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Best waterproof jacket 2021: Stay dry, whatever the weather

Sian Lewis Sasha Muller
28 Sep 2021

Pick your perfect waterproof jacket from our list of favourites and you’ll be protected, come rain or shine

If you only invest in one great piece of outdoor clothing, make it a waterproof jacket. Waterproof outer layers are a lifesaver in the great outdoors, regardless of whether you’re hitting a remote trail or just taking the dog for a walk in the park. They’ll keep you warm and dry, and allow you to stay out in the elements when everyone else is running for cover.

Here you'll find our favourite waterproof jackets for men and women, and they’re all comfortable, great quality and reliably waterproof. We’ve included some technically tough jackets designed for long days in the mountains, some cheap and cheerful options that’ll still keep out the rain, and smarter jackets that are ideal for everyday use.

Not sure which kind of jacket is best for you, or what type of waterproof fabric suits the kind of activities you’ll be doing? Read on for our handy buying guide.

Best waterproof jackets: At a glance

How to choose the best waterproof jacket for you

How do I get the right fit?

Think about how and where you’ll be wearing your new jacket. If you want to wrap up for casual use in the winter months, pick a roomier design that allows lots of layers beneath it; at the very least, you’ll want to be able to wear a mid-layer and a base layer without it feeling too snug. Or choose a jacket that’s insulated as well as waterproof. For fast-paced hiking or cycling, a lightweight, form-fitting and breathable jacket will serve you best.

Try on jackets in person and check that they feel comfortable and flexible, and don’t ride up when you move your arms. The sleeves, waist and neck should fit snugly so they won’t let in cold air or water. Make sure the hood fits well around your head and can be drawn in tight if needed. If you’re picking a jacket for mountaineering or cycling, choose a design that’s helmet-compatible. Waterproof jackets are usually designed to be gender-specific but women who don’t mind a boxier fit will often find men’s jackets a good choice as well.

READ NEXT: These are the best base layers to buy

What key features should I look out for?

The two key features of a good hardshell jacket are waterproofing and breathability. Like hiking boots, jackets use a waterproofing agent to repel liquids. These are either own-brand technology or a recognisable name like Gore-Tex (when in doubt, a jacket with Gore-Tex is always a reliable choice). You may see the level of waterproofing of a jacket (the technical term for which is “hydrostatic head”) labelled in millimetres. As a guide, up to 1,500mm is only water-resistant, and won’t be properly waterproof; 1,500mm to 5,000mm is waterproof and good for most wet conditions; 10,000mm and above is highly waterproof, best for mountain conditions and will also work well for snow sports. For tackling heavy rain, you’ll also need a jacket with taped seams, which prevents water from seeping through the stitching.

Next up, breathability. The cheapest waterproof jackets and packable macs are best avoided for anything more strenuous than a festival or gentle walk as they don’t usually offer any level of breathability, which means that even if they do stop the rain from getting in, you’ll be damp with sweat from the inside. If you’ll be working up a sweat, it’s best to choose a highly breathable jacket so you don’t overheat. Underarm ventilation zips (or pit zips) are really useful for regulating your body temperature, too.

Other features are largely down to personal preference, but a stiff peak to the hood is good for wet-weather walking. Pockets are useful, too, but check their zips are sealed or protected, or you’ll find that the contents will get wet.

How do I care for my waterproof jacket?

Once you own your perfect jacket, you’ll need to look after it. If it begins to lose its ability to repel water, your best bet is to clean it with a specialised cleaning product such as Nikwax’s Tech Wash. The tell-tale warning sign is that water will no longer bead on the surface and instead the outer fabric will become saturated, an effect known as wetting out. Be cautious of using standard detergents as they can impede the performance of some waterproof fabrics.

Some waterproof jackets, such as those using Gore-Tex’s range of waterproof fabrics, can be restored to their former glory by popping them in the tumble dryer on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. This process can potentially reactivate the durable water repellent (DWR) outer coating, but it won’t work forever. After a while, you’ll need to use a spray-on or wash-in waterproofing treatment like Nikwax’s TX-Direct to get it back to its former waterproof self.

