Most jackets offer some level of water resistance, but only the best waterproof jackets can keep you warm and dry when you find yourself caught in the middle of a heavy downpour. Understanding the different types of waterproofing technologies available can help you choose the perfect jacket for your next camping or hiking trip and can ensure you end up with a jacket you can rely on season after season. I’ve tested several of the leading waterproof jackets, narrowing it down to eight jackets that have what it takes to protect you from the elements. I’ve also put together this buyer’s guide, which includes all the information you’ll need, to choose a jacket that can provide the level of protection you’re looking for when you’re hiking through the backcountry.
Waterproof Jackets Comparison Chart
Marmot Men’s Minimalist Waterproof Rain Jacket
This lightweight rain jacket is made out of Gore-Tex which contains more than nine billion pores per square inch. The waterproof membrane is designed to prevent water from soaking the inside of the jacket but allows sweat to escape from the interior. The paclite layer of the material regulates the temperatures, so you won’t sweat excessively in hotter climates. The jacket’s minimalist design also includes seams that are fully taped to prevent leaks, with a storm flap that protects the zipper. The attached hood is highly adjustable, providing better than average coverage.
- Made out of Gore-Tex
- Pit zips promote better airflow
- Fully taped seams
- Jackets run a size large
This model is designed to handle heavy downpours, is breathable, windproof, and packs down to a small size, so it can easily fit in a pack without taking up too much room. If you’re wearing this jacket in extreme temperatures, you can open the jacket’s pit zips located in the armpit area. This will promote better airflow and will help to keep you cool and dry.
OTU Waterproof Jacket
Made out of 100% polyester, this jacket is windproof and waterproof. This is a softshell jacket that can handle light to moderate rainfall. The lightweight mesh lining improves breathability and is designed to wick away moisture, so you remain dry, even when the temperature rises. The jacket’s fit is also highly adjustable. The drawcord hem and loop and hook cuffs work to seal out wind and rain, while the tuck away hood is also adjustable. The two hand pockets are zippered, complete with an overlap flap to prevent rain from entering the pockets. This jacket is watertight, windproof and a great choice for wet conditions and moderate temperatures.
- Highly adjustable
- Equipped with mesh lining
- Not recommended for freezing temperatures
This jacket is lightweight, breathable, water-resistant and windproof. Equipped with mesh lining for improved breathability and designed to keep you warm and dry in a variety of weather conditions, this model is a great choice for light to moderate rainfall, and mild and warm temperatures, but this jacket isn’t recommended for freezing temperatures.
INVACHI Men’s Waterproof Jacket
This jacket offers superior waterproof protection and a durable design. The fit is highly adjustable and features a large storm hood that’s designed to keep the wind out. The lining is made out of thick fleece material that’s comfortable and soft. The fleece offers excellent insulating power, making this jacket a great choice for hikes during the winter and fall months. The jacket also comes loaded with pockets, so you can store all of your essential gear and keep it organized and easily accessible. The jacket’s shell is fast drying and able to effectively handle light to heavy rainfall, making this a great jacket for use in the backcountry during the colder seasons.
- Fleece lining
- Loaded with pockets
- Perfect for cold weather use
- Quick-drying material
- Not breathable
When you’re out on a longer hike, you need a jacket that’s specifically designed to handle the elements, while also allowing you to bring along all the gear you need.
This model is loaded with pockets, waterproof, durable, and comfortable to wear. It can handle light to heavy rainfall, features a design that’s highly adjustable. It’s perfect for fall and winter use, but considering it’s not the most breathable model on the market, I don’t recommend it for hotter climates.
Columbia Men’s Watertight Ii Rain Jacket
The jacket’s shell is made out of polyester, with a liner that’s made out of one hundred percent nylon. The jacket’s waterproof shell is tough enough to handle a heavy downpour , with an interior that’s designed to keep you comfortable and warm. The chin guard is abrasion resistant and will protect your face and neck from the wind. The seams are fully sealed, which is what makes this model a must-have during the rainy season. The cuffs are adjustable, thanks to the Velcro tabs that provide a secure fit and help to keep rain and wind out.
