How To Choose The Right Waterproof Jacket

Waterproof jackets are a staple for anyone taking on mother nature, especially those doing so in Britain. An essential final layer to any outdoor clothing system, the waterproof performs the task of keeping you dry in wet conditions. So, why the price difference between different options? As your outdoor experts, we’ve created this comprehensive advice guide to help you understand the different types of waterproof jackets and decide which one you’ll need for your chosen activity.

What makes a good waterproof jacket?

A waterproof jacket is one of the most important outdoor garments, so it’s no surprise that outdoor brands are constantly looking at ways to innovate with new features for all types of adventurer. However, the core performance of a quality waterproof jacket can be broken down to just three main performance attributes:

1. Waterproofing

Waterproofness is a scale. This is because some fabrics have higher standards of waterproofing which create a more durable jacket that will stay waterproof for longer. The way this is measured is called Hydrostatic Head, which we’ve covered in detail further down in this guide. There are two main methods to waterproofing a fabric – membranes and coatings, which are both applied to the inside of the outer fabric of a garment. Let’s explore each in a little more detail.

Membranes (Laminates)

Membranes or laminates are very thin films bonded to the back of the outer fabric. Well-known membrane technologies include GORE-TEX®, Pertex® Shield and Hydroshell®. A membrane is a piece of porous material. When the pores are too small for water molecules to penetrate, but large enough for water vapour I.e. sweat to escape out of, the membrane is then both waterproof and breathable.

Although they all achieve the same outcome, each membrane technology differs in composition and manufacturing process, resulting in different standards of waterproofing. Membranes are often more expensive than coated jackets but offer higher levels of breathability and weather protection.

waterproof jacket coatings


Commonly the simplest way to waterproof a jacket, a liquid coating is applied to the back of the outer fabric during construction in the same way you would apply paint with a roller. When the liquid dries it creates a solid but breathable layer. A waterproof coating applied on the inside of the jacket is not to be mistaken for a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, which we’ll come to later on in this guide.

2. Breathability

Your body’s response to active exertion is to sweat. If your waterproof jacket is destined for a life of outdoor adventure, it’s going to need to be breathable to maintain your comfort. When we talk about jackets being ‘breathable’, we mean the extent to which the garment allows moisture vapour (your sweat) to escape. A garment which is not breathable will hold your sweat on the interior of the fabric, often causing you to overheat, before creating that cold and clammy feeling. Much like Waterproofness, breathability gets its own rating which we’ve covered in detail later on in this guide.

3. Durability

Exploring the great outdoors is often more than just a walk in the park. Waterproofs battle with heavy rain, abrasion with objects, and rucksack wear across the shoulders. The trade-off when considering a waterproof jacket is durability vs weight as tougher fabrics tend to be heavier. A multi-day hiker will need a different jacket to a light and fast runner for example. The spec to look for here is the denier of the material (e.g. 50D polyester). The higher the number, the thicker the fabric. Many brands opt to use ripstop fabric for their most durable waterproof jackets. Ripstop is a style of high tensile woven fabric that ensures that even if the fabric is punctured, the tear won’t easily spread. This is ideal for outerwear that will encounter abrasion against objects like thorns and rock faces.

waterproof jackets technical features

Technical Features of Waterproof Jackets

Beyond the big three, there’s a variety of features and components to look for when selecting your new jacket. Which ones you need will depend on the activity you’re doing, so we’ve made some recommendations on which activities each feature is beneficial for.

Taped Seams

For a jacket to be completely waterproof, it also needs taped or sealed seams. The inside of a waterproof jacket will have strips of tape covering the seams. This taping will not let any moisture through whatsoever, so the more taping, the less breathable the jacket. Premium brands work hard to reduce the amount of taping to create a lighter, suppler, more breathable jacket. Taped seams are a feature of all good waterproofs.

Adjustable Hood

As a minimum, a hood should adjust to create a snug and secure fit, staying put even in strong winds. This is a requirement for all levels of adventure, from dog walking to mountaineering. A stiffened peak is a common addition that helps prevent rain from dripping onto your face or inside the jacket. Helmet-compatible hoods are available on climbing jackets which are larger than usual and designed to fit over a helmet when climbing or mountaineering.

Adjustable hem and cuffs

Drawcords or Velcro at the hem and cuffs will eliminate drafts and prevent water from getting in by cinching the jacket to suit your shape. This provides a tailored fit which also improves your comfort and freedom within the jacket. Adjustability usually comes with all jackets but is especially important on more technical pursuits that involve scrambling or climbing where baggy sleeves can be dangerous.


Most waterproofs will have pockets, but it’s the type of pocket that determines whether the jacket is suitable. Waterproofs with map pockets are ideal for long-distance hiking, while fleece-lined pockets are better for less intense activities like commuting. Climbing jackets will feature raised pockets that sit above a harness and can also come in handy for backpackers to prevent a hip belt from blocking access.

Waterproof zips

Water-resistant zips like YKK Aquaguard form a tight seal that repels water to prevent weak spots in the jacket. They’re a common feature of technical jackets that look to streamline weight and design. An alternative which is used in less technical jackets is a stormflap – a thin strip of fabric which covers the zip to prevent water from seeping in.

Pit Zips

Some lightweight waterproofs can be packed into a pouch or their own pocket to save space when they’re not being worn. We don’t recommend storing them like this long term, but the benefit comes when you’re travelling, cycling or hiking and need to save room in your pack.

waterproof jackets

Do I need a three-layer waterproof jacket?

The price of a waterproof jacket is often determined by its construction. Primarily, there are three main construction techniques which you should look out for when deciding on the right waterproof shell for you.

2-Layer waterproof jackets

A face fabric with a membrane or coating bonded to it, usually protected by a separate mesh or nylon fabric. Common in less technical waterproofs. Suited to basic activities like dog walking.

2.5-Layer waterproof jackets

A face fabric and membrane with a printed backer for protection. The coating or print applied to the surface makes these jackets lighter and more packable than 3-Layer construction, but they tend to be less durable. Suited to fast and light activities like running and day hiking.

3-Layer waterproof jackets

A face fabric, membrane and backer fabric. This offers the most reliable membrane protection because the waterproof membrane technology is sandwiched between two hardy fabric layers. Suited to intense activities like mountaineering and climbing. The other benefit is that evaporated perspiration can reach the membrane without having to pass through a liner, promoting breathability despite having a thicker construction.


Virgin materials will never be planet-friendly, but outdoor brands are working hard to create products which reduce their impact on the planet while maintaining long-lasting performance. If the environment is a factor in your purchasing decision, here are some features to look out for.

• Recycled materials used in the construction of a waterproof jacket reduces the amount of raw resource required.

• Recyclable materials mean that a waterproof jacket has the future potential to be fully recycled at the end of its life.

• PFC-Free/fluorocarbon-free Durable Water Repellent treatments that repel water but have a much lighter environmental impact.

• Premium quality waterproof jackets will last longer when cared for properly and therefore won’t need to be replaced as soon, which is good news for your wallet and the planet.

• Repair services like Berghaus’ Repairhaus can perform repairs to a jacket that has been damaged during use, so you won’t have to replace it. The Repairhaus accepts any brand of jacket and only costs you the price of postage.

waterproof jacket fitting

How should a waterproof jacket fit?

There are a variety of waterproof shells designed for different outdoor activities. Each as we have seen will provide a different level of waterproofing and breathability to suit the sport. Similarly, the way they fit and are shaped matches the activity. Let’s explore the most common styles.

Lightweight Running Jackets (Active Fit) – low-volume jackets with an athletic cut to minimise weight and excess fabric on the trail. Often these pack into their own pocket or a stuff sack. These jackets should hug the body without feeling restrictive.

Hiking Shell Jackets (Relaxed Fit) – slightly longer in the body, with a generous fit that provides freedom of movement when wearing extra layers such as a fleece.

Climbing & Mountaineering Jackets (Technical Fit)– commonly a more tapered body with higher volume around the chest, moving down to a more fitted design around the hips and hem to reduce bulk when wearing a harness. Angled sleeves and articulation aid freedom of movement. Pockets are often raised to allow access when wearing a climbing harness or rucksack.

Caring for your waterproof jacket

Over time, the performance of your waterproof jacket will diminish. This is caused by the water repellent coating wearing off and dirt and sweat particles blocking the pores within the waterproof membrane. Washing and reproofing will breathe new life into your jacket and improve its performance in the wet.

We’ve written a guide to washing waterproofs, but here are some quick tips to follow:

• Don’t use regular detergent, it will damage the repellent coating. Instead, always use specialist reproofing products.

• Wipe or brush off as much dirt as you can before washing.

• Use a low heat, hand wash cycle.

• Don’t wash more than two waterproof products at once, and don’t put your regular clothes in the same cycle.

• For maximum performance, perform a cleaning cycle and a reproofing cycle. Nikwax and Grangers often sell the two products as a pair.

girl in waterproof jacket

FAQs About Waterproof Jackets

What is Hydrostatic Head?

Hydrostatic head is a rating which tells you how waterproof a jacket is. It is a measure of how much water pressure your waterproof can withstand before it starts to leak through. Commonly measured in (mm), the Hydrostatic Head refers to how high a column of water would need to be before it starts to penetrate the fabric (i.e. 20,000mm = 20m high). If that all sounds a bit technical, don’t worry. The higher the number, the better the performance.

• 5000mm Hydrostatic Head: Known as the lowest threshold for a waterproof. Jackets with this rating are suitable only for light, infrequent showers or snow.

• 10,000mm Hydrostatic Head: A good performance rating that will protect you in heavy showers. Common in garments such as mid-range hiking jackets.

• 20,000mm Hydrostatic Head: A high-performance shell jacket that can withstand sustained high-pressure rainfall. This technical jacket will commonly feature membrane technology like GORE-TEX®.

What is a breathability Rating?

Breathability is rated in garments using the MVTR or Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate. This is counted in grams per square metre per day (g/m2/24hrs). Often listed as the second number after Hydrostatic Head, this measurement explains how much moisture can pass through your jacket’s fabric as it wicks sweat away from the skin.

• 5000 – 10,000gm2: For light activity and everyday wear, a coat with this rating will provide an acceptable level of breathability for low-level activities

• 10,000 – 20,000gm2: A garment with this rating will provide good protection against most types of activity including hillwalking and running.

• 20,000gm2 +: All-day hikers and long-distance runners will require a jacket with a high level of breathability due to the increase in perspiration from high aerobic activities.

What is a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating?

Outdoor garments are often treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment, a thin liquid coating which prevents rain droplets from saturating the surface and blocking the waterproof technology. Instead of soaking into the garment, the rain simply beads (rolls) off.

What is the difference between waterproof and water resistant?

Water resistance and water repellence aren’t the same as waterproofing. Water-resistant material will resist water during a short, light shower, but will let water in during a sustained shower. Waterproof membranes and material is designed to withstand heavy rain for much longer. Usually, a waterproof jacket features a waterproof membrane and is treated with a water-resistant coating. The two combine to provide complete protection.

What is a 3-in-1 Jacket?

A 3-in-1 jacket is a combination of layering garments which zip together to regulate comfort and body temperature as your activity level or the weather changes. Most importantly, 3-in-1 jackets feature two jackets which can be worn in three ways. The three ways are:

1. Waterproof jacket only – provides complete protection in wet conditions

2. Insulated layer (fleece) only – keeps you warm in cold, dry conditions

3. Both layers zipped together – Provides complete protection in cold and wet conditions

Adam is a lover of the outdoors who’s recently moved back to rural Lancashire after living in the urban confines of Leeds for the past few years. His favourite pastimes include cooking, playing countless sports to a barely acceptable standard and exploring the local countryside with his dog, Chip.

When the weather gets in the way, Adam can be found at home watching films & TV and listening to music. If he’s not there, he’ll be in the pub down the road.  

