A good waterproof jacket is an essential for every outdoor adventure and, in a lot of cases, it’s extremely important to have one in your backpack for safety reasons – even if good weather is forecast. Wondering which waterproof jacket is best for you? The first thing to think about is the main seasons and types of trips you’ll be needing it for.

For any trips outside of winter, a three-season waterproof jacket will offer you the most versatility. This will protect the you from rain in the months of spring, summer and autumn when temperatures should be warmer and the weather kinder compared to winter. The best three-season jacket will be able to cope with downpours and strong winds and will come with numerous useful features. After all, walkers can experience fairly extreme weather in any month, especially if high in the mountains.

Just like with hiking boots, when the winter months come around some three-season jackets will be able to cope with the milder days at that time of year, but if you’re planning on heading out into snow and up to exposed places then something hardier, warmer and more specced-out is needed. In other words, that’s when you’ll need to be considering a four-season waterproof jacket. Most of the jackets reviewed on this page are three-season but there are some, like the options from Mountain Equipment and Helly Hansen, that will be of use when winter rolls around too. Jump down to the bottom of this page if you’re looking for more information on what to look for when buying a waterproof jackets – we’ve got loads of expert advice for you there.

best waterproof jackets: tested and reviewed

Left to right: the Montane Phase, the Alpkit Balance and the Tierra Back Up

The best waterproof jackets of 2023

This guide contains 11 of the best hardshell jackets for 2023 according to our expert reviewers. Most of these are three-season hardshells but there are also options that will suit tough winter trips in snow too. The jackets have been chosen on the basis of their protection, breathability and durability, with weight, packability, features, fit sustainability and value influencing our decisions too.

  • Montane Phase Nano | RRP: $379 | £300 – Best waterproof jacket overall 
  • Outdoor Research Helium AscentShell | RRP: $449 | £425
  • Rab Latok Mountain Gore-Tex Pro | £420
  • Helly Hansen Odin 1 World Infinity Shell | RRP $500 | £420 
  • Arc’teryx Beta jacket | Best women’s waterproof jacket | RRP: $450 | £350 – Best for durability
  • Haglofs LIM GTX | RRP: £169 0 – Best for value
  • Tierra Back Up | International shipping | RRP: £260
  • Patagonia Granite Crest | RRP: £260 – Best for sustainability
  • Berghaus Paclite Dynak Gore-Tex | International Shipping | £170
  • Alpkit Balance | RRP: $259.99 | £200
  • Sprayway Torridon | £340
  • Jöttnar Odin | £495
  • Mountain Equipment Makalu | $374.95 | £270 
  • Rab Arc Eco | RRP: $235 | £200
  • Paramo Velez | RRP: $280 | £300 – Best jacket for breathability

How we tested the best waterproof jackets

These jackets were tested by Chris Townsend, Fiona Russell, David Lintern, Will Renwick and Peter Macfarlane. They were all used from spring through to autumn – and in winter, in some cases. They were all assessed for their ability to provide protection from wind and rain while also providing breathability, especially in mild temperatures. The majority of our testers are backpackers and many of the products were carried on multi-day trips and on long-distance trails throughout numerous mountain ranges and countries.

Montane Phase Nano – Best waterproof jackets – Best Buy

Montane Phase Nano

Rating: 4.5/5
Likes: low weight, breathability, packability
Dislikes: expensive, no cuff adjustment
Price: $379 / £300 
Weight: 250g

Materials: 13D Gore-Tex Active, YKK Aquaguard zips | Pockets: two hand pockets | Hood: 3-point adjustable with stiffened peak | Sizes: men S-XXL (no direct women’s version; nearest equivalent is the Phase or Phase XT)

Montane describes the Phase Nano as the lightest and most breathable Gore-Tex jacket it offers. Weighing just 250g, it’s a jacket that offers three-layer waterproof protection alongside a bunch of useful design details, including a full length water resistant front zip, a three-point adjustable hood and shaped cuffs.

