There is no item more essential for any outdoor enthusiast than a waterproof jacket. Mountain weather is never easy to anticipate, nor is it willing to compromise. It'll rain. Hard. You'll need to be prepared.
Volatile weather is likely to to increase going forward. The Met Office projects warmer but wetter winters; hotter and drier summers; and extreme weather every other weekend.
Three-season waterproof jackets are the most versatile option for hikers. The best of these aren’t too heavy or bulky to carry if they spend most of the day stuffed in your pack, but they're also robust enough to offer batten-down-the-hatches protection if you do get caught in a heavy downpour.
In summer and spring, however, you really want a lightweight shell with good breathability. And in winter, an even more protective hardshell.
Below, you will find our tried and tested picks for 3-season options, followed by our guide of the key features to consider when seeking out best waterproof jacket for you.
Helly Hansen Odin 1 World Infinity Shell – Best in Test
Montane Pac Plus – Best Value
Rab Namche Gore-Tex – Best Hiking Jacket for Sustainability
Sprayway Torridon – Best Jacket for Coverage
Paramo Velez Adventure Smock – Best Waterproof Innovation
Salewa Puez Gore-Tex Paclite – Best Lightweight Walking Jacket
Salomon Outline Gore-Tex 2.5L – Best 3-season Jacket Under £200
The best waterproof jackets
1. Helly Hansen Odin 1 World Infinity Shell
Best in Test
Norwegian brand Helly Hansen have produced a top tier piece of kit which excels in every area.
- Eco credentials
- Excellent design
- Innovative features
- RECCO technology not widely used in UK
- Small fitting
2. Montane Pac Plus
Montane’s Pac Plus range has been a firm Trail favourite for a few years. The Pac Plus XT – an
- Paclite Plus technology
- No pit zips
- Not as bombproof as 3-layer waterproofs
3. 66° North Hornstrandir
Best 3-season jacket for durability
Your best bet for staying dry in truly apocalyptic conditions or sustained all-day downpours is
- Gore-Tex Pro technology
- Extremely waterproof
- A tad heavy
4. Rab Namche Gore-Tex
Best hiking jacket for sustainability
We’ve tested a number of Rab waterproof jackets over the past few years, with the Muztag GTX
- Environmental credentials
- Has most of the features you want
- No internal pocket
- Slightly oversized
5. Sprayway Torridon
Best jacket for coverage
Made from a robust, 3-layer, 75-denier Gore-Tex that is PFC-free and includes recycled polyester,
- Bombproof design
- Zipper stormflap
- Retro styling
6. Paramo Velez Adventure Smock
Best waterproofing innovation
Unconventional but effective – that’s how we’d sum up Paramo’s maverick approach to waterproofing.
- Excellent ventilation
- Maverick approach
- Fully recyclable at end of life
- No full-length zipper
7. Salewa Puez Gore-Tex Paclite
Best lightweight 3-season waterproof jacket
Paclite is one of Gore-Tex’s lightest technologies. It is billed as “very light and packable” and
- Good price
- No vents
- Not as robust as a 3-layer jacket
8. Salomon Outline Gore-Tex 2.5L
Best 3-season jacket under £200
We tested this jacket in atrocious January weather in Cumbria and it performed impressively,
- No vents
- Non-adjustable wrist cuffs
What to look for in a waterproof jacket
Breathable waterproof fabrics keep rain out but simultaneously allow sweat to escape. It works but some people believe when you’re exercising hard it’s virtually impossible to avoid sweaty condensation.
Breathability is commonly measured by MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) in g/m²/24hr. A higher figure indicates better breathability. RET (resistance to evaporative heat transfer) is another, where a lower figure indicates better breathability (a RET value under 6 is considered very good).
Jackets are generally categorised as 2-, 2.5- or 3-layer, depending on how the waterproof layer is attached to other layers. For poor weather, 3-layer jackets are the most durable, with the waterproof layer sandwiched between a face fabric and inner scrim.
Adjustable cuffs sealed with Velcro or toggles or clips are important because they enable a tight fit around the wrist, preventing rain ingress. Elasticised, non-adjustable cuffs are less ideal. You can open cuffs wide to aid ventilation when it's not raining.
You may prefer a tighter, more athletic fit, or a baggier cut with more room for layering underneath. Ultimately the best approach is to try before you buy. Check the jacket fits your body shape comfortably and gives you ample freedom of movement.
A good hood should fit snug and comfortably but move easily with the head so you can see where you’re going. Volume adjustment enables a fine-tuned fit and ideally you want a stiffened brim and wired peak to keep rain off your face. Some hoods are oversized for use with helmets.
Waterproof/hydrostatic head ratings
Gore-Tex tells us all of its fabrics have a minimum 28,000mm hydrostatic head (HH) rating. Some brands use in-house proprietary membranes in their jackets, rather than using Gore-Tex, and consequently state their own HH ratings. Here, we’ve only selected jackets with a minimum HH of 20,000mm (excluding the Paramo Velez, which has a unique approach to waterproofing).
Big pockets are great for storing maps, gloves, packs of Haribo and whatever else you intend to put in them. Mesh-lined pockets aid ventilation but sealed pockets are more waterproof. It’s worth checking the pockets aren’t obscured by your rucksack waistbelt too.
It’s easy to overheat wearing a waterproof hard shell, so good ventilation is key. A two-way front zip can be opened from the bottom to improve air flow. Some jackets have underarm/pit zips that allow heat and sweat to escape.
Zips can be a point of weakness liable to water ingress. For maximum waterproofing, choose a jacket with a water-resistant zip protected by a sturdy stormflap, either behind or in front of the zip, or both. A zip ‘garage’ – a little waterproof flap to house the closed zip – also helps keep water out.
Waterproof jacket care and maintenance
Care and maintenance are vital to jacket performance and longevity. Some of our favourite gear care products come from Grangers and Nikwax. Their products are both effective and PFC-free.
Grangers Performance Wash or Nikwax Tech Wash are both far better at cleaning waterproof gear than washing detergent because they maintain the fabric's DWR coating. If you want to rejuvenate your gear's waterproofing too, grab the Grangers or Nikwax kits.