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Group Tests and Best Buys

Best Waterproof Shell Jackets Reviewed 2015

Everything you need to know about the best waterproof shell jackets from 2015

We’ve picked out no fewer than 16 of the best waterproof technical shell jackets out there to help you choose one that’s right for you in the outdoors, whether you’re a straightforward hill-walker or someone who mixes up walking, scrambling and mountaineering.

They’re made from a variety of top-end waterproof fabrics including Gore-Tex, eVent and Polartec’s new NeoShell and all of them come from proven outdoors brands with a track record of producing excellent kit. We’d go as far as saying that there are no bad jackets here, but some of them will work better for you than others.

Sanity Check

Stuff to look at includes the cut of the jacket, the fabric, features like pit-zips and vents – worth having if you run hot – pockets and their size and location, and crucially in British conditions, the hood. If you’re going to climb occasionally, you’ll need one that fits comfortably over a helmet without compromising your head mobility. We’d also suggest a wired or stiffened peak is desirable and arguably essential in the UK.

Make sure you can operate zip-pulls and cord adjusters even when you’re wearing winter gloves and, a bit more on pockets, check that ‘hand-warmer’ ones sit above a pack hip-belt or harness if you want to be able to use them at the same time.

Disclaimer

Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, we couldn’t test every jacket on the market, there are plenty other great options out there, but we reckon these are some of the best available and good broad overview of what’s on the market. Enjoy, explore and remember a good jacket is simply something that helps you go to great places and stay safer and more comfortable.

And if you’re on a tighter budget, watch out for our look at more affordable waterproof shells coming soon.

Navigation

Last but not least, to check out the jackets either scroll down the page or follow the links below to jump straight to your favoured brand. The jackets are arranged in alphabetical order to make things easier.

Arc’teryx | Berghaus | Black Diamond | Haglöfs | Lowe Alpine | Marmot | Montane |Mountain Equipment | Outdoor Research | Paramo | Patagonia | Rab | Sherpa Adventure Gear | The North Face

Arc’teryx Beta LT Jacket – £330 / 340g

Review

A brilliant mix of lightness and toughness from the Canadian technical specialists. It’s beautifully made and cut with a close fit that still has enough room for broad shoulders and chests and even though it’s light enough to pack away without fretting, it’s still deceptively tough thanks to the Gore-Tex Pro fabric.

The hood’s one of the few non-wired ones that we’re still happy with in UK conditions and fits well with and without a helmet making it nice versatile. For all-round mountain use it’s maybe just a little on the short side unless teamed with shell-pants, but overall it’s a cracking balance of quality, functionality, weight and toughness.

Pros

Beautifully made, great cut, light, tough and functional with a good hood.

Cons

Slightly short for traditional all-round use, limited venting potential.

Value: 4.5
Performance: 4.5
X Factor: 5

Brand website: www.arcteryx.com

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Berghaus Mount Asgard Stretch – £285 (now £200)


Review

We’ve always liked the idea of the most breathable Gore-Tex used in a mountain shell, but the Asgard Stretch is just a little on the short side for most all-round use. One the plus side  that makes it useable for mountain running and even biking and it’s fine when teamed with over-trousers too.

We also reckon the fabric is going to be less durable than Gore-Tex Pro in the longer term – to be fair, our longer-term Active jackets have survived well with general, non-abrasive use bar the odd crash though – and we found the hem tended to lift slightly when reaching up when scrambling or climbing.

The breathability is very good, though you’re compromising a little elsewhere.

Pros

Very breathable, good helmet-compatible hood.

Cons

Cut is on the short side, slightly lifting of hem, question marks over outright durability.

Value: 4 (reduced price)
Performance: 4
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.berghaus.com

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Black Diamond Convergent Shell – £320 / 390g

Review

Beautifully cut and made and a brilliant colour with it, the Convergent Shell works like a waterproof out of the box, but it’s best kept for snowy alpine conditions – with sustained use, we suspect Windstopper will eventually lose its waterproof qualities thanks to a contamination-based process called ‘reverse osmosis’.

