If you're keen to carry on adventuring even when the weather's not at its finest, you need kit that can cut the proverbial mustard - and the most important part of that kit for the average hiker is the waterproof jacket.
The best waterproof jackets are your passport to the walks, hikes and treks you want to do, whatever the forecast. Along with the best hiking boots and a solid hiking backpack, they are top of the list when it comes to your must-have hiking essentials. Our selection of the best rain jackets will keep you bone dry, even if he heavens should open on you. They’ll also fend off the wind, keeping you warm.
When it comes to the best waterproof jackets, 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 rain jackets for hiking 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. Klättermusen's Allgrön 2.0 jacket gives you terrific freedom of movement, while Revolution Race's Cyclone Rescue 2.0 represents unbeatable value considering its features.
So, before you set out to take on the elements, take a look a the best waterproof jackets you can buy.
The jackets featured in this review are unisex models - this is where you'll find the best women's waterproof jackets.
How did we test these jackets?
Our dedicated team of testers put our selection of the best waterproof jackets through their paces in everything from light drizzles to nigh-on biblical downpours. During our tests, we sought to gauge not only how well any jacket stood up to the elements, but also how well it performed in terms of practicality, comfort, and breathability, and its suitability for different types of adventure.
The best waterproof jackets you can buy
An eco-friendly, high-performance technical shell for year-round adventures
RRP: $600 (US)/ £372 (UK) | Weight: (Men's M) 624g | Sizes: Men’s XS-XL | Waterproofing: >20,000mm HH | Breathability: >20,000g/m²/24hrs MVTR | Fabric: 3L Cutan 148 g/m² 50% Ultramid® Bio-Mass Balanced Polyamide, 50% Polyamide, bluesign approved fabric, fluorocarbon-free
The Allgrön 2.0 is a technical three-layer shell with excellent sustainability credentials, designed for year-round mountain pursuits. It looks great, performs well and offers plenty of practical features. Build quality is solid, while the overall fit is fairly trim – ideal for lean, rangy climber types.
Flexibility and overall freedom of movement are excellent, helped by the slight stretch in the eco-friendly waterproof-breathable fabric. The Allgrön 2.0 also feels reassuringly protective, yet the fabric possesses a softer handle that makes it noticeably quieter and more supple than Gore-Tex Pro, whilst still being completely windproof. It has huge two-way pit zips and mesh-lined pockets for ventilation, plus a two-way main zip with double storm flaps. The shaped hood can accommodate a climbing helmet, but has rear volume adjustment and double face drawcords to cinch in it tightly if the weather closes in.
The unusual cuff adjustment features elasticated drawcords rather than flimsy Velcro tabs, which promise improved long-term durability, though it’s a feature that you’ll probably either love or hate. Admittedly, this isn’t the lightest shell out there, but then it’s designed to be burly enough to wear all winter – it even has a RECCO reflector for avalanche safety. If you’re out and about in really demanding conditions year-round, this is definitely a jacket worth considering.
A versatile and fully-featured shell built from a comfortable stretch fabric that offers great value
RRP: $189 (US)/ £159 (UK) | Weight: (Men's M) 680g | Sizes: Men’s S-2XL, women’s XS-XL | Waterproofing: 15,000mm HH | Breathability: 20,000g/m²/24hrs MVTR | Fabric: 3L Hypershell Pro (Nylon 88%, Elastane 12%)
The Cyclone Rescue 2.0 jacket from up-and-coming Swedish direct-to-customer brand Revolution Race offers a comprehensive range of features at a cracking price. There’s no Gore-Tex or eVent here; instead the jacket utilises a proprietary three-layer Hypershell Pro fabric developed in-house. It is designed to be waterproof, windproof and breathable, with lab testing figures of 15,000mm hydrostatic head and 20,000 moisture vapour transmission rate. That’s pretty decent performance on paper, with figures that outperform most rivals in this price bracket.
