What to look for when buying a waterproof jacket

Buying a waterproof jacket, or any piece of outdoor kit is a daunting task. The market has grown massively in the last ten years, with each brand widening its range and introducing new technologies, claiming to be the best. But really what do you need? In this guide, discover what makes for a good waterproof jacket.

Which fabric?

Goretex, eVent, Pertex, to name a few. Each will claim its better than the others, and for extreme conditions these marginal gains do make a difference, but for most of us, you won’t notice a thing. But do opt for a branded breathable fabric. If it’s not breathable, avoid like the plague. Waterproof breathable fabrics are the product of a lot of research and planning, so they do work.

How breathable?

Waterproof fabrics are only breathable to a point, and have a certain amount of moisture transfer capability. That means, the harder you work, the harder the fabric has to work to pass vapour or condensation through the jacket. Unfortunately most garments will start to back up, and that’s when you get wet, usually not through a leaking jacket but your own moisture.

Use it right

If you are looking to buy a waterproof so it can be used all day, sun, rain or shine then your buying it for the wrong reasons. That’s what a softshell, or hardshell fleece is for, which breathes better, keeps the wind off and even beads away a short shower while keeping you warm. A shell is an outer later, best kept in your bag and thrown on when the weather comes in.

Check the hood

If you are walking long distance paths you don’t need a high end mountaineering jacket with a helmet compatable hood. Many outdoor brands sell jackets specific to climbers, with a-line chest pockets (two pockets, either side of the zip on your chest), and a helmet compatible hood. Instead opt for a jacket with a normal hood and two handwarmer pockets.

More about pockets

Big hand warmer pockets are great. They can be used to store your map and compass on or a pack of jellybabies. Please don’t store your mobile phone in your pocket or assume that any waterproof jacket is suitable for storing electronics. If a leaky pocket doesn’t kill your phone, your own condensation will.

Reinforced panels

The best waterproof fabric will be worn away by your bag, especially if its fitted wrong. The consistant rubbing of your rucksack straps against your shoulders will wear away the very toughest rabrics. Opt for a jacket with reinforced shoulders if you plan to walk throughout the winter.

How high?

How high, or low do you want your jacket to sit? I suggest going for a slightly lower cut jacket which will keep you drier for longer.

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