If you love the outdoors or work outside, the best waterproof jacket is a closet essential. Equipped with one, inclement or unpredictable weather won’t stop you from getting out to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, force you to stop what you’re doing and dash for the nearest shelter or leave you a wet mess. When it starts to pour, all you have to do is put on your waterproof jacket and stay comfortably dry and cozy in the rain. It also comes in handy during commutes and when running errands in rainy weather. The best thing is that rainwear is usually made lightweight and packable and having your rain jacket with you so you’re always prepared when outdoors won’t be a burden.
Being a specialty wear, it is wise to invest in the best waterproof jacket that will serve you for years. Now that you’re here, your search for one just got easier. We’ve reviewed ten rain jackets that are well made, top rated for their performance in downpours and that are also fashionable. We also go through what to look for when choosing a waterproof jacket in order to pick the right one that will serve you well and give you your money’s worth. Check our top picks below and learn what makes each one of the best outerwear for rain.
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How To Choose The Best Waterproof Jacket – Buying Guide
There are so many styles and colors of waterproof jackets on the market and they have so many different features and technical specifications that choosing a waterproof jacket can quickly turn into a daunting task.
To help you make a good investment that will meet your needs and have you covered for years to come, this buying guide explains the basics of waterproof jackets and the most important features to ensure the rain jacket you choose has.
It is impossible to have a one-piece jacket without joining seams yet the seam areas in a rain jacket are weak areas that could let water seep through into the skin. For this reason, all fully waterproof jackets feature fully taped seams. Taped seams are sealed using a heat process to make them watertight such that water can’t pass through the stitching. Even some water resistant jackets will have this feature.
Zippers are another potential leakage area but it is impossible to avoid them. Zippers on waterproof jackets usually have either a rubberized water resistant coating or a storm flap to ensure no water can seep through.
Coated zippers are also referred to as laminated zippers and tend to be hard to zip up and down. The coating also wears out with time. Storm flaps are heavier in weight but offer long-lasting protection and don’t affect the zipper function.
A hood is a must-have feature in a waterproof jacket in order to keep your head and neck protected from the wind and rain. The hood should be large enough to be practical. A good rain jacket will also allow you to adjust the fit of the hood easily. In case of wind-driven rain, this will enable you to tighten the hood for a secure fit and optimal protection without blocking your view. When it is warm, you should be able to loosen or remove the hood entirely.
Some jackets feature a toggle cord style hood adjustment while others use a velcro style. Some jackets will come with zip-off hoods while others will have a roll and stow in the collar hood design. Choose a design that suits the way you will be using the jacket. It is also a matter of personal preference.
If you’re looking for a waterproof jacket for climbing, cycling, skiing or snowboarding, a big enough hoot that will fit even with a helmet on will ensure you can get the protection you need even with your safety helmet on.
Even waterproof jackets made of breathable materials for efficient circulation of air and condensation management can get hot and heavy during strenuous activities in the wilderness or in warm and humid tropical climates. Even when the weather is cold and misty and a breathable jacket won’t provide adequate insulation, the lack of breathability can cause the natural heat the body produces to accumulate making you feel stuffy and uncomfortable.
In both cases, removing your rain jacket isn’t an option and you will be glad you choose a jacket with underarm vents or pit zips. All you have to do is open up the vents under the arms to release the hot air and cool down without letting moisture in the atmosphere in. Some pit zips are so extensive that the jacket looks like a poncho when fully unzipped.
Mesh liners in torso pockets also improve ventilation. When you get hot, all you have to do is unzip the pockets to cool down. Some waterproof rain jackets feature vents along the sleeve edges and lower portions where it is hard for rainwater to get through.
Pockets in a rain jacket offer easy access storage for small items you need handy and safe storage for your mobile phone. There are waterproof jackets with a multitude of pockets and there are those with just a few but well-thought-out pockets. Most jackets have two hand pockets and a chest pocket. Hand-warming pockets keep your hands warm.
A waterproof pocket on the interior will keep your personal devices and documents dry. Some jackets even have pockets with a cord port for your music player or phone so you can listen to music when out there. The number of pockets to go for comes down to preference.
The positioning of the pockets is also an important consideration. Hand pockets placed higher up above the hip belt or climbing harness and away from the shoulder straps are the best for backpacking or climbing as they offer easy access even with a backpack on. Waterproof jackets for travel will often have hidden pockets as a security feature against pickpockets.
Even the best rain jacket equipped with superior waterproof construction will still let in water through the wrist openings, hem, or neck it these don’t fit tight. The best waterproof jackets allow you to adjust the hood, hem, waist, and wrist for a tight or looser fit. Look for adjustment features such as a drawcord and toggle at the bottom hem, adjustable wrist closures, and a cinch system at the waist for longer jackets.
With such a jacket, you can adjust for a watertight fit that blocks rain, wind, and cold and ensures the jacket stays on when it is cold, rainy and windy and for a looser fit to improve airflow when it is wet but warm and you need more airflow without losing the moisture protection.