- Includes chin guard
- Not recommended for hot weather
Columbia is one of those brands most people are familiar with. They’re known for their quality products ranging from everyday jackets, ski jackets and heavy-duty rain jackets that will keep you comfortable and dry during the rainy season. This model is loaded with pockets, includes a chin guard, and features an adjustable design that offers a custom fit. This model earned top marks for its durability, adjustable design, and the seam sealed construction that’s designed to protect you from the elements and comfortably warm in the fall and winter months.
Columbia Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket
This jacket is made out of 100% nylon and features hydroplus waterproof technology. The jacket is made out of lightweight materials, yet it’s able to provide heavy-duty protection from the elements. This model comes with an attached hood, zippered pockets, and a mesh lining that improves breathability. The jacket is also highly adjustable and includes an adjustable hem line, cuffs, and a stowaway hood. While the jacket feels lightweight, it offers better than average protection against wind and rain.
- Mesh lining
- Hydroplus technology
- Made out of 100% nylon
- Material is slow drying
This model is one of Columbia’s best-selling waterproof jackets for several reasons. The lightweight design makes it a great choice if you don’t have much room to stow it in your backpack, while the level of protection it provides, combined with its breathability, makes it suitable for both cold and hotter climates.
OTU Waterproof Raincoat
Made out of 100% polyester, this coat by OTU features a superior water-resistant shell and a watertight design. The jacket can protect against wind and rain and features a breathable design, so you can wear it in cold and warmer climates. The adjustable drawcord hem and hood help to keep the rain and wind out, while offering a custom fit. The jacket is also loaded with pockets, so you can keep all of your personal items on hand and easily accessible. The jacket is also available in a wide range of colors and sizes, so you can choose the perfect jacket to complement your other hiking gear.
- Highly adjustable
- Low price
- Not recommended for freezing temperatures
This coat is perfect for both warm and colder climates. The highly adjustable design provides further protection against the elements, while allowing sweat to escape, so you’ll remain comfortable and dry. OTU has done it again by designing a lightweight jacket that offers a superior level of protection, a comfortable fit, and a wide variety of colors and sizes to choose from.
The North Face Men’s Resolve Waterproof Jacket
The North Face offers a waterproof jacket that’s made out of 100% nylon material that’s fast drying and designed to keep you dry in wet weather. This lightweight jacket is perfect for hikes and can easily fit over several layers of clothing. The jacket is also equipped with elastic cuffs that can fit over thick hiking gloves, and an adjustable hood that you can stow in the collar when not in use. The hand pockets are zippered for further protection from the rain and feature a large storage capacity so you can keep all of your personal items and hiking gear safe and secure.
- Highly adjustable
- Stowaway hood
- Runs a size small
If you need a versatile jacket that can handle heavy downpours and keep you warm and dry during the fall and winter months, then you’ll love this model by the North Face. The jacket’s fast-drying material, roomy design, and adjustable fit result in a jacket that you’ll find yourself relying on for more than just hikes through the backcountry.
Levi’s Men’s Waterproof Arctic Rain Jacket
This waterproof raincoat features a breathable design, thanks to the mesh lining that also speeds up the drying time. The coat is made out of 100% polyester and a pocket loaded design, including a hidden interior pocket where you can stash important personal items. The inner hem and hood are highly adjustable, so you can achieve the desired fit. The jacket is also machine washable, so you can toss it in the washing machine after a long hike.
- Mesh lining
- Loaded with pockets
- Runs a size large
This jacket is breathable, fully waterproof, and comes loaded with pockets for all your gear. However, when you order this model, make sure you choose a size smaller than you normally wear, since this jacket has a reputation for running a size large. However, if you’re looking for a jacket that offers a more roomy interior, so you can layer, then choosing your regular size is a great option. Aside from not being true to fit, the jacket scored well in a variety of areas including breathability, durability, waterproof rating, and overall quality.