“It’s a great bit of kit,” said Peter Macfarlane who was on the jury that selected this as the best rain jacket in this year’s Great Outdoors Awards. “It packs to nothing for just-in-case days, the Gore-Tex fabric is excellent, it has good-sized pockets and it gives perfect articulation with no hem movement at all.”

It features Gore-Tex Active, a lightweight version of Gore’s three-layer waterproof fabric that’s designed for high levels of breathability. It’s specifically made for trail running but its three-way adjustable hood, big hand warmer pockets and storm flap make it a good option for summer hikes too – though the 13D fabric might be a little thin to wear with a heavily loaded pack. Unfortunately, whilst the Phase family of jackets comes in men’s and women’s versions, the Phase Nano is yet to be produced in a women’s-specific model.

Available at: montane.com

Patagonia Granite Crest

Patagonia Granite Crest

Rating: 4/5
Likes: lightweight, hood adjustment, recycled fabrics, underarm zips, cost
Dislikes: hood peak not very stiff
Price: RRP: £260 
Weight: 395g (M)

Materials: 3-layer H2No Performance Standard NetPlus post-consumer recycled nylon ripstop with PFC-free DWR | Hood: helmet-compatible, front and rear adjustment, stiffened peak | Front closure: watertight zip with inner flap | Underarm/side zips: two-way | Pockets: 2 handwarmer, 1 chest | Hem: adjustable drawcord | Cuffs: Velcro | Sizes: men XS-XXL (women XS-XL).

“You’ve got everything you’d want from a good, reliable wet weather shell,” said Will Renwick who was on the jury that chose this as Highly Commended in The Great Outdoors Awards 2023. He tested the Patagonia Granite Crest over the course of a wet backpacking trip in the Lake District.

Not only is the Granite Crest PFC-free but it also uses a fabric that’s made from recycled fishing nets in order to help to reduce ocean plastic pollution. This fabric has a good quality feel to it too; it’s soft to the touch and quiet and there’s a slight stretch to it.

From our tests, we found it to be a great three-season option that would be excellent for day hiking and backpacking. It has a huge helmet-compatible hood that can be adjusted to give good protection whilst allowing visibility, the front drawcords are external ones and so are easily tightened with the jacket fully zipped up and it has a stiffened peak too – though this lacks structure and can distort in the wind.

Other features include large hand pockets, a fully sized chest pocket that can accommodate a map, and long underarm zips for ventilation.

Read our full Patagonia Granite Crest review.
Available at: cotswoldoutdoor.com

RAB Latok

Rab Men’s Latok Mountain Gore-Tex Pro Jacket

  • Price: £420
  • Weight: 510g
  • Pros: fit, fabric, pockets, hood, comfort
  • Cons: main zip can let in water

Materials: 80D and 40D Gore-Tex Pro | Hood: wired and stiffened peak, crown and face volume adjusters, roll down | Front closure: zip with internal storm flap, bottom popper | Underarm/side zips: 2-way pit zips | Pockets: 3 external, 1 internal | Hem: drawcord adjustable | Cuffs: Velcro tab | Sizes: S-XXL | Women’s version: yes

The RAB Latok is a lightweight, relaxed jacket that offers excellent coverage and protection for winter layers. Its cuffs are wide, allowing for insulated gloves and arm movement. The jacket features three external pockets with water-resistant zips and an internal zipped mesh pocket for a large smartphone. The pit zips are excellent, with a rear storm flap for waterproofing. The heavier Gore-Tex Pro fabrics, DWR and DWR, are excellent and breathable. The brand now has a ‘Material Facts’ table, explaining the amount of recycled materials and fluorocarbon use in the Latok and other equipment.

Read Peter’s full review on the Rab Latok Mountain Gore-Tex Pro Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium AscentShell

Outdoor Research Helium Ascentshell

Rating: 4.5/5
Likes: low weight, breathability
Dislikes: expensive, front hood adjustment
Price: $449 |  £425 
Weight: 330g (L)

Materials: bluesign-approved AscentShell and Pertex Shield Air Diamond Fuse 30D ripstop nylon | Hood: helmet-compatible, front and rear adjustment, stiffened and wired peak | Sizes: men S-XXL (no direct women’s version; nearest equivalent is Women’s MicroGravity AscentShell Jacket, £265)

Chosen as the best men’s jacket in our tests, the Outdoor Research Helium AscentShell was found to be lightweight, comfortable and tough.