The best waterproof jackets to buy for men and women

1. Rab Kangri Gore-Tex jacket: A brilliant all-round waterproof jacket

Price: From £247 | Buy men's | women's from Amazon

The Kangri GTX might not be cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. This is a great choice for everything from multi-day hikes to a quick jaunt through the worst that the UK weather can throw at you. There are men's and women's specific versions of this design, which is fully waterproofed with Gore-Tex and shot through with a litany of clever little design touches. Water-resistant zips shield the two large external pockets from water ingress, and the main zip has a storm flap to banish water from making its way inside. There's plenty of storage, too: the internal pocket is big enough to house your smartphone, and external pockets provide enough room for a clutch of full-sized maps. Worried that you might get too hot? Big under-arm zips allow you to get some air moving without having to strip off your rucksack, and adjusters allow you to cinch the hood and hemline when the weather turns nasty.

Read our Rab Kangri GTX jacket review

Key specs – Waterproofing: Gore-Tex (28,000mm); Main material: Nylon; Weight: 525g

2. Columbia OutDry Ex Reign Jacket: An affordable waterproof jacket for the great outdoors

Price: From £112 | Buy men's | Buy women's from Columbia

The Columbia OutDry Ex Reign shell doesn't use Gore-Tex technology like a lot of pricier rivals, but Columbia’s in-house OutDry Extreme fabric sheds downpours very effectively. Externally taped seams and zippers ensure zero leaks, underarm vents keep the air flowing when the temperature rises, and the fabric is breathable, too. Our favourite thing about the jacket, however, is that it's super supple and barely rustles at all as you walk. At 400 grams, it won’t weigh you down, either. That said, the rather shiny looks may not be for everyone. The only thing the Reign lacks is a moldable peak on the hood to keep the worst of the rain out of your eyes but, once you've adjusted the hood using the velcro loop on the rear and the elastic drawstring, it stays in place remarkably well.

Key specs – Waterproofing: OutDry Extreme with externally taped seams; Main material: Nylon; Weight: 400g

Buy men's from Columbia Buy women's from Columbia

3. Target Dry Lighthouse Islander Jacket: The best waterproof jacket for country walks and commuting

Price: £60 (men's only) | Buy now from Target Dry

The Islander is a simple, functional waterproof jacket that manages to look as smart as country jackets twice the price. It combines decent waterproofing (it boasts a hydrostatic head of 3,000mm) with luxurious looking brass and leather design features, and comes in navy, oxblood or khaki. It’s smart enough to wear to the office but reliable out on country rambles, too, which makes it a versatile pick if you want one waterproof you can wear day in, day out. The soft cotton inner lining is cosy and comfortable and the outer is fully waterproof, with taped seams. This is a great jacket for everyday use rather than for heading to the mountains, and offers good bang for your buck if you’re after a casual jacket.

Key specs – Waterproofing: Cotton-blend with Teflon coating (3,000mm); Main material: Cotton, chambray lining; Weight: N/A

Buy now from Target Dry

4. Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket: The best waterproof jacket for active travellers

Prices: £151 | Buy men's | women's from Alpine Trek

Travelling light? You may get on well with Patagonia’s popular Torrentshell. Lightweight and packable, the Torrentshell weighs just 343g, stuffs down into its own pocket and can fit into the bottle pocket of a backpack. It’s our best pick for globetrotters, and for hikers who don’t like to be weighed down on the trail. When the heavens open, the Torrentshell boasts a massive HH rating of 20,000mm, so will keep you dry even in heavy rain. We liked the generous pit-zips and the outer material, which feels really durable. The Torrentshell is flattering, too, and available in attractive colours. Plus, Patagonia’s ethical credentials are some of the best in the business, and its manufacturing process has a minimal environmental impact. Our only negative was the hood, which feels a bit too boxy and roomy.