Waterproof Jackets Buyer’s Guide
Waterproof jackets offer different levels of waterproof protection. Some may only be designed to handle a lightweight drizzle, while others will work well in moderate to heavy rainfall. Choosing the right type of jacket will depend on the type of waterproofing technologies that are used and the material the jacket is made of. Of course, it’s also important to learn the difference between a jacket that’s merely water resistant and one that’s waterproof.
Water-Resistant or Waterproof
A jacket is categorized as waterproof when the jacket’s water resistance is sufficient in keeping the rain out. However, many companies tend to disagree on testing standards, making it hard for the consumer to determine which jacket can keep them dry and handle heavy downpours.
Waterproof jackets that are breathable can keep the rain from making its way to your skin, while also wicking the sweat off the skin.
Jackets that are labeled as water-resistant are also pretty breathable and designed to handle a light rainfall. However, in a heavy downpour, these jackets just aren’t up to the task.
Waterproof jackets that have a low breathability rating fall along the lines of a standard rain slicker. If you need a jacket to wear when you’re out running errands then this is the type you should go for. In the backcountry, you’ll quickly find that these jackets will keep the rain out, but will cause you to sweat heavily, especially if you’re hiking through challenging terrain.
Windproof or Wind-Resistant
Just like jackets that are water-resistant, there’s a difference between jackets that are windproof and wind-resistant.
Jackets that are categorized as waterproof are usually also windproof. It makes perfect sense that the barrier that’s designed to block rain will also work to block out the wind.
Jackets that are wind-resistant offer the same level of protection as jackets that are rated as water-resistant. These jackets are usually very light and can easily be stuffed in a backpack. They’re mainly designed for short hikes and milder weather conditions since they can’t offer much in terms of protection if you’re caught in the middle of a storm.
Shell is often used interchangeably with the word jacket and refers to outer wear that’s designed to keep you dry. However, there’s a few shell types to choose from.
A hard shell refers to a layer that’s waterproof. Most types of hard shell fabrics are stiff and aren’t insulated, so the warmth tends to come from an underlying base layer of clothing.
A soft shell jacket consists of a water-resistant shell and an insulating layer. Jackets with this type of shell design offer better breathability, but less protection from the rain and wind. This style of shell is perfect for high-exertion activities, such as hiking and rock climbing.
Hybrid shell jackets can be made out of a combination of materials that are windproof and waterproof, while more flexible on the back and sides, offering a higher degree of breathability.
You’ll usually find an insulated shell that’s filled with synthetic filler or down. Most puffy jackets consist of an insulated shell. If the jacket features fabric that’s breathable and waterproof, you’ll enjoy both breathability and protection from the elements.
A jacket that’s both waterproof and breathable can be a total game changer for many hikers. No hiker wants to be stuck in a storm sweating excessively. The key to finding this type of balance is finding a jacket that offers excellent moisture vapor transfer. Transferring sweat vapor via a shell occurs partially because the moist warm air inside the coat is attracted to the drier colder air outside of it. Vapor transfer efficiency can determine how clammy or dry you feel.
Modern waterproof jackets do offer better breathability than jackets produced just five years ago, but they can still be difficult to find.
How waterproof a jacket is will be expressed in a rating called a hydrostatic head. Usually, you’ll find a minimum rating of 5,000 MM, which is good for snowboarding and skiing, but not the best choice for hiking in the rain. If you plan on spending a long day on the trail and rain looks to be inevitable, then you’ll need a jacket with a rating that’s closer to 10,000 MM. The highest waterproof rating comes in at 20,000 MM and it’s a good choice for the rainy season.
A membrane or coating is the key component to waterproof jackets. Both are designed to block rain while also preventing sweat vapor from becoming trapped inside the jacket. Since membranes are fairly delicate, they are usually bonded to a type of protective fabric to create a laminate. While all rainwear is designed using a coating or laminate, the exact types of materials used can vary from brand to brand.
Also known as durable water repellent, this is a type of coating that’s often found on jackets that are labeled as waterproof and breathable. When the outer fabric on a jacket is water repellent, the rain will bead up on the surface and roll off. Maintaining the DWR coating is critical for hikers who want their high-tech jacket to continue to provide adequate protection year after year. When the coating wears off, the surface of the fabric can become wet. The underlying coating can still keep water out, however, the soaked fabric will still slow the movement of sweat vapor to the exterior. This can cause the lining to cling to the skin, which can make it feel as though the jacket is leaking.
