Which waterproof jacket is best?

If you live where there’s plenty of rainfall but hate carrying an umbrella, consider investing in a waterproof jacket. While they aren’t magically impervious, the best can resist a deluge long enough for you to seek drier pastures. They also make excellent hiking gear.

The best waterproof jacket is the Columbia Watertight II Jacket. It’s lightweight and thin, making it comfortable to wear all day, and several design decisions give it an excellent waterproof rating.

What to know before you buy a waterproof jacket

Waterproof jacket layers

Waterproof jackets have either 2, 2 1/2 or 3 layers.

  • Two-layer jackets use an outer layer with a special waterproof membrane attached underneath it and an inner layer. The two layers aren’t attached. This lets the empty space between them serve as extra insulation and waterproofing, not to mention increasing breathability.
  • Three-layer jackets also have an inner and outer layer, but in between them is a high-quality waterproof membrane. They’re all attached, so there’s no emptiness between them like in two-layer jackets. This makes them more durable and warmer.
  • Finally, 2 1/2-layer jackets are essentially downgraded three-layer jackets — the waterproof layer in the middle is just a coating, rather than a full membrane. They’re usually the lowest-priced, as they don’t have the high-quality membrane or the benefits of a two-layer jacket’s empty space.

Fit

A properly fitted waterproof jacket is an odd combination of snug in some places and loose in others. You want it to be snug around the arms and waist to prevent water from getting in — some even have drawstrings or hook-and-loop straps so they can be tight but still comfortable. You want it to be loose in the body so you can layer more clothes underneath without feeling bulky.

Most waterproof jackets are unisex. However, you can find men’s and women’s jackets if, for respective example, you have broad shoulders or a narrow waist.

What to look for in a quality waterproof jacket

Waterproof rating

Some waterproof jackets quantify the strength of their waterproofing. It’s found by filling a tube of water and placing it against the jacket, then measuring in millimeters the place at which it starts to absorb into the material. To be waterproof, it must have a minimum 5,000-millimeter rating, but the best can have up to a 20,000-millimeter rating.

Hood

Many waterproof jackets include hoods to prevent water from leaking through the neck and protect your head. These hoods are usually attached, but some are detachable.

Vents

When some people start shopping for waterproof jackets, they become so preoccupied with keeping water out that they forget to consider how water, namely their sweat, is supposed to get out. That’s where vents come in. Vents take many forms, common ones including mesh back flaps and, if you can believe it, zippered armpits.

Portability

It’s always nice to have a waterproof jacket on hand, but they can take up a good amount of space. Some jackets get around this by being able to be packed into one of their pockets. This is great for stashing one in your car, for example, or for bringing one on a backpacking trip.

How much you can expect to spend on a waterproof jacket

They cost $20-$300. Basic waterproof jackets shouldn’t run more than $50, with better ones costing up to $100. Jackets with the highest waterproof ratings typically start at around $100.

Waterproof jacket FAQ

How do I wash a waterproof jacket?

A. Many waterproof jackets can be machine-washed, but some need to be washed by hand. In either case, you may need a special detergent to avoid eating away at the waterproof coatings most waterproof jackets employ. Your jacket should include washing instructions, but if it doesn’t you can often find them on the manufacturer’s website or by reaching out to your manufacturer’s customer service.

How do I dry a waterproof jacket if the rain overwhelms it?

A. All you need to dry a waterproof jacket that’s been too long in the rain is to hang it up, or even lay it flat, somewhere dry. That’s it. Don’t place it next to anything hot, which might harm it, but you can leave it in direct sunlight to speed things along.

What’s the best waterproof jacket to buy?

Top waterproof jacket

best Columbia Watertight II Jacket

Columbia Watertight II Jacket

What you need to know: This is an excellent all-around, daily-use jacket.

What you’ll love: The arms use hook-and-loop straps to close completely around your wrist to block water from coming in and the zippers are covered by fold-over material for further leak prevention. It folds down to fit inside its own pocket for easy storage. It comes in 36 colors.

What you should consider: It isn’t thick enough or insulated to be a cold-weather jacket. Some consumers wished the hood was removable. It doesn’t have any ventilation.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s and Macy’s

Top waterproof jacket for the money

best Portwest Classic Rain Jacket

Portwest Classic Rain Jacket

What you need to know: This is a great jacket if you just need something for the occasional rainy day.

What you’ll love: The seams are taped to prevent water from leaking in and drawstrings around the waist also help keep you dry. It has two pockets and a vented back yoke and eyelets for some breathability. It comes in six colors.

What you should consider: A few customers found it wasn’t breathable enough, especially on hotter rainy days when you’re likely to sweat more. Others disliked its wrinkly appearance.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

best Avoogue Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket

Avoogue Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket

What you need to know: This jacket is perfect for those with slimmer figures.

What you’ll love: It uses drawstring closures on the hood and around the waist to keep water out. The cuffs use tight, but not too tight, elastic to further prevent leaks. It comes in 25 colors with a matching bag for storage.

What you should consider: It isn’t breathable and it’s too thin to keep you warm in cold showers. The pockets have no zippers or hook-and-loop closures, so things can fall out if you bend over.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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