Due to their unique geographical features, mountainous areas 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 around the mountains with adequate protection from the best 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 buying into 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 (we’re still keeping our eyes peeled for the elusive FutureLight from The North Face to hit the shelves).
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 pocks are essential for climbers who are frequently wearing a harness over their waterproof jacket.
The majority of the jackets that made it into our list of the top jackets for women featured in our Outdoors Magic Winter 100 for 2017/18 and the Outdoors Magic 100 2018.