A waterproof jacket should be the first thing that you stick in your backpack when heading out on a trip to the hills or mountains. Even if the forecast is for sun all day, it’s still so important to carry rain protection just in case. On this page we’re looking at the best men’s waterproof jackets of 2018, so if you’re of the female variety, you might want to head on over to our women’s jackets round-up.
When trying to find the best rain shell it’s important to think about the activities you’ll be needing it for, and what will be demanded of it. Trail runners, for instance, will want a lightweight jacket that’s highly breathable, that has good ventilation, and that can be stowed away quickly and easily in a running pack or even just a pocket. Mountaineers will want a waterproof hardshell that’s very protective, very durable, and that has all the right features to help the wearer cope with the demanding wet, windy and cold conditions often encountered at altitude.
Best Waterproof Jackets By Activity
Best for trail running: OMM Halo Jacket
Best for hiking: Fjällräven Keb Eco Shell
Best for mountaineering: Sherpa Lithang
Best for backpacking: Outdoor Research Interstellar
Best value: Berghaus Cape Wrath
What Makes a Good Waterproof Hardshell Jacket
The factors to consider in relation to your intended usage will be the level of protection and breathability, weight, packability, durability, comfort and design features. There’s the price as well of course.
Out of these factors, the hardest ones to judge when you’re looking at buying a waterproof jacket will be protection and breathability. Our suggestion is to consider the type of waterproof fabric that has been used. Membranes are the most common form, whether that’s Gore-Tex, eVent, Pertex or Polartec NeoShell, and these usually will offer a good balance between wet weather protection and breathability.
Bear in mind that the these membrane brands offer different versions of their product and the quality of each of these is often reflected in the price. A standard waterproof membrane (2-layer for instance) should come at a fairly reasonable price whereas a top-level, high-performance one (3-layer Gore-Tex Pro) will usually come at a premium.
Then there are other forms of waterproofing. Rain protection by PU coating is probably the simplest version and it’s arguably the least dependable, but then it’s also usually the most affordable. Then there are wax treated jackets, some of which will provide all-round quality when it comes to protection and breathability, and eco-friendliness to boot. Páramo is a good example of this.
You’ll find a whole mixture of these different variations below. We’ve picked out our favourites, not based purely on performance alone, but on the performance in relation to the cost. So alongside top-level ultra protective jackets with rather large price tags, you’ll also find simpler do-what-they-need-to type products that won’t break the bank.
Best Waterproof Jackets – The Top 20
Rohan Elite Jacket
This Elite is one of Rohan’s most technical offerings yet, a 3-layer waterproof and breathable jacket that weighs a meagre 250g. It features Rohan’s Barricade waterproof membrane, a development which they use in most of their waterproof products, including their trousers (which are also worth checking out).
Use this for: hillwalking, backpacking and day-to-day use.
OMM Halo Jacket
Here’s a jacket designed for those who move fast and light. Think fell runners, trail runners, fast packers and mountain marathon runners – it’s made with OMM’s iconic running/orienteering challenge in mind after all. The waterproof fabric has a nice bit of stretch to it – much more than standard waterproofs – meaning there’s more freedom of movement when your bounding across the fells. It’s close fitting so it’s ideally worn just over a baselayer or a non-bulky midlayer.
Use this for: trail running, the OMM, hiking
Outdoor Research Interstellar
Like the OMM’s Halo featured above, this is a jacket that’s made from a stretchy waterproof fabric that has excellent articulation. It’s a little bit more technical than OMM’s jacket though, made with 3-layer waterproofing rather than just 2.5. It’s also got a slightly looser fit so you’ll be able to get away with wearing this over a fleece or light insulated jacket. There are lots of nice features to suit climbers and mountaineers – like the helmet compatible hood for instance – but we reckon hikers and even trail runners will also get very good use out of this.
Use this for: hiking, backpacking, trail running
Dannah Lightweight Scottish Alpine Jacket
We’d hazard a guess that you haven’t heard of Dannah, it is after all a relatively new, and very small scale brand. But the products are great, and it’s no surprise considering the experience behind Richard Dannah, the guy that designs them. This is his flagship item, a jacket made for harsh UK winters when you need something as close as you can comfortably get to a suit of armour. It has a close, alpine fit, soft-to-the-touch but very durable face fabric, large ventilation zips under the arms and a well crafted hood that wraps around the head to move smoothly it.
