New Zealand, where four seasons in one day is more than a song lyric, it’s reality and is why wet weather gear should be in your pack on every trip. Here’s how to choose the jacket that best suits your needs, plus a selection of the year’s best.
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, heavier and bulkier. But this also makes them more durable, more waterproof and more breathable. Jackets with 2.5-layers include a face fabric and a waterproof membrane with a protective sheen or print overlay. These jackets are likely to be more packable than a three-layer jacket.
Sleeves should hang at least to the palm of your hand. The cuff can be tightened to trap warmth and prevent water running up the sleeve when arms are raised. Ensure the cuff covers your baselayers to prevent rainwater wicking upward.
Tramping and alpine jackets have multiple exterior and interior pockets. The ‘handwarmer’ pockets, used to shelter hands from wind and rain, should be ‘pack-friendly’ and positioned so they can be accessed while wearing a pack or harness. They are usually quite large and at least one pocket should be able to hold a map. A chest pocket with a vertical opening can also provide unhindered access to map and compass.
These are either water-resistant or protected by at least one external or internal storm flap. Zip sliders on water-resistant zippers tuck into a ‘garage’ to prevent rain from entering through the top of the zip.
The fabric might be reinforced in high-wear areas such as the elbows and shoulders.
While all rainwear is ‘breathable’ and will transfer perspiration through the fabric, other ventilation options are used to help keep users cool. The most obvious is the front zipper, but there are also pit-zips, side vents and mesh-lined pockets.
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.
Below-the-waist designs are heavier and take up more room in your pack, but they 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. They take up less pack space because they can often be stuffed into their own pocket.
Waterproofness, breathability and air permeability
Wet weather jackets are tested for waterproofness and breathability. The results of the tests are usually displayed on the product’s sales literature. Air permeability refers to super-breathable garments that allow air to actually move through the fabric.
- 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.
- Air permeability: Only found on new-model jackets that use fabric constructed in a technique known as nanospinning. These garments are the most breathable.
Patagonia Triolet $699.99
Alpine jacket designed for use in heavy snow and rainfall, three-layer Gore-Tex fabric, recycled face fabric, adjustable helmet-compatible hood with laminated visor, two Napoleon chest pockets with watertight zips, pack-friendly handwarmer pockets, watertight two-way pit zips, Fair Trade Certified sewn. 550g (m), 488g (w). www.patagonia.co.nz
Rab Kangri GTX $699.95
Three-layer mountain jacket with 70D Gore-Tex fabric, articulated sleeves, two-way YKK Aquaguard pit zips, one-hand hem and hood adjustment, wired and laminated peak, soft chin guard, fleece-lined collar, generous hand pockets, internal zipped pocket, 80cm back length. 525g (m), 555g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Rab Meridian $599.95
Recycled 40D Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric, hood with one-handed adjustment, stiffened peak, two YKK A-line hand pockets, YKK pit zips, articulated sleeves, adjustable hem and cuffs, reflective branding, stuff
sack included. 340g (m) 305g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Macpac Resolution $599.99
Fully seam-sealed backcountry rain jacket, three-layer Pertex Shield Pro fabric, air-permeable membrane, pack-friendly pockets, map pocket inside storm flap, cargo pockets, handwarmer pockets, adjustable hood. 620g (m), 550g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Marmot EVODry Clouds Rest $599
Marmot’s most sustainable three-layer rain jacket features water-free production, upcycled nylon fabric, permanent molecular-bonded PFC-free DWR treatment that will not wear out, fully seam taped, drawcord hem, Velcro cuffs, two-way centre front zipper, pit zips, articulated elbows. 640g.
Earth Sea Sky Hydrophobia $549
A full-length jacket with three-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 New Zealand. 750g (m); 630g (w). www.earthseasky.co.nz
Macpac Traverse Pertex $529.99
Designed for fast and light hikes, three-layer Pertex Shield Pro fabric, air-permeable membrane, body-mapped panels balance weight with abrasion resistance, zip-away adjustable hood, water-resistant YKK zips, chest pocket, handwarmer pockets. 330g (m), 270g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Marmot Knife Edge $499
Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, fully seam taped, attached adjustable hood, drawcord hem, pack pockets with water resistant zippers, asymmetric cuffs with Velcro closure, Marmot Angel-Wing Movement. 360g (m), 350g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
The North Face Dryzzle Futurelight $450
Packable three-layer jacket with recycled and air-permeable Futurelight fabric, seam-sealed, adjustable hood, laminated storm flap with snap closure at hem, polyurethane chest pocket zip, covered secure-zip hand pockets, adjustable Velcro cuffs, hem drawcord. 340g (m), 300g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Patagonia Calcite $399.99
Packable jacket made from 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric, recycled face fabric with textured backer for next-to-skin comfort, helmet-compatible hood, watertight front zipper, DWR-treated pit zips, chest pocket, handwarmer pockets, drawcord hem, Fair Trade Certified sewn. 411g (m), 371g (w). www.patagonia.co.nz
Marmot Minimalist $449
Compressible jacket with recycled Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, fully seam taped, DWR finish, attached adjustable hood, centre front zipper storm flap, pit zips, articulated elbows, zippered chest and hand pockets, drawcord hem, Velcro cuffs. 400g (m), 390g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Rab Arc $399.95
An all-season tramping and climbing stretch waterproof with Pertex Shield+ three-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). www.outfitters.net.nz
Montane Pac Plus GTX $399
Designed for mountain walking and long-distance hiking, 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus fabric, adjustable roll-away hood, weather-resistant pockets, shaped cuffs, adjustable drawcord hem, stuffs into hand pocket. 283g (m), 254g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Outdoor Research Helium Rain $299.99
Using Pertex Shield fabric with Diamond Fuse Technology which is five-times more tear-resistant. Fully seam-taped, adjustable hood, YKK AquaGuard zips, zip chest pocket doubles as stuff sack, carabiner loop and key clip, elastic drawcord hem. 178g (m), 159g (w). www.bivouac.co.nz
Rab Downpour $259.95
For everyday general use and featuring 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). www.outfitters.net.nz
The North Face Venture 2 $250
Lightweight stashable jacket with recycled and seam-sealed DryVent 2.5-layer fabric, adjustable hood, storm flap with Velcro closure, secure-zip hand pockets, pit zip venting, Velcro cuff tabs, hem drawcord, packs into pocket. 320g (m), 300g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Marmot PreCip Eco $199.95
PFC-free Marmot NanoPro recycled face fabric with dry-touch finish, DriClime-lined chin guard, fully seam taped, attached adjustable roll-away hood, pit zips, pack-friendly pockets, adjustable Velcro cuffs, drawcord hem, Marmot Angel-Wing Movement, stuffs into own pocket. 286g (m), 246g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz