A hard shell rain jacket is an essential piece of kit. It will keep you dry in a storm, provide protection from chilling wind and help regulate your temperature.
Here’s what to look for:
Either water-resistant or protected by a storm flap. Zip sliders on water-resistant zippers tuck into a ‘garage’ to prevent rain entering through the top of the zip.
Cuffs that can be tightened will prevent water running up your sleeve when you raise your arms. Pull cuffs over baselayers to prevent water wicking upward.
All rainwear claims to be ‘breathable’ – able to transfer perspiration through the fabric – but it won’t be able to keep up with the amount of sweat produced. Pitzips and side vents help dump heat. Mesh-lined pockets help with ventilation and breathability, but can make stored items wet from perspiration.
Handwarmer pockets are ideally positioned so they can be accessed while wearing a pack or harness (called pack-friendly). They should be large enough to hold items like a map. A chest pocket with a vertical opening can also provide easy access to map and compass.
Many hoods are large enough to accommodate a helmet, which is why they also come with volume adjusting drawcords or Velcro tabs to ensure your head can be snugly encased. Ensure the stiffened brim does not limit visibility.
The fabric might be reinforced at high-wear points such as the elbows and shoulders.
Three- or 2.5-layer
Three-layer jackets have a waterproof membrane sandwiched between a durable face fabric and inner lining. They tend to be more expensive, heavy and bulky, but are hard-wearing and designed for the harshest conditions. 2.5-layer shells (a face fabric and waterproof membrane with a protective sheen or print overlaid) are lighter, less expensive and more packable, but not as breathable or as durable.
Below-the-waist designs tend to be heavier, but provide better protection and a ‘tail’ to sit on. To-the-waist jackets are lighter and often have stretch panels in key areas to prevent the hem lifting.
Water resistance and breathability
Technical rainwear fabric works much like your skin: tiny moisture vapour droplets pass through its pores, while larger rain droplets are blocked from passing through the other way. Garments can be tested to determine water resistance and breathability.
Water resistance: The amount of water pressure (in millimeters) a fabric sample can withstand before leakage occurs – 20,000mm is common.
Breathability: The amount of water vapour (in grams) that can pass through a square metre of fabric during a 24-hour period – 20,000g/m2 is common.
Because there is no standardised test to measure breathability and water resistance, the products featured here do not have this information displayed.
Five tips for keeping your jacket as good as new
- Wash your wet weather gear as often as you would wash your jeans
- Store dry and with any obvious dirt washed off
- Wear long sleeves to prevent body oils and sunscreens from degrading the membrane
- Use a technical wash – Nikwax or Grangers for example (laundry powder can affect the garment’s breathability)
- Re-proof your jacket with a spray-on or wash-in durable water repellent.
Now you know what to look for, it;s time to choose a jacket…
Montane Minimus Stretch $349
Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer fabric with added stretch and DWR. Taped seams, articulated arms and elbows for freedom of movement, helmet-compatible hood with stiffened peak, two mesh-lined map-sized hand pockets, zippered chest pocket, water-resistant front zip with storm flap, hem drawcord, shaped cuffs with hook and loop tabs. 257g (m); 226g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell Jacket $734.95
Minimalist three-layer hard shell using high-stretch, breathable and sustainable Eco-Shell fabric, helmet-compatible hood, spacious chest pockets, zippered side ventilation, hem drawcord, Velcro cuffs. 570g (m); 470g (w). www.fjallraven.co.nz
Marmot Minimalist $449
Gore-Tex Paclite fabric is waterproof and breathable. Seam-sealed, adjustable hood, hem, and hook-and-loop cuffs, pitzips, pack-friendly front pockets, water-resistant zippers and front storm flap, DriClime-lined chin guard, Angel-Wing movement. 425g (m); 382g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Cactus Rain Jacket $599
Long-cut, waterproof and breathable with Cactus’ hard-wearing WTF-3 fabric, fully seam-sealed, two external zip-access chest pockets, two zippered hand-warmer pockets, free-standing, adjustable hood, Velcro cuff adjustments, drawcords at hem and waist, YKK zips. 940g. www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz
Macpac Copland Rain Jacket $379.99
Long-cut jacket with waterproof and breathable three-layer Reflex fabric. Features include articulated sleeves, a fully adjustable hood, a full-length front zip with inner and outer storm flaps, hem and waist drawcords and pack-friendly pockets that allow access without unbuckling the hipbelt. 650g (m); 580g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Earth Sea Sky Hydrophobia $499
Seam-sealed full-length jacket with waist drawcord, watertight double-flap zip with domes, double-ended front zip, underarm gusset for freedom of movement, adjustable hood with wire-stiffened visor, external map pocket, top and side entry hand pockets. 750g (m); 630g (w). www.earthseasky.co.nz
Marmot Women’s Celeste $379.95
Waterproof and breathable 2.5-layer ‘eco’ fabric, fully seam-sealed, tuck-away hood, Velcro cuffs, zippered inner essentials pocket, zippered hand pockets, elastic waist with drawcord. 238g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow $369.99
Waterproof/breathable 2.5-layer stretch nylon jacket with a DWR finish. Helmet-compatible hood with laminated visor and a single-pull adjustment, watertight front zipper, pitzips, chest pocket and two hand-warmer pockets, hook-and-loop wrist closure, hem drawcord. 295g (m); 261g (w). www.patagonia.com.au
Marmot Knife Edge $499
Lightweight and packable jacket with Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, fully seam-sealed, attached hood with peripheral cord adjustment, pitzips, pack-friendly pockets with water-resistant zippers, Velcro cuffs, drawcord hem, Angel-Wing Movement. 326g (m); 303g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
The North Face Venture 2 Jacket $240
DryVent 2.5-layer ripstop nylon fabric, adjustable helmet-compatible hood, Velcro storm flap over centre zipper, pitzips, secure-zip hand pockets with storm-flaps, Velcro cuffs, hem drawcord, packs into its own pocket. 330g (m); 300g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Marmot Precip Jacket $199.95
Marmot 2.5-layer NanoPro waterproof/breathable fabric, fully seam-sealed, attached adjustable hood rolls into the collar, DriClime-lined chin guard, pitzips, pack-friendly pockets, Velcro cuffs, drawcord hem, stuffs into pocket. 312g (m); 272g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
The North Face Stormy Trail $330
Streamlined waterproof running jacket with DryVent 2.5-layer fabric, internal venting system, media and secure-zip hand pockets, 360-degree reflectivity, hem drawcord, rain skirt. 186g (m); 160g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz