofing to get you through even the toughest summer storms.
The PO version offers classic anorak styling with an oversized cowl collar for better rain protection, as well as a secure kangaroo pouch and zipped handwarmer pocket combination for plenty of storage while you’re on the trails. The fully zippered version of this rain jacket had the same oversized cowl collar and adjustable hood, a secure chest pocket on the outside, a media pocket on the inside, along with zippered hand warmer pockets. Both jackets come with zipped armpit vents, too, for those warm weather adventures.
The Legacy LIGHT is a new jacket to the 2022 Dope lineup, and combines a lightweight construction with maximum ventilation to make it the most packable, summer-centric jacket in the line. A fully adjustable hood and 2-layer waterproof shell design means that it’s happy to shrug off any summer cloudburst, while the fully zipped armpit vents and full-width back vent mean you’ll stay cool in the sun, too.
Secure storage is provided by the oversized kangaroo pouch and handwarmer pocket combo, which comes with a dedicated media harness and headphone outlet. A half-zip collar means you can easily manage body temperature, and an ultralight liner means you can fold this jacket up super tightly to stuff in your trail pack.
The Ranger LIGHT is another new addition to the 2022 lineup, and utilises the same design ethos as the Legacy. A tough 2-layer outer shell compliments a packable design. The full zip construction is paired with two oversized zippered chest pockets, as well as two zipped handwarmer pockets for total trail versatility.
On the inside, a low friction liner adds to the comfort of the jacket, while a dedicated media pocket keeps your phone safe. Finished off with two large zippered underarm vents, this rain jacket is the perfect companion for spring and summer adventures where a lightweight jacket built for both the sun and rain is a must.
The North Face Lightning jacket is a super lightweight zip-through shell with a mesh liner to ensure no excess weight is added. Secure storage is provided thanks to the zippered pockets, while a packable design means it’s easy to fold up and put in your pack.
The hardwearing DRYVENT shell will easily stand up to any summer rain storm, and its timeless design means it’s stylish enough for any adventure, whether that’s in the real, or urban jungle.
The Picture Organic Clothing Wailer jacket is a unique and versatile outdoor jacket that drops the frills for pure functionality. A tough outer shell provides solid waterproofing, while a slim-cut, packable design means you can ditch the bulk on your next hike.
A zipped collar and fixed hood construction makes this the ideal jacket to carry with you everywhere, as well as stuff down into your hiking pack. Elasticated cuffs help to keep things simple, while two snappered stomach pockets mean that you can easily carry your phone and other trail essentials in confidence. Simple and effective, this jacket is great when you need function over fanciness.
The Hiker LIGHT from Dope is a lightweight and packable anorak style rain jacket with a focus on spring and summer performance. It’s designed using Dope’s new 2-layer lightweight shell fabric which delivers bombproof waterproofing without any bulk. A comfy liner means it’s breathable, too, while oversized zipped vents help keep you cool in the sun.
A full-length side zipper means getting in and out is easy, while a secure zipped hand warmer pocket with built in media pouch makes it super versatile. Finished off with an adjustable hood and waterproof collar zip, this jacket is the ideal companion for any outdoor enthusiast who wanted to get their miles in come rain or shine.
Building on the crowd-favourite Blizzard platform, the newly developed outdoor 2-layer shell fabric from the depths of the R&D labs buried in the earth beneath the Ridestore lair — I mean HQ — makes this super stylish ski and snowboard jacket perfect for hiking and other spring and summer adventures.
Instantly recognisable by its oversized cowl collar, the Blizzard offers superior weather defense in either a pullover or zip-through design, which means you can enjoy this coat in whatever style you like best. Outfitted with secure zipped storage, zipped underarm vents, and equipped with a fully adjustable hood, there’s no box it doesn’t check and no rain storm it can’t handle this coming season.
Inspired by the boxy oversized cuts of the 90s, the Legacy jacket blends expert design with performance for a totally waterproof, breathable, and packable spring and summer jacket. Made using Dope’s new waterproof 2-layer shell fabric, this hiking coat is the perfect addition to any outdoor enthusiasts wardrobe.
With an oversized cowl collar and half-zip construction, this simple and slick pullover jacket is ready for rain and shine. Oversized underarm zips combine with a full-width back vent to make this the best-ventilated and most breathable jacket around. Finished off with plenty of secure storage in the form of zippered hand warmer pockets — complete with media harness — the Legacy is a solid choice for all your summer adventures.
