It's never been all that easy to tell what the weather’s going to do in the hills, and it’s probably only going to get trickier. That’s because, according to the Met Office, the UK is slowly getting warmer but also wetter. Stats show that compared to the previous forty years, the last two decades have experienced longer wet spells and fewer dry spells. Since many of the upland areas that we all like to roam are already notoriously rainy, this suggests that owning a decent waterproof jacket ought to be a bit of a no-brainer.
Of course, there’s more to comfort on the hills than simply keeping the nasty out. In milder temperatures from spring through to autumn, you really want a shell with reasonable breathability too, in order to get rid of any excess fug as you build up a sweat. Versatile venting options will further help to dump heat and moisture. And lastly, you want a good balance between weight and durability. Basically, we’re talking about a jacket that isn’t too heavy or bulky to carry if it spends most of the day stuffed in your pack, but which is still robust enough to offer dependable, batten-down-the-hatches protection if you do get caught in an unseasonably heavy downpour.
Below, you will find a number of key features that you should consider when hunting for your next waterproof jacket, followed by a number of tried and tested options.
Key features to look for
Budget: Naturally, budget has a lot to do with our choices and that is fine. With some research and expert advice, there's a good chance a suitable jacket is available in your price range. However, don't be fully constrained by budget because ultimately, you want a jacket that will serve the purpose you intend for it, whether that is fast day hikes, alpine treks, or occasional hill walks.
Breathability: Waterproof jackets can feel clammy and sweat-inducing, so breathable fabrics are designed to keep the rain out but simultaneously allow sweat to escape. Aim for a 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability rating – a measure of how quickly moisture is wicked away from the body and released through the fabric.
Construction: Jackets are generally categorised as 2, 2.5 or 3-layer, depending on how the waterproof layer is attached to other layers. Three-layer jackets are the most durable, with the waterproof layer sandwiched between a face fabric and inner scrim. Check the fabric’s denier for an indication of its durability too.
Cuffs: Adjustable cuffs sealed with Velcro or sometimes toggles or clips are important because they enable a tight, fine-tuned fit around the wrist to prevent rain ingress. Elasticised, non-adjustable cuffs are less ideal. If it’s not raining, cuffs can be opened wide to aid ventilation.
Fit: This is all about personal choice. Some will prefer a tighter, more athletic fit; others will favour a baggier cut with more room for layering underneath. Ultimately the best approach is to try before you buy, and check the jacket fits your body shape comfortably.
Hood: A good hood should fit snugly and comfortably, but also move easily with the head for premium visibility. Volume adjustment enables a fine-tuned fit and ideally, you want a stiffened brim and wired peak to keep the rain off your face. Some hoods are oversized for use with helmets.
Movement: Ideally you want a jacket that moves and flexes with you, providing unhindered freedom of movement for dynamic mountain activities. And you don’t want it to ride upwards at the waist, slide around at the arms or hinder your flexibility in any way.
Pockets: Big pockets are great for storing OS maps, gloves, packs of Haribo and whatever else you intend to put in them. Mesh-lined pockets aid overall ventilation, but sealed pockets are more waterproof. It’s worth checking the pockets aren’t obscured by your rucksack waistbelt too.
Ventilation: It’s easy to over-heat wearing a waterproof hard shell, so good ventilation is key. A two-way front zip can be opened from the bottom for improved airflow, while some jackets have underarm zips (also known as pit zips) that allow heat and sweat to escape.
Waterproofing: For an indication of how waterproof a jacket really is, check its hydrostatic head (HH) rating – the technical measurement of waterproofing. Premium-end gear has a 20,000mm HH or higher, which means a 20m column of water can stand on the fabric before water penetrates it. The minimum you would want for a hiking jacket is 10,000mm HH.
Zips: 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 storm flap, 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.
The best waterproof jackets
Montane Pac Plus XT
Verdict: A mountain-ready shell with a great fit. Still lightweight and packable yet robust and well equipped, this is a worthwhile upgrade for those in search of a technical 3-season waterproof. If you’re looking for a lightweight yet sturdy hillwalking shell with reliable waterproof performance, this is a great, affordable choice.
An award winner last year, and a winner again this year. Montane’s Pac Plus jacket managed to nab Trail magazine Best Waterproof Jacket 2022.
Boasting the latest Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric, which now has a dry-touch backer for improved comfort, this is a great technical 3-season shell for hillwalking, scrambling and full-on mountaineering use. It’s got a cracking helmet-friendly hood, pit zips for easy venting, well-placed pockets and a trim-fitting yet full-coverage cut that offers excellent mobility. 100% recycled too!
