Due to their unique topography, mountain regions are more than happy to throw a storm or two your way, even when you’re slap bang in the middle of what was turning out to be a lovely day. Therefore, it’s vital that we always travel in the mountains with adequate protection from the worst the weather can throw at us – and this is where waterproof jackets come in. 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 Columbia’s OutDry, Outdoor Research’s AscentShell and Patagonia’s fabulously-named 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 (there’s more on that on our guide to the best lightweight waterproof jackets). 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.
What To Look For When Buying a Waterproof Jacket
Venting – This not only comes from the breathability of the fabric, but manufacturers are also able to increase venting through the use of pit zips and mesh lined pockets.
Zips and pockets – The type of zip a jacket has influences how waterproof the jacket is. Premium zipper technology creates a zip that locks together tight, to remove the need for a PU or fabric coating that covers the entire zip. However, this also adds a little more to the price of the jacket.
Hoods – Hoods come in a variety of shapes, sizes and adjustability, which all depend on the type of brand you’re looking to buy – it’s again important to try them on before you buy. You’ll be looking for a good range of adjustability and if you’re climbing a lot, then a helmet compatible hood is essential.
Pockets – A good all-round jacket will hold a few pockets for stuffing various items in throughout the day. Considering the pockets based on the activity you’re buying the jacket for is important, as if you’re frequently strapping your backpack up, then you don’t want pockets that can’t be used whilst wearing a pack. Similarly, Napoleon chest pockets are essential for climbers who are frequently wearing a harness over their waterproof jacket.
Many of the jackets in this selection are featured in our Outdoor 100 2020/21 and our 2021 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.
- Haglöfs L.I.M Jacket – Best In Test Waterproof Jacket
- CimAlp Advanced 2H – Best Technical Waterproof Jacket
- Berghaus Changste
- Halti Next Generation DryMaxx Shell
- Adidas Terrex Agravic Three-Layer
- Columbia OutDry Ex Eco II Tech
- Patagonia Torrentshell 3L – Best Value Waterproof Jacket
- Haglöfs Grym Evo
- Outdoor Research Interstellar – Best Breathable Waterproof Jacket
- Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Infinity Pro
- Montane Podium Pull On – Best Trail Running Jacket
- Black Diamond Highline Shell
BEST BUY: Haglöfs L.I.M Jacket
Best for: Hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running
Key attributes: Lightweight and highly packable, high-spec fabric
LI.M, in case you weren’t aware, stands for less is more and that name does describe this waterproof jacket quite well. It’s simple but will deliver the goods when it needs to be pulled out of your backpack when the heavens open.
Haglöfs have used Gore-Tex’s relatively new Paclite Plus waterproof technology here. This is a two layer system involving a membrane that’s glued to a light outer fabric. In other words, there’s no backer fabric and therefore a fair bit of weight is saved by its exclusion.