A waterproof jacket is essential for anyone, especially when combating the great British weather! But, it is even more important for those people who are wanting to get out in the great outdoors, whether it be walking, hiking, camping or any other activity that may come to mind!
If you are an all-weather outdoor pursuits kind of person, then you will know how much it can “dampen” your spirits when the weather isn’t on your side. For anyone else it can be the perfect excuse to not even get out walking at all! That’s why the best waterproof jacket money can buy is essential! Knowing that you can tackle any weather conditions and still remain dry will keep you smiling when walking through even the worst of storms. But how do you know what to buy? That’s where we come in! Our Buyer’s Guide will get you clued up on waterproof jackets and even recommend some of the best waterproof jackets on the market at the moment.
Only Got 5 Minutes?
This part of the article is perfect for anyone who is in a rush to get out and buy a waterproof jacket. We have outlined all the most important information right here so that you can get buying!
Waterproof Jacket Features
There are some main features that you need to think about when buying the best waterproof jacket.
Waterproof vs Water Repellent
A waterproof jacket will be able to protect you from any weather conditions that may come your way, keeping you completely dry in the process. Whereas, a water repellent jacket will only be able to keep you dry in light to medium showers. This means that in heavier weather the water will start to seep through the jacket – leaving you feeling rather damp around the edges.
However, water repellent jackets can be more breathable and lighter so can usually be better packed away between showers and won’t greatly add to the load that you are carrying!
The rating of your waterproof jacket is called a hydrostatic head – this is basically the amount of water that your jacket can withstand before it starts to absorb water. Shorter, more fair weather walkers will be able to opt for a jacket with a rating between 5,000mm and 10,000mm, but all-weather mountain hikers are going to need a jacket with a rating between 10,000mm and 20,000mm.
Look out for a jacket with different breathable features, such as breathable material under the arms, or a layered jacket that has an inner breathable layer. It is very easy to become too warm when out walking, so a breathable jacket will help to avoid this, and wick away any sweat that might be building.
Thickness and Weight
Obviously, the thicker the jacket usually means the warmer the jacket, which will be crucial for trips outdoors in winter weather. However, a thicker jacket will also mean less flexibility when you are moving around and will make it heavier so will increase fatigue if you are out walking for a long time.
There are many different materials that are found for waterproof jackets, and the material that you choose is arguably the most crucial part of your jacket. The two most popular types of protective materials are membrane waterproofs (such as Gore-Tex and Polartec) which are made up of 2 or 3 layers to keep the water out but also to allow breathability from the inside, and PU coated waterproofs, which are usually cheaper but are a more general water barrier so can stop water (sweat) being released from inside the coat too.
It is worth mentioning that there are also wax lined jackets that will be waterproof. While these will be able to keep you nice and dry in most weather conditions, these coats tend to be heavier and much less flexible, so will not necessarily be ideal for longer, more strenuous walks that you might be undertaking!
Size and Fit
The size of jacket that you go for really depends on how you like your jacket to fit. Some would rather go for a looser jacket so that you have the flexibility to layer different items underneath, whereas others would rather opt for a more fitted jacket that allows for easier movement when out walking.
If you are going to be wearing a number of layers under your jacket then we would recommend going for a size bigger than your normal clothes!
The durability of your coat is vital if you are wanting it to be able to withstand the various different walks and outdoor activities that you will be completing! Look out for non-rip materials that will be able to stand up against any branches or rocks that you brush against while walking. It is also worth watching out for more high-quality finishes, such as sturdy zips and a neat lined finish.
Also, look out for jackets that come with material guarantees, as this way you can be sure that your walking jacket is built to last.
The colour of your waterproof jacket is really down to personal preference. Waterproof jackets used to come in mostly blacks or browns, but now they come in a rainbow of colours to suit each individual. It is worth mentioning that a brighter waterproof jacket will offer you significantly greater visibility when out walking, so that you can be seen by others when you are out and about.
This might not sound important, but to be on the safe side it is definitely worth considering a brighter colour, particularly if you are doing more strenuous mountain or fell walks. This way if something happens to you out walking, you will be able to be spotted.
A waterproof jacket would be useless without a hood! It would be absurd to leave yourself with a soaking wet head and face while your body and arms are staying nice and dry! Make sure that the hood is going to secure firmly around your face (possibly with additional toggles) so that you are not going to have to hold it up constantly while out walking.