Most DWR coating that’s considered environmentally friendly tends to wear out faster than older DWR products. Because of this, reapplying the coating should be part of the hiker’s routine maintenance. Once rain stops beading on the surface of the material or you find cold wet spots inside the jacket, it’s time to apply a new coating or invest in a new jacket.
A jacket’s membrane is layered in between two other layers of material. The outer layer will repel water and stand up to abrasions. The inner layer will protect the body from wear and tear and body oils.
There are a few types of designs commonly used:
- Two and Half Layers
The coating or layer is applied inside an outer layer, forming a single piece of fabric. The loose hanging liner is added to the inside to protect the coating or membrane.
Two and a Half Layers
When describing this jacket, the word layer can be confusing. Just like a two or three layer jacket, this design utilizes a durable, yet lightweight outer fabric, but the second layer is actually a polyurethane coating or laminate that’s applied to the inside of the first layer. Last of all, you’ll find a print or protective sheen laid down over the second layer. This type of jacket doesn’t offer much in the way of durability or breathability compared to three-layer jackets, however, these jackets are often more affordable and much lighter.
This type of jacket consists of a fleece jacket and a rain jacket or some type of insulated shell. The inner fleece component of the jacket zips into the rain jacket or outer shell, so you can shed a layer if the weather warms up. No coatings are used for this type of jacket.
Other Must-Have Features
While the type of waterproofing technology used in a jacket will be one of the biggest factors when it comes to protection and cost, there are other features that can also have a big impact on the quality.
Since jacket construction requires a number of seams, a jacket that’s truly waterproof should come with seams that have been fully taped. Jackets that don’t have taped seams or jackets that don’t have all the seams taped will not offer the highest level of waterproof protection that many hikers are looking for.
Never automatically assume that a jacket is totally waterproof, just because it has taped seams in the shoulders and hood, since these jackets are usually just water-resistant.
A jacket with a waterproof design will come equipped with a zipper that has a storm flap or rubberized coating. The coated zipper is less difficult to zip and unzip. It also requires a cover, which is referred to as a zipper garage or hut, which shields the small opening at the very end of the zipper’s track.
Most jackets will come with hoods that have adjustments on the back and sides and on the brim, which allows the wearer to finetune the size of an opening. A jacket that doesn’t have this adjustment option usually indicates that the jacket is designed for the casual wearer and not the serious hiker or outdoorsman. Some models may also have hoods that you can roll or stow or zip off.
Vents and Mesh Liners
When you’re hiking over challenging terrain, even a jacket with a high breathability rating can still be uncomfortable to wear, if it doesn’t come equipped with vents. Other jackets will come with mesh liners located in the torso pockets, which can provide much-needed airflow.
How many pockets you need will depend on the length of your hiking trip, how much gear you typically bring along, and whether or not you carry a pack. Some jackets will come with the standard two front pockets, while others will include so many pockets that you won’t even need to bring a pack along for a short day trip. If you like to listen to music or use headphones when you answer phone calls, look for a jacket that comes with a cord port, so you can hide the cord of the headphones along the seams or under storm flaps.
Non-bulky and ultralight fabric can make it easier to stash your jacket in your pack when the weather turns warm and sunny. A jacket that’s packable will mean you have one less thing to carry and worry about on your journey.
Pullcord and Velcro
Your waterproof jacket needs to seal around your head, hands and waist to effectively keep your dry. Look for Velcro hood and cuff closures and a good-quality drawcord when choosing a jacket.
The chin guard is a soft piece of fabric that’s found on the inside of the jacket. It’s designed to protect the wearer’s face from catching or rubbing on the zipper or making contact with the waterproof fabric, which can be irritating to the skin.
A drawcord is usually found at the hem, hood, or waist and can be used to adjust the fit of the jacket to suit the shape of the wearer’s body.
A dropped hem can provide additional protection and coverage from the rear in wet weather conditions.