One of the main aspects that impressed us was the AscentShell fabric and the integration of Pertex Diamond Fuse fibres. This creates a lightweight material that is highly abrasion-resistant. Outdoor Research use a method called electro spinning here; this is essentially where thousands of tiny fibres are all joined up together into a web, with gaps that are big enough to expel moisture vapour but small enough to block out moisture in liquid form. It’s impressive stuff.

Adjusting the hood isn’t that smooth, but when done correctly, it does at least offer excellent protection. Pockets-wise, there are inner and outer ones on the chest that will just about hold a medium-size smartphone and there are handwarmer pockets too – these are cut off by a hipbelt but most of them are still usable.

Expect a roomy fit. Our tester Chris found the size Large to be comfortable over fairly thick insulated tops.

Read our full Outdoor Research Helium Ascentshell review.
Available at: outdoorresearch.com 

Helly Hansen Odin 1 World Infinity Shell

Helly Hansen Odin 1 World Infinity Pro Shell review

Rating: 4.5/5
Likes: lightweight, hood, pockets, evironmentally friendly fabrics
Dislikes: expensive
Price: $500 | £420
Weight: 1 lb. | 455g (L)

Fabric: PFC-free recycled polyamide/ polypropylene membrane | Hood: front drawcord, rear volume adjuster, stiff peak, helmet compatible | Front closure: water-resistant zip, inner flap | Pockets: two zipped handwarmer, 1 zipped chest | Hem: drawcord | Cuffs: Velcro | Features: side ventilation zips, Recco transponder, emergency whistle in chest pocket | Sizes: men S-XXL, women XS-XXL

Given how protective its waterproof fabric, this is a good jacket to turn to when stormy weather is forecast. It’s also got some excellent eco credentials as its 100% PFC and made using recycled materials.

The jacket has a protective hood and big pockets, the comfort is good as the fabric isn’t as stiff or noisy as some heavy-duty ones and the breathability is also good, with the inside only getting a little damp with condensation during our tests. The zipped side vents helped here as did the wide cuffs, which allow ventilation to the sleeves.

Worn over just a light mid layer and a base layer the fit is quite loose, which creates freedom of movement and also allows for a thicker layer of insulation underneath in the colder months. 

Read our full Helly Hansen Odin 1 World Infinity review
Available at: hellyhansen.com

Haglöfs L.I.M GTX

Haglofs LIM GTX

Will using the Haglöfs LIM on a summertime backpacking trip.

Rating: 3.5/5
Likes: low weight, breathability
Dislikes: lack of adjustment
Price: £161
Weight: 11.64 oz | 330g

Materials: Gore-Tex Paclite Plus (40D polyamide, ePTFE membrane, carbon print inner) | Hydrostatic head: 28,000mmm | Details: two zippered hand pockets, elastic cuffs, hood and hem, stiffened peak, reflective details | Sizes: men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XXL.

In tests, this jacket proved to be very light, packable and breathable and as such it was great for high tempo activities like trail running, fastpacking and climbing. It’s well-suited to lightweight backpacking trips too. 

It uses Gore-Tex Paclite Plus. This is a 2.5 layer version of Gore-Tex where the membrane is sandwiched between an outer fabric and a carbon-based coating on the inside. Over the course of a multi-day backpacking trip in wet but mild weather, it provided decent protection and durability and the underarm zips, along with the other venting options throughout the jacket, kept a nice amount of airflow going through it to stop any clamminess building up. Handily, the pockets were also just the right size for holding a map.

This is part of Haglöfs’ Less Is More range which keeps features and details to a minimum for the gram counters out there. Unfortunately this means that there’s no adjustment at the hem, hood or waist, just elastication. In moderate winds everything holds well, but in really rough stuff the hood just didn’t quite hold well enough and that’s the main downside to what is otherwise a very good jacket.

