If you are planning on doing anything outdoors in the great British countryside then you are going to need a waterproof jacket. Our weather is unpredictable (at best!) so you can be facing a rain storm one minute and glorious sunshine the next – so what jacket to bring in these situations is often the question faced by many! A jacket too thick can be heavy to carry round and restrictive, whereas a thin layer may not keep you dry.
In these situations what you need is a lightweight waterproof jacket – easy and light to carry, but also able to keep you dry when you need it most! But, finding the best lightweight waterproof jacket is easier said than done, there are many on the market that won’t actually be able to keep you dry if weather worsens, so could leave you just carrying around a piece of wet cloth!
Our buyer’s guide will help you spot the best lightweight jacket on the market, so that you know you are prepared for whatever weather is thrown your way.
Only Got 5 Minutes
If you are racing to get out walking or maybe your current jacket is looking rather worse for wear. If that’s the case then this part of the article is where you need to be! We have combined all the vital information that you need to get making your purchase.
Features to Look Out For
There are some key features that you need to look out for when purchasing the best lightweight waterproof jacket you can find. Keep reading for all you need to know.
It goes without saying that if you are wanting a lightweight waterproof jacket then it needs to be waterproof! But all waterproof jackets will have different levels of “waterproofness” depending on the materials that they have been made out of.
Look out for the level of water resistance that the coat offers as this will be the amount of water that your coat can withstand before it starts to absorb water instead of repel it! Remember “water resistant” means that the jacket will withstand SOME water (such as a light rain shower), whereas “waterproof” means that the jacket will repel any amount of water that comes your way! Gore-Tex is a well known material that will be storm proof but there are other synthetic materials that can be used in its place.
TOP TIP: If you want your jacket to be particularly lightweight then look out for ones that have the shell fabric removed from the jacket so there is literally just the waterproof layer. This will keep you dry but mean that you just have a thin layer of material to be carrying around with you. It will also be quicker to dry out!
The material of your jacket will have an impact on how waterproof and lightweight it is. The cheapest materials that you will find are PU coated waterproofs. These jackets will be easy on your budget, durable and lightweight but they aren’t as breathable as other materials so aren’t really ideal for any serious exertion, such as bike riding or hiking.
The next best material to look out for is membrane fabrics (like Gore-tex). These jackets will have an extra layer underneath the main fabric, this makes them more breathable as they will be filled with tiny little pores to allow sweat to be wicked away from the inside out, whilst still keeping you dry! These jackets will be slightly more expensive and slightly less lightweight but they are good for anyone that is wanting to be active outdoors and isn’t wanting a thick jacket on during this!
TOP TIP: Look out for “quiet” materials. Not only will these reduce the nuisance noises made from your jacket but they also coincidentally tend to be more durable due to the types of materials that are used.
Weight and Thickness
The weight of your lightweight waterproof jacket is essential – as you are specifically purchasing it for its lightweight features! If it is on the heavier side then you will find increased fatigue when walking, and it will be more difficult to carry round if the weather does improve and you find yourself ready to lose a layer! Some lightweight waterproof jackets weigh as little as 80g and we wouldn’t recommend going for anything over 140g, otherwise you might as well opt for a heavier jacket with other features!
Most lightweight waterproof jackets will be incredibly thin – this is how they are made lightweight – so won’t be able to keep you particularly warm when you are out walking (this is when you would need to whip out your medium or heavyweight waterproof jacket), but they are perfect for layering up when the weather is unpredictable.
The breathability of your jacket is important if you are going to be out completing any longer or more strenuous walks! Last thing you want is to be overheating and sweating under your jacket! Cheaper lightweight waterproof jackets can be fatal for this – as to ensure water resistance they sacrifice the breathability of the material! In our opinion, it is well worth opting for a slightly more expensive jacket that has a breathable layer underneath, or mesh panels under the arms, than to feel as though you are walking round in a bin bag!
We would always recommend opting for a size bigger for your lightweight waterproof jacket. The jackets are usually made to be on the looser side, so a bigger jacket will allow you more flexibility in what you wear underneath – meaning that you can get more wear out of your jacket over time.
It should go without saying that if you are purchasing ANY waterproof jacket then it will need to come with a hood, otherwise not only are you going to find your head getting rather wet, but you will find that water runs down the back of the neck of your jacket and you might as well not even be wearing one!