Many hoods also have a peak on the front, so that your eyes can be protected from the worst of the weather.
It may also be worth considering a detachable hood, so that your coat is perfectly ready for all different weather conditions. However, be aware that this can stop the hood from being fully waterproof, as the zip that connects the hood to the coat could let some drops of water in.
Additional Waterproof Jacket Features
So, we have discussed the main features that you need to be thinking about when choosing the best waterproof jacket for you. However, there are some extra, smaller features that will make or break your waterproof jacket experience:
- Pockets – Look out for waterproof jackets with plenty of pockets, and preferably ones that will zip up. This will help to keep all of your precious belongings safe while you are out walking or exploring in your jacket! It is also worth considering the position of the pockets on the coat that you are looking at. Some will be lower down, which will make for easier access, whereas others will be higher to allow for a waist backpack strap to wrap around your middle if necessary.
- Zip covers – Look out for jackets that have covers that will go over the larger zips on your coat. This will help to keep all areas of the coat fully waterproof in the worst of weather, as otherwise you may find drips coming through the seams of the zips.
- Wind protection – Some jackets will come with particular wind protection features, such as lips on the hood and extra materials in the shoulders. If you are planning on wearing your jacket all through the year then this is something that we would recommend!
- Quiet fabric – There is nothing more annoying than being out in the peaceful countryside, listening to the birds and other wildlife, but then all of this becomes disturbed by the annoying “swoosh swoosh” of the material of your jacket every time you move your arms! There are waterproof jackets that have now been designed with “quiet” material that will be near enough silent while you are out walking – leaving you to enjoy the surrounding nature.
- Pull cords, velcro and elastic – All of these little features will work together to make sure that your waterproof jacket can offer you a perfect fit. They will usually appear on your sleeves, around the waist and sometimes around the bottom of the coat, so that it can be altered exactly to you. This will make the waterproof coat much more comfortable if you are wearing it for long periods of time.
- Pack-away waterproof jacket – The purpose of these jackets is for them to be lightweight and flexible so that they can be folded either into themselves or into a small bag when they are not being worn. They are fantastic for long days out walking as you will be able to store them in your backpack when the weather is good, and quickly pull it out when the weather turns. However, they won’t be able to keep you as warm as thicker waterproof jackets and often won’t be as waterproof!
Layering your Waterproof Jacket
As wonderful as a waterproof jacket can be, it is worth considering combining different layers together to make for the perfect outdoors wear – particularly if you are going to be taking part in longer walks throughout the years.
We would recommend buying a fleece that can go under your jacket to keep you extra warm on colder days, but also then gives you the option to remove your waterproof jacket if you become too warm and the weather is clear!
Some waterproof jackets will actually come with these waterproof layers already built in. They can be zipped together to form one jacket, or separated for different weather conditions. This type of jacket will usually be a little more expensive but will greatly add to the versatility of the coat, meaning that you can wear it for many more occasions!
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do to re-waterproof my coat?
If you notice that your jacket has started to absorb water, instead of repelling it, then fear not! There are ways to reinstate your favourite jacket instead of replacing it. Simply buy a waterproofing spray, hang up your jacket and spray it down evenly all around the outside of the jacket from a few inches away. Once you have made sure that no areas have been missed, just allow your jacket to dry. Otherwise, you can buy a re-proofer that can be put on a washing cycle in your machine.
What is Gore-TexⓇ?
Gore-TexⓇ is a particular patented brand of waterproof fabric that will be able to protect you from both water and wind when out walking. Many manufacturers choose to use this membrane due to the large pores that are found in the fabric, as they are 700 times larger than water molecules so it is much easier for perspiration to wick away through the fabric, while still keeping you protected from the weather on the outside of the jacket. However, there are a number of other waterproof membranes available on the market that will be equally up to the task!
Will washing my waterproof jacket affect its waterproof abilities?
No! It is a long-standing myth that washing your waterproof jacket will stop it from being waterproof! In fact, it is actually beneficial to wash your waterproof jacket if you want to keep it performing as well as when you first got it! This is because it will remove any dirt or mud that can stop your jacket from repelling the water! Over time, your coat will gradually lose its ability to be waterproof, just through general use, but this can be fixed very simply with reproofing.