The variety of uses, materials, features, and styles makes choosing the perfect waterproof outdoor jacket more challenging than a 40% incline, but we have the tools to help you.
Your outdoor jacket is the outermost layer of your outdoor gear, and as such it has many responsibilities.
It must keep you warm, be an impermeable barrier against the rain, offer breathability, be rugged enough for the mountainside, and look good while doing it.
To achieve all these aims, the latest outdoor jackets are stuffed with next-generation materials and design features to keep you snug and secure even in the most testing of conditions.
But the mix of features and fabrics you’ll need will depend on the terrain, temperatures and elements you expect to face. Plus, you have a hilly region of jargon and tech to navigate to ensure you're choosing the right jacket for you.
Outdoor jacket jargon
To bust the jargon barrier, we take a look at many of these features in detail and explain the technical terminologies used to describe the latest waterproof jackets.
2/2.5/3 layer jackets
A 2-layer jacket has a protective inner coating bonded to a face fabric like nylon or polyester. These are often treated Durable Water Repellency (DWP) coating to encourage water to bead on the surface instead of being absorbed. A 2.5-layer jacket has the DWP coating applied to the inside the outer layer. An additional printed or sprayed-on protective layer is then applied to the outside of the garment. A 3-layer jacket, features – surprise – three layers; the outer fabric, the protective coating in the middle; and then an inner layer made of a sewn-in lining. Three-layer jackets tend to be stiffer than 2 or 2.5 layer jackets.
A drop tail is made from extra material that is either folded or fastened away from the hem at the bottom of the jacket. It can be deployed as needed to provide extra below the waist protection and is especially handy when the rain is falling sideways.
GORE-TEX® has been an industry-defining material for years. It provides a membrane bonded to other protective fabrics to create a laminate. This membrane consists of millions of tiny pores that allow water vapour to evaporate through from inside, but are small enough not to let water through from the outside, a technology that has bridged the longstanding gap between waterproof and breathable.
Along with creating a tighter insulator layer, slim fit jackets also make movement easier and cut back on the amount of fabric needed, making them a little lighter in general.
Jackets designed for the active wearer often include specially located vents, particularly in the armpits where they’ll keep out wind and rain while allowing heat to escape.
The seams of waterproof jackets are sealed with material or tape preventing water from leaking through gaps in the zip or perforations along the seam. Only when the seams are sealed can the jacket be officially classified as waterproof.
Packable outdoor jackets can be tightly rolled or stuffed into a small container, making them easier to carry if the weather turns in your favour.
Softshell jackets are water repellent and highly breathable, without the bulk of a ‘hard shell’ jacket. They form part of the layering system, but can be used alone during moderate activity if weather conditions are light.
2020's best waterproof outdoor jackets
Take a look at some examples of jackets from Wiggle that include many of these features and more.
The North Face Dryzzle FutureLight™ jacket will give you ultra-light protection for rainy adventures. Its slim fit profile, fixed hood and wicking yet water-resistant fabric make it ideal for an up-tempo trek across exposed terrains.
Perfect for: Long days with a chance of showers
Moderate intensity activity
If you only buy one jacket, this could be the perfect option to see you right the way through the seasons. This tough, waterproof outer shell can be layered over a fleece, or can be just as easily packed away in case of showers. A great choice to see you through almost any outdoor scenario.
Perfect for: Changeable conditions
Moderate intensity activity activities
Despite its minimalistic appearance, the Haglofs L.I.M GORE-TEX® is one of the most protective yet breathable waterproof jackets on the market and packed with features like a zipped chest pocket and adjustable hood with reinforced peak. There's no shoulder, side or inner seams in the sleeves to minimise chafing no matter how intense your activity.
Perfect for: Heavy sustained rain
The JWP Shell Jacket is made for hillwalking, climbing, trekking and general outdoor activities in changeable weather. It combines a lightweight waterproof and windproof technology with built-in stretch and a breathable finish so you are free to move in comfort. One of the two generous pockets doubles as a pouch so it can be neatly stowed, ready for the next downpour.
Perfect for: Changeable weather
The Fohn Supercell 3L jacket is just as breathable as it is protective. It uses a fully waterproof three-layer fabric construction that is durable enough to withstand the most rugged adventures. Taped seams and an adjustable hood and cuff keep the rain out and a soft-touch, wicking inner face fabric is comfortable against the skin.
Perfect for: Sustained downpours
Moderate intensity activity