Best Waterproof Jackets

During the rainy season, a waterproof jacket is a must. Even if you’re not into outdoor activities, the need for a waterproof jacket is present. Nobody wants to get from point A to point B soaking wet and a waterproof jacket is way better than an umbrella. If you’re under an umbrella and there’s strong wind outside, the rain can still wet your shirt and you’re find yourself feeling cold and uncomfortable. Needless to say, this can lead to health problems. Long story short, if you don’t buy a good rain jacket, you’re going to get sick. Just kidding, I wouldn’t go that far. However, I am here to show you some of the best waterproof jackets that money can buy because owning one really is important.

But before looking into an actual list of the best waterproof jackets, there is a lot you should know about picking a waterproof jacket in the first place.

Construction & Fabrics

When you’re looking at some of the best waterproof jackets on the market, you’ll notice that the manufacturers have specified the number of layers for each jacket. Unless you’re already a waterproof or jacket Guru, chances are you don’t know what those mean. If you were ever on the market browsing for a rain jacket in a physical store, you might be tempted to say “Number of layers? Every jacket has a single layer.” but you’d be wrong. In general, rain shell fabrics use a 2, 2.5 or 3 layer design. The difference between these 3 may seem unimportant, but let me explain what each layer does and I’ll let you decide the rest.

Each one of these 3 styles includes an outer layer, a face fabric which is coated with DWR (I’ll explain later about DWR). This will keep the outer layer from absorbing water. The middle layer is actually the waterproof layer. It can be made from popular membranes, just as Gore-Tex or eVent, or it can be a coated fabric. The third layer is the innermost one and here’s where you can tell one jacket apart from another. The internal fabric’s main purpose is to protect the middle layer – the waterproof one.

2 layer fabrics. If you’re on the market looking for the cheapest type of waterproof jacket, the 2 layer one is the right choice for you. The outer fabric is still DWR coated and there is a waterproof layer beneath it. The latter has a looser liner hanging on the inside, which is generally made out of mesh. This mesh is meant to protect the coated material.

2.5 layer fabrics. In terms of appearance, the 2.5 layer jackets are quite similar to the 3 layer ones, with the exception that the latter are heavier. As mentioned, 2.5 layer jacket have their external layer treated with DWR. Afterwards, they have a very thin polyurethane laminate or some other coating placed on the inside which is meant to do what the 3 layer normally would: protect the waterproof layer from sweat and natural body oils. This layer is often “painted on,” which is why it’s considered a half layer, even if it covers all of the inside surface area. Even so, you should know that the innermost layer of the 2.5 jacket does not have the same absorbing capacity as the additional layer on the 3.5 jacket does.

3 layer fabrics. More specifically then what I’ve written above: the role of the third layer is to prevent sweat and natural body oils from clogging the microscopic holes of the waterproof layer. If those holes are clogged, breathability is reduced and you’ll start to feel the humidity of your own sweat. Since this third layer has a protective role for the waterproof layer, this automatically translated into a more durable jacket. Please take note that 3 layer jacket can be heavier than 2 layer ones.

Now, let’s talk about some of the most popular waterproof fabrics and explain some concepts that you’re going to come across when ready the specs of different rain jackets:

Gore-Tex – This is probably the world’s most popular waterproof fabric and one of the oldest as well. It is commonly referred to as an ePTFE membrane (which is short for polytetrafluoroethylene – not that you’ll ever need to remember that word) which is stretched out to a specific level. With this technology, water vapor can escape, but liquids won’t enter. This is due to the size of the pores, which are considerably smaller than a drop of water. Because they want to be the best and still improve their product as much as possible, Gore is very restrictive about the companies that use their technology.

eVent – Just as Gore-Tex, eVent is also an ePTFE based material. Before being developed as a waterproof fabric, eVent was designed for industrial air filters (oh, the name kinda makes sense now). The main difference between the 2 types of fabric is that eVent uses a secret propitiatory coating in order to protect individual fibers, while Gore-Tex uses a solid material, like a hydrophobic polyurethane film on the inside. Thanks to the different technology used, eVent is actually more breathable than Gore-Tex, but it requires more frequent washing to maintain high breathability levels.

Polyurethane (PU) films – New PU fabrics are quickly catching up to ePTFE membrane fabrics, like Gore-Tex and eVent. PU laminate is now able to replace a waterproof layer and resembles the laminated one of a Gore-Tex jacket. However, you still need to add the ePTFE layer because the 2 of them combined result in a thicker membrane that will give you the waterproof and breathable functions that you want.
DWR – Short for Durable Water Repellent, DWR is actually a chemical process that treats the exterior fabric of your jacket, making it waterproof.

Measuring Waterproof Levels

Is there such a thing as a waterproof rating? Yes, and the table below explains how this works.

Rating (mm) Resistance
0 – 1,500 Water resistant
1,500 – 5,000 Waterproof
5,000 – 10,000 Very waterproof
10,000 – 20,000 Highly waterproof

Jackets with a rating of 1,500 to 5,000 are common for everyday use, just as walks in the park or going to work on a rainy day. 5,000 to 10,000 ratings are great for people who have to face moderate to heavy rain, especially for hikers or people that perform outdoor sports despite harsh weather conditions. The last rating is more suitable for extreme weather conditions.

If you’re not really interested in the “How it’s made” part of the products you buy, you can skip this paragraph. I wanted to explain how waterproofness is tested. There is a test, called Hydrostatic Head, which measures waterproof ratings in millimeters. During this test, a waterproof fabric is pulled tight under a 1 inch diameter sealed tube of water. This fabric is then kept under observation for 24 hours, in order to see how many mm of water the fabric can withstand before it starts to soak through. The level at which water starts to come through the fabric is the hydrostatic head, which is measured in mm.