Key specs – Waterproofing: H2No Performance Standard (20,000mm); Main material: Nylon ripstop; Weight: 354g

Buy men's from Alpine Trek

Buy women's from Alpine Trek

5. Gore R7 Shakedry Hooded Jacket: Best waterproof jacket for runners, cyclists and athletes

Prices: £300 | Buy men’s | women's from Gore Wear

Our favourite in the light-as-a-feather stakes, the barely-there R7 Shakedry jacket weighs a paltry 160g, which is so little that you’ll barely feel it when it’s on. It may be light, but this jacket packs a waterproofing punch thanks to Gore-Tex technology. It’s still highly breathable, unlike most waterproof shells, making it ideal for hiking, running, cycling and other fast-paced sports where you don’t want to overheat while you’re on the go. The cut is slim and streamlined, with a high neck and narrow cuffs to keep rain out, so if you want to wear warm layers underneath, go for a size up from your usual. This featherweight jacket is overkill for casual outdoor adventures, but for serious runners, cyclists and athletes it’s a fantastic bit of kit.

Key specs – Waterproofing: Gore-Tex; Main material: Polyamide; Weight: 160g

Buy men's from Gore Wear

Buy women's from Gore Wear

6. Alpkit Balance: A great waterproof jacket for the mountain-bound

Prices: £180 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Alp Kit

If you’re a keen outdoors person who is serious about hiking in the hills in any weather, look no further than Alpkit’s high-performing Balance jacket. The latest incarnation of Alpkit’s best selling design, the Balance was clearly designed with mountain hikers in mind. It’s waterproof to a whopping 20,000mm, lightweight enough to keep you comfortable all day, and nicely cut to move as you do. When on test, we found the Balance very comfortable and breathable, even when worn all day in the rain. The climbing-compatible hood fits well and stays put in high winds. The Balance is pricey, but it’s worth the spend if you like to get out in any weather. Go for a size up if you want to wear a down jacket underneath.

Key specs – Waterproofing: Durable Water Repellent (20,000mm); Main material: Nylon; Weight: 405g

Buy men's from Alp Kit

Buy women's from Alp Kit

7. The North Face Dryzzle Futurelight jacket: Best for going from city to country

Prices: From £100 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from The North Face

Drizzle will no longer dampen your spirits if you wrap up in the North Face’s Dryzzle Futurelight. This smart jacket may look sleek and simple, but it provides sturdy weatherproofing for all conditions, and is also windproof, so it keeps you warm on stormy walks.

The hood is a stand out feature – it’s easy to adjust for the perfect stay-put fit – and the whole jacket looks great thanks to its flattering fit and the variety of smart colourways on offer. The eco-credentials are respectable, too, as the Dryzzle is constructed from recycled materials.

This is a great wear-anywhere jacket if you divide your time between city streets and country walks, and it’s sensibly priced too.

Key specs – Waterproofing: Durable Water Repellent (20,000mm); Main material: Nylon; Weight: 300g

Buy men’s from The North FaceBuy women’s from The North Face

8. Provis Classic Active jacket: Ideal for road and night runners

Prices: £85 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Provis Sports

If you love to get out running, there’s no reason why bad weather should ever stop you. Provis’ Classic Active jacket is fully waterproofed to 20,000mm but is still lightweight at 250g, so it’s perfect for wet weather workouts.

The Classic Active is cut specifically for more active wear, so it moves with you as you run without feeling restrictive. Best of all, you can keep your hands free by popping your phone in the pockets – the zips are fully waterproof, so you don’t need to worry about soaking your phone.

All colour versions of the jacket sport reflective stripes to keep you safer when you’re running at night, and there’s also a fluorescent yellow version for even better visibility – ideal if you regularly run on roads after work or in the early mornings.

Key specs – Waterproofing: Durable Water Repellent (20,000mm); Main material: Nylon; Weight: 250g

Buy men’s from Provis SportsBuy women’s from Provis Sports