Whether you’re staying local with laps around the park, planning to celebrate the end of lockdown with a hike across the country, or just getting ready for pub gardens to re-open, you won’t get far without a waterproof jacket.
We tested all of these jackets on walks and runs, as well as bike rides where appropriate – sadly, not in any pub gardens yet. We also put them through the shower test, pairing them with waterproof trousers and standing under the jet for a minute to simulate the worst weather they could face.
We mostly tested activewear – although some of these jackets, like the plush Rab, would easily cross over to a casual alfresco dinner. We were absolutely bowled over by Barbour’s waterproof jacket too, which doesn’t come under the activewear banner but is still surprisingly breathable.
All waterproofing is finite, and rated by a hydrostatic head (HH), which is the height in millimeters a solid column of water would need to be before it penetrated the fabric. The more you pay, the better the HH: the Fjällräven jacket below, for example, has a rating of 10,000mm. All of these jackets will keep you dry and comfortable in a shower, while the higher-end models will withstand the worst rain you’ll experience in this country.
Waterproofing does, however, come with a cost: breathability. The worst waterproof jackets feel like you’re zipped inside a steam room as soon as you start walking, so we’ve selected jackets that are brilliantly breathable thanks to the hi-spec fabric, or because they have smart ventilation built in (two-way zips and mesh vents, for example).
Lining is a matter of taste, so we’ve specified what it is: some people shudder at the plastic-feel of some waterproofs, while others prefer it to a warming fabric. Noisy outers are also a matter of taste: some of these jackets are classic rustlers, while others are silent and satin-like, which we’ve made that clear in the review if it’s in the extreme.
Whether you’re heading to your local or keeping local on your walks, these are the best jackets to keep you dry.
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Fjallraven high coast hydratic jacket W
The perfect waterproof jacket, this smart number from Swedish outdoors brand Fjällräven is technical enough to take mountaineering or on a long bike ride, but smart enough to wear out if the weather turns bad. It’s extremely light, just 281g, and packs down small if you need it to. Long sleeves (with a velcro strap if you need to tighten them around your gloves) and zippable pockets make it great for cycling; the generous hood and waist drawstring make it an adaptable walking partner. It was the most breathable activewear jacket we tested – the two-way zip added even more ventilation.
Barbour brunswick waterproof jacket
Elegant, tailored and timeless, this long, trench-style jacket will change your mind about waterproof jackets forever. That’s also how long this heirloom coat will last you: the outer is a cotton-nylon blend, so it feels soft to touch and decidedly un-crinkly, but it’s crafted with a waterproofing treatment that withstood every downpour we tested it in. The lining is a lovely tartan, which, along with the cinch-able waist belt, smart buttons, deep pockets and Barbour monograms, makes putting on this practical coat feel like dressing up. It’s the first time we’ve received (socially-distanced) compliments about a rain jacket.
Finisterre rainbird waterproof jacket
This is a gorgeous and practical jacket with impeccable eco credentials. We fell in love with the copper orange model we tested; a bright colour that glowed with a burnished warmth rather than a hi-vis sheen. Made out of completely recycled fabric, its matte feel is a nice change from the usual crinkly plastic, and it doesn’t scream athleisure. But don’t be fooled – this is a seriously technical jacket. Its hydrostatic head, at 10,000mm, is better than most premium tents, and the taped seams along with the waterproof and recycled zip will stop water ingress in any weather. But for all that, it’s really breathable, however hard you work.
Keela women’s storm jacket
Wonderfully flattering and effortlessly technical, we love the brilliant, bright colours on this jacket – we tested a Berry model, and it brightened up our coat stand. The cut is perfect for walking, but this jacket is also excellent for cycling, with a roomy hood that pops over a helmet, a big zip pocket on the back, and a long cut at the back that keeps you dry if you ride in a lower position. Fantastically breathable, we kept it zipped up throughout a test run with no problems.
Jack Wolfskin JWP shell
The JWP is a premium-feel jacket that ditches the usual plastic-y inner for a mesh lining that won’t stick to your skin when you sweat. The soft, brushed outer on this jacket is smart and un-shiny, which means it’s not just for hiking trips and mountain scrambles. Zipped pockets and a smart cut, meanwhile, make it an ideal pick for weekend breaks and holidays. It packs away into its own pocket, which makes it effortless to pack or stuff in your bag on the way out the door.
Columbia women’s outdry extreme nanolite shell jacket
This is the ultimate waterproof jacket for climbers, scramblers, trail runners and mountaineers. Phenomenally waterproof, it’s unique among all the jackets we tested – no sweat-soaking inner here, just the abrasion-proof membrane layer that’s soft and un-sticky on the inside. It’s undeniably expensive, but quality is everywhere here, from the mighty, waterproof zip to the incredibly neat hood-gathering system, bonded seams and waterproof zip pockets. It’s the lightest jacket we tested, and packs down into one of its own pockets. This jacket would work great in tropical climates, where you risk heavy rain and high heat simultaneously. Bear in mind, however, that it is a rustler.
Montane women’s element stretch waterproof jacket
This is the best jacket we found for beating the wind as well as the rain, and it’s a stylish one as well. The smooth, satin-feel outer has a lovely matte texture, and the inner was the softest and most comfortable that we tested. The pockets, which are map-sized, have a mesh lining that is also ventilating. It’s packed with the kind of thoughtful features you would expect from a brand with Montane’s reputation for quality: a tough storm flap and waterproof zip, hanging hooks on the inside and outside, and a wired peak in the front of the hood.
Rab kinetic 2.0 waterproof jacket
Our previous iteration of this jacket survived one of the worst downpours we’ve ever experienced, on the Isle of Skye climbing the Old Man of Storr, so we were delighted to find that the newest model is even better. It’s hard to believe the super-soft fabric will be as effective as it is, but Rab’s dedication to quality and style makes this one of the best waterproofs we’ve ever tested. It’s so breathable you can even go running in it. We love the smart velcro on the sleeve cinches, which is modelled so as not to catch on your woollen base layers. The hood gathering system was the best we tested, giving you a really customised, snug fit. We found it to be a little on the slim side, so size up if you’re going to layer it.
Keela talus jacket
It’s almost impossible to find a warm waterproof that you don’t need to layer-up, but Keela has come close with this Primaloft jacket. It’s not waterproof – Keela says water-resistant – but we put it through a thorough shower test, and the shell shed all the water we could throw at it without any seeping through to the lining or – from what we could tell – effect on the loft. A generous filling of ethical and recycled Primaloft (water-resistant, artificial down) and super soft synthetic fleece panels and pockets make it instantly warm. It’s the perfect jacket for spring and autumn.
The verdict: Women’s waterproof jackets
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