The Scale jacket from Picture Organic Clothing is a low profile, lightweight hiking jacket with a slim-cut silhouette and all the style you’d expect from Picture. Equipped with a 2-layer waterproof shell, zipped hand warmer pockets, and an exposed waterproof zip design, this no-frills coat is ideal for summer hikes, spring frolics, and autumn adventures.
Simple elasticated cuffs match perfectly with the low collar and fixed hood, while a slight dropped tail offers enhance coverage. Truly a jacket that embodies the less is more ethos, the Scale from Picture is a great choice if you’re looking for a packable jacket that’s free of bulk and easy to stuff in a bag.
The Hikesteller Parka from The North Face has everything you’d expect from one of the most renowned brands in the outdoor world, and is powered by their bombproof DRYVENT shell. With an interesting long-cut design, this elastic cinched coat is lightweight but built to take a beating.
A fully waterproof zip compliments the adjustable hood with shaped brim, and the zippered hand warmer pockets ensure safe storage for your valuables. The longer drape means maximised coverage in wet weather, while the mesh liner keeps weight and bulk down, ensuring total packability despite the larger footprint. All of which makes it a great choice for the hiker determined to get their steps in, even when the forecast isn’t looking favourable!
Still here, are we? Well that’s good. Because I’m on the clock until five and my fingers are nowhere near sore yet.
If you’re reading this, that means not only do we have your attention firmly within our grasp, but it also means that you likely want to know more about how we, and better yet, how you can choose the best waterproof jacket. Or at the very least, what a water column is, how a jacket breathes, and just why some cost twice as much as others.
Well, the tech explanations will come a little later, so you don’t have to trawl through them for the good stuff. But for now, let’s get into the quick and dirty of it. How we approach buying a new rain jacket.
So often will we look for something like a hiking jacket, or a new piece of gear, and think, Yeah, it’s nice. But it’s kind of costly. Do I really need it?
I can’t answer that for you. But if you’re here, you’re probably pretty serious about needing a new jacket. And when it comes right down to it, price and value are two separate things. And if you’re going to get loads of use out of something, the value is high. As such, the price is less significant. So we always say to think of price in terms of value, rather than cold, hard numbers!
Let’s take my needs for example. I’m in the market for a jacket that I need for mountain biking. I need a water-resistant jacket that’s lightweight and can deal with warmer temperatures when I ride in the spring and summer, as well as having great breathability. I need a jacket that packs down super tightly to fit in my small pack. And I need a jacket that has some stretch in it to cope with the stresses of riding.
The Drizzard is a lightweight shell, is super breathable, very packable, and ideal for warm weather rides with its insane breathability rating. And it’s stretchy, too. Which makes it perfect. It’s not number one on the list, but it suits my needs perfectly. The best waterproof jacket it the one that meets your needs. It’s just that simple!
The tech that goes into these rain jackets (and all outdoor/active wear) tends to directly correlate with the price. More tech equals a higher price tag more often than not. And sometimes you’ll see a jacket that’s two or three hundred of your preferred currency and think, gee whiz, that’s an expensive coat! It is, but what are you getting for it?
We threw around some terms earlier, and now it’s time to revisit them. Because as well as giving some perspective on that all important word: Value.
Waterproofing is usually sold to us as thousands of millimetres. A 5,000mm rating, or 10,000mm rating, for example. Or even 10k, for shorthand. But what does that mean? Well, that figure is the water column. The higher the figure, the taller the column, and the better the waterproofing. Simple.
To measure it, you take the fabric of the item in question, pull it taught and suspend it flat. Then, you place a 1-inch tube of infinite height on the fabric, and fill it with water. If it gets to 1,000mm (that’s a metre, to you or I) and water begins to leak through the fabric, that means that it has a water column of 1,000mm. If it gets to 5,000mm up the tube, then the fabric has a 5k rating.
As more water is added, the weight and pressure increases, and it pushes through the fabric harder. So, the higher that number, the better suited it is to wear in rougher conditions! But, the water column isn’t the only contributing factor to waterproofing. As you might have seen above, there’s also…
A DWR coating or treatment is a substance that is placed on a fabric by a garment manufacturer in order to increase the outer water resistance of the fabric.