On test, it proved a very practical and effective shell, with the fabric’s in-built 4-way stretch aiding both comfort and flexibility. The fit should suit most too, offering plenty of room across the shoulders and in the arms. That makes this a jacket well suited to a range of outdoor activities, as do the helmet compatible hood, adjustable storm collar, two-way pit zips, water-resistant pockets and high level of adjustability at cuffs, hood and hem. You also get a multitude of useful pockets plus a RECCO reflector for added winter safety, so this jacket is also a feasible option for technical winter use. In fact, we’re struggling to think of another shell that does so much for so little, and in terms of value alone, that makes the Cyclone Rescue 2.0 a great buy.
Trim-fitting top-end Gore-Tex Pro shell designed for demanding use in the toughest conditions
RRP: $500 (US)/ £360 (UK) | Weight: (Men's M) 480g | Sizes: Men’s S-XXL | Waterproofing: >28,000mm HH | Breathability: >25,000g/m²/24hrs MVTR | Fabric: 3L Gore-Tex Pro (40 Denier main body with a 100% recycled nylon face, 80 Denier at shoulders, hips and elbows with a 100% recycled nylon face)
New for 2021, the Alpine Resolve jacket from Montane is the brand’s latest flagship waterproof shell for technical alpine climbing and winter mountaineering. Employing a mix of 40D and 80D recycled nylon fabrics to balance weight and durability without compromising on protection (or ignoring environmental principles), it employs a Gore-Tex Pro membrane for class-leading waterproof-breathable performance. The result is a jacket that feels like donning a suit of armour, ready to do battle with the worst the weather can throw at you.
The trim fit means no excess fabric to bunch or billow around, yet clever 3-D patterning ensures plenty of articulation – despite the fabric’s lack of inherent stretch. Armed with all the features you’d expect of a top-end technical shell, this is one of the very best winter-ready Gore-Tex jackets on the market for mountaineering and hillwalking.
The second coming of an excellent, high-performing, all-adventure, all-weather jacket with lots of clever little touches
Price: £180 (UK) | Sizes: S–XXL | Weight (men’s large): 466g/1lb 0.4oz | Colours: Fern / Tarmac
It takes courage to completely redesign your best-selling waterproof jacket, but that’s what Alpkit have done with this shell. The British brand released the new iteration of the Balance for the last quarter of 2020, as the UK descended into an unpredictable winter, and we have been testing it out since – searching for a bit of dependability in an uncertain environment. And that’s largely what we found. Like much of its kit range, Alpkit are targeting the multi-adventurist with this jacket – someone who wants one ready-for-anything jacket to wear while exploring crags, trails and ales (decent waterproofing has been essential for post-adventure beer garden debriefs this year).
Made from a PFC-free, durable water repellent (DWR) dynamic material (tough nylon and spandex), which stretches with you when you move to reach a handhold, a stile or a pint, the Balance has an active fit. Accordingly, it also has highly adjustable cuffs (with enough Velcro to ensure a tight fit over or under a pair of gloves) and hem, to keep things firmly in place.
The new Balance also has ’stealth vents’ beneath each armpit, which provide extra breathability (they have a deep overbite, which should ensure rain is kept out, but you can’t actually shut them). It’s three-layer coat, with a comfortable inner made with a soft-feel polyester knit. It has a highly impressive hydrostatic head of 20,000, and is extremely breathable, with a moisture vapour transfer rate of 20K. The hood has a stow-away tie, so you can secure it out of the way when it’s not required – but, when you do need it, there are multiple adjustment areas, it can accommodate a helmet and zips right up to your nose to keep the worst of the elements out. A popper by the chin means you can keep the hood in place, while opening the zip a bit to get rid of some heat when you’re working hard. There are two zippered pockets on the outside, but the redesign hasn’t seen the addition of an inner pocket, which seems a shame.
All the right Gore-Tex fabrics in all the right places make this a high-performance waterproof jacket
RRP: £290 /€350 | Sizes: S-XXL | Weight : 375g/13oz (size M) | Colours : Haute red/Deep water blue/Graphite
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.
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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
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.
