Considering the wide choice on the market today, it is discouraging to shop for a waterproof jacket. There are various brands on the market which offer different quality and features that not every potential user understands. For this reason, we are presenting you the ultimate guide for shopping for a waterproof jacket. We are also offering suggestions which we have concluded are the best waterproof jackets out there.
Why buy a waterproof jacket?
If you are a camping, hiking or climbing enthusiast, a waterproof jacket would make your life easier and your adventure more enjoying. The well-known fact is that waterproof jackets are protecting your body from rain and moisture. However, the technology of how it works is a bit cloudier subject. In fact, they should act as a final barrier between your body and the outer weather conditions. This means that you should wear additional layers of clothes underneath which would keep your body warm.
It is common that a jacket is labeled as waterproof, but it lacks other features. Having this in mind, when looking for a waterproof jacket, your biggest concern should be its breathability. A waterproof jacket could have different layers of breathability which are convenient for various activities. You should choose a waterproof jacket with a certain level of breathability according to your preferred activity. Climbing, mountaineering and similar activities which require a higher level of sports preparation also require a waterproof jacket with highly breathable materials. Hiking or walking on the other side are less demanding activities which require jackets with lower breathability features. A common mistake that is made is that people tend to take a high aerobic sports jacket and use it for hiking for instance. This is not recommended because it will keep your body temperature lower than it should be.
Montane Minimus Waterproof Jacket
Pros: Pertex shield, centre front zipper, adjustable hood
Cons: only one chest pocket, limited color choice
The Montane brand offers a wide variety of choices and they are not considered as low price items. However, it offers waterproof jackets with high quality which you would only need to buy once. They are extremely versatile and very lightweight. The suggested Montane Minimus jacket is completely waterproof and very lightweight. This is a particularly convenient feature for backpacking. You could also pack it inside your backpack and it takes very little space.
The design is tight and it follows your body shape. It is spacious enough yet it doesn’t look like a waterproof sack around you. Even though it is tight, the elastic material which is attached inside allows you a freedom of movement in every direction. The colors are complementing each other quite nicely, but the jacket comes in only one color design.
This Montane waterproof jacket is made from a high-quality material and a Pertex shield technology which is common for the Montane products. The Pertex shield is a fusion of high-quality fibers that have top of the notch features. It provides durable waterproof protection because of the density of the fibers. The Pertex shield owes its effectiveness to the water repellent finish which is a durable and high-performance feature. However, this technology is known for its breathability features. It contains a microporous coating which allows the moisture to go through the material to the outside, but the opposite doesn’t apply. Every drop which touches the surface of the jacket will stay on the surface unable to get inside. It will also slide downwards which assures you stay completely dry.
If a surprise rain comes, you would be cozy and protected inside this waterproof shell. It also has a hood which is placed inside an inside elastic loop. This allows you to roll it down if the weather conditions are not for a hood. Most hikers don’t mind if their hood is on the outside, but it sure looks nice stowed away.
There is a center front zipper which goes up to your chin. This will provide additional protection to you in windy weather conditions. It is easily adjustable and it is also waterproof. This makes the whole jacket waterproof.
This Montane jacket doesn’t have side pockets which might be considered as a downside. However, there is a chest pocket which makes up to this, where you can keep your essentials. It is zip closed, so your items could be safely stored inside.
Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion Jacket
Pros: high level of breathability, comfortable, versatile
Cons: does not keep you warm, not as pleasant on the skin
This is a Mountain Hardwear product and it is a relatively new design. This waterproof jacket is in the middle price range and it is a very nice option for the features it has to offer. Mountain Hardwear usually products manufactured with imported materials. However, they are using high-quality materials which are further explained in the fabrics section bellow.
As far as its design goes, it is available in six different color variations and it fits nicely to your body. It is comfortable and very spacious. For those who prefer space over elastic materials, this is the right waterproof jacket choice for you. It has the logo on the left side and it doesn’t have any chest pockets.
In the production of this waterproof jacket, a 70D face fabric is being used. This is a polyester waterproof fabric which has been used for the production of raincoats, waterproof backpacks, and waterproof jackets. If it is used directly on the skin, it has a plastic unpleasant feeling. However, the 70D fabrics in this jacket are used as outer coating only.
This material gives incomparable waterproof features to the jacket. However, if you are looking for a more pleasant on touch option, you might want to look at some of our other suggestions. Other of its features include tear resistance, which could be very convenient if you are hiking in a tree dense area.
