The best winter waterproof jackets reviewed (2022)

Hiking in Britain is rarely a dry affair, particularly in winter, so if you’re a year-round hillwalker a reliable waterproof jacket is an absolute necessity. Here’s our round-up of the hardiest jackets capable of withstanding the most torrential of downpours.

Female hiker at summiit of Moel Eilio, Snowdonia

by James Forrest |

In summer, even in the UK’s notoriously changeable climate, there’s a fair chance that your waterproof shell will stay stashed in your pack for most of the day. Although you’d be daft to head for the hills without one, it’s largely an insurance policy - a just-in-case jacket designed to deal with sudden showers or short rainy spells.

But when winter rolls around, it’s a different matter. UK mountains can become a battleground: walkers vs weather. You’ll typically experience precipitation in all its forms – rain, hail, sleet and snow – and sometimes all in one day. Which means that a waterproof jacket is far more than just an emergency layer.

A winter hardshell waterproof jacket acts as your first line of defence in the battle against the elements, providing essential protection from biting wind, stinging rain and whirling spindrift. Because you’re likely to be wearing it all day, a winter waterproof needs to be far more rugged and robust than its summer counterpart – tough enough to withstand constant abrasion from pack straps or climbing harnesses, as well as scrapes from rock and ice.

What to look for a winter waterproof jacket

Hiker wearing a waterproof jacket in the hills
©Live For The Outdoors

Breathability

Waterproof jackets can feel clammy and sweat-inducing, so breathable fabrics are designed to keep rain out but simultaneously allow sweat to escape. Does this work? Some argue yes, others believe when you’re exercising hard it’s virtually impossible to avoid sweaty condensation.

Breathability is commonly measured in two ways: an MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) in g/m²/24hr, with a higher figure indicating better breathability (20,000g/m²/24hr is considered a premium score); or a RET (resistance to evaporative heat transfer) score, with (confusingly) a lower figure indicating better breathability (a RET value of 0-6 is considered very good).

Hood

A good hood should fit snugly and comfortably, but also 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.

Cuffs

Adjustable cuffs – sealed with Velcro, or sometimes toggles or clips – are important because they enable a tight, fine-tuned fit around the wrist, preventing rain ingress.

Waterproof ratings

Gore-Tex tells us all of its fabrics have a minimum 28,000mm hydrostatic head rating (HH – a technical measurement of waterproofing), but doesn’t state different figures for its different technologies such as Gore-Tex Pro, Gore-Tex Performance and Gore-Tex Paclite.

Some brands use in-house proprietary membranes in their jackets, rather than using Gore-Tex, and consequently state their own HH ratings. In this round-up, we’ve only selected jackets with a minimum HH of 20,000mm.

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 stormflap.

Movement

Ideally you want a jacket that moves and flexes with you, providing unhindered freedom of movement for dynamic mountain activities.

Ventilation

It’s easy to overheat wearing a waterproof hard shell, so good ventilation is key. Commonly underarm zips (also known as pit zips) allow heat to escape.

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.

Pockets

Big pockets are great for storing OS maps, gloves, packs of Jelly Babies and whatever else you intend to put in them. Mesh-lined pockets aid overall ventilation but sealed pockets are more waterproof.

Construction

Jackets are generally categorised as 2, 2.5 or 3-layer, depending on how the waterproof layer is attached to other layers. For winter 3-layer jackets are the most durable, with the waterproof layer sandwiched between a face fabric and inner scrim.

Weight

While ultralight 3-season jackets can weigh under 300g, in this round-up we’ve opted for tougher, stronger jackets with a heftier build ranging from 486g to 834g, with the majority clocking in between 500g and 600g. Generally speaking, the higher weight indicates the use of more durable and protective materials designed for the worst of conditions.

The best winter waterproof jackets

Paramo Alta III

Verdict: A super-comfy jacket with a unique approach to waterproofing – but it’s very heavy and often too warm.

Paramo Alta III

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 88%

Pros: Well-priced, very comfortable, innovative

Cons: Heavy, too warm, only suitable for cold days

I wore the Alta III during an extremely wet six-day hike of the 90-mile Dales High Way in December, and it performed admirably. This was despite sideways rain and near-apocalyptic downpours – I was certainly impressed.

The Sussex-based Paramo’s waterproofs are maverick, working in an entirely different way to the traditional hard shell. Using the Nikwax Analogy fabric system, Paramo’s jackets (including the Alta III) use ‘directional’ technology. This doesn’t provide a physical barrier to the rain like a membrane. Instead a water-resistant, DWR-coated outer deflects the initial impact of rain, while an inner layer known as the ‘pump liner’ physically moves liquid water (rain and sweat) away from the body. It keeps the user dry, preventing condensation and enhancing breathability.

