No tramp, whatever its duration, should be made without a raincoat. But whether you opt for the ultra-packable or ultra-durable depends on the kind of trips you do. Here’s what to look for and a selection of the year’s best jackets.
These are either water-resistant, such as YKK’s AquaGuard, or protected by at least one storm flap on the outside or inside. Zip sliders on water-resistant zippers tuck into a ‘garage’ to prevent rain entering through the top of the zip.
Many seams are now fully taped or sealed to prevent water seeping through the stitching.
Many hoods are large enough to accommodate a helmet, which is why they also come with volume adjusting drawcords or Velcro tabs. Ensure the stiffened brim does not limit visibility and once tightened, the hood moves with your head.
The fabric might be reinforced at high-wear points such as the elbows and shoulders.
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.
Cuffs can be tightened with Velcro strips to prevent water running up the sleeve when arms are raised. They also help trap warm air inside the jacket. Ensure the cuff covers your baselayers to prevent rainwater wicking upward.
While all rainwear is ‘breathable’ – able to transfer perspiration through the fabric – other ventilation options are required to keep users cool. The most obvious is the front zipper, but look also for pit-zips and side vents which can be opened to dump heat.
Pack-friendly handwarmer pockets are positioned so they can be accessed while wearing a pack or harness. They should be large enough to accommodate the hands and ideally at least one pocket should be able to hold a map. A chest pocket with a vertical opening can provide unhindered access to map and compass. Many pockets are mesh-lined to reduce weight and improve ventilation but be aware, items stored in these may become damp from perspiration.
Three- or 2.5-layer
Three-layer jackets have a waterproof membrane sandwiched between a durable face fabric and a 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 less expensive and more packable, but not as breathable or as durable.
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 millimetres) a fabric sample can withstand before leakage occurs – e.g. 20,000mm.
Breathability: The amount of water vapour (in grams) that can pass through a square metre of fabric during a 24-hour period. e.g. 20,000g/m2. Because there is no standardised test to measure breathability and water resistance, the products shown in this feature do not have this information displayed.
Outdoor Research Optimizer $649.99
Gore-Tex Active fabric, fully seam-taped, dynamic underarm panels, harness-compatible pockets, adjustable helmet-compatible hood with wire brim, YKK AquaGuard water-resistant zippers, front storm flap, zippered chest and hand pockets. 366g (m), 328g (w).
Cactus Outdoor Mountain $599
Cactus WTF-3 320D nylon shell, seam sealed, two external zip access chest pockets, foldaway hood domes into fleece-lined collar, Velcro hood adjustment, drawcord hem, single piece yoke to minimise seam abrasion, YKK zips, made in NZ. 1010g.
The North Face 1990 Mountain GTX $550
An enhanced replica of the original 1990 version, relaxed fit, Gore-Tex 2-layer shell with taffeta and brushed tricot drop lining, fully adjustable stow-away hood, double centre front storm flap with snap closure, reverse-entry alpine front pockets, three internal pockets, pit-zips, Velcro cuffs. 405g.
Marmot Knife Edge $499.95
Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, fully seam-taped, attached adjustable hood, PFC-free DWR coating, pit-zips, pack-friendly pockets with water-resistant zippers, asymmetric cuffs with Velcro adjustment, drawcord hem, Angel-Wing Movement. 327g (m), 303g (w).
Macpac Traverse $529.99
Lightweight Pertex Shield Pro waterproof shell, fully seam sealed, DWR finish, adjustable hood zips into collar, water-resistant YKK AquaGuard zippers. 340g (m), 300g (w).
Earth Sea Sky Hydrophobia $549
A full-length jacket with 3-layer Entrant fabric, fully seam sealed, waist drawcord, watertight double storm flap zip with domes, double-ended front zip, underarm gusset, adjustable hood with wire-stiffened visor, external map pocket, top and side entry hand pockets, made in NZ. 750g (m); 630g (w).
Marmot Minimalist $449.95
Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, seam-sealed, adjustable hood, hem, and hook-and-loop cuffs, pit-zips, pack-friendly front pockets, water-resistant zippers and front storm flap, DriClime-lined chin guard, Angel-Wing movement. 425g (m); 382g (w).
The North Face Apex Flex Dryvent $400
Three-layer DryVent shell with a soft stretch-woven face, slim fit, pit-zips, drop hood with drawcord adjustability, laminated storm flap with snap closure at hem and top collar, covered secure-zip hand pockets, Velcro cuffs. 794 (m), 657g (w).
Marmot Women’s Celeste $399.95
Membrain Eco 2.5-layer fabric, fully seam-sealed, tuck-away hood, Velcro cuffs, zippered inner essentials pocket, zippered hand pockets, elastic waist with drawcord. 238g.
Macpac Copland $379.99
Long-cut with Reflex three-layer fabric, fully seam sealed, DWR finish, full-length front zip with inner and outer storm flaps, adjustable hood, soft microtherm chin guard, hem and waist drawcords, pack-friendly pockets, water-resistant YKK AquaGuard zipper on chest pocket. 650g (m), 580g (w).
Rab Arc $399.95
Stretch waterproof with Pertex Shield+ 3-layer fabric, helmet-compatible hood with wired peak, pack-friendly chest pockets, YKK AquaGuard front zip with dual internal storm flap system, anti-snag hook and loop adjustable cuffs, hem drawcord with cord retainers. 414g (m), 368g (w).
Rab Downpour $239.95
Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer fabric with Dry Touch, pit-zips, adjustable hood and cuffs, YKK front zip with external and internal storm flaps, zippered pockets with storm flaps, hem drawcord, packs into left-hand pocket. 320g (m), 281g (w).
Marmot Precip ECO $199.95
PFC-free Marmot NanoPro recycled nylon fabric with a dry-touch finish, DriClime-lined chin guard, fully seam taped, attached adjustable roll-away hood, pit-zips, pack-friendly pockets, Velcro cuffs, drawcord hem, Angel-Wing movement, stuffs into own pocket. 286g (m), 246g (w).