Features

It’s important to know what features can be found on the best waterproof jackets so that you can determine exactly what to look for as you’re shopping for your own.

Zippers – The best waterproof rain jackets have zippered pockets. It’s important to choose a rain jacket with rubberized coating or storm flap, because each of these 2 will help keep water from squeezing its way in through the zippers. Coated zippers are not that easy to zip up or down and they also need a zipper hut (also known as a zipper garage), which is a cover that will shield the opening located at the end of the zipper track.

Seam taping – Every durable and resistant jacket comes with a considerable number of seams. Good news is that all waterproof jackets come with seam taping but just because a jacket does have seam taping, does not make it waterproof.

Hoods – You will notice that most waterproof jacket hoods come with brims on the sides and the back, so that you can adjust the size of the opening. Some models may even give you the possibility to roll your hood and store it in the collar.

Vents – Have you ever since a motorbike jacket? They have vents located in key points that you can unzip them and allow your skin to breathe. Rainwear also has such vents.

Pockets – Pockets are important for whatever jacket you may choose, not just a waterproof one. In the case of waterproof jackets, they embedded zippers also need to be waterproof, so this will add more money to the cost of the jacket. Modern waterproof jacket even have a pocket with a cord port, allowing you to listen to music on your phone or MP3 player without having the cord getting in the way.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Since a waterproof jacket is more expensive than a regular jacket, it’s safe to assume that you want to care for it the proper way. After all, you don’t want to buy a new waterproof jacket each year.

The first rule is to be careful with how you store the jacket away. The proper way is to either stuff it into its pocket or roll it away into its hood. What you want to do is to avoid abrasion that can harm the outer layer of the jacket.

Washing is also a very important part of keeping your jacket clean. If done correctly, the washing process can actually restore DWR and breathability. Waterproof jackets should be washed in cold or warm water, avoiding high temperatures. A small amount of detergent should be used, but every manufacturer provides specific washing instructions, so you don’t have to learn this part by heart.

One interesting thing that not people know about is the fact that after a while, you can actually reapply DWR treatment to the outer layer of your jacket. You can choose between spray-on or wash-in treatments. If you own a 2 layer jacket, you should opt for spray-on treatment, so that the mesh liner can still be efficient at absorbing sweat.

Marmot Men’s Minimalist Jacket

With 16 different color options available, the Marmot waterproof jacket for men delivers more than just water protection: it gives you a sense of fashion. This 2.5 layer Gore-Tex jacket (luckily, you already know what a 2.5 layer jacket is made of) is a lightweight and easy-to-pack piece of waterproof clothing that should be on your list of future purchases. It comes with micro seams, allowing your skin to breathe comfortably.

The chin guard is a nice feature because it helps protect your face from zipper abrasion. The laminated storm flap located on the front is meant to protect your zipper, to make sure no water get through it. There are a couple of pit zippers, conveniently located to allow your skin to breathe by eliminating body moisture. The hood can easily be adjusted to make sure your head is fully covered and protected.

If you’re interested in finding the right size for you, here is a table of measurements that will help (please note that the measurements below are in inches):

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Men’s The North Face Apex Flex Gore-Tex Jacket

You know how I mention in the first part of the article that 3 layer jackets are the best ones? Well, this is that kind of jacket. It comes with a soft woven face plus a knit backer to provide you with the extra comfort and warmth that you need on a rainy day. Thanks to the pit zippers integrated into its design, this jacket will allow you to eliminate excess body heat, allowing your skin to breathe. The chest pocket and the hand pockets are covered, to make sure no water can get through the zippers. The cuff tabs are adjustable so that you can keep any cold air outside.

If you’re interested in finding the right size for you, here is a table of measurements that will help (please note that the measurements below are in inches):

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Arc’Teryx Men’s Beta LT Jacket

There are a lot of things to be said for the Arc’Teryx Men’s Beta LT, but the most important part is this: it’s probably the best waterproof jacket you’ll currently find. It’s a bit pricey, that’s true, but every owner out there will tell you it’s an investment worth the money.

The Beta LT is made with DWR finish so that it can repel water from your jacket’s surface. The taped seams will protect your body from harsh weather conditions, even if the wind seems unbearable. It comes with articulated patterning so that you can move around freely while wearing it. Needless to say, this makes it ideal for outdoor activities, especially hiking. The jacket features an internal laminated pocket with zip. The hand pockets are watertight and have RS zipper sliders. While the watertight zippers are water resistant, they are not waterproof, meaning that you shouldn’t keep items that could get damaged when exposed to moisture.

If you’re interested in finding the right size for you, here is a table of measurements that will help (please note that the measurements below are in inches).

Check price on Amazon


Verdict

As usual, our verdict depends on what you need a waterproof jacket for. If you’re looking for the best jackets for daily use or mild outdoor activities, like easy trails, the Marmot and the The North Face jackets are suitable for such situations. They provide water protection, while keeping the price tag from low to medium at most. On the other hand, if you’re about to face heavy rain for long hours, the Arc’Teryx Men’s Beta LT Jacket is the best choice.

Jenny Foster

I'm Jenny. I moved to rainy Ireland several years ago and I had to learn how to be prepared for the constant spring/fall that is the weather on the Emerald Isle. If you're always cold, always miserable because of the rain, maybe it's not the weather at fault (all the time 😀 ). A wise man once told me that there's no bad weather, just bad clothes. So I acted accordingly 🙂