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Best waterproof jackets: upper layers for summer showers, autumn monsoons and winter downpours

Best waterproof jackets: Alpkit Balance
Best waterproof jackets: Alpkit Balance (Image credit: Alpkit)

Never let the weather keep you indoors. The best waterproof jackets are your passport to the walks, hikes and treks you want to do, whatever the forecast. First and foremost, all of our selection will keep you dry if the heavens open. They’ll also fend off the wind, keeping you warm.

The differences come in other areas of performance. How well does the fabric breathe? There’s no point saying dry from the outside, only to be soaked in your own sweat from the inside like a red-faced boil-in-the-bag victim. How functional are any vents? How stiff and secure is the hood in the face of a wrecking ball gale? And how useful are the pockets for the map, snacks and other gubbins you want to carry with you rather than in your backpack?

All the jackets featured here are top quality; it’s hard to top the Berghaus Changtse, which is burly and brilliantly versatile, while the Patagonia Torrentshell has excellent eco values. TNF’s Impendor Futurelight features exciting new tech, while the Alpkit Balance is impressively innovative.

So before you set out to take on the elements, take a look a the best waterproof jackets you can buy.

The best waterproof jackets you can buy 

Best waterproof jackets: Berghaus Changtse

(Image credit: Berghaus)

Berghaus Changtse Men’s Jacket

All the right Gore-Tex fabrics in all the right places make this a high-performance waterproof jacket

RRP: £290 (UK)/€350 (Europe) | Sizes : S-XXL | Weight : 375g/13oz (size M) | Colours : Haute red/Deep water blue/Graphite

Body-mapped Gore-Tex technology
Venting
Hood adjustable from a single point
Only one pocket
Expensive

 

Berghaus Changtse Women’s Jacket

RRP: £290 (UK)/€350 (Europe) | Sizes : 8-16 | Weight : 284g (10oz) (size 12) | Colours : Orange blue/Spectrum blue/Graphite

Body-mapped Gore-Tex technology
Venting
Hood adjustable from a single point
Only one pocket
Expensive

A serious price for a serious jacket, the Changtse has been designed for hikers who not only head into uncompromising hills and mountains, but who are dynamically active when they get there. Its science lies in the use of three different Gore-Tex fabrics, bodymapped to zones where each can function optimally. Active Shell, the most breathable Gore-Tex, features around the torso to keep hikers cool; robust Paclite Plus is used in areas that suffer the most abrasion, such as the chest and arms; and Topo Stretch appears around the hem and cuffs for stretchable waterproof protection – ideal when scrambling or climbing. Pit zips allow for a through-flow of air, while an innovative (and patented) Vapour Storm vent at the top of the back helps to stop sweaty spine syndrome. The hood, which accommodates a helmet, is adjustable from a single point, and naturally, at this price the jacket is ruggedly waterproof. 

Best waterproof jackets: Salmon Outline

(Image credit: Salomon)

Salomon Outline (men's)

A light, stretchy jacket that’s completely weatherproof and ideal for multiple outdoor activities

RRP: $300 (US)/£180 (UK) | Sizes: S-XXL | Weight: 307g/11oz | Colours : Valiant poppy/Green gables/Ebony/Fjord blue

Light
Easily packable
Good stretch
Shorter style so a bit less protection than some rivals

Salomon Outline (women's)

RRP: $300 (US)/£180 (UK) | Sizes : XS-XXL | Weight : 257g/9oz | Colours : Orange blue/Spectrum blue/Graphite

Light
Easily packable
Good stretchist
Shorter style so a bit less protection than some rivals

By bonding the fabric, waterproof membrane and protective backer into a single fabric, Salomon has cut weight from the Outline without sacrificing its rain-, wind- and snow-protection qualities. The result is a jacket that’s light to wear and that folds up into a brilliantly small parcel for carrying in a pack. The fabric itself has decent stretch, providing freedom of movement when Nordic walking with poles or scrambling. The elasticated cuffs, hem and hood helps to keep the jacket in place when Mother Nature bares her teeth, although other jackets offer more adjustment in these areas. Two large, zipped pockets sit comfortably above a backpack hip belt, while reflective detailing on the sleeves is a welcome extra safety feature for low-light adventures.