It is also UV resistant, which could be considered as an advantage and a disadvantage. A UV resistance feature means that you wouldn’t have to apply a sun protecting factor, but it also means you will be receiving a lower amount of vitamin D. Bottom line is that those who live in sunny areas would appreciate this feature. And those who don’t might consider some of our other options.
It uses a dry Q Evap technology which provides the user a high level of breathability. This is a technology which combines the dry Q and the Evap technologies. It is creating comfort by increasing your body’s evaporation. This classifies it for extreme sports, but because of the increased breathability properties, you might get too cold when hiking with it.
It is very important to mention that even though this jacket excels in breathability and waterproof features, it is not a jacket which could keep you warm in low temperatures.
This Mountain Hardware jacket has a center front zipper which focuses on the ventilation where it is most required. The zipper seals are Aquaguard Vislon which means that they are not allowing the moisture to get inside.
This waterproof jacket also has two side pockets which are very convenient for storing small items such as a compass or a map. Since they are zipper sealed, they wouldn’t get wet at all. You could also use the pockets as hand warmers. It doesn’t contain any internal pockets.
The cuffs are adjustable to your wrist and the sleeves are long enough so your wrists are not uncovered.
The North Face Resolve
Pros: completely waterproof, lightweight, spacious
Cons: nylon fabrics, not pleasant to touch
The North Face is an outdoor brand which specializes in manufacturing high quality outwear with great properties. However, North Face is not a cheap brand, although it doesn’t categorize in the highest price range either. They are one of the leaders in their industry and every item which carries their logo is a state of the art technology. In other words, the North Face logo is a guarantee for quality.
This North Face men’s waterproof jacket is available in various designs and colors you could choose from. They have a wide range of designs and you will definitely find a jacket that matches your taste. Although the design is not tight to your body, it is pretty stylish and it looks great. It is very spacious and you are even able to wear a sweater or down jacket underneath. This is good because you could wear it with comfort in winter as well as summer temperatures. You don’t have to buy different waterproof jackets for every season.
The outer shell of this product is made entirely out of nylon material, which is completely waterproof and doesn’t require any water resistant treatments. This is definitely an advantage because the water resistant treatments are only effective for a certain amount of time and washings. After that, the treatment should be redone or you would end up with a jacket which is not water resistant. This North Face jacket wouldn’t cause you that problem. It is also machine washable which is an often underestimated feature and it could mean a lot.
Its main downside regarding the quality of the fabric is of course that it is not a Gore-tex but a cheaper substitution of its properties. However, if you don’t want to spend as much on a Gore-tex or a material with similar properties, this waterproof jacket is the right choice for you. It is very lightweight and it will keep you from the moisture and rain.
As far as breathability goes, it has a nice ventilating system which would not allow you to get sweaty under the jacket.
This is a product which is usually purchased by people who put an accent to the clothes underneath your jacket instead of the jacket itself. This jacket wouldn’t keep you warm, but it won’t let you down, not even in the heaviest rain.
As you can see from the picture provided in the link, this jacket has an elastic cuffing system which would not allow the water to come inside your sleeves. The sleeves are not short so that you are wrists are not covered at all times, as in some of the competitive jackets.
This North Face jacket has two side pockets which are closed with a zipper in order to protect the items kept inside. The zippers are running smoothly and they are covered with a waterproof material in order to keep the moisture outside. That same material which is covering the zippers and protecting you from the rain and the wind could sometimes be considered as a downside. The zipper is sometimes getting caught on this flap and it could get annoying if you don’t learn how to handle it.
It also has a hood which is made from nylon as well. The hood is large enough to cover your hair and head, yet your vision field remains unlimited and unrestricted. The hood could be stowed in the collar for when it is not raining.
Paramo Alta 2 Men’s Jacket
Pros: Paramo breathable tech, all year round jacket
Cons: a bit bulky, a bit heavy
This waterproof jacket is made from the Paramo brand which is a relatively new on the outdoor sports market. However, they have their own technology which is providing the user with highly breathable and completely waterproof products. Since the launching of the Paramo Alta 3 waterproof jackets, which have the top of the notch technology and features, we have decided to include in this suggestion list the previous model which is currently on sale, therefore with a lower price and exceptional features.
The design of this Paramo jacket is also exceptional, but that is a matter of taste; you could take a look at it here. The numerous pockets and additional features prove to the fact that this jacket is made for outdoor sports. It has a convenient place for every item which you might need a quick access to. It also has extra flaps on the chest which is a place that is most often getting wet from a heavy rain. For those of you who don’t like to be marked with a logo of the company, there is a good news. The logo of the Paramo brand is discretely placed on the bottom of the zipper so you wouldn’t feel marked.