Read our full Haglöfs L.I.M GTX review.
Available at: haglofs.com

Tierra Back Up

Tierra Back Up

Rating: 4/5
Likes: lightweight, hood adjustment, breathability, cost, underarm zips, mosquito net
Dislikes: no chest pockets, hood peak not very stiff
Price: £260
Weight: 355g (L)

Materials: 50 denier Gore-Tex Paclite polyester with PFC-free DWR | Hood: front and rear adjustment, stiffened peak | Front closure: one-way zip with inner and outer flaps | Underarm/side zips: yes | Pockets: 2 handwarmer | Hem: adjustable drawcord | Cuffs: Velcro | Sizes: men S-XXL (women XS-XL).

Tierra are a Swedish company that specialise in wet weather gear – no less than the Swedish Alpine Mountain Rescue association are equipped with their kit.

This particular jacket, the Back Up, uses Gore-Tex Paclite. This has a hydrostatic head of 28,000mm, high levels of breathability and it’s also lightweight and packable – all the right ingredients of a backpacking jacket then.

The Tierra Back Up hood fits well and has external front drawcords and cordlocks, making it easy to adjust. The hood isn’t helmet-compatible, so there isn’t masses of material to cinch down when you’re not wearing one. The peak is small and it’s not very stiff.

The pockets are roomy. Unfortunately they’re cut off when wearing a backpack with a hipbelt but the top of them can still be used. There are no chest or inner pockets. 

One extra feature that will be useful in the summer months is a stuff sack that doubles as a midge net!

Read our full Tierra Back Up review.
Available at: tierra.com

Rab Arc Eco

best waterproof jackets: Rab Arc Eco

Rating: 4.5/5
Likes: Eco credentials, a great all-rounder, cost, weight.
Dislikes: Could use one more pocket.
Price: RRP: $235 | £200
Weight: 436g

Materials: 3-layer Pertex Shield recycled polyester ‘Revolve’, recycled inner, PFC-free DWR | Features: part-wired 3-way adjustable hood, 2 large pockets | Sizes: S-XXL | Women’s version: yes | Website: rab.equipment

The Rab Arc Eco was given Gold in our TGO awards for sustainability and it has really stood out from the other men’s waterproofs here too. On test since last autumn, the fully recycled fabric has so far resisted wear and tear, with the 20,000 hydrostatic head and 15,000 MVTR (breathability rating), continuing to keep us completely dry.

Our tester found the cut of the jacket is quite long, and perhaps overly roomy at the chest, but this does at least allow for layering. The sleeves are Velcro-adjusted, and the hem adjusted by two toggles. As for pockets, there are only two very large handwarmers, situated just high enough to be useable whilst wearing a rucksack.

Perhaps not a jacket for the depths of winter but it is a light, simple, cheap and more environmentally-friendly option for backpacking and hillwalking.

Read our full Rab Arc Eco review.
Available at:

Páramo Velez

Paramo Velez Jacket

Grant Hyatt testing the Paramo Velez. Photo: Jamie Barnes

Rating: 4/5
Likes: breathability, hood function
Dislikes: weight
Price: RRP: $280 | £300

Weight: 605g | Materials: polyester Nikwax Analogy® fabrics | Features: two-way main zip/ zipped vents throughout/ adjustable and wire-molded hood/ harness, pack and helmet compatible/ reflective details/ valuables pocket/ scooped hem with draw-cord adjustment | Sizes: S-XXL | Women’s version: yes

The most important thing to know about this jacket from UK-based brand Páramo is that it’s not technically waterproof. Don’t let that put you off, however, because it still brings excellent protection with the added bonus of high breathability. The secret is in its Nikwax Analogy fabric which uses a Nikwax water resistant solution that works to push moisture away while allowing moisture vapour to escape from the inside.

The Velez was created by Páramo as a lighter alternative to the Alta III, bringing almost all the same qualities as that jacket (including that breathable Nikwax Analogy fabric) but at a lighter 600g.

Details on the Velez include a two-way main zip, zipped vents on the arms and venting hand pockets too (the one on the right also has a mini zipped pocket for valuables inside it). The hood is adjustable, can be worn over a helmet and has wire-moulded peak. The hem can also be adjusted via a toggle and there are Velcro tabs on the cuffs.

Read Will’s full Páramo Velez review.
Available at: paramo-clothing.com


Sprayway Torridon

Sprayway Torridon women’s jacket

  • Price: £340 / International shipping available
  • Weight: 568g
  • Pros: Fabric, eco, hood, colours
  • Cons: Weight, height of pockets

Materials: 3-layer Gore-Tex 75D PFCEC-free recycled polyester  | Hood: wired, 2 adjusters | Front closure: 2-way zip, storm flap, stud, Velcro Underarm/side zips: 2-way pit zips | Pockets: 4 | Hem: yes, elastic  | Cuffs: Velcro | Sizes: UK 6-20 | Men’s version: yes

The Sprayway Torridon is a waterproof jacket designed to provide freedom of movement and layering. It features a longer length at the rear and arms, a hood with good volume, and a Velcro tab for easy adjustment. The jacket offers a robust outer shell, two-way pit zips, double stormguard, and stud and Velcro fastening. The zipped hand pockets are large and useful, and it adheres to eco and ethical standards. The three-color panelling design provides visibility and a retro style, making it a good value for its high-spec price.

Read Fiona’s full Sprayway Torridon women’s jacket review

Jöttnar Odin

Jöttnar Odin Jacket

  • Price: £495 / $595
  • Weight: 514g
  • Pros: Fabric, fit, features
  • Cons: Price, peak

Materials: 3-layer, 80 denier Jöttnar Skjoldr | Hood: wired, 2 volume adjusters | Front closure: zip, inner storm gasket | Underarm/side zips: Y, 2-way zip | Pockets: 5 | Hem: drawcord and adjuster | Cuffs: Velcro | Sizes: XS-L | Men’s version: yes

The Odin is a durable, high-quality waterproof jacket suitable for winter layers, with a softer chinguard and a wide internal storm gasket on the front zip. It is one of the heavier jackets in our guide to the best waterproofs. The hood is too big for hillwalking and the peak is short and wired. The jacket is breathable and has five pockets, two internal pockets, a sleeve pocket, a Recco Rescue System diode, and an antenna-based passive transponder for safety. The bright yellow color is great for mountain safety. However, the jacket loses a point in the scoring due to its lack of environmental or ethical considerations and its high price.

Read Fiona’s full Jöttnar Odin Jacket review

Arc’teryx Beta – Best waterproof jackets for women – Best Buy

 Arc'teryx Beta jacket

Rating: 4/5
Likes: lightweight, roomy
Dislikes: price, colours
Price: RRP: $450 | £350 
Weight: 269g (S)

Materials: 3-layer Gore-Tex with Gore C-Knit backer | Hood: stiffened peak, single volume adjuster | Front closure: WaterTight Vislon front zip, internal storm flap | Underarm/side zips: no | Pockets: three: two zipped hand packets and a zipped internal pocket | Hem: drawcord, two toggle adjusters | Cuffs: Velcro | Sizes: XXS-XXL (men XS-XXL).

At £350, the Arc’teryx Beta is one of the more expensive options out there, but it is at least very high in quality.

It uses a three-layer Gore-tex fabric, including a light shell layer, the membrane underneath and then a C-knit backer which helps to wick moisture and to protect the membrane from abrasion and body oils (which can block up the membrane’s pores).

The fabric has a durable feel to it, but the jacket is still lightweight and packable, so Arc’teryx have struck a really good balance here.

Features include a soft fabric chin guard, an adjustable helmet-friendly hood, Velcro cuffs and glove-friendly zip pulls. There are three zipped pockets, including two hand pockets at the right height for wearing with a rucksack, as well as an internal zipped laminated pocket that is big enough to accommodate a large smartphone.

Read our full Arc’teryx Beta jacket review.
Available at: ellis-brigham.com


Berghaus Paclite Dynak Gore-Tex – Best waterproof jacket for value

best waterproof jackets: Berghaus Paclite Dynak

Rating: 4/5
Likes: packable, price, climate-friendly
Dislikes: hood minimalist
Price: RRP: £170 
Weight: 292g (10)

Materials: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, taped seams | Hood: stiffened, one adjuster | Front closure: YKK front zip, internal storm flap | Underarm/side zips: no | Pockets: two zipped hand pockets | Hem: drawcord, two toggle adjusters | Cuffs: Velcro | Sizes: women UK8-18 (men XS-XXL).

£170 is excellent value for a jacket of this calibre. It’s light, it’s durable, it’s breathable and protective and it’s well furnished with features – there’s a lot to like here.

It’s not quite as nice to wear as a 3-layer shell if you’re forced to keep it on for extended periods but the inner face does at least have a built-in carbon backer instead of a clingy drop liner or printed ‘half-layer’ like many cheaper 2.5-layer PU-based shells and that means it provides reasonable comfort levels. We found that it only started to feel a bit clammy when really working hard uphill.

The one-way, water-resistant main zip has an internal storm flap and a comfortable microfibre chin guard. The two hand pockets are a decent size and are placed high enough to stay out of the way of a backpack hip belt. The pocket zips aren’t watertight but they do have double storm flaps – so there’s peace of mind there.

The overall fit is fairly relaxed, especially compared to trimmer fitting shells, with room for a layer or two underneath.

Read our full Berghaus Paclite Dynak Gore-Tex review.
Available at: berghaus.com

Alpkit Balance

 Alpkit Balance Jacket

Rating: 4/5
Likes: stretch fabric, hood
Dislikes: weight, small sizing
Price: $259.99 | £200
Weight: 364g (10)

Materials: outer: 90% nylon/10% spandex, PU membrane; inner: polyester knit backer | Hood: wired, three hood adjusters | Front closure: one-way zip, internal storm flap | Underarm/side zips: no | Pockets: 2 zipped hand pockets | Hem: drawcord, 2 toggle adjusters | Cuffs: Velcro | Men’s version: women UK6-20 (men XS-XXL).

Peak District-based brand Alpkit have made a name for themselves in recent years, producing functional kit that doesn’t come at eye-watering prices.

This particular product from them, the Balance, is certainly reliable. It’ll keep out wind and rain while providing a decent level of breathability too. Weight-wise, it’s not the lightest of three-season shells, but it’s not heavy either.

It was the hood that our tester liked the most about this jacket. In fact, she said it was the best hood out of the crop of jackets she tested. She was also impressed by some of the “thoughtful details” including its collar snap which allows you to open the front zip without the jacket flapping at the neck.

Read our full Alpkit Balance jacket review.
Available at: alpkit.com

Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket

Mountain Equipment Makalu

Rating: 4.5/5
Likes: Excellent hood, tough
Dislikes: No frills
Price: $374.95 | £270
Weight: 500g (M)

Materials: 3-layer 75D/recycled 50D Gore-Tex, PFC-free DWR | Features: internal and external chest pocket, torso pockets, pit zips | Sizes: UK8-16 | Men’s version: Yes

The Makalu from Mountain Equipment went down well in our tests, mainly due to its tried-and-tested features and strong build quality. It’s not the most expensive jacket in the test – although at £270 it’s still quite a sizeable amount of money to part with. But for that you get a well-designed, robust and versatile waterproof that should last several seasons.

Its main body is 100% recycled 50 denier, with tougher 75 denier on the wear points. The entire shell has been treated with a PFC-free (less environmentally damaging) DWR to repel water.

A standard Gore-Tex waterproof membrane is employed here. It’s not the top spec Gore-Tex Pro but the quality is still impressive.

Our tester’s favourite aspect of this jacket is the hood. They found it roomy and adjustable and they liked that it has a stiffened brim and a wire peak.

