How to choose the right waterproof jacket

Buying a waterproof jacket can be a bit more complicated than you would think. There is a huge amount of options on the market. The jacket sections of most outdoor and sporting goods stores are often the most extensive section in the store. Not to mention the infinite amount of choices online, which make finding the right jacket very difficult. Jackets vary greatly in price and quality, and there are many features to consider. Here are some pointers to help with how to buy a waterproof jacket for your outdoor activities.

Waterproof jackets for outdoor activities

First off, there is a lot of research and development that goes into creating a waterproof jacket: companies research materials and styles. And test their products a great deal before putting them for sale to the public. They spend time gathering and using the best materials they can to make each jacket. This can make the best jackets somewhat expensive, so doing some research before making your purchase is always a good idea.

Let’s first consider some of the most essential features of a rain jacket:

Waterproof Jacket Features

 
Hood:

One useful feature of waterproof jackets is an adjustable hood. These jackets have adjustments on the sides that allow you to adjust the size of the opening of the hood. This feature helps protect your face from the rain and wind. Some jackets include hoods that can be removed with a zipper or rolled up into the collar. A hood should be comfortable and not obstruct your vision.

Zipper:

Jackets have no shortage of zippers, and people don’t usually consider them when buying a jacket. But zipper style is essential when looking at waterproof jackets. Waterproof jackets require zippers that have either a rubberized coating or a flap that comes over the zipper to keep water out. The coated option can make the zipper hard to zip up and down, and the coating can wear down over time. Making the zipper housing flap a better option.

Seam:

The seams of a jacket are where water will penetrate first, so all waterproof jackets are made with full seam taping to keep water out. You should beware that just because a jacket has taped seams does not mean it is the best option for waterproof. And there are other things to consider.

Pockets:

Consider how you will use your jacket when looking at pockets to make sure you find a jacket that will accommodate your needs. There are pockets for hiking, for running earphones into your phone, hand warming, and interior pockets for travelers looking to avoid pickpockets. Make sure the jacket you look for has the pockets you need.

Packability:

Many non-bulky jackets can be rolled up and stored in a pack or pouch. If a lightweight, take-it-wherever option seems appealing to you, then packability should be on top of the list of things you look for.

Vents:

If you think you may be taking part in a strenuous activity while wearing a waterproof jacket, then you will want to check for proper ventilation. Many coats have vents under the armpit area to allow air to flow in and cool you.

Drawcords:

These are cords located along the bottom hem of the jacket, and their use is two-fold. First, they can be tightened to keep rain and cold out. Second, they can be loosened to allow airflow and cooling.

Cuffs:

Usually Velcro or buttons, adjustable cuffs offer the same functionality of drawcords, keeping water and cold out, and providing ventilation.

Waterproof Rain Jacket

Type of Waterproofing

As we said earlier, many different companies are making different types of waterproof jackets. Generally, these jackets consist of a durable face fabric and a waterproofing membrane. Here are four common types:

Gore-Tex:

A long-standing favorite, these products offer it all. They are durable, waterproof, windproof, and provide excellent ventilation, keeping water from getting in, while also getting the sweat out.

eVent:

Designed for conditions with intense humidity, these jackets are made to allow vapor in and out freely, to keep things from getting too steamy in the jacket. Some say it has better breathability than gore-tex.

Dryvent:

Developed by Northface, the face of these jackets are treated with a water-repellent that allows water to bead up and drop off.

Pertex Shield:

This is a micro-porous waterproof coating that focuses on durability, as well as wind and water protection.


Waterproof Rating

 
Here is a breakdown of what waterproof ratings translate to in terms of use:
 
5,000mm: At this rating the jacket as essentially no waterproof features. It is only useful in light rain or a dry snow.
 
6,000-10,000mm: This is good for light rain and snow conditions. Not equipped for long exposure to wet conditions.
 
11,000-15,000mm: At this level a jacket is rainproof and waterproof under normal conditions, like a moderate rain or average snow. But certainly not a driving rain or very wet conditions.
 
16,000-20,000mm: Rainproof and waterproof under all condition, including heavy rain and wet snow. Although not for long exposure.
 
20,000mm: The best of the best, waterproof at all conditions, including heavy rain and wet snow, even during periods of long exposure.

Choose a waterproof rain jacket

Layers & Construction

 
The layers and construction of a waterproof jacket are an important part of understanding how waterproofing works, and what you need for your use with the jacket. A waterproof jacket is a multi-layered sandwich of fabrics designed to keep you dry. Waterproof jackets come in 2, 2.5, and 3-layered construction. Let’s break down what these mean:
 
2-Layered: On these jackets, there is an outer layer that is treated with a waterproof coating. The inner layer is usually a mesh or hanging liner that is stitched to the first layer. These jackets are durable and are best used for everyday use, walking around town. Some people love them for activities like downhill skiing. These are also generally the cheapest options.
 
2.5-Layered: This is very similar to the 2-layered construction. The out layer is treated to keep rain off. The big difference is that there is a thin coating with a raised print on the inside of the outer layer. This is what makes up the so-called half layer. Although these jackets are not as breathable as other options, they are generally a more affordable waterproof option.
 
3-Layered: Although it may sound confusing, the 3-layered actually has all its layers in one piece. The outer layer, membrane, and liner combined to feel like one piece of fabric. It is generally the most durable and effective waterproof jacket. It also has the best ventilation, giving it a very breathable feel, while also keeping water and cold out. It is especially good for people who spend a great deal of time outdoors.