Cuffs that are adjustable will have Velcro tabs that you can tighten to prevent rain from entering the jacket
A jacket that fits properly should follow the contours of the body. However, jackets are cut differently depending on gender and body shape.
A jacket should cover the lower back when the wearer raises their arms, with the cuffs covering the wrists. If the jacket comes with adjusters, these can be used to customize the fit. If the wearer plans on layering their jacket over other layers of clothing, then they may want to go with a size bigger than they would normally wear.
Most styles of everyday jackets will feature a relaxed fit and a longer length that can provide additional protection from wind and rain. These jackets don’t usually offer the type of extra water protection that hikers and campers are looking for.
These jackets are neither baggy nor snug and provide room for the wearer to use additional layers of clothing underneath.
Climbing and hiking jackets will offer more freedom of movement, yet they remain resting snuggly against the body. Mountain and climbing jackets usually have higher pockets and a shorter length.
Jackets for Women
Waterproof jackets for women are often cut much differently than jackets designed for men, which offers a more tailored fit. These jackets may have a wider width across the hips, narrower shoulders, and shorter arms.
The price of a waterproof jacket is typically based on the type of materials the jacket is made out of, and its waterproof rating. A jacket with a higher waterproof rating can cost big, but if you’re looking for a jacket that can keep you warm and dry when you’re camping or hiking, a higher price tag is definitely worth it. Lower priced jackets will usually offer a moderate amount of protection from the elements but cannot keep you dry like a higher priced waterproof jacket with an excellent waterproof rating can. You can expect to pay $39 to $56 for a jacket that can protect you from light to moderate rainfall and $60 to $150 for jackets that offer superior protection from the elements.
How to Wash a Waterproof Jacket
- If you spend plenty of time camping and hiking in the rain or in wet environments, then buying a high-quality waterproof jacket is a great investment. Since these jackets are often worn in challenging weather conditions, they tend to pick up a lot of dirt, debris, grime, and oil from the skin. Because these jackets are equipped with special waterproof coatings or membranes, they cannot be washed like a traditional jacket. Additionally, detergent can strip the durable water repellent coating.
- Before you attempt to wash your jacket, make sure you read the manufacturer’s care instructions on the tag and follow these directions accordingly.
- Remove any loose debris, dirt, and mud on the jacket’s outer layer.
- Use a gentle liquid detergent and avoid using detergents that contain harsh chemicals that can damage the fabric.
- The jacket should be rinsed out twice to ensure all residue from the detergent is removed.
- Allow the coat to air hang dry for several hours, turning the jacket inside out. If the jacket is a three in one, unzip the liner and dry it separately, for a faster drying time.
- If needed, apply a spray-on DWR treatment if you notice water is no longer beading on the outer shell’s surface.
Lengthening the Lifespan of Your Waterproof Jacket
If you haven’t treated or washed your jacket in a few years, then you may have noticed that it doesn’t keep you dry as it did when you first purchased it. You may decide to upgrade and purchase a new jacket, or if it’s one of your favorites, you can get a little more life out of it by reapplying a waterproof coating. Of course, doing so may not make it as waterproof as it once was. If that’s the case, then you may need to invest in a new jacket, one that’s up to the task of handling heavy downpours when you’re camping out in inclement weather.
Applying a Waterproof Coating to Your Waterproof Jacket
If you want to get your jacket ready for the rainy season, the first step is thoroughly examining it. Begin with the inside. If the lining is bubbling or peeling and appears to be separating from the membrane, then it’s time to ditch the jacket and invest in a new one. However, if you decide to buy a new jacket, you want to make sure that you don’t run into the same problem. If you’re examining your old jacket, take some water and apply some drops to the jacket. Does the water bead off? If so, then the jacket is still usable and can prevent you from getting wet. However, if the water just sits on top of the fabric, then begins to seep into the fibers, then you’ll need to revive the jacket’s waterproof coating.
Inspect the jacket for tears and holes and abrasions. If your jacket has tears and holes you can apply waterproof patches that are made out of Gore-Tex.