Use this for: mountaineering, winter hiking
Sherpa Lithang Jacket
This one’s tough. Really tough. One for the mountaineers we reckon. It’s made from a waterproof fabric that feels a lot like thick softshell; one that will be able to shed water and snow, while also fending off rough rock or rogue branches. Layer this over a thick down jacket and you’ve got something that will be right at home in alpine environments, or just a miserable day in the Lake District.
Use this for: mountaineering, winter hiking
Berghaus GR20 Storm
If you want a jacket for trail running in, or even running to the top of a mountain in, this is one that we definitely recommend considering. It’s a very breathable, piece – so breathable, in fact, that Berghaus proclaim it to be “the most breathable 3-layer Gore-Tex jacket in the world”. The secret lies in their combination of a lightweight breathable fabric with clever layered flaps over the top of the torso which let hot air out without allowing any wind or moisture in.
Use this for: hiking, backpacking, trail running
Filson NeoShell Reliance
Filson’s origins go back to the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, when a clever chap realised he could earn a buck by offering dependable, robust outerwear to the many men arriving in Seattle to head into the north country. Today, Filson’s kit still has a classic, old-American look to it, and from what we’ve tried and tested, it’s all reliable stuff. This is one of their flagship pieces, a tough, protective jacket made from a type of waterproof fabric that we rate very, very highly: Polartec NeoShell
Use this for: winter hiking, backpacking
Haglöfs L.I.M Comp
A slim profile, lightweight fabric, top-level weather protection and useful features like long venting hand pockets all combine to make this a nifty option for those who want a jacket that they can move quickly in. It’s also got Bluesign approval, meaning that it conforms to a number of high standards in regards to eco-friendly production.
Use this for: trail running, hiking, climbing
Arc’teryx Beta LT
Arc’teryx’s products usually tend to have a very neat, aesthetically-pleasing design backed up by top-level, high performance materials, and this is no exception. Featuring Gore-Tex Pro waterproof fabric this is one of those jackets for those who go all-in in their adventures – for the alpinists, backcountry skiers or ice climbers.
Use this for: climbing, mountaineering, hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing
Helly Hansen Odin 9 Worlds
If you, like Odin, often travel the length of the 9 worlds for extended periods of time, then you’ll almost certainly need a jacket that will offer as much protection as you can possibly get. The same applies if you’re into your alpinism, mountaineering or ice climbing, or just hiking in any weather. Long story short, this is a tough jacket which boasts a 70 denier strength 3-layer waterproof fabric. We’ve been very impressed by this offering from the Norwegian brand.
Use this for: mountaineering, hiking, climbing, backcountry skiing
This has been around for a few years now and it’s established itself as a firm favourite amongst the Outdoors Magic team. With Páramo jackets a very different method of waterproofing (to every other jacket in this list) is used, one that doesn’t require a Gore-Tex or eVent membrane or any other membrane for that matter. Instead there’s Nikwax Analogy, a wax-based solution, which, when embedded within a jacket’s fabric, is capable of repelling water and also spreading it out thinly across a garment to ensure it dries very, very quickly. It’s an eco-friendly method that Páramo have used for many years now. In this specific case, it’s been used in their lightest waterproof jacket to date.
Use this for: hiking, backpacking, off-road cycling, climbing
The North Face Apex Flex
We’d be willing to bet that plenty of people would’ve picked this jacket off the rail in a shop then put it back down thinking it’s not waterproof. That’s because it looks and feels like a softshell jacket. It’s got an incredible amount of flex to it (as the name suggests) and it’s very soft to the touch, but there’s still a waterproof membrane within it, and fully taped seams as well. The benefit of this fabric is that it will stand up to almost extreme levels of abrasion. While most waterproof jackets are easily caught out by a sharp branch, this will shrug off even the meanest of them. The downside, however, is that it makes the jacket fairly heavy overall, so it’s probably not the best bet if you’re a backpacker looking for something to travel light with.
Use this for: winter hiking, climbing, mountaineering.
Black Diamond FineLine Stretch
This is one of those jackets that’s perfect for carrying in your backpack or even your pocket to eventually whip out if a sudden rain shower strikes. That’s because it’s both lightweight and very packable, stowing away into its chest pocket to make for a small and unobtrusive bundle about the size of a pint glass. And it’ll get you through those rain showers (or anything harsher) thanks to its 2.5-layer waterproof fabric.
Use this for: trail running, climbing, hiking, backpacking.