A highly featured three-layer, all-conditions outer shell jacket, made entirely from recycled materials
Price: $264 (US)/ £195 (UK) / €219 | Sizes: XS–XXL | Weight (men’s large): 690g/1lb 8.3oz | Colours: Black
The new Stormbird jacket sits at the pinnacle of Finisterre’s outer-layer range, offering a high level of performance and functionality, combined with peak planet-friendly production principles. First the features: these include a multi-adjustable 3-panel hood (capable of swallowing a helmet) with a high chin and comprehensive face-friendly protection when required. The bottom hem is adjustable, so you can pull it in tight to keep wind, water and snow out, and the cuffs can be tightened close to gloves with Velcro. Seams are taped, and the elbow seam is intelligently angled to allow maximum movement when you’re being all dynamic and active in the outdoors.
The Stormbird is three layers thick (toasty enough to work without a midlayer in many conditions) and the inner boasts a brushed polyester finish, for increased comfort and coziness. There are three zipable pockets, two deep ones on the outside, and a side-opening breast pocket on the inside left. Finisterre are industry leaders in their approach to using environmentally friendly materials and ethical manufacturing methods, and the new Stormbird jacket is made entirely from durable recycled ripstop Nylon in monitored factories. On top of that, the jacket has a fluorocarbon-free (FC-Free) durable water repellent (DWR) finish, which basically means they have avoided using the more damaging fluorocarbons and long-chain chemicals (PFC DWR) employed by many brands in their waterproofing treatments, which leach from fabrics and end up in our food chain and environment. Has this conscientious approach impacted the product’s performance? Nope – the Stormbird has a hydrostatic head (HH) rating of 20,000 (better than many tents) – which means you could have a 20-metre tall column of water sat right on top of the fabric for 24 hours and none of the moisture would get through. It’s also got a high breathability rating and a two-way waterproof zip. On the downside, the coat is only available in black, and it lacks armpit vents, which many hikers do like to open when things get steamy on steep climbs.
Helly Hansen Verglas 3L
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/ Glacier blu
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.
Paramo Velez Adventure Smock
This jacket adopts a radically different technological approach and style, and has won legions of fans
RRP: £245 | Sizes: S-XXL | Weight: 720g/1lb 9oz | Colours: Black/Dark green
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.
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
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.
The North Face Impendor Futurelight
Cutting edge fabric technology make this a waterproof jacket for fast-paced high-level adventures
RRP: £320 | Sizes: S-XL | Colours : Black & asphalt grey/Black & flame orange
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.
Rab Downpour Alpine
Cutting edge fabric technology make this a waterproof jacket for fast-paced high level adventures
RRP: £160 | Sizes: S-XXL | Weight: 400g/14oz | Colours: Blueprint/Maya/Sulphur/Black
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.
Choosing the best waterproof jacket for you
Regardless of their RRP or reputation, the best waterproof jackets have to be right for you personally, whether you hike in country parks, rugged moorland or up on the high flanks of unforgiving mountains. It's all part of knowing how to stay dry while hiking.
To help you find the perfect fit for you body type and needs, we've put together a list of factors to consider when buying:
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 the best rain jackets their structure, anti-abrasion protection, and determines whether it’s supple or stiff, silent or noisy.
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. Different types of membrane provide varying degrees of waterproofing, which is usually denoted by their hydrostatic head.
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. If you've got your layering right, with a base layer and a mid layer (such as a fleece jacket), there will be times when your waterproof on top of all this is just too much, even when it's raining. Strategically designed vents and (arm) pit zips that facilitate a flow of air through the best rain jackets and can reduce condensation and leave you feeling less sweaty.
For maximum protection the hood needs to cover the whole of your head, ideally with enough space to accommodate a your best hiking 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 hiking gloves.
Leave enough space under your jacket for wearing a base layer and mid layer (check out our quick guide to mid layers) , such as a down jacket, 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.
For much of the year a waterproof jacket is an insurance policy – carried in a backpack in case of rain. Like the best one-person tents, the best 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.
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