A waterproof jacket should be carried at all times when tramping. Here’s how to choose the jacket that best suits your needs and budget, 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. They are also more durable, waterproof and 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 lighter and more packable.
There will be multiple exterior and interior pockets. The ‘hand warmer’ pockets, used to shelter hands from wind and rain, should be positioned so they can be accessed while wearing a pack or harness. They are usually quite large and it’s useful if one of the pockets can hold a map. A chest pocket with a vertical opening can also provide unhindered access to map, compass or GPS.
Long thigh-length designs are heavier and take up more room in your pack, but they provide better protection and a ‘tail’ to sit on. Lighter waist-length jackets often have stretch panels in key areas to prevent the hem from lifting.
Water-resistant zips are common and should be protected by an external and/or internal storm flap. Zip sliders tuck into a ‘garage’ to prevent rain from entering through the top of the zip.
The cuff can be tightened to help trap warmth and prevent water running up the sleeve when arms are raised. Ensure the cuff covers your baselayers to prevent rainwater wicking upward.
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 (underarm openings), side vents and mesh-lined pockets.
Many hoods are large enough to accommodate a helmet, which is why they also come with volume adjustment drawcords or Velcro tabs. Ensure the stiffened brim does not limit visibility and that once tightened, the hood moves with your head.
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. The most common is 20,000mm.
- Breathability: The amount of water vapour (in grams) that can pass through asquare metre of fabric during a 24-hour period. e.g. 20,000g/m2.
- Air permeability: Only found on recent-model jackets that use fabric constructed in a technique known as nanospinning. These garments are the most breathable.
Outdoor Research Helium AscentShell $699.99
AscentShell and Pertex Diamond Fuse 3-layer fabric, seam-sealed, helmet-compatible hood with volume-reducing HoodLock, stretch underarm panels, external and internal chest pockets, pack-friendly hand pockets, YKK Aquaguard zippers, elastic drawcord hem, bluesign approved. 326g (m), 298g (w). www.bivouac.co.nz
Rab Kangri GTX Jacket $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 peak, soft chin guard, fleece-lined collar, generous hand pockets, internal zipped pocket, 78cm back length. 524g (m), 555g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Earth Sea Sky Hydrophobia $649
Full-length jacket with 3-layer Entrant fabric, seam-sealed, waist drawcord, double storm flap zip with domes, double-ended front zip, underarm gusset, adjustable hood with stiffened visor, external map pocket, top and side entry hand pockets, NZ made. 750g (m); 630g (w). www.earthseasky.co.nz
Marmot Bantamweight $649
Marmot’s lightest fully featured rain jacket, Pertex Shield fabric with stretch, DWR finish, underarm ventilation holes, seam-taped, internal and external pockets, adjustable hood and hem, stuffs into pocket. 140g (m), 142g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Macpac Resolution $599.99
Long length, 3-layer Pertex Shield Pro fabric, seam-sealed, air-permeable membrane for breathability, external chest pocket with YKK AquaGuard zip, map pocket, adjustable hood, double storm flaps, cargo pockets, two hand pockets, relaxed fit. 620g (m), 550g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Cactus Outdoor Rain Jacket $799
Long length, durable 3-layer waterproof fabric, seam-sealed, two chest and hand pockets, YKK zips, velcro adjustable hood and cuffs, drawcords at hem and waist, single yoke to minimise seams, made in New Zealand. 970g (unisex). www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz
The North Face Dryzzle Futurelight $500
Three-layer air-permeable Futurelight fabric, adjustable three-piece hood, reverse-coil full-length centre front zip, internal chest pocket, reverse-entry zipped hand pockets, internal stow bag, hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs, hem drawcord. 433g (m), 300g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Marmot Minimalist $449
Recycled Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, seam-sealed, 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
Macpac Tempo $499.99
Minimalist shell with Pertex Shield Air fabric, air-permeable membrane for breathability, seam-sealed, adjustable roll-away hood, internal storm flap, through-zip ventilation, single point hem drawcord, zipped chest pocket, packs into pocket. 220g (m), 200g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Macpac Copland $429.99
Long length, 3-layer Pertex Shield fabric, seam-sealed, articulated sleeves, double storm flap on main zip, adjustable hood, two cargo pockets, two hand pockets, chest pocket, YKK AquaGuard zips. 640g (m), 570g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Marmot Knife Edge $499
Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, seam-sealed, 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
Rab Arc Eco Jacket $399.95
Pertex Shield Revolve recycled and recyclable 3-layer fabric, helmet-compatible hood, YKK AquaGuard front zip with internal storm flap, pit-zips, YKK AquaGuard A-line chest pockets, adjustable drawcord hem and anti-snag hook and loop adjustable cuffs. 428g (m), 375g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Montane Pac Plus GTX $399
Gore-Tex Paclite Plus 2.5-layer fabric, adjustable roll-away hood, full-length YKK AquaGuard front zip with internal storm flap, two weather-resistant mesh-lined map-sized pockets, shaped cuffs, adjustable drawcord hem, stuffs into pocket. 283g (m), 254g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Rab Downpour Eco Jacket $299.95
Pertex Shield Revolve recycled and recyclable 2.5-layer fabric, fluorocarbon-free DWR, pit-zips, adjustable hood and cuffs, YKK front zip with external and internal storm flaps, zippered pockets with storm flaps, adjustable drawcord hem, packs into pocket. 320g (m), 280g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Macpac Zephyr $299.99
Seam-sealed 2.5-layer jacket, bluesign certified fabric, fully-adjustable hood with stiffened peak, YKK AquaGuard chest pocket, centre-front storm flap, zipped mesh pockets, internal zipped pocket. 340g (m), 320g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Patagonia Torrent shell 3L $249.99
H2No Performance Standard 3-layer shell, adjustable roll-away hood, microfleece-lined neck, front zipper with external and internal storm flaps, zipper-garage chin guard, zippered hand warmer pockets, pit-zips, adjustable drawcord hem, Fair Trade Certified sewn. 394g (m), 354g (w). www.patagonia.co.nz
The North Face Antora Rain Hoodie $240.00
Seam-sealed DryVent 2-layer shell with a non-PFC DWR, recycled fabric, adjustable three-piece hood, reverse-coil centre front zip, covered zipped hand pockets, elastic-bound cuffs, drawcord hem. Weight unavailable. www.thenorthface.co.nz
Marmot PreCip Eco $199.95
PFC-free Marmot NanoPro recycled face fabric, seam-sealed, adjustable roll-away hood, pit-zips, pack-friendly pockets, adjustable Velcro cuffs, drawcord hem, Marmot Angel-Wing Movement, stuffs into pocket. 286g (m), 246g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz