Our pick of the best waterproof jackets of 2016 is based on many miles of walking in a range of climates in locations as varied as the Cairngorms, the Lake District, Iceland, the Dolomites, the Atlas Mountains and Slovenia to name but a few.
Sherpa Lakpa Rita jacket
The Lakpa Rita is a rugged, winter-ready shell for the most technical of mountain adventures. It weighs 435g and is made of breathable, waterproof eVent fabric.
The nicely judged cut covers the lower midriff and the buttocks well, with a trim fit around the waist and roomy arms and shoulders. Wrist, hem and hood closures are effective and a huge, wired peak provides solid protection from the elements.
There are four pockets on the jacket, all with water-resistant zips, and the Lakpa offers a whopping 20,000mm hydrostatic head rating which also proved to be excellently breathable.
If you want a solid mountaineering shell that is breathable and comfy for year-round use then look no further
Montane Air jacket
Montane makes a wide range of jackets, some with a focus on extreme light weight, others on performance. At 350g the Air takes the best of both worlds for year-round outdoor use.
The cut is surprisingly roomy – allowing for good movement when scrambling or climbing. Length-wise it just covers the buttocks and comes with good hem (drawcord) and excellent wrist (hook and loop) adjustment. The stiff-peaked hood fits well and is cinched down by two neck drawcords and one at the rear.
The pockets are very well chosen on the Air too, with a pair of hand pockets which extend up to the top of the chest for tall items. Two small but useful chest pockets sit on top, flush against the outer material. All zips are water resistant.
Technically, the Air is a very impressive shell: its Pertex Shield AP fabric boasting a massive 20,000mm of hydrostatic head in lab conditions. When in use in rough British conditions we found it to perform equally well. The cut, design and seams are just as important as the fabric for real-world use, and the Air delivers all three brilliantly.
There are very few British conditions any time of year the Air can't handle with aplomb. A superbly versatile purchase.
Vaude Lierne jacket
The Lierne is aimed at general outdoors users, with a bias towards walkers and hillwalkers. At 390g it’s moderately light weight and packs down to a pretty compact size. With a price of £120 the affordability is its main appeal.
The bottom-length fit of the jacket is loose and baggy, making for good venting when hot and layering when cold. Closures are fairly comprehensive and the hood and peak effective but there are just two hand pockets for storage. Breathability is good – helped by pit zips – and Vaude’s own 2.5 layer Ceplex, achieves industry-standard waterproofing.
Not stellar performance but as a general use, workhorse waterproof at a decent cost, the Lierne is hard to beat
Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock
A familiar sight throughout the year in the British outdoors, the Velez Adventure Light is a soft-shell-style garment aimed at all manner of users. At 584g it’s heavy, but eliminates the need for anything but a base layer beneath it.
There's a fully stowable, well-fitting hood, a kangeroo-like chest pouch, and sewn-in adjusters. In terms of thickness and warmth the Velez feels more like a fleecy softshell than a thin hardshell on your back, so while you may eventually get wet you’ll always be warm, with the Velez drying quickly once the rain stops.
The Velez is a solid example of its kind and is well worth investigating for year-round (and especially winter) users
Black Diamond Mono Point shell
Weighing only 253g, the Mono Point is a superbly light waterproof jacket for lightweight alpinists.
The fit is very long, working well beneath a harness; adjustments are easy to use and effective; the cut is well judged for layering and movement; and the hood has a decent peak. Storage, however, is minimal with a single Napoleon pocket. Luckily it’s a good size!
The fabric is a 2.5 layer Gore-Tex Paclite, which although fully waterproof, is a little crinkly in use, and not as breathable as some. But without it, the Mono Point wouldn’t be nearly as light a shell.
A solidly weather-proof jacket with serious lightweight credentials – and very few compromises
Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell jacket
The Keb jacket is a year-round shell for outdoor adventures worldwide which extends to a good length, comfortably reaching the top of the thighs, at which point it can be securely cinched with two drawcord adjusters. The wrists are easy for synching around winter gloves; the solid hood has as wired peak; and the fit is quite spacious all round with plenty of room for layering.
Storage-wise you’ve got two extremely large Napoleon pockets, an inner zip pouch, and an upper arm zip pocket. Finally, Fjallraven’s Eco Shell fabric carries a truly enormous 30,000mm hydrostatic head rating.
Comfy, nicely styled, quiet in use, highly weather proof and eco-friendly. A highly desirable hard shell jacket
Helly Hansen Odin Moon Light jacket
Marketed as ‘the essential adventure jacket for year-round outdoor activity’, the Odin Light comes with a short fit, a helmet-compatible hood and an untrammelled design complete with subtle side venting. The shorter cut will appeal to cyclists and climbers and the fit is neither baggy nor athletic.
The Helly Tech Performance fabric is a 2.5 layer material (i.e. it has a waterproof and breathable section joined to an abrasion resistant layer) and although a little clammy in use there’s no doubting its waterproof qualities.
A versatile waterproof jacket that some users will find great value as a do-it-all for outdoor adventures
Rab Spark jacket
Rab intends the Spark to be ‘the go-to waterproof for high-intensity activities in harsh, wet environments’. It weighs 310g, is helmet compatible and offers a stretch fabric design that promises and delivers great comfort.
Slip it on and it is a good length with a trim and athletic midriff fit. Adjustment comes via wrist hook and loop patches and a pair of drawcords at the hem, and although the fully-adjustable hood offers limited movement it gives fantastic protection. The two pockets and their waterproof closures are well designed, and the Pertex Shield fabric is well-proven.
The Spark is perfect for energetic outdoors fun – from climbing to trail running, to peak bagging in winter
Arc’teryx Alpha SV
The Alpha SV jacket is the most durable Gore-Tex Pro garment Arcteryx has ever made, weighs 495g and costs loads. Is it worth it?
Slip it on and you’re immediately aware that you’re wearing a ‘severe weather’ jacket. The hem extends to well below the groin while the arms and chest have a spacious feel, for extensive layering and complete freedom of movement. The adjusters are superb, as are the helmet-compatible hood, the pockets and pit-zips. The Gore-Tex Pro material works supremely in the worst weather and its N80p-X face fabric is as tough as any we’ve seen.
We cannot fault the Alpha SV. It may just be humanity’s best hard shell jacket yet. But that price!
Berghaus Hyper jacket
Berghaus intends the Hyper jacket for ‘fast trail activities’. Given that it weighs next to nothing (100g) and packs down to the size of an apple, it’s clearly halfway there already. It's also so versatile that it could be considered both a trail running item or an ultra-slight waterproof for more general outdoor users too.
It makes few concessions towards fit or adjustment, though. This is a bare-bones shell designed for ultra-lightweight or emergency use, so comes with a slightly baggy, waist-length cut that nevertheless hugs at the right places (via an elasticated hem and cuffs), and not much else.
Great choice as either race wear for foul-weather runners or as a handy protective layer for walking or cycling