This approach has big pros and cons. The downside is that the Alta III is excessively heavy (348g heavier than Rab’s Muztag, for example) and way too warm for many scenarios (although it does work well if worn with just a base layer). The positive is that the Alta III is soft, cosy, noiseless and infinitely more comfortable than a traditional hard shell, and less prone to feeling clammy and plasticky.

Features include six pockets, hood with wired peak, mesh-lined pit zips, Velcro cuffs and waist adjustment.

Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes XS-XL | Weight 834g (men’s medium)

Mountain Equipment Makalu

Verdict: Well-designed jacket made from Gore-Tex Performance at an excellent price – but it’s worth checking the fit before buying.

Mountain Equipment Makalu

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 5/5

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Well-priced, excellent hood, good features

Cons: Not as breathable as other products, baggy arms

Mountain Equipment’s Lhotse/Manaslu jacket has long been a Trail favourite (it won best waterproof jacket in our Gear of the Year 2021 awards). But for much less, the Makalu is another great option at an excellent price.

Made from Gore-Tex Performance using both 50-denier and 75-denier fabrics, the Makalu has a minimum HH rating of 28,000mm and an RET breathability grade of <13. It has a fully recycled, 3-layer construction with a PFC-free DWR coating, and an articulated fit described as ‘alpine’ by Mountain Equipment. I’m 5ft 9in with a slim build, and the volume and length of the men’s medium is ideal for my body shape. However, the arms are slightly too long and baggy.

Features include a superbly protective, adjustable hood with a visor so big it’s almost like an integrated cap. This, in addition to YKK water-repellent zippers, three good-sized external pockets, Velcro wrist cuffs, cinchable waist hem, and main zipper with press stud closure, stormflap and zipper garage at the chin. You also get a laser cut and laminated internal pocket, which is handy for a car key or small wallet.

All of this is pretty impressive considering the sky high prices of comparable products in this list.

Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes 8-16 | Weight 549g (men’s medium)

Rab Muztag GTX

Verdict: A well-designed, high-quality waterproof jacket featuring Gore-Tex Pro – but it’s pricey.

Rab Muztag GTX

Features 4/5 | Fit 5/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 88%

Pros: Premium design, good features, impressive stats

Cons: Expensive, not the comfiest, no hand-warmer pockets, large hood

It’s not quite at the pinnacle of Rab’s range of waterproofs, but the Muztag GTX is still up there with the best. Made from 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro, the Muztag has a minimum HH rating of 28,000mm and a RET of <6. This is the most breathable version of Gore-Tex Pro's top-end fabric.

The 30-denier fabric, with 40-denier reinforcements, feels reassuringly tough and rugged, yet inevitably the compromise is a crinkly, stiff and noisy jacket. It isn’t too bulky, however, and the weight is actually the lowest of all eight jackets tested.

The fit is relatively active and articulated. Features include Velcro wrist cuffs, waist hem adjustment, two zippered chest pockets, good-length pit vents, and helmet-compatible hood with a wired and laminated peak. You don’t get any handwarmer pockets and the large hood can bunch up a tad when worn without a helmet. But that is splitting hairs really.

If you’re committed to buying a Gore-Tex jacket, the Muztag is as reliable and premium as they come, with Rab pledging it’ll “keep you dry in torrential downpours and the harshest of snow storms”.

Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes 8-16 | Weight 486g (men’s medium)

Marmot Alpinist

Verdict: A well-designed, protective waterproof jacket featuring Gore-Tex Pro – but it’s extremely expensive.

Marmot Alpinist 

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Gore-Tex Pro, strong design, good features

Cons: Exceptionally expensive, stiff, crinkly

Billed as “a proven performer in the most severe alpine conditions”, the Marmot Alpinist is a 3-layer waterproof jacket made from Gore-Tex Pro. This top-tier version of Gore-Tex has a minimum HH of 28,000mm, a RET of <9, fully taped seams and good eco credentials courtesy of a 100% recycled nylon plain weave.

Confusingly, there are three versions of Gore-Tex Pro (stretch, most rugged and most breathable). This jacket uses the most rugged version for enhanced toughness, strength and scratch-resistance. The result is a jacket that feels bombproof and protective, and inspires confidence in gnarly weather. The flip side is it’s crinkly, stiff and can feel clammy (as with all Gore-Tex Pro jackets). But that’s a compromise worth paying in our eyes.