Apply heat. Heat is the key to DWR revival. Many pros recommend reapplying a DWR coating each time you wash your waterproof jacket. This will protect the integrity of the waterproof coating and can prevent a dip in performance in the future. To do, you’ll toss the jacket in the dryer on low heat for twenty minutes, or you can iron the jacket. If the jacket’s care instructions require you to air dry it only, then set your iron to no steam and place the iron on the warm setting. Iron the jacket, placing a cloth or towel between the jacket and the iron.
After following the steps above, you can now apply the DWR coating. This step will become necessary eventually, on many of the high contact areas, such as the collar, cuffs, or if certain areas of the jacket brush up against brush and rocks. The waterproof coating can be applied using a wash-in product or a spray-on product. The coating can be applied to any bald spots that you come across on your jacket. Spray the product based on the manufacturer’s application instructions. If the spray is a type of wash-in product, then you’ll also want to closely follow the manufacturer’s application instructions closely.
A New Jacket Requires More DWR Care
DWR products have evolved over the years. They’ve also improved in terms of being more environmentally friendly. However, the trade-off is that these products aren’t as durable as they used to be. Because of this, regularly washing and reviving the coating on a new jacket will be critical to maintaining your new coat’s waterproof performance.
How DWR Coatings Work
These products work by increasing the surface tension and contact angle that’s created when water comes into contact with a textile. Basically a higher angle of contact will create a spiky surface that suspends the droplets of water on the outer fringe of the fabric. A high-quality product will keep droplets in a rounder shape. The shape is almost dome-like. The rounder the droplet, the easier it rolls off of the jacket’s surface. Lower angles of contact will permit droplets to take a flatter shape, which can cling to the surface of the fabric and spread like a splotch. This allows the water to eventually seep into the material.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does My Rain Jacket Get Wet Inside?
Condensation and sweat are the main reasons why a rain jacket will be wet on the inside. If the inside of the jacket is cooler than the outside, then water vapor condenses on the inside, which can make clothes wet. Sweat can also produce water vapor, condensing by the same process.
How Long will a Gore-Tex Jacket Last?
If you use clothing that’s made out of this material regularly, then you can expect it to last about three to five years. If you wear the clothing rarely, then it can last ten to fifteen years.
How do I Know if My Jacket is Waterproof?
The static-column test is commonly used to determine how waterproof a garment is. A tube is placed vertically over the material that’s undergoing the testing. The tube is then filled with water. The garment’s waterproof rating is based on how much water leaks through the material. The water is measured in millimeters. Material that’s very light and absorbent, such as cotton, will only be able to handle a light drizzle and is not designed for extended exposure in wet conditions.
Is a 100 Polyester Jacket Waterproof?
This type of material is labeled as everyday waterproof, which means it’s not one hundred percent waterproof, however, it can provide adequate protection for most situations such as being out in the rain. Yet, the material cannot handle a serious downpour and should not be submerged in water.
Do I Need a Waterproof Jacket?
If you’re purchasing a jacket specifically to handle rainy weather when you’re hiking and camping, then you definitely need a jacket with a high waterproof rating. If you need a jacket for daily use around town in generally dry conditions, then a jacket that’s categorized as water-resistant should be sufficient.
Can Waterproof Jackets be Washed?
A waterproof jacket should never be washed using fabric softener or ordinary detergent. The chemicals in your everyday detergent can damage the jacket’s waterproof membrane or special waterproof coating. A cleaning product that’s specifically designed for waterproof jackets should be used instead. Additionally, this type of jacket must be allowed to air dry and should never be placed in a dryer since it can damage the waterproof membrane or delicate waterproof coating.
The best waterproof jackets are designed to allow sweat to escape the interior, while preventing rain from entering from the outer shell. There are many styles and types of these jackets available, each of which offer a different waterproof rating and level of protection. The type of jacket you choose should be based on personal preference and should depend on the time of year you normally hike, what the weather is usually like and your protection needs. This buyer’s guide and the products I’ve recommended can help you find the perfect jacket for your next camping or hiking trip and offer a variety of features that both hikers and campers need to stay warm and comfortable in the great outdoors.