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Jenny 11-02-14 08:02
Dear Sir/Madam

I want to buy an excellent waterproof jacket to be used regularly on mountain walks and in my daily routine. After reading your comments, I feel a little disorientated about GORE TEX jackets and I would like you can help me to clarify the benefits of the following jackets to find out which one I will buy and if these jackets will need to be wear with another one and why:
Product code 124122 COLUMBIA
Product code 111385 66 NORTH
Product code 124134 HELLY HANSEN

Are all of these GORE TEX and eVENT?

Many thanks for your help.
Blacks 02-03-15 14:15
Hi Jenny,

To answer your question, all of the jacket's you have listed provide excellent waterproof protection but do not use GORE-TEX or eVent technology. You would be well protected against rain and snow in all, however the 66 North Snaefell (111385) is best suited to mountain walking as the others are more ski focussed.

The Columbia Millennium Blur Jacket (124122) features Columbia's own waterproof technology known as Omni-Tech. This offers great wet weather protection and also comes with insulating technology (Omni-Heat), making it a great ski option.

The 66 North Snaefell Jacket (111385) uses Polartec Neoshell, a material designed to withstand extreme weather yet is light and flexible. This is fully waterproof, will protect you in heavy rain and is a great option for mountain environments.

The Helly Hansen Eclipse (112134) is a fully waterproof ski jacket which like the Millennium features the brands own waterproof technology known as Helly Tech Performance. This jacket is also insulated and has a cosy faux fur hood trim.

Blacks Team
Noel Higgins 15-10-17 10:44
I have a North Face Jeppeson jacket, colour red, weight approx. 1200grams.
I wish to replace same with a jacket of similar weight and warmness for UK winter conditions. My colour preference would be red, if not available, a bright colour for our dreary dark winter days. The jacket will need to be rain and wind resistant. The Jeppeson was marvelous but seemingly it is not available. I would appreciate your advice and assistance to keep WARM and DRY during our wet and windy winter.
Noel Higgins 15-10-17 11:30
Product code 288055 north face men’s point five waterproof jacket. What weight is this product? Is the weight more than 1200 grams? How good is the insulation against damp wet cold UK winter conditions? What type of insulation is provided?
Sam Taylor 16-10-17 09:29
Hi Noel,
Thanks for your messages. I'll do my best to help you find a replacement for your trusty Jeppeson.
Looking at your second question 1st. The Five Point is much more a dedicated waterproof outer layer, so though it will be lightweight (i.e. much less than 1200g) and very wind and waterproof (thanks to Gore-Tex Pro membrane), it doesn't feature any insulation so it might not be as warm as your Jeppeson. Just something to think about.
Here are some other options for you to consider:
p.s. I've tried to keep them as colourful as possible
1. Salomon Ice Glory Ski Jacket - Like the Jeppeson, the Iceglory is technically a ski jacket but it will keep you very dry and warm, with synthetic insulation and a 20,000mm hydrostatic head waterproof outer-layer. Points for colour.
2. Mountain Equipment Vega Jacket - Not completely waterproof but it makes up for it in insulation (800 Fill Power - Very high).
3. Berghaus Hudsonian Parka - Bit of a wild card and heavier than most of the others on this list; it offers comprehensive waterproofing and insulation (synthetic).
Alternatively, you could consider a 3-in-1, like the Northface Anti-Freeze Tri-Climate, but it might not be as colourful as you might like.
Few there to consider. Please get back in touch if you are still struggling.
Sam, Blacks Team
Alison 28-10-17 10:25
I get very cold.. and would like a very warm jacket for walking which is also waterproof... this is Britain after all.. and even if you start oit in sunshine it’s bond to rain At some point!
I thought about down but they are not waterproof. Looked at your synethic down north face thermoball as an option, but not sur how well it would cope with a downpour or continuous strong rain.
I often layer up at the moment with fleece and raincoat... Berghaus but still feel the cold... hence looking at the down jacket option.
Please advise. Alison.
Sophie | Blacks Team 30-10-17 09:52
Hi Alison,

There are a few options you can consider here, you could look at The North Face Thermoball Jacket (product code: 287740), which uses clever synthetic insulation to stay warm even when wet. You could then use your waterproof Berghaus coat to layer on top in the event of rain. This makes for a very versatile combination as you can wear the Thermoball alone if it is not raining.