Like all the latest Gore-Tex Paclite fabrics, it’s a 2-layer construction with an integrated backer. But with Paclite Plus the inner is highly textured, so it slides more easily over other layers and doesn’t feel clingy.
It’s brilliantly cut, with a trim silhouette and ample length in the arms and body. The drop tail helps to provide good coverage at the rear too. The excellent hood has a wired peak and 3-point adjustment. Shaped cuffs with secure Velcro closures cover the wrists superbly. As a result, it feels very protective, even in a full-on downpour.
If we’re being fussy
The thicker fabric and extra features have added a little weight and cost, though the XT is still very packable. Like almost all Gore-Tex membranes, Pac Plus is a bit crinkly, and though it feels nearly as comfortable as a 3-layer shell, the latter still wins on wicking performance and long-term durability.
Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women's sizes 8-16 | Weight 400g (men’s L) | Fabric 2L Gore-Tex Paclite Plus (100% recycled 40D nylon)
Berghaus Paclite Dynak
Verdict: If you’re looking for a lightweight yet sturdy hillwalking shell with reliable waterproof performance, this is a great, affordable choice.
New for spring 2022, this no-nonsense jacket employs the latest version of Gore-Tex Paclite in a 2-layer construction. It’s reliably waterproof, lightweight and compressible – in other words, a great ‘just in case’ shell to stuff in a pack.
However, it’s also comfortable enough to wear all day, thanks to the use of an improved carbon backer instead of a clingy drop liner or printed ‘half-layer’. On test it only started to get a bit slick when really working hard uphill. The face fabric is polyester rather than nylon, but will take a fair bit of punishment, and its stiffness can be a plus in wind.
The Dynak’s other features are simple but effective. The one-way, water-resistant main zip has an inner stormflap and a microfibre chinguard. Two roomy hand pockets are high enough to clear a rucksack hipbelt. The pocket zips aren’t laminated, but do have double stormflaps to keep contents dry.
Overall fit is neither trim nor boxy, with room for a layer or two underneath and decent coverage at the wrists and torso. Cuffs have secure Velcro closures, while the hem has dual drawcord adjustment. The hood cinches in via a single rear drawcord only but offers good face protection and hugs the head nicely, and has a stiffened brim.
If we’re being fussy
It lacks a few technical features, like pit zips, additional pockets and a fully adjustable hood. The latest Gore-Tex Paclite fabric is more comfortable than ever, but it still has that trademark rustle.
Men's sizes XS-XXXL | Women's sizes 8-18 | Weight 365g (men’s L) | Fabric Bluesign-approved 2L Gore-Tex Paclite (100% 75D polyester) with PFC-free DWR
Patagonia Granite Crest
Verdict: Solid wet weather performance, a good range of features and impeccable sustainability credentials make this an attractive option as a versatile 3-season shell.
A new offering for 2022, the Granite Crest comes with all the eco credentials we’ve come to expect from Patagonia. Using its own H2No 3-layer waterproof fabric, it’s 100% recycled (made from discarded fishing nets to help reduce ocean plastic pollution), as well as being Fairtrade certified sewn and completely free from harmful PFCs. The 30-denier ripstop nylon face is reasonably robust too, promising decent durability – a further plus on the sustainability front.
This is also a well-equipped jacket. The main zip and external chest pocket feature laminated, water-resistant zips, while those on the two hand pockets and pit zips are both reverse-coil designs, protected by stormflaps. The hood has a laminated brim and 3-point adjustment. It cinches in well, offering good face protection.
As with many US brands, the fit is relatively roomy, and you may even want to size down if you prefer a trimmer-fitting shell. But Velcro cuff tabs and a single hem drawcord offer a good weatherproof seal. The Granite Crest proved itself to be utterly dependable, keeping us dry and comfortable in some pretty wet and windy Snowdonia weather. It’s light and packable too, stuffing into its own chest pocket for maximum compressibility. All in all, it’s an impressive package.
If we’re being fussy
To really nit-pick, we wish the hood had a slightly stiffer peak to stop it deforming in the wind. And a scooped tail would also provide better rear coverage.
Men's sizes XS-XXXL | Women's sizes XS-XL | Weight 409g (men’s L) | Fabric Fairtrade certified 3L H2No (100% recycled 30D nylon), PFC-free
Verdict: A well-built, eco-friendly shell that was among the lightest, most packable and comfy jackets on test. It’s only let down by a few eccentric design features.