The pay-off is really impressive breathability coupled with more water resistance than you’d get from a straight Windstopper garment with un-taped seams. We’d regard it as a luxury alpine/winter second shell rather than an everyday workhorse.

Limited venting potential and we’re not sure why it has those hand-warmer pockets unless it’s just to house the hem-cord adjusters.

Pros

Beautifully cut and made, very breathable, surprisingly water resistant. Easy-grab zip-pulls.

Cons

Long-term water resistance makes it a bit of a luxury but for UK use at least, hood works best with a helmet.

Value: 4
Performance: 3
X Factor: 5

Brand website: www.blackdiamondequipment.com

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Haglöfs Roc Spirit – £350 / 455g

Review

Well-featured, no-nonsense waterproof mountain jacket that’s a good blend of lightness, breathability – lots of venting options if you’re working hard, you can cool down easily – and toughness. The fabric’s a little noisy in use, but we like the reinforced shoulders and outside arms and the unobtrusive, but slick and effective pit-zips.

The fit is good, not as close as some, but certainly not baggy either giving enough room for warm mid-layers. Overall a serious mountain all-rounder though we’d prefer a stiffer peak in really gnarly conditions.

Pros 

Fabric, features and a good compromise cut for all-round use, plenty of venting for the hot-running mountaineer.

Cons

A stiffer peak would be nice.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.haglofs.com

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Lowe Alpine Wildfire Jacket – £260 / 500g

Review

Overall a pretty good all-round UK mountain jacket with a decent hood and a cut that’s not as close as some of the top technical brands, but is neat enough while allowing some extra space for under-layers or less athletic physiques.

We’ve always liked eVent’s excellent breathability, even though Gore-Tex Pro and Active are now much closer to it, and the Triplepoint version is no exception. It feels sturdy and protective too making it a solid mountain all-rounder.

Pros

All-round no-nonsense design and features, good breathabilty.

Cons

Sticky pit-zips, maybe more maintenance required for the fabric.

Value: 4.5
Performance: 4
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.lowealpine.com

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Marmot Artemis Jacket – £200 / 340g

Review

We’re really impressed with how well this fabric breathes, it’s close to windproof levels of comfort when you’re working hard meaning you can often put it on at the start of the day and leave it on. You can still, as with any shell, overwhelm it if you’re working hard, but it takes longer to do it.

That said, the jacket doesn’t feel as sturdy as some of the others tested and has some odd quirks – the big hand-warmer pockets, which double as vents, extend below harness or pack-belt level, which makes for some interesting moments if you want to use them and in UK conditions we’d like a stiffer peak on that hood.

Pros

Impressively breathable fabric, nice cut, good mobility and added stretch.

Cons

Pockets overlap harness and pack-belts, not sure how durable the fabric is in the longer term.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.marmot.com

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Montane Direct Ascent eVent Jacket – £250 / 500g

Review

The Direct Ascent’s a bit of a throwback to the days of longer, more protective mountain shells – they do still exist, but few of them are made from premium fabrics like eVent, which makes this a bit of a rarity.

That cut’s very protective, thanks to the length, and it gives welcome crotch protection if you’re not wearing overtrousers, but it’s also quite loose, which you’ll either like or not. If you’re cut on the athletic side, you might find it all a bit baggy, though you can cinch things up with the waist cord – hidden adjusters in pockets.

But if what you’re after is a more traditional, longer jacket, but in a really breathable fabric, then the Direct Ascent could be the one for you.

Pros

Good breathable fabric, sound build quality and detailing, traditional length. Nice colours.

Cons

Slightly baggy cut won’t suit everyone

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X Factor: 3

Brand website: www.montane.co.uk

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Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket – £230 / 420g

Review

We were quite excited when we first encountered the Further Faster – the idea of a shorter-cut, fast-moving jacket made from the super breathable NeoShell fabric sounded spot on for running and biking. And in a sense it is. For us though, the jacket, though it’s very nicely put together and uses great fabric, is just too loose cut.

Montane’s take is that it’s a proper ultra-running orientated piece that could be used, say, in the brutal Spine Race or for general lightweight trekking – we reckon it’s cut a little short for that – rather than for shorter outings, but for us at least it needs a closer fit. Of course that’s subjective, so we’d suggest that if you’re in the market for a jacket like this, you simply try before buying and see whether it fits your own body shape.