Whether it is rainy or sunny, it is always wise to have your waterproof jacket with you while in the great outdoors. Outdoor weather can be very unpredictable and you never know when the clouds will get heavy and cause a sudden downpour. For this reason, packability in a waterproof jacket is a great feature.
The packable label on a rain jacket usually means that the jacket features a double zipper pocket that transforms into a storage pouch. You just have to turn the pocket inside out, stuff the jacket in and zip the package shut. With some ultralight shells, this package can be unbelievably small.
Some jackets are considered packable even if they don’t come with an inbuild stuff pocket because they are designed to be compressible so they fold and roll into a very small package that fits into the hood and won’t take a lot of space in a backpack.
For a rain jacket to be packable, it must also be lightweight without losing its durability and ability to block the rain. This ensures isn’t bulky or a burden to carry. This is especially important with jackets used for hiking, backpacking, and climbing.
The downside is that packable, lightweight rain jackets may not offer sufficient waterproof protection in rainstorms and cold conditions. They also have a slim profile and fit tight without leaving space for warm layers underneath.
Types of Weather Shells
Weather shells are classified according to the make-up of their fabrics into hard shells, soft shells, hybrid shells, and insulated shells.
A hard shell refers to waterproof and breathable wear made of stiff fabrics but not insulated. They act as an excellent shield against harsh elements like moisture, wind, and cold. They are also built rugged to withstand abrasion.
With a soft shell, the insulating layer and water-resistant shell are integrated to form a single layer that is both the mid layer and outer layer. It is flexible with excellent breathability making it ideal for strenuous activities where one gets sweaty. The downside is that it doesn’t offer a lot of protection from rain, wind, and cold.
A hybrid shell is made using a combination of hard shell and soft shell fabrics to offer the best of both. The more waterproof and windproof hard shell fabrics will be on the front and top and the more breathable and flexible fabric soft shell on the sides, back and underneath sleeves.
An insulated shell is puffy, as it is filled with down or a synthetic insulating fill. Its purpose is to provide warmth in cold conditions and during the winter when skiing, skating, snowboarding, or ice climbing. If its fabric is waterproof and breathable, it will also shield the wearer from the elements.
Waterproofing technologies rely on a laminate membrane or coating that is waterproof and blocks liquid water from penetrating though but is breathable and allows sweat vapor to escape. This is because moisture from rain is not the only enemy in the great outdoors. Perspiration can also make you wet and clammy if it doesn’t have a way out. Breathability ensures that hot air and condensation doesn’t build up inside the jacket causing the wearer to feel discomfort.
Laminates are composed of a thin waterproof and breathable membrane made of polytetrafluoroethylene, polyurethane (PU), or polyester. Some brands use their own special fabrics to make the waterproof/breathable membrane. Gore-Tex is the most popular specialized fabric. The membrane is sandwiched between two other layers. Laminates are lightweight and superior to coatings as they offer the best waterproof protection, breathability, and durability. They are also more expensive than coatings.
With coatings, a polyurethane (PU) coating is applied to a fabric and offer good waterproof protection, breathability, and durability. They are the less expensive option. There are ultra-lightweight and lightweight coatings.
Rainwear and waterproof jackets will also have a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment that makes the outer fabric water repellant so that water beads up and rolls off instead of stagnating and seeping through. This coating becomes the first defense against rain. This coating wears out with time but can be restored with a re-application.
To offer optimal waterproof protection without sacrificing breathable comfort, rainwear is usually constructed in layers where the waterproof and breathable laminate membrane or coating is sandwiched in between other layers.
The outer layer is made tough to withstand the elements and abrasion in addition to blocking water while the inner layer is airy and offers a comfortable feel on the skin while also protecting the coating/membrane against body oils and damage from the inside. There are 2-layer, 2.5-layer, and 3-layer designs, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
With 2 layer rainwear construction, the waterproof and breathable laminate or coating is applied on the inside of an outer fabric layer to form a single piece of material. The second layer is a mesh liner added on the inside to protect the membrane or coating. 2-layer rainwear doesn’t breathe well and tends to be bulky. It comes at moderate prices. Its strength is that it is very quiet and is used in casual rainwear for urban and travel use.
2.5 layer rainwear construction uses a lightweight yet durable outer fabric as its first layer, a waterproof and breathable laminate or coating is applied inside the first layer to make the second layer. The 1/2 layer is a protective sheen that is laid down over this second layer. This design produces lighter, more breathable and more affordable rainwear making it the most popular in rainwear for hiking, climbing, and backpacking. The downside is that the interior layer tends to be slippery or plasticky on the skin. With modern technology, this feeling is getting better.
3 layer rainwear construction does not utilize coatings. The waterproof and breathable laminate membrane is tightly sandwiched between a rugged exterior fabric and a soft interior lining. This is the most robust, durable, protective, and breathable rainwear construction but also the most expensive and is used in heavy-duty rainwear for the harshest conditions. Premium rain jackets designed for heavy duty protection also use a three-layer construction.
Q: How Does Rainwear Work?