See our full review of the Mountain Equipment Women’s Makalu Jacket review.
Available at: cotswoldoutdoor.com

How to choose the best waterproof jackets

Finding the right waterproof jacket can greatly enhance your comfort and performance in adverse weather conditions. It’s also absolutely crucial from a safety perspective. First and foremost, the main things to assess when choosing a jacket are the levels of waterproofness and breathability as these determine its ability to keep you dry while allowing moisture to escape. Additionally, consider the jacket’s durability, weight, and packability to match your intended activities and environment. If you like to move fast and light, for instance, then a lightweight 2.5-layer shell that’s light on features will be best for you. Conversely, if you’re into your winter mountaineering then you’ll want a more durable shell – 3-layer perhaps – with pockets and lots of adjustment.

Pay attention to features like hood design: is there adjustment so that it will hold in high winds? And pocket placement: will they be accessible when you’re wearing a baclpack with a hipbelt? You’ll also want to take into account the jacket’s fit and sizing to ensure optimal comfort and freedom of movement – many of our full individual jacket reviews will specify whether a jacket is true to size or not. If we don’t specify in the review, please feel free to get in touch with us directly to ask.

best waterproof jackets : Haglofs lim

Our tester Will Renwick using the Haglöfs L.I.M in the mountains

Finally there’s the sustainability side of things. If you’re conscious of the environmental impact of products, check whether any recycled materials are present and also whether the materials can go on to be recycled when the jacket comes to the end of its life. Some jackets these days still come with PFCs. These are water resistant chemicals that often escape through our washing machines and into the world’s water supplies where they stay for a very long time. Studies have found these in the world’s deepest oceans and even on the summit of Everest!

      • Fabric

The type of fabric determines how ‘breathable’ a garment will be. More expensive fabrics are usually more breathable than cheaper ones. The thickness of a fabric affects durability. The thinnest ones are lighter in weight but less suitable for prolonged wear or rough usage. The best quality rain jackets will have three-layer waterproof fabrics. This means that the membrane is sandwiches between a protective outer shell fabric and an inner lining that keeps the membrane protected from abrasion and from dirt from your body oils and sweat. 2.5-layer fabrics, where the inner lining is sprayed or printed onto the inside of the jacket, tend to be employed by lightweight waterproof jackets. Then you have 2 layer jackets which are usually low in cost. These have a membrane, an outer fabric and then usually a mix of mesh and non-technical polyester fabric on the inside.

      • DWR

Most waterproof fabrics have a durable water repellency (DWR) treatment that causes rain to bead up and run off the garment. Whilst no DWR is really durable the best for many years were fluorocarbons (PFCs). However, these have been found to be harmful to health and to persist a very long time in food chains and the environment, so they are being phased out and replaced with more environmentally friendly though usually less durable alternatives. Whatever the DWR it will wear off eventually, so the outer starts to soak up water. This doesn’t mean the jacket is leaking but it does mean breathability will be reduced so condensation will occur more readily. The DWR can be replaced with various wash-in and spray-on treatments.

      • Hood

On the best waterproof jackets, hoods should be easily adjusted and ideally move with your head. A wired or stiffened peak is useful in wind driven rain. Helmet-compatible hoods should have volume adjusters so they can be reduced in size without affecting your vision for non-helmet wear.

      • Front Closure

Water-resistant zips are now standard in the best waterproof jackets. These are not fully waterproof all the time and should have an inner flap to repel any rain that gets through. A standard zip with external and internal flaps is more secure but found on few garments these days.

      • Ventilation

Underarm/side zips can be awkward to use but do allow good ventilation at a crucial place. They can often be used in rain when the front zip has to be fully closed. Zips that curve under the armpits are effective but the most difficult to adjust.  Pockets can be opened for ventilation too if they are mesh lined.

      • Cuffs

Cuffs that can be opened wide are good for ventilation in the arms. Elasticised and narrow cuffs can lead to sweaty wrists.