Berghaus also produce down jackets that are made with Hydrodown, this is a down jacket where the insulation is treated with Nikwax to provide water-repellency for light showers . The Berghaus Women’s Tephra Down Jacket (product code: 285049) is part of our new Autumn and Winter range and features the Hydrodown technology.

Alternatively, you could look at parkas. We do have a range of parkas that offer both warmth and waterproofing. A few suggestions here would be the Peter Storm Women’s Phillipa II Down Jacket (product code: 297125), this is fully waterproof and has 600 fill down for warmth. The Didriksons Women’s Frida Parka is a thermal parka that is fully waterproof, windproof and breathable, it also has storm flaps over the main zip for extra protection against the elements. One of the most high-end parkas we offer is The North Face Zaneck parka (050775), this is filled with synthetic down so slightly lighter than real down. It is fully waterproof as it uses The North Face’s DryVent fabric and the high loft Heatseeker technology which locks in warmth.

Hope this helps in your search, if you have any further queries please don’t hesitate to contact us again.

Alison 02-11-17 10:31
Thanks Sophie,
Just as an add on.. reading your recommendations... it would be very useful if you could provide live links to the products/ coats in my case you suggest...
Alison 02-11-17 10:54
Hi Sophie again!
Just a quick question would you say the north face zaneck parka was fully waterproof for downpours? Is it as good on your opinion as gore tex used in the Berghaus jackets for instance?
Sophie | Blacks Team 02-11-17 11:44
Hi Alison,
Yes, The North Face Zaneck is a fully waterproof jacket. Gore-Tex waterproofing is suited to more extreme conditions but the DryVent waterproofing technology in The North Face Zaneck Jacket will be more than sufficient for what you’re looking for.
Christine 30-11-17 22:34
Considering purchasing a jacket for my daughter either the North Face Tonnero full zip or the North Face Trevail but how am I supposed to know what the sizes are? How big do you buy them?
Sam 19-12-17 13:33
Hi Christine,
Many thanks for your message and apologies it has taken us so long to get back to you! Hopefully we are not too late.
Both the Tonnero and the Trevail have a back length of 63.5cm in a size medium.
This should give you a good idea of required size. If still unsure, please let us know.
Many thanks,
Sam @ Team Blacks
Sylvia Jakeman 15-09-18 14:42
Do you do a larger ladies gortex jacket as i am looking for size 18+
Alex 18-09-18 13:24
Hi Sylvia,

Thanks for your message!

We do have GORE-TEX Jackets size 18+ on our site!

We have The Berghaus Glissade III which comes in 2 colours so there's plenty of choice.

We also have the Berghaus Hillwalker Jacket, which features a ripstop face fabric for durability and tear resistance.

The main difference in these two is that the Glissade is designed with a longer length for extra coverage.

Hope this helps. If you any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks, Alex @ Blacks
Bill Dandie 06-12-18 13:54
Does the north face exhale gilet have a hood as advertised or doesn’t it? I wanted a hood but the one I have just bought from Blacks does not have one. Is the advert wrong or have I been sold the wrong product?
Neil McRobert 10-12-18 15:43
Hi Bill
Thanks for emailing in, and my apologies for a mistake in the copy on our site. The North Face Exhale Gilet does not have a hood. None of our current insulated gilets feature hood, but if you are seeking something with the same level of warmth and lack of arm restriction you may wish to look at either The North Face Thermoball Gordon Lyons Hoodie, the Columbia Ramble Down Hybrid, or the Regatta Anderson III Hybrid. All of these have core warmth and lightweight, flexible sleeves. Again, apologies for the mistake in our description and I hope you find something that suits.

Pauline Brenda Birkbeck 04-01-19 14:52
Good afternoon I was bought one of these coats a year ago.Have just washed coat for 1st time,checked instructions, coat has come out blotchy.
Holly 07-01-19 13:55
Hi Pauline, thanks for your message. We're sorry to hear the coat is not meeting your expectations. Please could you contact the customer care team using the details found here: so we can look into this further for you.

Many thanks,
Holly @ Team Blacks

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