Wearing wet clothes is the worst thing. I grew up in Cornwall, UK. With an average of 156 days of rain annually and the propensity for all four seasons, I have done my fair share of rainy dog walks and thru-hikes. A good waterproof jacket is something I have become accustomed to.
There are many waterproof jackets on the market. A see-through Poncho may be sufficient for a rainy event but not enough in a mountain storm. Here are some things to keep in mind.
What’s the difference between waterproof and water repellent?
You want to be protected against the elements. A waterproof jacket is better than merely water-resistant. While water-resistant gear may offer protection from light showers, it allows water to enter quickly.
While waterproof jackets can withstand harsher weather conditions, breathable jackets will not withstand moisture buildup. This will make you feel uncomfortable and soaked even with intense exercise. A waterproof membrane coat is a great way to ensure it’s breathable and allows moisture to escape. GoreTex is the most well-known waterproof membrane available. The membrane creates tiny pores that allow rainwater to wick away from your jacket but not enough to block it from getting in your coat. Gore-Tex is not the only waterproof membrane available. Many outdoor brands have their versions.
You don’t have to replace your jacket if it’s not as waterproof as before. An exterior water-repellent coating (DWR) is applied to waterproof or water-resistant jackets. If your coat loses its water resistance, it’s easy to reapply DWR. Check to see if your jacket requires a DWR topping-up. If it does, then you are fine. If it leaves dark, wet areas of fabric, you should consider purchasing a DWR replenishment product to recoat your coat.
How do I know how much protection a waterproof jacket offers?
This scale is helpful, and most outlets will indicate a waterproof rating next to their jackets. A coat must have a minimum of 5,000mm waterproofing to be considered waterproof. This is not water-resistant, but it will withstand light rains and drizzle. 10,000mm-15,000mm can withstand most downpours. 20,000mm or more is for extreme deluges and highly severe conditions. Jackets, however, tend to be heavier.
Which fit should I choose?
A jacket with enough space to layer is essential, as you won’t wear a bikini or waterproof coat while on the trail. A waterproof jacket that can be worn as a base layer with a down jacket under it is sufficient for three-season hiking. However, if you are doing winter mountaineering, you will need something more significant to layer.
What other features do you find helpful?
Jackets with taped seams are recommended. These jackets are sealed at the seams, stopping water from entering through tiny holes. Storm flaps are an additional practical option: they cover the jacket zips, which can be porous and allow rain to enter. A rain jacket with a peaked collar is my preference for most adventures. A peaked hood keeps rain from getting in your eyes, while a coat with a drawstring hood lets rain drip down your face.
I take my Haglofs Lightweight Jacket on trips to help keep my weight down. It weighs seven ounces and fits into my pocket. The material is thin but made of Gore-Tex, so it can withstand heavy showers without leaking. This pocket layout is ideal for thru-hiking while carrying a backpack. The vertical pocket is at the chest, and the diagonal is just above your hip. This allows you to access your phone while wearing gear with hip and chest straps. Thanks to its waterproofing, the hood’s reinforced peak keeps water from your eyes.
The jacket is made of sustainable materials. Even the packaging for the Passenger latitude Recycled waterproof Jacket can be recycled and is plastic-free. The peaked hood reduces the amount of rain that falls on your face. All seams are taped. The jacket’s exterior is coated with a water-repellent coating that is PFC-free and can be topped up as needed. This jacket will remain waterproof for many years.
The jacket is made of sustainable materials. Even the Passenger latitude Recycled waterproof jacket packaging is entirely recyclable and non-plastic. The peaked hood reduces the amount of rain that falls on your face. All seams are taped. The jacket’s exterior is coated with a water-repellent coating that is PFC-free and can be topped up as needed. This jacket will remain waterproof for many years.
Although the Arc’teryx BetaSV Jacket may not be cheap, it is built to withstand harsh environments. It is fully waterproof, windproof, and breathable. There’s even zipped underarm ventilation that allows moisture to escape. The chin guard is made of microsuede brushed so that it can be worn up to your nose even in poor weather. You will find plenty of pockets and an inner pocket to protect your valuables from the rain. This coat is made for alpine conditions.
The Patagonia Storm Racer Waterproof Run Jacket has two long zippers at the chest that unzip the jacket like a bib. This makes it an excellent pairing with a trail-running vest or hydration pack. The 3-layer waterproof shell of the jacket is very lightweight and can be stored in its pocket. It’s more suitable for trail running than multi-day trips in the mountains, as the hood is not peaked but drawstring.
This one is great for festivals. Its color-block design and ability to transform into a fanny bag with a zipper pocket on the front makes it fashionable and protects your valuables. It offers wind protection with its elastic cuffs and adjustable hood. It is water-repellant and not fully waterproof, so it can be used in milder environments.