      • Pockets

Whilst not essential, pockets that are accessible when wearing a rucksack hipbelt are useful for items like compass, phone, snacks, map (if large enough), hat and gloves and feature on many of the best waterproof jackets. Pockets can leak though so need water-resistant zips and/or covering flaps.

      • Fit

For the most efficient breathability, the best waterproof jackets should fit fairly closely. At the same time, they shouldn’t be so tight that they restrict movement. And a jacket should fit comfortably over all the layers you might need to wear underneath it. Size labels should be taken as a guide only – they’re not consistent between makes.

Waterpoofing, breathability, adjustment, fit, features, sustainability and of course price. There’s a lot to consider, but by carefully weighing these up you can make a well-informed choice and invest in a waterproof shell that could serve you well and for a long, long time.

How waterproofness and breathability are measured

If you want to know how to stay dry when hiking in the rain, it’s important to consider a jacket’s waterproofness and breathability. If the weather is wet and warm, the fabric needs to have the capacity to let the moisture created by sweat to escape, otherwise you will end up damp inside the jacket. These days there are excellent waterproof and breathable membranes (which are also windproof). Most jackets also have a durable waterproof repellency (DWR) treatment added to the outer layer of fabric.

best waterproof jackets: Patagonia Granite Crest

Jordan Tiernan testing the Patagonia Granite Crest.

The waterproofness of a jacket is measured by determining the height of a column of water that the fabric can withstand before it starts to leak through. The resulting figure is known as the hydrostatic head (HH) and this is expressed in millimetres – the higher the number, the more waterproof the jacket is considered to be.

The breathability of waterproof garments is determined by the “Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate” (MVTR). This test measures the amount of water vapor that can pass through the jacket’s fabric over a given period of time. The unit of measurement used is typically grams per square meter per 24 hours (g/m²/24h). The higher the MVTR rating, the more breathable the jacket is considered to be. 

Finally, colour choice may seem less important but a brighter shade will allow you to be more easily seen should you get into difficulty. Black, dark blues and greens blend in rather than stand out. Also, very light shades will show the dirt quickly.

Some waterproof fabric examples and their ratings

Hydroshell (Berghaus) – HH: 15,000 mm | MVTR: 20,000 g/m²/24h (official)

Dermizax EV – HH: 25,000 mm | MVTR: 20,000 g/m²/24h (official)

Unbranded (Alpkit Balance) – HH: 20,000 mm | MVTR: 20,000 g/m²/24h (official)

Polartec Power Shield – HH: 20,000 mm | MVTR: 20,000 g/m²/24h (official)

Futurelight (The North Face) – HH: Unknown | MVTR: 75,000 g/m²/24h (official)

Pertex Shield – HH: 20,000 mm | MVTR: 20,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

H2No (Patagonia) – HH: 10,000mm to 20,000 mm | MVTR: 12,000 – 15,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

Omni-Tech (Columbia) – HH: 10,000 mm | MVTR: 10,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

eVent – HH: 30,000 | MVTR: 15,000 to 25,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

Gore-tex – HH: 28,000 mm | MVTR: 17,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

Gore-tec Paclite – HH: 28,000 mm | MVTR:15,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

Gore-tex Pro – HH 28,000 mm | MVTR: 25,000 g/m²/24h (estimated)

best waterproof jackets: measuring waterproofness

An example of one of Gore-Tex’s fabrics (left) and TGO content editor Will demonstrating a jacket beading well (right). Photo: Giles Dean

How to look after the best waterproof jackets

Looking after waterproof jackets can be trickier than a normal piece of clothing; they require a certain amount of upkeep if they are to continue to keep you dry and perform well for a long time. Dirty jackets don’t let body moisture through very well, so you get damp from condensation building up inside the jacket as you sweat quicker. The Durable Water Repellency (DWR) treatment on the outside of most waterproofs that causes rain to bead and run off rather than soak in can also wear off and need replacing over time. This also leads to condensation as the garment is then less breathable.

There are two main elements to waterproof jacket care: washing, and restoring the jacket’s DWR treatment. Our guide on how to look after your waterproof jacket will further help you to understand common problems with hardshells and how to manage them.