Do your research and your next jacket will have your back for a long time to come.
Types of waterproof jacket and how to choose
Waterproof jackets are not all created equal and it's worth brushing up on your knowledge before taking the plunge. First decide what you're going to use your jacket for, if it's pared down fast and light hiking or bikepacking then it's almost certain that weight and pack size will be at the top of your list but you'll be trading these benefits for durability and features. If you want something that works as a casual jacket as well, and you're not too bothered about pack size then looks can be nudged higher up the list. If weight isn't a consideration but durability is, go for a thicker jacket that will also work for camping, climbing and other high abrasion activities.
Check how waterproof and breathable the jacket is...
Waterproofing is measured in Hydrostatic head and is usually expressed in mm, breathability is measured as moisture vapour transfer rating or MVTR and is usually expressed in gr/m2/day.
Ratings of 10,000 for both are a good place to start but more is always better. Also check whether the jacket is fully seam sealed or just has critical or no seam sealing and whether it has water resistant zips. Seam sealing simply covers up stitching holes at the seams with a waterproof tape, if it isn't there then water will slowly creep in past these weak spots.
Make sure it's comfortable
Fit and comfort are important and although that's partially down to your own unique body shape some jackets have better articulation than others, which simply means that when you move, the jacket doesn't feel awkward or uncomfortable. To test whether a jacket works for you put it on and lift your arms up high, twist at the waist and put the hood up, cinch it down tight and look left and right. Also try it on with a layer underneath to make sure it isn't seam splittingly tight.
Why you should wear a wind jacket
By design a waterproof jacket isn't particularly breathable as the pores in the material have to be small enough to stop water droplets getting through which only allows a small amount of your body's overall vapour (sweat) to get out. If it's just wind you want to keep at bay then a good wind jacket or windproof mid layer is a much better choice, as the weave will be much looser, leaving wider pores to allow much more of your body's moisture to pass through while still stopping the wind in its tracks.
These are the best jackets for every occasion, from ultralight hiking to travel and mountaineering.
Best budget waterproof jacket
Salewa Puez Aqua 3 | £90
For just £90 you get a lovely looking jacket that’s available in an array of different colour options, from subtle grey to an outlandish lime green. Waterproofing and breathability are middle of the ‘expensive shell jacket’ road but the Puez Aqua 3 still offers far better performance than most non-technical shells. One major thing going for this jacket is its light weight (294g) and the trimmed down features also make it very packable, stuffing down to quite a small size into one of the hand pockets despite not being specifically designed to. With a neat but not too close fit there’s room for layers underneath and when fully layered up movement is unimpeded thanks to carefully thought out ergonomic stitching. The stand-out feature of this 2.5 layer jacket for us though is the price, at £90 you would find it very hard to buy a waterproof shell that matches the Salewa’s performance pound for pound, making it our best budget buy.
A sporty, athletic waterproof that you just about get away with off the hills.
Best lightweight mountaineering jacket
Arc’teryx Beta SL | £330
A super technical jacket that weighs nothing and can easily be shoved in your pack for emergency bad weather protection, the Beta SL Hybrid is an ideal choice for all-round fast and light mountain athletes looking to bag summits at speed. Fit is alpine slim so size up if you like more space but there’s still a little room for layering and freedom of movement is excellent. Pit zips and adjustable cuffs are easy to operate when wearing gloves and the two hand pockets are pack and harness-compatible so you can still get to your phone or snacks when you’re hiking, climbing, rappelling or travelling on a glacier.
A thoroughbred technical jacket with a distinctly premium feel, not one for the high street though.
Best kids waterproof jacket
Reima Sydvest | £75
It wouldn’t be fair to kit yourself out with all this lovely gear and not spoil your kids with some of the goodness too, and for the best we usually look to the Nordic countries, who have PhD’s in keeping their kids warm and dry. Reima only make clothing for kids, so the Sydvest is strong on child friendly features like high abrasion resistance, subtle reflective detailing and a removable hood which pops off easily if it gets snagged. It’s also fully waterproof and has a snazzy removable gillet.
Cool retro styling as well as versatility from the removable gillet, altogether making for a great kids waterproof.