A: To block liquid moisture from getting through while also allowing water vapor from sweat to escape, rainwear utilizes a laminate membrane or coating that is waterproof and blocks liquid water from penetrating but is also breathable and allows evaporating sweat vapor to escape keeping the wearer dry, cool and comfortable.
Manufacturers usually use a naturally water-resistant fabric such as nylon or polyester as the outer layer. They then apply a durable water repellent (DWR) waterproof treatment that makes the outer fabric water repellant so that water beads up and rolls off instead of accumulating on the jacket and seeping through.
Some rain jackets feature a waterproof rating such as 20,000mm or more. This is the column of water in a 1-inch-diameter tube that the fabric can withstand before it lets water through. The higher the rating, the more waterproof the material.
In addition to the waterproof fabric coatings or laminates, a waterproof jacket must have other sealing features like seam taping and zipper coating or storm flaps in order for it to be completely waterproof.
Q: Why Do I Need Special Waterproof Jacket?
A: For the rainy season, outdoor adventures, and working outside, you need a waterproof jacket to block moisture and you dry when it rains. Some heavy-duty waterproof jackets can also protect you from harsh conditions like low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy rain and snowstorms.
A regular jacket, windbreaker or soft shell with only water resistant properties can only protect you from light rain and moisture for short durations. It will let water in heavy rains and under prolonged exposure. A waterproof jacket is and equipped to protect you when you have to be rained on hard and for a long duration. This is because it features a waterproof laminate membrane or coating that blocks moisture, a water-repellant coating that causes water to slide off and fully taped seams.
A special waterproof jacket will also be breathable to ensure that you don’t get hot and heavy due to excess warmth and perspiration. In warm and wet conditions or when participating in strenuous activities, a breathable waterproof jacket will protect you from the rain while ensuring you don’t overheat. In cold and misty weather, you will need a waterproof and well-insulated jacket to keep you dry and warm.
Outdoor weather can be very unpredictable and it is important to have the right clothing. Whether your favorite outdoor activity is cycling, running, hiking, mountain climbing, camping, fishing, backpacking or you’re just commuting, running errands or walking the dog, you will be glad you have a special waterproof jacket and not just a regular jacket when the rainy season arrives or if it suddenly starts drizzling.
Q: How To Clean My Waterproof Jacket?
A: Proper care is essential to ensure your waterproof jacket gives you service for years to come and delivers excellent performance all through. Before cleaning your rain jacket, check the care tag at the back of the jacket and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions for your jacket.
Generally, the proper way to clean a waterproof jacket is to wash it in a washing machine using a gentle cycle or hand wash it in cold or mildly warm water, and a small amount of liquid detergent to eliminate stubborn dirt. Do not use powder detergents, fabric softeners, or chlorine bleach, as these can affect its performance. Once it is clean, run it through a second rinse cycle to clear out any dirt and detergent residue.
Hanging your rain jacket to dry is ideal as extreme heat can damage its structure. You can also use a dryer set to a low heat tumble as excessive heat can damage the structure of the waterproof membrane or coating. Ensure it is completely dry before you store it to prevent the growth of mildew and mold.
If you notice that water is no longer beading on the surface of the jacket but seeping through, the durable water repellant coating has worn out and it is time to replenish it with a re-application.
Globo Surf Overview
A good rain jacket is a rainwear wardrobe essential especially if you work outside or love the outdoors. The best rain jacket has a waterproof yet breathable construction. The waterproof feature protects you from getting wet while the breathable feature allows hot air and evaporating sweat to escape from your body so you stay comfortably dry and don’t get wet from the inside.
Other essential features in a waterproof jacket for rain include a practical and adjustable hood, fully taped seams, and waterproof zippers so it is able to protect you from the rain and other harsh conditions the outdoors can present. That it fits well and is stylish and looks good is also important. It should also be lightweight and packable so it isn’t a burden to have with you just in case.
All the best waterproof jackets we’ve reviewed above fit these criteria. They suit a variety of needs, tastes, sizes, and budgets so you should be able to find one that fits your needs. To choose the best waterproof jacket for your needs, keep in mind the activities and environments you will be using your waterproof jacket. Do you want a versatile jacket for all purposes, a specialty rainproof jacket, or a lightweight shell you can have with you for emergency downpours?
When you have a reliable waterproof jacket, you can step outdoors whenever you want to and have peace of mind and fun because you’re prepared for anything nature throws your way and are not constantly watching the sky worried about the weather.
More Water Gear Reviews:
- Filtered Water Bottle
- Indoor Outdoor Thermometer
- Waterproof Tent
- Camping Shower
- Water Shoes For Kids
- Women’s Sandals
- Inflatable Lounger
- Water Shoes For Men
- Dry Bag
- Water Toys For Toddlers
- The History of Rain Jacket Tech, From Seal Intestines To Gore-Tex , gizmodo.com
- Rainwear Basics , www.rei.com
What waterproof jacket on our list is your favorite? Do you own any of the rain jackets we’ve reviewed? Has does it perform in downpours and different conditions? Let us know in the comment section below!
Globo Surf Waterproof Jackets Reviews