Whether backpacking the Irish countryside, or biking America’s west coast – waterproof jackets are your only line of defense in staying dry.
In our guide to the best waterproof jackets, we compare price, durability, waterproofing, and breathability. Although our jackets range in price greatly, all of them will keep you dry when you need it most.
Best Waterproof Jackets:
Weight: 13 ounces
Cons: No chest pocket
Womens: Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket
Marmot’s PreCip is easily the best entry-level rain jacket on the market today. Delivering great breathability, pit zips, and good water protection – Marmot’s Precip wins our Best Value Award.
Other notable features of the Precip are the wrist-cuffs which are adjustable with velcro, and the new Nanopro fabric which keeps you drier and more comfortable than previous Precip technology. Also, the Precip folds down and into its left pocket – becoming a neat carrying case for itself!
It should be noted the cinch-cord only extends to the temples and not all the way around the hood. This feature sacrafices minimal water protection for comfort of the forehead.
Weight: 12 oz.
Pros: Good Waterproofing for a good price
Cons: Fair breathability
Womens: Patagonia Torrentshell
The Torrentshell is the most similar to Marmont’s Precip on the list. But where the Torrentshell falls shorter in breathability compared to the Precip, the Torrenshell has a stronger waterproofing at a similar price point.
The Torrentshell is a hair bulkier than the Precip, which can be helpful in colder and harsher conditions, and lends itself to more rugged uses. All the zippers, including pit-zippers, have stormflaps for added protections, as well as a microfleece-lined neck.
Ultimately, it’s a great quality jacket for a fair price.
Weight: 12 oz.
Pros: Superior Quality
Womens: Arcteryx Zeta LT
Arc’teryx’s Alpha FL is by far the highest quality jacket on the list.
If money is of no concern the Alpha FL has all the bells and whistles of a top-notch rain jacket. Lightweight, dual-pocket design, incredible breathability, and comfort make this an incredible ally to any hardcore backpacker or hiker.
There’s also a welcomed roominess to the jacket that can fit a biking helmet or extra layers, while keeping customization in mind with side and back sinch-cords for a better fit.
Company: Eddie Bauer
Weight: 14 oz.
Pros: Fantastic Waterproofing
Cons: Could Breathe Better
Womens: Eddie Bauer Womens Alpine Front
The Alpine Front offers high-quality water protection when you need it most.
A full-featured hard shell, pit-zips, and comfortable ‘stretchy’ material, place The Alpine Front in a higher class than most. The hood bill does a good job of keeping water out of your face for runner’s or when you’re on those windy hikes. Its strongest feature by far, is its ability to bead water and keep you dry.
Because of its moderate breathability, The Alpine Front excels best in the snowy terrain.
The rainwear industry was forever changed when ‘Gore-Tex’ laminate was introduced in the 1970’s.
With this new technology, not only was waterproofing the job of a rain jacket, but breathability and perspiration escape as well. This allowed hikers to not become a human sauna trapped under unbreathable material.
This is done in two ways:
- Outter layer: The outside fabrics of waterproof jackets are treated with a durable water repellent, or DWR. This allows water to essentially ‘bead’ or run off of the jacket face, not allowing saturation to occur. The magic of DWR’s is they do not effect breathability in anyway.
- Inner Layer: The inside is composed of laminates (Gore-Tex) that absorb sweat and heat and diffuse through the jacket, ultimately pushing them to outside. The reason they push to the outside is simply because anything with a high concentration will always move to an area of lower concentration, i.e. heat and sweat inside jacket want to move to area of lower concentration (outside).
Types of Jackets
Water Resistant: This gear should only be used in light rain situations. Although it’s breathable, it will only resist water for a short period/amount.
Waterproof & Breathable: This rainwear keeps you dry and breathing at the same time. It’s the appropriate gear for the serious trekker who wants to stay dry from both rain, and sweat.
Windproof: Waterproof and windproof go hand in hand. They are essentially the same thing. If it can keep out water, why not wind?
Types of ‘Shells’:
- Hard Shell: The hard shell jacket is your first line of defense against rain, snow, and wind. Warmth gives way with these jackets for importance placed on: lightweight, versatility, packable, and quick drying. Popular activities for a hard shell are: hiking, biking, snowboarding, and skiing.
- Soft Shell: Soft shells are popular items because they mix the protection of a hard shell with the comfort of a fleece. Stretchy and soft, soft shells breathe fantastically but are less waterproof than a hard shell. Popular activities (in moderate weather) for a soft shell are: everyday wear, running, climbing, hiking, and biking.
How To Clean Your Waterproof Jacket
Just like any other tool, or piece of equipment, waterproof jackets also need regular maintenance to hold up performance. Over time, if you’re noticing your jacket’s breathability/waterproofing starting to deteriorate don’t throw it away. Treat it in two ways:
Nikwax Tech Wash
Nikwax is our recommended detergent for performance outerwear. Just pop in your waterproof jacket into the wash with a few other pieces of clothing and it will help the jacket’s DWR work more effectively. This additive-free cleaner helps relieve that ‘clammy’ feeling by cleaning out all the micro-pores within the jacket that allows it to breathe.
ReviveX Durable Waterproofing Spray
If your jacket is still leaking, despite a good cleaning, that means it’s time to treat the durable water repellent, or DWR. With ReviveX it’s a pretty simple process: wash your jacket, take it out (while it’s still wet), spray ReviveX liberally, and then put it in the dryer for a full cycle. Your jacket should come out brand new. If you notice small leaking in certain areas, you can repeat this process to make sure you covered every inch.