2 Layer2.5 Layer3 Layer
BreathabilityGoodGoodExcellent
WaterproofingGoodGoodExcellent
WeightMidweightSuperlight to lightweightLighweight
DurabilityVery goodGoodExcellent
PriceMiddleLowHigh

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

Although they may sound very similar, there are some important differences between waterproof and water-resistant. Even if both jackets are made with similar materials, some important technological differences make the jackets different.

Water Resistant

Water-resistant jackets are finished with a water-repellent treatment on the outer layer that forces water to roll up and bead of. These jackets are great for light rain and urban situations where you’re in and out of the rain. They are good casual jackets and can double as windbreakers. But they will not hold up to heavy rain or extended exposure to a wet environment.

Waterproof

Waterproof jackets are also finished with a water-repellent treatment on the outer layer. But there is more to these jackets that make them better suited for heavy rain and more prolonged exposure. These jackets tend to be a little costlier, but for people who camp, hike, sail, mountain bike, fish, or spend large amounts of time outdoors, it is well worth it.


Breathability

Another vital factor to consider when looking at your waterproof jacket options is breathability. So, what is breathability? Scientists call it the “moisture vapor transfer.” In more familiar terms, breathability is the function that allows waterproof jackets to keep water from getting in while also allowing sweat and heat to release from the inside.

That way, your jacket doesn’t turn into your personal sweat lodge.Breathability is a crucial function to look for when considering what jacket to buy. A cheap rain slicker may keep water out, but it will not be comfortable, and it will make activities hot and awkward.

A jacket with a high breathability rating also called “air permeability” will allow you to perform strenuous activity outdoors while staying both cool and dry. It is important to remember that breathability will keep you cool, so in very cold conditions you may want to insulate a little extra.


Conclusion

When choosing your waterproof jacket, you may feel a little overwhelmed with options. And the idea of investing a decent amount of money in one jacket may make you nervous. Just keep in mind your needs, consider how much time you spend outside, and what outdoor activities you take part in.
 
So long as you keep in mind all the things you need from the jacket. And do the proper research to make sure you find the jacket that will take care of all your needs, you are sure to be happy with you pick. And you will enjoy your next hike, sailing trip, camping excursion, or walk down the street where the rain is blowing, and you are comfortable and dry.
 
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Have you already chosen your waterproof jacket? If so, you are welcome to share your experience in the comments below.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Surprisingly inddont knwontjereare somethings i need to look out for when it comes to buying a waterproof jacket. At different times, I just go to the shop and buy any jacket that the color seem appealing to me. However trading through this post have given me some things to look out for we buying onee, now I wouldn’t fall for some of these crap they sell. Thanks for sharing this useful post.

    • Hi Dane,

      Indeed, it’s essential to know about the types of materials and features when looking for a rain jacket. Some jackets are poor quality and not really waterproof. So, it would be a shame to spend money on something that will not last for a long time.

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a nice day!

  2. Wow! So much information made available here on this Post concerning the various tips to put into consideration before buying a waterproof jacket. To be honest, I never thought so much could be factors that would decide the kind of water proof jacket I can buy. Since falls is near, it is only normal to make previsions to make necessary purchases in preparations for it. All these tips would come in handy while buying my waterproof jacket. And thanks for juxtaposing between waterproof and water resistance jackets. Great post and thumbs up

    • Hi there,

      I’m glad you found the article useful!

      Let me know if you need help. I’ll be more than happy to assist!

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a lovely day!

  3. Thank you, nice post. Nice header image and table of contents. The table of contents looks nice without the numbering. So, how do they manage to keep water from getting in, but to let water out at the same time? That sounds like a complex technology. 

    So, which jackets would you recommend? What would you say is the highest value? It sounds like 3 layered is best, so which 3 layered jacket do you say has the highest value for the money? Also, is it better to buy a jacket online, or in person? If you buy it online, is it easy to pick your size? Thanks!

    • Hi there,

      Well, you should find all the answers to your questions in this guide:) As for the 3 layered rain jackets. The Frogg Toggs Pilot II and Marmot Minimalist are one of the best jackets you can find on the market today. I’ll soon publish an article about the best rain jackets. So stay tuned:).

      The prices are more attractive online than offline. That’s why most people buy online today:). When purchasing clothes online, it can be a gamble. So my best tips are first to measure yourself. And secondly, read the size information. It helps. Anyway, the good thing about Amazon and other popular online stores is that they have a generous return policy.

      I hope it helped!

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a lovely day!

  4. Waterproof jackets can be invaluable especially when doing things like hiking long distances or attending a football game in the elements to name a couple. You’ve provided a really comprehensive list of waterproof jacket features here. To me the zipper is a really important as it can become a nuisance without a functional one. For hiking packability is paramount as well. Thank you for providing the different types. Gore-Tex is a long-standing favorite and one of mine too, but now I have options for different elements, much appreciated. What would be your best recommendation for a hiking jacket? Thanks!

    • Hi there,

      Thank you for passing by!

      Indeed, the zipper must be of excellent quality, and of course, packability is very important as it saves you a lot of space in your bag. Not to mention, it makes it easy to carry it everywhere.

      I would say it depends on the features. For example, the waterproof rating of Gore-Tex starts at around 28.000mm while eVent starts at 30.000mm. Although Gore-Tex is breathable, it tends to retain heat. The eVent jacket has a Directventing Technology, which wicks moisture right away and as a result, keep you cool. Anyway, when choosing a coat. You should always look at the seams and design because these are what will determine the waterproofing. Nevertheless, it’s tough to answer this question as it depends on what you a looking for. eVent jackets are more breathable and less expensive. On the other hand, Gore-Tex is unbeatable in term of durability. If you seek a more affordable coat that can keep you dry and cool, then the eVent will meet your needs. But if durability and waterproofing are your prime objectives, then, of course, the Gore-Tex is the winner!

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