Pros

Great fabric, good build quality well specced.

Cons

Short, generous cut doesn’t work for everyone.

Value: 4
Performance: 3.5
X Factor: 3

Brand website: www.montane.co.uk

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Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket – £330 / 520g


Review

Mountain Equipment shells have always had a good reputation, but the redesigned Lhotse and other jackets from the range with the same revised cut have, we reckon, really raised the bar. The cut is fantastic: neat, close fitting and non-flappy, but also unrestrictive at the same time. A few years back you’d have only got this quality from Canada or Switzerland.

The design’s thoroughly thought through and the hood is one of the best in the business. Overall it’s a brilliant, protective mountain shell that you can use for walking or climbing. The Gore-Tex Pro fabric means it’s not overly heavy either and should be decently durable too. One of the best shell jackets out there full-stop and probably our number once from the jackets here.

Pros

Great fabric, good build quality, excellent cut and well specced protection.

Cons

Slightly expensive, some may find the cut too close, but there’s always the Mountain fit option.

Value: 4.5
Performance: 5
X Factor: 5

Brand website: www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

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Outdoor Research Maximus Jacket – £340 / 580g

Review

The Maximus is made mostly from 70D grade Gore-Tex Pro fabric, pretty much what other brands use for reinforcement. That makes it a liltle heavier at 580g, but it should also be pretty much bombproof. The fit is decent in a straightforward, no-nonsense way – not a refined as ME or Arc’teryx for example – but a nice balance between a neat fit and having enough room for additional clothing underneath. Sleeves are long too, good for reaching out or up when climbing.

One aspect we really like are the unusual side vents. You can un-zip the jacket all the way from the hem to the arm-pit and even leave it flapping open over a pack-belt or harness for even more cooling. The opening isn’t storm-flapped and uses a water-resistant YKKK Vislon zip. We suspect it might leak slightly in really heavy rain, but so far it hasn’t happened and like we said, we do really like being able to dump a lot of heat fast.

The hood’s good too, though check if you have a long neck or a high-domed helmet to make sure it’s not restrictive. Great to see a North American brand using a proper wired peak. Overall, as tough as old boots and with great venting options and a functional cut which works well for walking or mountaineering use.

Pros

Tough breathable fabric, decent cut, awesome venting.

Cons

A little heavy, slight question mark over water-tighness of vent-zips.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.outdoorresearch.com

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Paramo Enduro Jacket – £350 / 790g

Review

We’ve always liked Paramo’s breathable, soft and comfortable Analogy waterproof system for winter use and the brand’s multiple venting options, but garments like the Aspira were big, baggy and shapeless. Enter the Enduro, a new generation, sleekly-cut mountain jacket with stretch panels and venting options.

We love it; the fit is neat and unrestrictive, the jacket’s extra warmth works well in winter, but the breathability minimises condensation and the whole package has a nice, softshell-ish, non-rustle feel.

The hood’s good and the vents in the sleeves work surpassingly effectively. It also, improbably, doubles up as a very effective deep winter biking jacket thanks to the sleek cut and short front / long tail design. That said, for mountain use, the Enduro is happiest teamed with its matching legwear thanks partly to its short cut.

It would great to see a slightly longer version aimed at more all-round mountain use, but for us, the Enduro is the best mountain shell Paramo has yet produced and great option for UK winter use and Scotland in particular. Sure it’s a little on the weighty side compared to conventional shells, but then you do get a little added insulation too for a distinctive, protected feel.

Pros

Neat cut, very breathable, surprising tough fabric that’s easily repaired, quiet and very effective.

Cons

Cut a little short for all-round use, a tad warm in milder conditions despite good venting options.

Value: 5
Performance: 5
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.paramo.co.uk

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Patagonia TorrentShell Stretch – £170 / 360g

Review

Patagonia does understated really well and the Torrentshell Stretch is a classic of the type. It fits very neatly, the fabric gets on with doing a capable job – it’s not as breathable as the top-end premiums fabrics but it’s mostly good – and it has all the pockets and vents you might need. Our only real gripe is with the hood in really gnarly weather conditions when the lack of a stiffened peak  can leave you with rain running down your face. Most of the time however, it’s a really nice all-round waterproof.

