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(The Gear Loop) - Whether you’re tackling the Eiger, walking the dog or commuting during a torrential downpour, a good quality waterproof is a must. 

The problem is, there’s an overwhelming choice of waterproof jackets available nowadays, all of them claiming to keep you dry and comfortable in the outdoors. To help with your search, we’ve focussed on a few key areas: firstly, we’ve stuck to specialist outdoor brands with great reputations, and only chosen fabrics that are sold as waterproof, and not water-resistant. 

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We’ve also made sure all of the jackets featured have taped seams, which means that stitch-lines and seams are internally covered with a waterproof sealing tape to prevent water leaking through. For us, this is the proper definition of waterproof. 

Within those few criteria, you’ll find NASA-inspired fabrics boasting incredible breathability, designs with four-way stretch for added comfort (and less crinkling) and a host of innovative features from helmet-ready storm hoods to pit-vents to help you cool down when the walking gets tough.

Chris Haslam/The Gear LoopThe best waterproof jackets photo 6

And to test each jacket, as well as day-to-day wear and countless dog walks through Epping Forest, The Gear Loop was privileged to be invited to the Highlands of Scotland with the team behind GPS route planning tool Komoot, to explore the hills around Lairg, Sutherland. To say the weather was perfect for testing waterproofs is quite the understatement.

When you’ve walked for five miles in near gale force winds with horizontal rain in your face and you’re still dry and smiling, you know you’ve found a good jacket.

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Essential to any unpredictable outdoor adventure, many of the waterproof shells mentioned below can also act as a brilliant outer layer for an insulated jacket, which we've tested here, to sit underneath. This is particularly important if heading somewhere that's forecast to be cold, wet or generally changeable, such as Snowdonia or Ben Nevis

The best waterproof jackets tested

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Klattermusen Draupner

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For

  • Supremely hardwearing
  • Storm-proof hood

Against

  • Eye wateringly expensive
  • Needs more pockets

Founded in Scandinavia in 1975, Klattermusen makes high quality outdoor gear, and our new favourite waterproof jacket. The Draupner is a serious piece of winter weather kit with a price tag to match, but one so robust and well specified we were gutted to take it off and try a different brand during our torrential Highlands adventure.

Made from the brand's proprietary three-layer Cutan waterproof shell, with a Duracoat surface treatment that improves durability in high-abrasion areas around shoulder, hips and sleeves, this jacket feels indestructible and offers ideal protection for the harshest alpine condition.

At 846g for a medium, it is heavy compared to many Gore-Tex options, but we envisage it surviving years of constant wear. 

Our pick of the features - and there are many - is the huge 3D adjustable hood, which cocoons the wearer from the very worst elements. It’s cosy in the rain, the soft material around the chin prevents wear (on us and the fabric) and everything has been designed for glove friendly use.

There’s also a metal D-ring and clasp on the chest, which baffled us for a while, before realising it was an ingenious way to walk with the jacket completely open to cool down, without it flapping. If you can afford it, you won’t be disappointed.

AlpkitThe best waterproof jackets product photo 1

Alpkit Fortitude

For

  • 100% Recycled face fabric
  • Longer cut = drier bum
  • Great value

Against

  • Restrictive hood

As you can see from the sodden selfie (above), the Alpkit Fortitude took one serious battering from the Scottish weather, but after two hours of almost constant heavy rain, we remained bone dry and comfortable. The DWR fabric stopped beading after an hour of abuse, but the membrane did not falter.

Like so much Alpkit gear, this 515g jacket manages to be high performance, good looking and relatively low cost. The three-layer waterproofing membrane boasts 20,000mm (HH) and at 70 denier - incidentally made from 100% recycled materials - it is extremely hard wearing. 

The cut is slim, but the slightly longer fit will keep your bum drier, and prevent the need to pull on waterproof trousers for a bit longer.

The hand pockets are warm and generous, the chest pocket has plenty of room for maps/phone, and our only real complaint was the fact the hood is quite restrictive, and doesn’t offer much adjustability.

Yes, this reviewer has a fairly large skull, but he rarely struggles with jacket hoods, and this one felt overly snug, especially when wearing a beanie.

£150, buy direct from Alpkit

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Arc’teryx Beta LT

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For 

  • Lightweight
  • Superb hood
  • Arc’teryx doesn't make bad products

Against

  • Best for walking rather than mountaineering 

LT is short for 'lightweight' and while 394g isn’t exactly in the realms of a featherweight Shakedry single layer jacket, it packs down small and feels anything but bulky. Being from Arc’teryx, the quality is second to none, balancing technical performance, versatility and style to perfection.

When this jacket was launched, many people scoffed at the fact Arc’teryx had downgraded the Gore-Tex from Pro to a standard 3-layer Gore-Tex construction, but in truth, unless you’re hitting up the Matterhorn, this construction will keep you dry in all conditions, while saving you some money.

It’s a superb hiking jacket that will not fail, even faced with wind and torrential rain, and we especially appreciated the highly adjustable Storm Hood, which features a wide brim, and cinches down neatly whether you’re wearing a helmet, cap or beanie.

Add in a slim fit and large pit vents to dump heat as you climb, and you’ve got a typically great, wholly dependable Arc'teryx product.

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Berghaus Paclite Peak

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For 

  • Lightweight
  • Bargain price 
  • Very waterproof

Against

  • Won’t be this cheap for long

At its RRP of £190, the Packlite Peak jacket represents solid value, but given that some outlets are currently selling it for over half that price, it is a total bargain.

We’re big fans of Gore-Tex Packlite technology, which bonds a seriously waterproof membrane directly to a tear resistant outer nylon shell. By losing the more common third layer, the jacket becomes lighter (340g) and easier to stuff away in your backpack.

But lightweight stuffability counts for nothing if the jacket doesn’t keep the rain out, and during our decidedly damp test walks it laughed in the face of strong winds and torrential rain.

The generous hood is helmet compatible and easily adjustable, the main zip is waterproof, arm vents are great at shedding heat (and well hidden from the weather) and we appreciate the fact the waterproof DWR layer is PFC-free. 

We also like the hint of 90s football terraces styling on the blue version, it is solidly built, very reliable and we doubt it will ever let you down.

Our medium review sample offered quite a generous fit, with space for a down jacket underneath, but if you’re usually between a small and medium, we’d suggest medium if you prefer a more fitted look. 

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Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Shell Jacket

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For

  • Solid value
  • Very comfortable

Against

  • A bit dull
  • Pit vents not taped

A waterproof for everyday wear that’s also great if you want to head off and explore the great outdoors. It’s a polite way of saying the Ampli-Dry is a bit boring - maybe we mean, understated - but definitely in a good way. 

Columbia pride themselves on creating their own proprietary tech, instead of relying on brands such as Gore-Tex, and here, they’ve implemented the excellent Omni-Tech Ampli-Dry waterproofing, which laminates a polyurethane membrane to a tough DWR treated face fabric.

The construction offers good breathability and great waterproofing in all but the most horrendous of downpours, but has the added bonus of being stretchy and supremely comfortable with none of the crinkle you find with many jackets.

Seams are taped, the front zip is also sealed and there’s generous pit zips to help you get rid of excess heat and moisture vapour as you climb (or when get stuck on the train). The hood has plenty of room and we love how it doesn't feel like a typically restrictive and plastic-feeling Cagoule to wear.

Tested to its limits in Scotland, the main body of the jacket remained dry throughout a particularly vicious - and continuous - downpour, but we did notice a small amount of leakage around the pit zips, possibly because they’re covered rather than sealed with PU like the main opening.

These were not typical commuter/country walks conditions however.

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What to look for in a waterproof jacket

Find your features

Waterproof jackets aren’t just for hiking or walking, as they often come in special fit and materials or pack features that will favour a particular endeavour. Cycling jackets will be windproof, breathable and host numerous pockets for kit, while running jackets will generally be lighter and more basic, providing some protection from the elements while being as breathable as possible.

It’s a similar story with many of the jackets we featured in our guide, with some boasting serious features for mountain-based endeavours and others proving more basic. Figure out the kind of activities your jacket is going to be used for and select features wisely. 

Layer up

It’s a good idea to layer up in cold conditions - placing a waterproof outer over an insulated or thermal mid-layer- but even the humble waterproof can be constructed from several layers to improve its ability to battle the elements. Two-layer waterproofs are the most basic and consist of a waterproof membrane bonded to an inner lining to reduce any chafing against the skin. These might keep you dry but they’re often uncomfortable and sweaty.

Modern waterproofs tend to be offered with multiple layers, some of which have been treated for addition hydrophobic performance, with many boasting breathable membrane technologies to help keep things cool.

The more layers your waterproof has, the better performing and more durable it is likely to be, but extra layers also add weight, so decide whether it’s a jacket that’s going to be stuffed in a bag a lot, or one that is worn for extended periods of time. If it's the latter, look for something weightier but more durable. 

Jargon buster 

When buying a waterproof jacket, you might be confronted with a load of jargon that aims to quantify how waterproof something is. Hydrostatic Head (or HH for short) is the first of the much-used lingo.

This is used to measure how waterproof a fabric is and sees an inch diameter of water applied to the fabric in question, and seeing how high the water will rise before it starts to seep through the jacket. The higher that water stacks up, the higher the final figure and the more resistant to water penetration it will be.

On top of this, many modern jackets now flaunt a Moisture Vapour Transfer (MVT) figure that reveals how much moisture can pass through the fabric in a 24 hour period. You’ll see it displayed as 12,000 gr/m²/day, or 12,000gr, for example.

Take this with a pinch of salt, because heavy activity will lead to a lot of sweating, so additional features, such as underarm zips and vents, could be worth investigating if you’re putting in some serious miles.

Writing by Chris Haslam. Editing by Leon Poultney.