Swedish climbing specialist Klättermusen is another outdoor brand known for sustainability. The lightweight Asynja rain shell is made from 3-layer Cutan fabric, which is Bluesign-approved, fully PFC-free and made from 100% recycled nylon. As a PU-based membrane it is also windproof, waterproof and breathable – but softer and more comfy than most, and with some extra give too.
This well-made jacket has some details that give it a premium feel – including a soft microfibre cuff lining and anodised metal components on the main zipper and rear hood adjustment. The 2-way main zip has an outer stormflap. You also get two roomy zipped mesh-lined pockets, with stormflaps and placed to sit above a hipbelt.
Overall cut is great, with shaped cuffs and an extended drop tail. The hood has a stiffened peak, but it needs to be pulled in pretty tight via the rear drawcord to get a secure fit without affecting visibility. On the hill, it did its job well, being ideal for on-off showery days thanks to its lightweight build, good breathability and reliable waterproof performance.
If we’re being fussy
The main stormflap tends to catch the wind, while the mesh pocket linings can get snagged in the zips. The cuffs have unusual shockcord closures rather than Velcro tabs. And we reckon it might need regular reproofing if used heavily, as the DWR seemed to wear out quickly.
Men's sizes XS-XXL | Women's sizes XXS-XXL | Weight 387g (men’s L) | Fabric Bluesign-approved 3L Cutan (100% recycled nylon, 103g/m2), PFC-free
**Verdict:**Slightly unconventional but undeniably effective, this is a great choice if you get cold in the hills and need a protective and comfortable waterproof.
Originally released back in 2016 as a lighter and trimmer-fitting alternative to Paramo’s classic hillwalking jackets, the Velez has proven to be a popular choice for all sorts of outdoor pursuits.
It’s had minor updates since then, including some more subdued colourways. However, the essential design has proven to be a winner. Put simply, it keeps the rain out while wicking sweat away efficiently and providing plenty of cooling through well-placed vents. This largely overcomes the fact that the lined construction is a tad weightier, bulkier and warmer than conventional shells, though it’s still lighter than most Paramo jackets.
And if you feel the cold (like our tester, Ellie), the added warmth is a plus, as it means you can get away with wearing one less layer underneath. It’s also nice not to rustle like a crisp packet as you walk.
From an environmental standpoint, the Velez also scores well. It is entirely PFC-free and ethically manufactured via a charitable foundation in Colombia. Feature-wise, you get a protective hood, a drop tail and roomy if slightly fiddly pockets, while the fit is very functional, with good all-round coverage.
If we’re being fussy
The cut could be a little more fitted. Its relative bulk means this isn’t the most packable jacket, and it might prove too warm if you tend to run hot.
Men's sizes S-XXL | Women's sizes XS-XL | Weight 605g (women’s M) | Fabric Fairtrade certified Nikwax Analogy (100% polyester), PFC-free
Verdict: One of the toughest technical waterproofs on the market. Overkill for milder conditions, but brilliant in the rough stuff.
Yet another new offering for 2022, the Grim is the flagship shell in Jöttnar’s redesigned and relaunched women’s range. It employs the same uber-tough 3-layer, 80-denier nylon fabric as the men’s Grim, Odin and Hodr jackets, using the brand’s own Skjoldr membrane.
It left us highly impressed. As this jacket’s name suggests, it is designed for truly horrid weather, with plenty of technical features for real top-of-the-mountain adventures, including pit zips, a cavernous hood, glove-friendly cordlocks and zip-pulls, and five useful, well-placed pockets.
The women’s Grim tips the scales at under 500g, making it impressively packable. So, for keen mountaineers, or if it just seems to absolutely tip it down whenever you head for the hills, this might be a viable – if hefty – year-round investment.
On test, Ellie really appreciated the superb level of all-round protection on offer, as well as the burly fabric, which stands up well to buffeting winds as well as the odd scrape on rock. Arm length is generous, with good articulation when reaching for holds on more technical routes. The hood design is exceptional with or without a helmet on too.
If we’re being fussy
Though there’s plenty of rear coverage thanks to a pronounced drop tail, the front hemline was an inch or two shorter than Ellie would’ve liked, especially when wearing a pack or climbing harness. And of course, there’s that serious price tag.
Men's sizes S-XL | Women's sizes XS-L | Weight 500g (women’s M) | Fabrics 3L Skjoldr (100% 80D nylon, 171g/m2)
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. Its products are both effective and Bluesign approved. Nikwax products are good too. Waterproofs perform best when clean!
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 revive your gear's waterproofing too, grab the Grangers or Nikwax kits.
Read our in-depth guide to caring for waterproof clothing for more.