The Paramo brand is using a specific technology which is providing all the features you need in order to mark this jacket as a year-round waterproof jacket. This is one of the rare materials which are providing you the breathability you need for extreme sports, but it is also keeping your body warm when needed. It uses Nikwax fabric which is directing the liquid condensation away from your body. This is considered as the more advanced technology than just keeping the moisture from the outside- on the outside. Their materials are also free from fluorocarbon treatment which is hazardous to the human health, yet frequently used in waterproof materials for the outdoor industry. All in all, this Paramo waterproof jacket is ready for extreme environments and it is prepared to stand up to the wild weather conditions and technical requirements.
This waterproof jacket has two hand warming pockets, two chest pocket, and two arm pockets. As you can notice, there is enough space for your compass, your Smartphone or anything else you would like to carry with you while walking in nature.
It also has adjustable cuffs which could be pushed up if the weather temperature rises, but the wind remains. The 2 drip skirts are also additional features that are making this jacket suitable for snowy weather conditions.
There is also a hood which is fixed and volume adjustable. If the weather gets cold outside you could zip yourself in the jacket and leave only your eyes uncovered.
Things to look for when buying a waterproof jacket
Keeping in mind that the waterproof fabrics used in the manufacturing process of the jacket is the most important feature; we are going to take a closer look at this subject. Although there are many brands which import their manufacturing waterproof fabrics or they are producing them themselves, they all have the same four characteristics. When it comes to waterproof fabrics, they could be coated, paramo fabrics or membranes.
These materials are covered with a layer of polyurethane on the inside of the jacket. Polyurethane is a highly versatile elastomer which is often used in the manufacturing process of sports clothes. These coated waterproof fabrics usually have a high load bearing capacity in both compression and tension. This means that it is less subjected to damage due to sharp objects. It is also highly resistant to tearing which go with its high tensile features. However, the main reason why the coated materials are used on the inside of the waterproof jackets is because of its mold and fungus resistance. This also means that they also smell resistant which is a valuable feature of every sports outwear. Coated waterproof fabrics also show a great performance in harsh weather conditions. They are very resistant to temperatures changes and extreme weather conditions, meaning the material degradation due to harsh weather conditions is something you should not worry about.
Coated fabrics are named differently by every manufacturer and the only difference is whether they come in two or more layers of construction.
Although there are various types of membranes and laminates, they all have the same function. They are thin layers of fabrics which are always water resistant and they are attached on a fabric surface. They are usually composed of several thin layers and every one of them is waterproof.
The main difference between waterproof membranes fabrics is the UV stability. There are some of them which are UV stable and others are UV resistant. It is clear that if your activity involves you staying under the sun for a longer period of time, you should get a UV resistant waterproof membranes fabric. Otherwise, the UV stable one is more than enough.
Breathability in waterproof membrane fabrics is a very important feature. If a water drop accidentally enters into the structure, it remains trapped inside. A material which has good breathability properties helps in avoiding this downside, thus making it a higher quality material. This way, the membranes will allow the excess water to escape your body and the fabrics, thus leaving it nice and dry.
The most frequently used waterproof membrane is Gore-tex.
Gore-tex is a waterproof material with breathability properties and a specific structure. It is constructed with numerous small holes which are making the material breathable and allowing the water to evaporate. However, the holes it is consisted of are so small, so that not a drop is allowed to get inside. This is creating the waterproof property of the material. There are three types of Goretex materials and they all have slightly different properties.
The daily Gore-tex which is very durable and it is also windproof is intended for daily use and lower sports activity. You should choose this Gore-tex material only for walking, hiking or other sports activities which doesn’t require much effort.
The Gore-Tex active shell is also windproof and it is very lightweight. The main difference from the daily Gore-tex is that it is more breathable than it. It is intended to be used by runners, climbers or cyclists.
The Gore-Tex Pro, however, has an extremely durable fabric and it is highly breathable. It is recommended that you use this Gore-tex material for extreme sports which require a lot of effort, such as mountaineering and climbing. It is a completely air permeable Gore-tex option.
The Polartec Neoshell material is most similar to Gore-tex Pro in construction. It is a highly breathable material with fully waterproof fabric which is perfect for extreme sports. It allows your body to evaporate, thus making the fabric unsuitable for cold weather conditions.