Many lightweight waterproof jackets will have hoods that fold up into the neck of the jacket, so that they can be tucked away when the weather is more pleasant – this is only a little thing but in our opinion it just adds to the overall smartness and look of the jacket.
Also, look out for hoods with toggles that can secure the hood tight around your face and a lip on the top to protect your eyes from the worst of the weather.
There are “specialised” hoods available in some lightweight waterproof jackets for those of you that have particular jobs in mind for your jackets. For example, some hoods are “helmet friendly”, meaning that if you are wearing it during bike rides the hood will come up to the point of your helmet, keeping you dry but also allowing you to be safe. Other hoods have wire peaks in them to keep them up and over your head in even the worst of winds!
Now you know the basics that you need to consider when purchasing a lightweight waterproof jacket, we can look at those extra features that will make the best jacket worth purchasing.
- Pockets – Make sure to only purchase a jacket that has zip up pockets, otherwise you could find your things going missing when out walking. We like jackets with different height pockets, as this means that the jacket will be more versatile for if you are walking with a backpack or without one. Also consider a waterproof jacket with an internal pocket to keep your most precious belongings (such as your phone!) safe and dry!
- Zips – The zips on your waterproof jacket need to be good quality to ensure that they are durable and smooth running. There is nothing worse than being stuck in bad weather and not being able to fasten your jacket because of a poorly fitted zip! Not just this, but it is also worth looking out for jackets that have storm flaps to cover the zips, so that water cannot find its way in through the seams. Some jackets have something known as “pit zips” which are zips that are found in the back or the side of the jacket. These can be unzipped to increase breathability in the jacket whilst still keeping you dry!
- Drawcords and adjustable cuffs – Little features like this will make all the difference to the fit of your jacket, which is crucial for if you are planning on wearing your jacket for any length of time or for any more active activities, such as hiking or camping. Drawcords are usually found around the base and hood of a jacket, with the adjustable cuffs on the wrist stopping any water riding up the sleeves of the jacket.
- Packaway jacket – Many lightweight waterproof jackets will actually be packaway jackets that can be folded up in on themselves, or into a little bag, which means that they can then be carried around, or put in a backpack instead of you having to wear it for the whole walk when it might not be necessary!
- Inner cord port – These are perfect for if you like to listen to music while out walking as you can feed your headphones through them so the wire stays out of the way – and dry!
Extra Purchases to Consider
If you are purchasing a lightweight waterproof jacket then there might be some other purchases that are worth considering to get the most out of your jacket. The idea of a lightweight waterproof jacket is that it is perfect for those warmer days outdoors but when there is still a fair chance of it raining – which lets be honest is most of the summer if you live in the UK! As perfectly designed as these jackets are for these situations, this can mean that there are also lots of occasions when they are not suitable for the weather conditions outside. Luckily there are extra purchases that can be made so that your jacket can still be worn:
- Fleece – A thick, fitted fleece is perfect for underneath a lightweight waterproof jacket if the weather is a little colder and you just need that extra layer. Some lightweight waterproof jackets will actually come with a fleece included that can be zipped into the under layer of the jacket and then removed when not needed.
- Gilet – A gilet is the perfect solution for nice weather days but where there is still a slight chill in the air. This can be worn under a thin waterproof jacket to keep the chill away while you are out walking.
- Couple your lightweight waterproof jacket with a thicker jacket – If you are a seasoned walker then you will know that sometimes there just aren’t enough layers of clothing to fend off the stormy weather that is coming your way! If the weather is cool enough to get away with two jackets then it can often be beneficial to actually wear a (very) thin lightweight waterproof jacket on top of your normal coat. This will help to offer extra protection against the wind and the rain.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do if my waterproof jacket stops repelling water?
It is really easy to sort the problem if your waterproof jacket has started absorbing water instead of repelling it. Simply buy a reproofing kit (these come in either a spray or a bottle that is emptied into your washing machine) and follow the instructions. In no time your jacket will be as good as new!
Why is it better to buy a bright-coloured lightweight waterproof jacket?
If you are out tackling more strenuous walks, such as fell or mountain walking, then it is important to purchase a bright-coloured waterproof jacket instead of one in black or brown. This is so that you are easier to spot should anything go wrong when you are out hiking. A bright jacket will be easier for rescue services or other walkers to see if you should end up in a tricky situation. Some will also have reflective strips on the arms or the back, which is well worth looking out for.