Best waterproof jackets: Helly Hansen Verglas 3L

(Image credit: Helly Hansen)

Helly Hansen Verglas 3L (men's)

A tough, fully-featured waterproof jacket for year-round use

RRP: $325 (US)/£260 (UK) | Sizes : S-XXL | Weight : 520g/1lb 2oz | Colours : Papaya/Royal blue/Fir green/Azid lime

Excellent hood
Robust 3-layer construction
Glove-compatible main zip
Limited pockets

Helly Hansen Verglas 3L (women's)

RRP: $325 (US)/£260 (UK) | Sizes : XS-XL | Weight : 435g/15oz | Colours : Glacier blu/Castle wall/Alert red/Black

Excellent hood
Robust 3-layer construction
Glove-compatible main zip
Limited pockets

The fact that the Verglas is as likely to be seen on ski slopes as it is in hills and mountains says much about its all-round, all-season weather protection. It’s not insulated, but the three-layer construction of outer shell, membrane and liner are wind and waterproof as well as breathable for higher energy outdoor activities, while all seams are sealed. If you want to spill heat, open the pit zips for extra ventilation; conversely, if you want to conserve heat simply tighten the inner waist cord. A helmet squeezes under the hood, and on those occasions when you really need to batten down the hatches the hood closes to little more than a letterbox opening. The large main zip tag is adjustable with gloves, but there are only two pockets so you’ll have to stow essentials in your pack.

Best waterproof jackets: Paramo Velez

(Image credit: Paramo)

Paramo Velez Adventure Smock (men's)

This jacket adopts a radically different technological approach and style, and has won legions of fans

RRP: £245 (UK) | Sizes : S-XXL | Weight: 720g/1lb 9oz | Colours : Black/Dark green

Breathability
Huge pockets
Wired peak hood
Heavy
Needs regular reproofing

Paramo Velez Adventure Smock (men's)

RRP: £245 (UK) | Sizes: XS-XL | Weight : 710g/1lb 9oz | Colours : Navy

Breathability
Huge pockets
Wired peak hood
Heavy
Needs regular reproofing

Rather than the industry standard of shell and membrane, Paramo uses a DWR finish on the outer surface and Nikwax Analogy fabrics to draw water as well as vapour away from the skin and through the outer layer (most membranes only allow vapour, rather than condensed water to escape). It’s a warmer solution, best suited to chilly days and requiring a lighter baselayer than other waterproof shell jackets. The substantial wired hood rolls away when not in use, and two lengthy front zips open to provide good ventilation and access to an inner pocket. The fit is generous, delivering first class freedom of movement, while the longer tail extends the waterproof protection. The smock design is unusual and the styling won’t appeal to all, but it does allow for a huge, practical chest pocket – just be careful what you stow in it if you’re a regular Instagrammer as it can lead to an unflattering side profile.

Best waterproof jackets: Patagonia Torrentshell

(Image credit: Patagonia)

Patagonia Torrentshell (men's)

This three-layer waterproof jacket is made from recycled fabrics and stuffs into its own pocket for easy carrying

RRP: $150 (US)/£150 (UK) | Size : XS-XXL | Weight : 394g/14oz | Colours : Roots red/Supply green/Mango/Andes blue/Forge grey/Fire/Industrial green/Classic navy/Coriander brown/Black

Portability
Eco-friendly
Wired peak hood
Good price
Rucksack hip belts can cover pockets

Patagonia Torrentshell (women's)

RRP: $150 (US)/£150 (UK) | Size : XS-XL | Weight : 354g/12oz | Colours : Catalan coral/Bayou blue/Classic navy/Camp green/Pineapple/Birch white/Roamer red/Black/Gypsum green

Portability
Eco-friendly
Wired peak hood
Good price
Rucksack hip belts can cover pockets