Paramo Waterproof System
The Paramo waterproof system has a unique construction which is incorporated into their well-known brand. For the construction, they are using a pump liner which is completely permeable and highly breathable. The difference between Paramo and every other waterproof material is their methods of dealing with moisture. Other waterproof systems are allowing your body to vapor the excess moisture that your body releases. The Paramo waterproof system, however, works by moving the moisture through the outside. Although technically explained this might not mean anything to you, you would be able to feel the difference. The feeling it leaves to your skin is much more pleasant. You would feel cozy and dry inside even though the outside is completely wet. The breathability properties are incomparable to any other waterproof system on the market.
The Paramo system is always made of two layers of fabric which are also providing your body protection and support even in cold weather conditions.
Other Features To Consider
Although we all agree that the fabric is the core of the jacket, therefore its most important feature, there are other features which you should also consider.
People are losing most of their body heat through their feet and head. This is why in harsh weather conditions, you should consider covering your head with a hood, since your feet are already covered. When looking for a waterproof jacket with a hood, look at the design of it. When you put it on, you should be able to move freely and without any view restrictions. It is a nice feature addition if your hood could be attached to the jacket instead of going with it. As every backpacker already knows, every pound matters and leaving your hood at home in warm weather could add to the comfort. However, a hood is only needed for unstable weather conditions. If you are hiking in hot and dry weather, a hood would probably be redundant.
More pockets in your backpack, more pockets on your waterproof jacket and you are ready to go. When it comes to pockets, the more you have, the more organized you will be. Waterproof jackets usually offer one large pocket or two side pockets. There are also inside pockets which could also come handy for your smallest stuff which you are frequently using. If you have your eye on a waterproof jacket with pockets, make sure you double check whether they have zippers. A pocket with a zipper will allow that your items are dry and safe inside.
Zippers are a necessity especially if you are often hiking in rainy weather. They also offer a nice protection from the wind. When it comes to zippers, look for zippers which are running smoothly and are waterproof. If your whole jacket is waterproof, but your zippers are not, water will get inside. Zippers are also helping you regulate your body temperature when it is too hot, so they are suitable for all weather conditions.
The most important thing you should consider is how is your jacket going to fit you. Even though it is recommended that a jacket is not too large, there should be enough space for you to wear base layer clothes under the jacket. Your shirt should also be breathable; otherwise, there is no use of the breathability of your jacket. If your shirt is not breathable, it will absorb the moisture from your body and you will be wet throughout the whole trip. This is exactly what you should be trying to avoid by buying a waterproof jacket.
It should also be long enough so that it covers your back at all times. This means that it should cover your back even when you lift your hands. You should also be able to move freely without any restrictions. This is highly important, even though you are looking for a jacket for a light activity such as walking. Being uncomfortable and movement restricted could cause you to lose your desire to practice the sport.
Cuffs are additional features which might be left out, but they sure are nice to have. They could be fastened at the wrist and there are various fastening technologies available. You should choose the one which you find most convenient.
It is also good if your zipper is long enough so that it covers your throat. This way, you would be protected from the wind and harsh weather conditions without carrying any extra equipment with you.
Waterproof jacket recommendations and their matching activities
The Paramo Alta 2 is out first choice for mountaineering and hill walking in colder weather conditions. These activities require a waterproof jacket which would be highly breathable and versatile. Even though with some of the other jacket suggestions you could manage to pass the winter if you wear a sweater underneath, the Paramo Alta 2 is the obvious choice for such conditions.
The North Face Resolve waterproof jacket is the perfect choice for three-season outdoor sports if you are looking for a waterproof jacket that fits the bill. It is also a multipurpose jacket, so if you are a multiple sports enthusiast, but avoid the cold temperatures, this is the choice you should go for. It provides excellent protection from the elements, it is lightweight and suitable for most outdoor sports and it is the safe choice to make considering the North Face brand behind it.
The Mountain Hardwear waterproof jacket is the ideal choice if you are an outdoor sports beginner. You would not spend much money on your first waterproof jacket and you would get the support you need while performing your favorite sport. However, this is also not a winter jacket. If you are always cold, consider wearing a sweater under the jacket.
The Montane Minimus, however, is a waterproof jacket made for people who are passionate about extreme sports and have been doing it for a while. It also requires you to have a bigger budget, but you would also get a proportional amount of features and satisfaction from the product.
All things considered, you should always consider your own requirements before purchasing any jacket or product, not matter how good it is. By following this technique, you would actually pay only for the features that you need instead of owning a product with great features that you don’t even need.
That said, if you have any questions or doubts concerning our product suggestions or this subject in general, we are more than happy to discuss it with you. Leave us a comment in the comment section bellow and we will get back to you as soon as possible!