Pros

Neat cut, good venting, understated styling.

Cons

Soft peak.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X Factor: 4.5

Brand website: www.patagonia.com

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Rab Latok Jacket – £325 / 680g

Review

If you had to choose one word to describe the Latok it would be ‘solid’ – or maybe bombproof. It’s not the lightest jacket out there at 680g for a medium but Rab has gone to town on making it as tough as old boots. That means reinforced fabric on all the wear points, including the chest where mountaineers tend to hang hardwear on bandoliers.

There are multiple pockets – two biggies each side plus two on the inside and neat touches like mini-drains on the front pockets just in case the water does get in. It feels reassuringly protective and should last for years with normal mountain use.

Fast and light it isn’t, but if what you’re after is a bombproof update of a traditionally solid mountain shell made from a proven and very breathable fabric, this is the puppy.

Pros

Bombproof fabric and construction, thorough detailing, great hood, loads of pockets.

Cons

On the heavy side, not sleek.

Value: 4.5
Performance: 5
X Factor: 4

More Information

Brand website: www.rab.uk.com

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Rab Myriad Jacket – £240 / 380g

Review

We love the breathability and feel of Polartec’s Neoshell fabric, though it’s worth bearing in mind that it has lower waterproofing stats than either Gore-Tex or eVent and the combination of that and the Myriad’s light weight makes it a winner if you run hot and fast.

It’d be ideal as a lightweight alpine jacket maybe worn over a soft shell, or for trekking use or maybe in the UK summer. For sustained winter use we’d probably opt for something with a more substantial feel. That notwithstanding, we like the Myriad’s hood, it’s sleek cut and medium length and if breathability and weight are your number one priorities it’d be hard to beat, though you might also want to check out Jottnar’s new Neoshell smock.

Pros

Nice breathability, cut, fabric feel and hood design. Light too.

Cons

Not as durable or outright waterproof as some other fabrics.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X Factor: 5

Brand website: www.rab.uk.com

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Sherpa Adventure Gear Lapka Rita Jacket – £260/450g


Review

We genuinely like Sherpa’s kit and 90% of the Lapka Rita is spot on with great fabric, a neat cut and some lovely detailing like the prayer flag zip-pulls and the endless knot icon that features on all the brand’s kit. And let’s not forget the story behind the brand.

The one fly in the ointment with this jacket is that the hood just isn’t quite right. It works okay for walking, though if, like us, you seem to have a long-neck/tallish head, you may find it slightly restrictive, but it really doesn’t have the volume to also accommodate a climbing helmet. Bottom line: we\s consider this as a neat, well-cut mountain walking jacket, but not if we reckoned we’d be wearing a helmet with it.

Pros

Good fabric, nice cut and a great story. Good value too.

Cons

Hood not quite right, possibly a tad snug over the hips for some.

Value: 5
Performance: 4
X Factor: 5

Brand website: www.sherpaadventuregear.co.uk

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The North Face Fuse Uno Jacket – £210 (was £300) / 310g

Review

It’ll be nice once it’s finished… seriously this year’s first Fuseform garments are ingenious, light and well fitting, but compromised. In this case the hood has no adjustment whatsoever, relying on elastication around the edge and it’s simply not up to mountain or general outdoor use, and that’s before you factor in the floppy peak.

The other oddity is the tiny chest pocket which is just about the right shape and size for a slice of Dairylea cheese. Otherwise the jacket’s actually quite impressive, but if you want Fuseform, hold your guns for now and wait till next season.

Alternatively, check out the TNF Point Five NG  jacket which has been designed with input from Glenmore Lodge, is made from Gore-Tex Pro and designed to be UK friendly.

Pros

Interesting technology and a neat cut, light as well.

Cons

Hood not up to proper mountain use.

Value: 3
Performance: 3
X Factor: 4

Brand website: www.thenorthface.com

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