The only difficult decision in choosing the Torrentshell as a waterproof jacket is picking a colour – there are 10 available for men and nine for women. The outer shell is made from a tough, recycled nylon, with a membrane to let sweat escape, while a ‘knitted’ tricot liner provides a soft layer next to your skin – with comfort levels enhanced even further at the neck by a micro-fleece lining to snuggle into when the heavens open. Velcro cuffs and a hem drawcord provide a seal against sideways rain, as do the internal and external storm flaps on either side of the front zip, while the hood adjusts for a close, face-hugging fit. When the weather is more benign the hood folds and hooks down, and pit zips help you let off steam. And when it’s sunny, the whole jacket stuffs into its own handpocket for easy carrying. It’s constructed from recycled materials, and to top it all, it’s fair-trade certified.  

Best waterproof jackets: Alpkit Balance

(Image credit: Alpkit)

Alpkit Balance (men's)

A host of smart features on this unfussy jacket make it a waterproof to be reckoned with

RRP: £190 (UK) | Sizes: S-XXL | Weight: 339g/12oz | Colours : Lego/Black/Blaze

Supple fabric
Adjustable wired hood
Large pockets
Only two pockets

Alpkit Balance (women's)

RRP: £190 (UK) | Sizes: 8-18 | Weight : 330g/12oz | Colours : Lego/Black/Blaze/Plum

Supple fabric
Adjustable wired hood
Large pockets
Only two pockets

Sometimes it’s a waterproof jacket’s little details that provide convincing evidence of a design team that understands what outdoor users really want. The Balance’s stiff-peaked hood, for example, has side and rear adjusters to fine tune its volume; the two hand pockets sit above a rucksack hip belt and are large enough to swallow an Ordnance Survey map; and the Velcro cuffs will fit over or under a pair of gloves depending on hiker or biker preference. When it comes to the business end of coping with heavy rain, the robust three-layer fabric is waterproof and its soft inner layer wicks moisture away from the skin, the zips are water resistant, and the main zip is backed up by a storm guard to keep a deluge at bay.

Best waterproof jackets: North Face Impendor Futurelight

(Image credit: The North Face)

The North Face Impendor Futurelight (men's)

Cutting edge fabric technology make this a waterproof jacket for fast-paced high-level adventures

RRP: £320 (UK) | Sizes: S-XL | Colours : Black & asphalt grey/Black & flame orange

Nano-spun waterproof breathable fabric
Adjustable, helmet compatible hood
Good ecological values
Shorter fit

The North Face Impendor Futurelight (women's)

RRP: £320 (UK) | Sizes : XS-XL | Colours: Cayenne red/Black

Nano-spun waterproof breathable fabric
Adjustable, helmet compatible hood
Good ecological values
Shorter fit

As the shampoo ads say, “And now for the science bit…” The Impendor takes advantage of Futurelight, The North Face’s new fabric technology (their answer to Gore-Tex), which involves the spraying of nano-sized particles to create a waterproof, breathable film. The boffins behind the cutting-edge development have ensured the film’s fibres are small enough to let moisture pass through, while keeping water (rain) out, to create the foundations of an exceptionally breathable waterproof jacket. The result is a super-supple jacket, ideal for high energy activities in the mountains, with a wired-brim hood large enough to accommodate a helmet. Extra protection from the elements comes in the form of waterproof zips and taped seams, while an inner chest pocket provides a safe space for a phone. Materials include recycled nylon and the jacket is impregnated with a non-PFC durable water repellent – all good news for the environment.

