Shopping for a good waterproof outdoor jacket can be unexpectedly overwhelming, especially for a first-time buyer, but we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll explain the main fabric types and technical terms, give you some helpful pointers on what to look for and list our top picks for waterproof jackets.
Bulletproof Vests Buying Guide
Water leakage explained
Garment manufacturers use a system called a hydrostatic head test to determine how water-resistant a fabric is. The test gives a measurement in millimeters, which relates to how high the water column on the fabric should be before the water can penetrate the fabric. Lots of brands will post HH for their clothing, and in simple terms, the higher the HH, the more water-resistant the jacket will be.
There is a trade off though. Anything that is 100% waterproof, like a plastic bag or an old-fashioned fisherman’s catch, won’t let air through at all. If you do anything remotely racy, you will end up drenched in sweat. For this reason, most jackets are around 20,000mm in height, which is waterproof enough to keep you dry in heavy, continuous rain, but allows the jacket to be made of fabrics that can breathe and help wick sweat away from your clothes. the body.
However, not all websites for brands or jacket tags will display family numbers. In that case, look for Gore-Tex, Pertex Shield or Polartec NeoShell – these are all waterproof membranes, used in a range of brands. If you see any brand of jackets made from any of these materials, it will be water resistant, regardless of whether you can see the published HH number (eg Gore-Tex tests their fabrics differently, so any brand that uses Gore-Tex will not Do it. You have HH number to post.)
In addition to this list, some brands choose to use their own fabrics. For example, Patagonia uses H2No and The North Face uses Futurelight and DryVent membranes, and does not release any of the HH numbers for these. Rohan uses a range of proprietary fabrics but ensures that everything meets the Barricade minimum standard of 20,000mm. This means that sometimes you have to rely on the brand that tells you that the jacket is waterproof – it is preferable to buy from a reputable retailer, because you can ask questions and read reviews.
How are waterproof jackets made?
In general, waterproof jackets come in three types: two-layer, two-layer, and three-layer. Most jackets feature a DWR (Durable Water Resistant) treated outer shell fabric, and it is this DWR treatment that causes water to break down and liquefy the outer layer. The second layer, or middle layer, is a breathable waterproof membrane. The third and deeper layer is where all the technical differences can be found.
In a two-layer jacket, the construction is finished with a loose-fitting / slung inner layer made of mesh, taffeta, or the like. This loose layer is not adherent to the membrane or to the outside, but it protects the membrane from abrasion and perspiration.
Jackets with a 2.5-layer construction have an outer shell similar to a two-layer jacket, but also feature a thin polyurethane layer or coating on the inside. This laminate acts as a barrier to help protect the membrane layer from sweat, dirt or other oils that can clog pores, which may affect ventilation.
Three-layer construction features the highest performance and best possible layers. It features a DWR outer fabric laminated as the first layer, which is attached to a waterproof/breathable membrane in the middle layer. A polyurethane (PU) film or lining covers this second layer, acting as a shield. The purpose of this third layer is to keep sweat and oils from clogging pores in the waterproof layer.
Any jacket that claims to be waterproof must also have taped seams. This means that all stitched areas inside will be overlaid with waterproof tape to prevent water from entering through the stitches.
Finally, there is aftercare. High-quality waterproof jackets need a little TLC because DWR membranes and breathable membranes work best when cleaned. Make sure your jackets are washed and treated with a reputable product such as NikWax Tech Wash or Grangers Wash and Repel. An easy way to tell if your jacket needs washing is when the surface is “wet” – when the water stops oozing and running off the outside.
The best bulletproof jackets for women
This three-layer jacket is made from Patagonia’s own H2No fabric. It’s simple design features stylish interior and exterior storm flap on the front zip to help keep the elements out, plus armpit zippers—again with storm flaps—and can stash in its own pocket. It comes in a selection of colors plus a good selection of sizes (XS-XL), and it has a recycled nylon exterior. It’s also an affordable price for a quality product that’s made in fair trade certified factories.
Buying from Patagonia | £160
Arc’teryx Beta Severe
A three-layer jacket made of Gore-Tex Pro (the strongest fabric in the Gore-Tex range) with a waterproof zipper and a fully adjustable hood that can accommodate a helmet or bobble hat. It has zippers to eliminate excess heat when you’re working hard, and adjustable cuffs allow the glove to be worn over or under it. The exterior pockets, including the chest pocket, have a water-resistant zip, and there’s a built-in RECCO reflector for avalanche safety. It’s an expensive hiking jacket but will serve you well if you want to up your adventures. This has been your go-to jacket for hiking, cross-country skiing, winter climbing, and more for the past four years, and while well used it still performs great. It’s a worthwhile investment if you’re seriously outdoors. It’s available in three colours, in sizes XS-XL (UK 6-20).
Buy from Arc’teryx | £600
Rab . Women’s Eco Waterproof Jacket
This 2.5-layer jacket is made of Pertex Shield, which meets the HH standard of 20,000mm and is also highly breathable, making it the best choice for weekend walks and everyday use. Rab deserves respect for the environmental credentials of this jacket, which is made from 100% recycled materials and is also recyclable at the end of its life. It packs easily into its own pocket, has an adjustable hood, cuffs, and hem, and the hole and outer zippers are protected by a hood. It packs a lot of features without being too pricey and comes in an impressive range of sizes (6-18) and color options.
Buying from Rab | £110
Inspired by the demands of the Spine Race, this jacket is great for fast and light adventures. With its three-layer Gore-Tex Active Shell, it’s durable, lightweight, packable, and extremely breathable, making it suitable for fast running and long walks. The jacket features an athletic fit with a fitted hood, plus adjustable hem and cuffs, as well as precision taped seams to maintain bulk and weight. It’s available in two colors, red and blue pepper, and in sizes 8 to 16.
Buy from Montane | 250 GBP
British brand Rohan has always included a long, traditional-looking jacket in its waterproof collection, and currently that’s Kendal: a knee-length two-tone coat, with plenty of pockets (another hallmark of Rohan’s cut). You can also adapt the fit with the adjustable waist, hood and cuffs. The generous space makes it ideal for layering over a base coat and insulating layer. It’s a good choice for lower level, less stressful outings, but more than capable if you want to do more. Comes in sizes S-XL (to fit a UK size 18-20) in dark gray or forest green.
Buying from Rohan | £230 (currently reduced to £184)
Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0.0 Update
Described by Rab as having all the comfort of a soft shell with water-resistant functionality, the Kinetic Alpine 2.0 is made with Rab’s proprietary Stretch Knit Proflex. It’s designed to be an exceptionally breathable and water-resistant shell, with a stretchy texture that allows for a custom fit. In addition to the adjustable cuffs and hem, there is a helmet-compatible hood and large pockets, making it well suited for hiking and climbing. It comes in sizes 8-16 and is available in four colors.
Buying from Rab | £225