It’s important to note that DWR doesn’t improve the water column of the fabric, and nor does it make the fabric more waterproof. What it does do, is form a protective layer over the fabric to help repel water.
We could, of course just make jackets and pants out of plastic and have no water get in ever. But then you’d get all hot and sweaty. So it’s kind of a balancing act! But how does a DWR coating work?
When a rain jacket is treated with a DWR coating, the water hits the coating, and runs right off – like water out of a non-stick pan. This keeps the fabric underneath dryer, and prevents so much water from coming in contact with it, which sort of simulates lighter conditions. So while the DWR coating doesn’t improve the waterproofing of the fabric, it reduces the amount of water it has to endure, and brings that amount (hopefully) down within its water column, keeping you dryer, for longer.
Breathability, a little like the water column, is one of those terms that’s thrown around pretty freely. But what is it, and how is it measured?
Breathability is generally talked about in terms of how much sweat is let out of the piece of clothing. And that’s correct in a sense, but there’s a little more to it than that.
You may have seen it written as 10,000g, or 10,000g/m2, or even 10,000g/m2/24hr. What they all mean is that if a square metres of fabric is spread across an opening, over the course of 24 hour period, 10,000g of moisture (or 10kg) will naturally permeate it in a single direction.
Now, does that seem like a lot? It does, doesn’t it. But let me put it in perspective for you — in a single exhale, the average human can expel up to 750ml of vaporised water. That’s 750g when condensed. So yeah! Maybe 10kg isn’t that much. And when you’re sweating a lot on a hike, or biking, a high breathability rating is as important, if not more important than waterproofing! No point keeping water out if you’re soaked with sweat inside anyway.
Dope Snow – This is a company that is taking the snowboard and outdoor apparel industry by storm. It has fresh and functional products.
Peak Performance – This brand stands for modern designs, technical solutions and high quality.
The North Face – Their jackets feature innovative waterproofing and insulating technologies to keep you dry and warm.
There's no strict answer to that. If you're going to stand under a waterfall, a lot. If you're going to endure some drizzly showers, less is fine. So it comes down to where you use it and the conditions you're using it in. Usually below 5,000mm is designed for light use. 10,000mm is a good all-around figure. 15,000mm+ is pretty much going to keep you dry in all situations.
This comes down to two factors - one, what kind of activity you're doing, and two, how much you sweat. If you're running up a mountain and you sweat a lot, the breathability of a waterproof jacket will probably never be high enough to let all your moisture out. But if you're doing more of a walk and you're not a big sweater, then you can probably rely on the figures your jacket is putting out.
The question of whether jackets get less waterproof over time is one we get asked a lot. The answer is that yes, they probably do. Though it's quite difficult to measure! The fabric doesn't get less waterproof as such, though, it just tends to get worn over time. The threads may begin to stretch or pull a little, which can affect the structural setup of the fabric, allowing more water through over time. This can be combatted with the use of a stretchy material, though, or with something like ripstop. The best thing we can say is try to take care of your waterproof jacket, and get one to suit your needs. One designed to put up with the punishment you're giving it!
Probably. Sometimes. With the right cycle and detergent. The idea of washing a waterproof jacket may seem scary at first, but most of the time, you can use a low-temperature cycle, and a special detergent which doesn't affect waterproof materials in the same way it does regular laundry. If you get a nasty spill on your jacket, some tree sap, or something else that won't come off with a cool, damp cloth (always our first recommendation), then definitely go specialist, buy a detergent designed for the job, and always - and we mean always - follow the washing instructions on the label. You take care of it, and it'll take care of you.
You're right that some detergents will strip DWR, and that high temperature washes probably will, too. But over time, continual rain, as well as general wear may begin to remove the DWR coating as well. The good news is that there are lots of products out there which allow you to top up the DWR coating. Maybe companies offer spray or roll-on options for prolonging or bolstering the DWR coating on a garment.
Here we are, my dear friends. At the end of the pixelated road. It’s been a fine journey — one for the ages, even. But alas, all things must end.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this read, and that you found plenty to get excited about. If you need any more help, tips, recommendations, reviews, or general internet reading for those long moments where it’s just you, your phone, and the porcelain, well, you know where to find us.
Happy trails, my friends. And as always, happy shopping!