Top-notch features include two-way, water-resistant, well-sized pit vents, an adjustable hood with visor, two very long map-sized chest pockets, Velcro wrist cuffs, and waist hem adjustment. The main zipper has an internal stormflap with a zipper garage and soft chinguard at the top, and a press stud closure button at the base.

All of this adds up to an excellent winter jacket. However, it’s impossible to ignore the astronomical cost, which will price out the vast majority of hillwalkers.

Men’s sizes S-XL | Women’s sizes n/a | Weight 513g (men’s medium)

Sprayway Torridon

Verdict: A nostalgia-inspired Gore-Tex jacket with a bombproof design and long cut – but it’s heavy and bulky.

Sprayway Torridon

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Well-priced, bombproof design, double zipper stormflap, retro styling

Cons: Heavy, bulky

The original Torridon jacket – with its functional design and bright colour panelling – became a 1990s classic in the outdoor industry. Re-launched in 2019 with a modern twist, the reincarnation of the Sprayway Torridon is like a nostalgia-fuelled throwback to an era when hillwalking gear was tough, reliable and built to last.

Made from a robust, 3-layer, 75-denier Gore-Tex that is PFC-free and includes recycled polyester, the Torridon has a 28,000mm HH and an RET breathability grade of <9. Its best features, which set it apart from other jackets in this round-up, are threefold: the long dropped-hem cut which provides excellent coverage over your backside and crotch; the Velcro-sealed double stormflap across the main zipper; and the heritage design with retro-cool colour blocking and a reassuringly brawny build.

For those who prefer a more athletic fit and alpine design, the Torridon will prove way too heavy, bulky and loose (the fit is rather generous) – but for others the old-school approach may feel superior to the modern obsession with light, breathable and flexible garments.

Other features include an adjustable hood with wired peak and roll-away tab, two zippered hand pockets, one inner pocket, underarm pit vents, and Velcro wrist cuffs.

Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes 8-18 | Weight 615g (men’s small)

Berghaus Ridgemaster 3L

Verdict: A fully-featured, reliable, fairly-priced jacket made from Gore-Tex Performance – but it’s let down slightly by the hood adjustment.

Berghaus Ridgemaster 3L

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 80%

Pros: Fair price, good features, well-designed

Cons: No women’s version, hood adjustment isn’t the best, RET rating could be better

Top of the range in Berghaus’s current line of waterproof jackets, the Ridgemaster 3L is made from a 3-layer Gore-Tex Performance shell fabric with a minimum 28,000mm HH rating and RET breathability grade of <13.

There’s nothing exceptionally exciting or innovative about the Ridgemaster, but it has everything you’d expect from a jacket capable of withstanding Britain’s wet and wild mountain weather. The fabric is fairly tough and stiff, but the jacket simultaneously feels relatively athletic and agile in use, and the fit strikes a nice balance between room for layering and not feeling clunky or loose.

Features include a soft chinguard, two hand pockets, two chest pockets, an internal stretchy valuables pocket, waist hem shockcords, pit zip vents, Velcro cuffs, and a central zipper backed by a stormflap and with a press stud at the base and zipper garage at the chin. The hood has a good wired peak but you only get a single rear adjuster, which can leave the face over-exposed when fully cinched-in – separate side adjusters would be preferable.

But all in all this is a solid, well-designed, fully-featured jacket at a fair price, and a reliable option if Berghaus is your brand of choice.

Men’s sizes XS-XXXL | Women’s sizes n/a – the 3-layer Highland Storm is a women’s alternative | Weight 515g (men’s small)

Rohan Ventus

Verdict: A fuss-free jacket suitable for year-round use, made from Rohan’s 3-layer Barricade material – but it’s arguably over-priced.

Rohan Ventus

Features 4/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 4/5

Overall score: 80%

Pros: 3-layer construction, good stats, fully-featured, comfortable

Cons: Overpriced for a proprietary membrane

Suitable for year-round use in poor conditions, the Rohan Ventus has a fuss-free design with good features and an affordable price (although we’d have hoped for £50-ish cheaper for a jacket with in-house tech, rather than Gore-Tex).

Made from Rohan’s 3-layer Barricade material, the Ventus has a 20,000mm HH rating and an MVTR breathability rating of 20,000g/m2/24hr – both impressive stats – and it should keep you dry and continue to do so for a number of years. The feel of the jacket is soft and supple, and far comfier than other hard shells prone to noisy crinkling and a stiff, stuffy fit.

