Not matter if you are taking a long stroll along the canal, marching on the trails, or venturing up high into the mountains, a waterproof jacket is a year-round essential for any lover of the great outdoors. Here we have put together a guide with all the information you might need to help you pick the right jacket for you.
It seems so obvious that the job of a waterproof jacket should be to keep you dry, but it should and most often will, depending on your purchase do much more than that. The jacket that you buy should also be breathable, allowing any sweat vapour to escape from the jacket - so you stay dry from the inside and should keep your body at a regulated temperature so you are throughout your activity.
For those of you into some serious hill walking, then you might want a stiffened hood, storm flaps, and pockets for extra storage.
If you are doing high-intensity activities like trail running, then breathability is their main feature; keeping you cool and comfortable by allowing all the extra heat to escape. Take a look at our range of men's running jackets and women's running jacket to see what's available.
If you're a climber, you probably want something that's more hardwearing, can take scuffs and scrapes from rocks, and have a more relaxed fit, allowing you to move more easily.
However, the chances are you a looking for a jacket that fits somewhere in the middle of these - a good all-round jacket that will get plenty of use. The good news is, that these selection of jackets are bigger, covering a range of different brands, fits and colours, with some lighter in weight and others heavier and more durable - there is something for everyone. You can view the men's waterproof jackets and women's waterproof jackets to see a great range suitable for hikers and walkers.
The membrane material is bonded to the inside of the outer fabric and is the principal element of what makes the waterproof fabric. Gore-Tex is one of the best know waterproof membrane technologies on the market and is used by many of the biggest brands because of its durability and reliability. In addition to Gore-Tex, there are other branded waterproof fabrics such as eVent and fabrics by Polartec and Pertex. There is also a big range of in-house fabrics by key brands who use their technologies, sometimes on there own or in conjunction with Gore-Tex or Pertex.
How a jacket should fit is often a personal preference, and you should choose the one you feel comfortable and confident wearing. Some people like a long enough jacket to cover the waistband, whereas others prefer it short and with a more tailored fit. The fit of the jacket must be suited to the activity you like doing, but again, one hiker might like a loose fit, and another might like a tighter fit. Regardless, you might want to consider here a few things regarding your preferred activity and the jacket you buy.
Waterproof jackets designed specifically for high-intensity activities such as trail running will be shorter and have a lower volume and athletic cut to minimise the weight when running.
A waterproof jacket designed for general hiking will have a much more generous fit throughout the body. A generous fit is to allow full freedom of movement and wear it with extra layers in colder conditions. Most will have a slightly longer body length for better coverage, and some will have a longer back compared to the front, so not to hinder leg movements when hiking up steeper terrain.
Climbing and mountaineering jackets often have a more tapered body to them. As the wearer will need freedom of movement, they will have a bigger volume around the chest and shoulder. This extra space will also you to wear multiple layers, a more fitted design around the hips and hem twill reduce the overall bulk of the item and give space for the harness.
Again, I want to mention that fit and style is a very personal thing. Like myself, some hikers like sometimes to hike light and fast; so I sometimes actually use my running waterproof jacket for my fast hikes. That's just my choice, everyone is different and I also still own 2 Gore-Tex Pro waterproof jackets made in the more traditional hiking style - it all depends on my mood and the weather conditions.
The function of the hood is simple: protect your head and face from the outdoor elements. A well-designed and fitted hood can make even the heaviest rainstorm feel like a drizzle. Some hoods can be detached or packed into the collar if not wanted.
Most basic jacket hoods are large enough to fit over a beanie hat and are adjustable with at least one drawcord that gathers excess fabric around the face. A step up from a basic hood is a hood with a peak that will help keep the rain off your face. The peak could be structured with pliable wire, tubing or fabric to help it stay in place in heavy winds.
You will come across hoods that can be adjusted from the back of the head; this allows the hood's volume to be reduced and so it fits and sits better on your head. If the hood is too loose and baggy, then a big gust of wind could blow the hood backwards.
Do bear in mind ann special needs you may have for your hiking or adventures. For example, will you ever need to wear a helmet under your hood? If so, you will need a bit more room in there to fit it in. Helmet-compatible hoods, mostly found on more technical jackets have a much larger volume to allow you to wear the hood over the helmet still and be comfortable, yet not restrict your vision.
You'll want enough pockets and in the right location depending on what your activity is. Some running jackets might not have any pockets or might have only small pockets for keys or emergency money. When hiking, you will want plenty of space for your GPS, phone, map, snacks etc. A good array of zip pockets will ensure your valuables are safe while on the move. Hoking jackets will probably have deeper pockets, inside pockets and more pockets overall than other jackets. Waterproof climbing and mountain jackets will tend to come with pockets around the chest area and the torso.
Zips and Storm flap is added to protect the zip area from getting any water into the jacket. Storm flaps seal over the zip and can be found on both the inside and outside of the jacket. Waterproof zippers do what they say on the tin; they keep the zip waterproof.
Higher-end jackets will usually have a combination of both these features as extra protection. The zip and flaps should run the whole way up to the chin line of the hood.
You can also get asymmetric zips, rather than being straight up the centre of the jacket, they'll taper off to the side so not irritate the neck or chin.
Some jackets also have pit-zips, which follow the underarms and can be unzipped ned if you get too hot. All jackets should be breathable, but this addition is great for comfort if you know you are prone to overheating.
The drawcords of a jacket will improve fit and reduce dead space, and these are a great way to customise the fit of a jacket. When choosing your waterproof jacket, consider where the drawcords have been placed. Drawcords and sometimes sit on the waist or the hem, not rocket science but having one is functional and necessary.
Cuffs on the jacket should also be adjustable. They could have tabs on them to help you to seal them around your wrists. These could include elasticated cuffs on a mountain/running jackets or have cuff flaps made from Velcro, which is the preferable option for a walking and hiking jacket. A nice thing to have on your jacket. They also completely seal you from the rain and can be tightened over your gloves.
OK, well that's the end of the article, and we've covered a fair bit, even though we could probably go into even more detail on the technologies and brand-specific technologies - that might be too much though. Product-specific technical details are on the product description pages. Just remember, pick a waterproof jacket that is right for you. Just because someone on Youtube likes a specific style, brand or type of jacket - it doesn't mean it's right for you. Consider your primary outdoor activity, how you like to do that activity and weigh up the features and design on a prospective jacket to see if it will suit you.
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