Best waterproof jackets: Rab Downpour Alpine

(Image credit: Rab)

Rab Downpour Alpine (men's)

Cutting edge fabric technology make this a waterproof jacket for fast-paced high level adventures

RRP: £160 (UK) | Sizes : S-XXL | Weight : 400g/14oz | Colours : Blueprint/Maya/Sulphur/Black

Helmet compatible hood
Large chest pockets
Less durable than a 3-layer fabric

Rab Downpour Alpine (women's)

RRP: £160 (UK) | Sizes: 8-16 | Weight: 360g/13oz | Colours: Blueprint/Sulphur

Helmet compatible hood
Large chest pockets
Less durable than a 3-layer fabric

Cumbria’s lakes don’t fill themselves, and you’re more likely to need a waterproof than sunscreen in Snowdonia, which is where the Rab Downpour Alpine enters the fray, ready to deliver all day weather protection in the most challenging conditions. Unusually and impressively for a jacket at this price, it uses a proprietary rather than own-brand fabric to square up to downpours. Made from 2.5-layer Pertex Shield, the Rab Downpour Alpine features a membrane bonded to the face fabric, with a coating on the inside. It’s less durable than a three-layer jacket, but it allows for freer movement and a smaller pack size when not in use. Two large chest pockets sit well above rucksack belts and easily swallow an Ordnance Survey map, while pit zips bring a breath of fresh air to sweaty armpits. The fleece-lined chin guard is a thoughtful touch for days when you’re grimacing into a climatic onslaught, and the malleable-peaked hood cinches to create a close, snug fit around your head.   

How to choose the best waterproof jacket for you

Regardless of their RRP or reputation, the best waterproof jackets have to be right for you personally in their length and fit, whether you hike in country parks, rugged moorland or up on the high flanks of unforgiving mountains. Only you know what you’re going to put the jacket through, but in order to get one that will provide the protection you require – please consider the following factors.

1. Fabric

Gear manufacturers deploy different technologies to make the best waterproof jackets, er, waterproof. The first layer is durable water repellency (DWR), which makes rain drops bead on the surface of the jacket. Walkers who take care of their kit can restore the DWR finish by washing a jacket with a specialist cleaning product, such as Nikwax, and then tumble-drying it. The second line of defence is the shell or barrier fabric, which gives a jacket its structure, anti-abrasion protection, and determines whether it’s supple or stiff, silent or noisy.

2. Membrane

Attached to the outer shell is a membrane, the scientific bit of the design, which stops water soaking through but lets sweat evaporate out as vapour – to deliver so-called breathability. Gore-Tex is the best-known membrane, but many gear manufacturers have developed their own technologies along similar lines – most recently TNF with Futurelight. The membrane is typically protected by an inner mesh.

3. Ventilation

In-store swing tags may promise that the best waterproof jackets are both waterproof and breathable, but the truth is that you’ll still feel sweaty climbing a hill in damp conditions with a backpack on your back. Strategically designed vents and (arm)pit zips that facilitate a flow of air through a jacket can reduce condensation and leave you feeling less sweaty.

4. Hood

For maximum protection the hood needs to cover the whole of your head, ideally with enough space to accommodate a hat underneath in winter. Climbers and mountaineers need to check the hood can swallow a helmet, too. The hoods of the best waterproof jackets move with your head (for unobstructed vision when crossing a road), so a cinch or ties are useful to secure a snug fit. Make sure any ties tuck away unless you fancy being whipped in the face when it’s windy. Finally, a stiff, wired hood will keep its shape in a gale.

5. Zips and seams

 Sneaky old H2O seems determined to infiltrate any waterproof jacket, so it’s vital that all seams are taped and that zips are either stormproof or covered by a storm flap. If you plan to walk in winter, make sure you can operate the zips while wearing gloves.

6. Fit

Leave enough space under your jacket for wearing a baselayer and midlayer, such as a fleece, for walking in colder conditions. Jacket length is a matter of taste – longer jackets naturally offer greater protection – and adjustable cuffs and hem will keep you warm and watertight or let you spill heat by loosening them.

7. Weight

For much of the year a waterproof jacket is an insurance policy – carried in a backpack in case of rain. Jackets that are light and fold up small are easier to carry, but will typically offer less protection and be less durable. If you’re going to rely on one jacket for year round walking it’s far better to choose a robust jacket for the worst of winter and carry a few extra grams in summer, than depend on a featherweight jacket when December’s rain is blowing horizontally.