It’s vital to travel in the mountains with adequate protection from the worst the weather can throw at us and that means having a quality waterproof jacket. When you’re in the wild, you want a good rain coat that you can count on.
The most obvious concern when buying a waterproof jacket is the type of protection that you’re getting, as this influences the price, weight, breathability and of course the level of waterproofing on offer. You obviously don’t want the jacket to start leaking water after just a month of wear, yet you don’t want to pay over the odds for something that may feel a little overkill for the type of activity that you’re buying the jacket for.
There are three main types of waterproof protection to consider; wax-coated (pretty rare for technical outdoor jackets these days), PU-coated, and membrane lined jackets. Give our Buyer’s Guide to Waterproof Jackets a read to understand the differences between the three waterproof protections.
You’ll notice that membrane lined jackets are the most common in this roundup. They’re favoured for their good balance between weight, breathability and waterproofness. The most common type of waterproof membrane is of course Gore-tex, but we’ve also included some of the various own-brand waterproof technologies such as Paramo’s Nikwax Analogy and Patagonia’s H2No.
Aside from the type of waterproof protection on offer, it’s also important to consider other features that the jacket carries in order to find the best waterproof jacket for you. Choose these features based on the type of activity that you’re buying the jacket for. For instance, if you’re going to be mostly cycling and trail running then a lightweight and breathable jacket will be the best option for you. A jacket that holds a mixture of features makes for a great multi-activity jacket that can be used and abused wherever you take it.
Best Waterproof Jackets: Our Team’s Top Picks:
Many of the jackets in this selection are featured in our Outdoor 100 and our Green Gear Guide. Within these product guides, you’ll be able check out a more in depth review of each jacket, including tester’s verdicts and industry trade secrets.
- Best Overall Waterproof Jackets: Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket
- Best Value Waterproof Jacket: Keela Pinnacle
- Most Breathable Waterproof Jacket: Pàramo Velez Evolution Hybrid Smock
- Best Lightweight Waterproof Jacket: Arc’teryx Beta Jacket
- Best Waterproof Jacket for Harsh Weather: Keela Munro
I’ve been reviewing outdoor gear for outdoor magazines for over 10 years now with a fair portion of that time spent as editor of this very title. Throughout the years, I’ve stood on a number of gear awards juries, including for the ISPO Awards, the OIA Awards and the Scandinavian Outdoor Awards. I’m also very lucky that my career intertwines with my hobby; I’m a long-distance hiker with numerous trails under my belt, including the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, the Cambrian Way and the Camino de Santiago. Most of my hiking is in my homeland of Wales, where a bad waterproof jacket gets found out very quickly!
How They Were Tested
I tested and reviewed the majority of the jackets included in this list and I made the final selection. Those that I didn’t test myself – mainly the women’s jackets – were instead assessed by members of our test team, who you’ll see in the photographs here. I had every single one of these jackets in my hands and I checked them over for fabric quality, design details and features.
The jackets I’ve selected cover a range of different categories. Some are light and therefore suited to things like fastpacking and ultralight backpacking, while others are heavy weight, highly durable and more suited to challenging winter conditions. To qualify for this list, the jackets needed to show quality and durability and, in particular, they needed to have the right fabrics and details in order to be reliably protective in bad weather. I also considered factors including value, cut and sustainability.
The majority of our testers, who you can see in the photographs here, are wearing size Medium or women’s size 10 jackets. These would be the usual size they would opt for.
Best Overall Waterproof Jacket
1. Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket
Best for: hillwalking, mountaineering
What we liked: protective, durable, innovative new fabric
What we didn’t like: quite heavy
The all-important thing to know about this is that it’s one of the first ever jackets to use Gore-tex’s brand new ePE fabric. This is a new waterproof material from Gore-tex that looks set to replace the standard version of the fabric that we’ve all come to know over the last few decades now. The reason for the switch? The old fabric contains PFCs while the new one doesn’t. PFCs, you see, are now being phased out of production by most outdoor brands due to their potential for environmental harm.
Better still, the fabric is impressive. We’ve used it in three different jackets now and it seems to be durable, protective and as breathable as you can expect a waterproof membrane to be. Featured here in the Mountain Equipment Makalu, it makes for a very impressive offering. During our tests, this jacket had the feel of a shell you can really trust; the kind of thing we’d reach for when we knew conditions were going to be very rough. But it’s still relatively lightweight too; we found it can serve either as that option to wear all day-long in horrible stuff or as that option to carry in your backpack, just in case some rain happens to roll in. For us, this offered everything we’d want in bad weather: a fully adjustable hood, venting pit zips, water resistant zips and, of course, a fabric that can capably block out moisture.
There are also touches that show Mountain Equipment’s real alpine expertise. The hood, for instance, is helmet friendly, the pockets can be accessed when you’re wearing a harness or backpack with a hipbelt and the arms are articulated so the hem doesn’t lift up when you’re reaching high for a hold.
Available in men’s and women’s versions / 75D fabric / Gore-tex ePE membrane / helmet-friendly adjustable hood / underarm vents / two-way main zip / press stud at zip base / 2 x handwarmer pockets / 1 x chest pocket.
Selected for our Outdoor 100 23/24. Read our full Mountain Equipment Makalu review.
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