One of the best and wisest investments you can make for when you’re outdoors is a waterproof jacket. It’ll protect you from harsh rain and strong winds…providing that you buy the right one. Tears and rips, discomfort, poor breathability and temperature regulation are all common pitfalls of a poorly designed men and women’s waterproof jacket.
Read our brief but essential guide on how to choose the best waterproof jacket to prepare you for the outdoors, whether you’re hiking, camping, cycling, travelling or doing watersports.
Many waterproof jackets will share the same characteristics, yet some will stand out on their own, particularly when it comes to design and patented technology.
Here are some of the essential features that are found in the large majority of waterproof jackets.
- Construction and Design – The most important feature of a waterproof jacket is how well it’s engineered. Some brands will claim their own technology in regards to fabrics, highlighting temperature regulation, durability and how lightweight it is. Stitching at the seams plays a major role in how the entire jacket is held together – you don’t want your jacket ripping in the midst of a rainstorm.
- Inner Fleece – Where warmth is a concern, some waterproof jackets will include an inside fleece that may be removeable to be worn separately. However, some jackets will just have a fleeced neck area rather than the entire body.
- Hood – A hood is considered a must for a waterproof jacket to fully shield the wearer from rain. Ideally, it should have a drawcord adjustment for tightening to block out the wind and rain as much as possible. Removable and foldaway characteristics are other useful but not essential features of a hood. These are are commonly seen in cheaper waterproof jackets.
- Front Pockets – When your hands are cold, put them in the front hand pockets. Some waterproof jackets will have hand warmer pockets that are lined with fleece for more warmth. Zippered pockets as opposed to velcro will always be favoured as it’s more secure for storage purposes.
- Extra Pockets – If two front pockets aren’t enough, then you’ll find some waterproof jackets will have a third zippered pocket at the front, usually at the chest area. Though space is normally limited here, it’s a good addition to store a mobile phone when the other front pockets are occupied by your hands. Inner pockets are also a bonus if you prefer to keep valuables stored inside rather than outside.
- Adjustable Waist and Cuffs – For the best fit and warmth, especially when it’s raining and windy, adjustable waist and cuffs are ideal. While the cuffs will nearly always be adjustable via a velcro strap, the waist will typically use a drawcord adjustment.
- Breathable – if you’re doing strenuous outdoor activities or you tend to sweat a lot, then the breathability of a waterproof jacket is an important factor as airflow is better, thus allowing sweat to evaporate quicker. Many of the best women’s and men’s waterproof jackets are also very breathable.
- Windproof – Many of the best waterproof jackets are also windproof, providing optimal protection from the force of the wind. What this essentially means is that your jacket is less prone to flapping around in the wind and dragging you back – it’ll be strong enough to resist much of the force.
- Lightweight – Outdoor activities are normally strenuous, so the balance between weight and practicality needs to be perfect. How lightweight a jacket is entirely depends on materials used and how much of it is used. Ideally, you’d want a lightweight waterproof jacket that’s also warm, breathable and durable.
- Portable/Packaway – More common among cheaper lightweight waterproof jackets, being able to pack the entire jacket into its own pocket or a separately supplied one is particularly useful for travelling and warm weather. However, it will end up sacrificing stronger and thicker materials that offer more protection from rain, wind and low temperatures.