Best ultralight hiking jacket
Berghaus Hyper 140 | £180
Take our favourite ultralight waterproof, the Hyper 100, add a few features and you’ve got the brilliant Hyper 140. If you like layering or prefer to wear a casual jacket day-to-day with a lightweight technical shell to chuck on in heavy downpours, then the Hyper 140 fits the bill perfectly. It packs up ridiculously small (about the size of a large apple) and weighs a mere 138g but still sports a massively waterproof and breathable material. You even get a couple of pockets and a decent hood as well as a cut that doesn’t scrimp on coverage over the wrists and bum.
A brilliant ultralight waterproof that’s ideal for keeping in your pack for when the weather turns nasty.
Best multi-use wind jacket
Fjallraven High Coast Anorak | £170
If it ain’t raining then you most definitely should not be wearing a waterproof, but in windy weather the cold bites through most other layers, which is where a good wind jacket earns its crust. And the High Coast is a great option for the discerning Active Traveller, with a waxed polyamide/organic cotton exterior which stops wind but lets the body breathe. It’s classically Fjallraven in looks, being earthy and natural, which translates well to wearing in all situations. It’s also lightweight, packable and has a number of useful pockets.
A lovely wind layer that feels protective on the hill but looks good enough to wear to the pub.
Best waterproof all-rounder
Jack Wolfskin JWP Shell | £120
Straight off the bat this jacket impresses with its carefully considered blend of good looks, performance, features and price. Part of the Pack and Go! Collection, the JWP Shell has primarily been designed with versatility in mind, making it suitable for anything from the work commute to hiking in the hills. The soft and stretchy Ecosphere 2-layer material has a cotton like feel to the outer and a mesh inner for good comfort and a touch of warmth. It also performs surprisingly well, with a high 20k waterproof rating and good breathability, helped along by the two hand pockets which have mesh venting inners. One of the hand pockets doubles as a stuff sack as well, it takes a bit of prodding and pushing to get the jacket in there but nevertheless it’s a very handy, travel friendly feature. Although not particularly lightweight, 400g is not to be sniffed at and doesn’t put too much of a dent in your luggage allowance or burden on in your pack when not wearing the jacket.
Great performance and looks, making it our stand-out active travel jacket of the year.
Best casual jacket
Helly Hansen Trollvann Anorak | £160
Ideal for camping, van life, and fireside guitar playing sessions, the Trollvann is a seriously cool bit of kit that’s guaranteed to win you multiple Insta-likes from fellow adventurers. We like the huge front horizontal zipped pocket that’s got loads of room for maps, phones, snacks etc and the big pouch handwarmer pocket that you can secure with popper fasteners if it’s blowing a hoolie. The waterproof DWR panels on the shoulders and hood will even keep light elements at bay.
Perfect for micro-adventures and happy hour down the pub – it’s all about summer vibes with a stylish point of difference.
Best for active travel on a budget
The North Face Stratos | £140
An affordable entry into North Face kit, the Stratos offers durable 2L protection. The jacket isn't particularly light weight but the face fabric is thick so can take some abuse and the general build quality rivals that of much more expensive waterproofs. Protection comes from a DryVent membrane and fully sealed seams and the result is waterproof and reasonably breathable but performance is not quite up there with some of the more expensive jackets on test. You get a full compliment of pockets and adjusters, some of which are quite fiddly and have to be operated two handed but they're effective in sealing out the elements nonetheless. The hood is protective in a downpour and feels comfortable to wear thanks to the quiet, crinkle free material.
For the price the Stratos performs admirably well, it looks great as well so is well worth considering as your main multi-use waterproof.
Best for tropical climates
Craghoppers Adventure II | £100
This travel friendly jacket is perfect for your next long-haul adventure, as it’s ready-treated with Craghoppers’ excellent Nosilife insect repellent. If you aspire to be a jungle explorer you’ll love the Adventure jacket’s classic looks but it’s the features that really set it apart. It sports no less than 10 pockets, offers UPF 50+ sun protection and is superbly comfortable on the move.
A stylish travel jacket that’s perfect for weekend trips, casual use and long-haul adventures.