The 3-layer construction includes a DWR-treated outer, the Barricade membrane and a moisture-wicking inner. Features include an internal valuables pocket, two chest pockets, underarm pit vents, main zipper with stormflap and press stud closure, and an adjustable hood. The weight is on the lighter side of the mid-range spectrum and the cut is relatively long, with a slightly dropped hem providing good coverage over the backside and crotch.

The all-round build quality is perhaps a notch below that of more premium brands such as Rab and Mountain Equipment, but Rohan have still done a sterling job with the reliable Ventus jacket.

Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes S-XL | Weight 503g (men’s small)

Alpkit Definition

Verdict: A well-priced 3-layer waterproof jacket featuring an unbranded membrane – but the trim fit won’t suit all body shapes.

Alpkit Definition

Features 3/5 | Fit 3/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 5/5

Overall score: 80%

Pros: Good value, impressive stats, nice features

Cons: Badly positioned vents, athletic fit won’t suit all body shapes, unbranded

As always with Alpkit products, the Definition represents excellent value and despite the sensible price tag it offers comparable performance to dearer options.

Constructed with a 3-layer design, featuring a hard-wearing nylon outer fabric, an unbranded membrane (30,000mm HH and 20,000g/m2/24hr MVTR) and an inner with a tricot backer, the Definition has a sturdy build. Features include all the usuals – adjustable hood, Velcro cuffs, internal pocket, waist hem cinching and dropped tail – but there are some quirky additions too.

Rather than pit zips, you get two side vents, which are easier to open and close, but seem vulnerable to water ingress due to their position, while the asymmetrical pocket orientation – one on the left chest and one hand pocket on the right – is rather unique.

Online customer reviews suggest the PFC-free DWR coating requires frequent re-proofing, while the unbranded membrane’s long-term durability and performance will require further testing over several months to truly judge. But, on paper at least, this is a top-tier waterproof from a British brand with a stellar reputation for affordable kit. Try before you buy, because the trim fit won’t suit all body shapes.

Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes 8-18 | Weight 549g (men’s medium)

Waterproof ratings explained

Water beading on a blue waterproof jacket
©Live For The Outdoors

Like fill power with down insulation, waterproof ratings are very simple but widely misunderstood, or not known at all. Hydrostatic head is the industry standard for measuring waterproof fabrics; the waterproof fabrics used for waterproof jackets, tents, and so on.

The hydrostatic head figure given (for example, 10,000mm), indicates how high a column of water sitting on the fabric would need to be before water begins seeping through. It’s perhaps a slightly odd thing, but it’s an effective means of measurement. It’s all to do with pressure. Obviously, testing labs don’t actually use such volumes of water, they use machines that apply equivalent downward pressure. Thus, a waterproof jacket with a hydrostatic head rating of 15,000mm for example, can withstand a 15-metre column of water before it leaks through.

Winter waterproof jackets should have a hydrostatic head of at least 20,000mm. It's not only more intense wet conditions they have to deal with, but the pressure from bigger, heavier winter packs.

Zips and seams are usual weak points in a jackets waterproofing. To combat this, some waterproof jackets have waterproof zips (or fabric cover flaps) and taped seams. Keep an eye out for these features when shopping around.

Waterproof jacket care and cleaning

Hiking jackets get a real workout and it doesn't take long for the fabric to get covered in muck and perspiration. A dirty jacket doesn't perform as well as a clean one, and its breathability and water repellency can suffer. Luckily cleaning and reproofing is easy.

Grangers and Nikwax both produce effective water-based, PFC-free gear cleaners and proofers. Used together, they clean waterproof fabrics, restore breathability, and revitalise water repellency.

Read our guide to waterproof garment care to find out all you need to know.

Grangers Performance Wash 300ml

Recommended
Grangers Performance Wash 300ml
Amazon

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Use instead of washing liquid in the washing machine. Use 25ml per load. Bottle is made from Ocean Waste Plastic.

Grangers Performance Repel Plus 275ml

Recommended
Grangers Performance Repel Plus 275ml

View offer

Spray evenly onto just-cleaned and still damp fabrics. Remove excess with a damp cloth and allow to dry naturally. Bottle is made from Ocean Waste Plastic.

Nikwax Tech Wash

Recommended
Nikwax Tech Wash 300ml
Amazon

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You can use this either in the washing machine or by hand. Very effective gear cleaner if instructions are followed.

Nikwax TX.Direct 500ml

Recommended
Nikwax TX.Direct 500ml

View offer

This works in a similar way to the Grangers equivalent above. After cleaning, evenly apply this to damp fabric and wait a couple of minutes before removing excess with a damp cloth. Then let the garment dry naturally.

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