For most riders, the chance of rain is an all-too-likely occurrence. Having a waterproof cycling jacket to hand is essential when the weather is changeable. A waterproof layer allows you to go out and ride, confident that you can continue cycling no matter what the weather decides to do. While the best winter cycling jackets might offer more material for greater warmth, this can often be bulky. Developments in materials have meant that a resilient waterproof layer is now small enough to be stuffed in a jersey pocket for emergencies or when not in use, meaning they're useful year-round, rather than just your winter cycling endeavors.
A good waterproof layer will not only keep you dry but also create an effective barrier from wind chill. In wet conditions, the effects are multiplied and while you may ride through a storm without getting cooled, the resulting cooling effect of wet clothing will quickly reduce body temperature which can cause issues even on short rides.
We’ve rounded up the best waterproof cycling jackets, but first here are a few things you should consider before choosing.
Most waterproof cycling jackets are constructed from a multi-layer laminate, featuring taped seams and waterproof zips to stop water ingress. The multiple layers usually consist of a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coated face fabric which protects a hydrophobic membrane underneath and is finished with a liner for comfort. Some manufacturers such as Gore have been able to develop a resilient membrane that no longer requires the outer layer.
This improves waterproofness as there is no outer layer to become saturated while significantly reducing weight and pack size. There are disadvantages as these membranes are still relatively fragile and it's recommended to avoid abrasions (by wearing a backpack for example).
Jackets will often have a waterproof rating, this is measured by placing a 1”x1” tube over the material and filling it with water. The rating is based on the height of the water before it starts leaking through the material. To be considered waterproof a jacket must achieve a rating of at least 1,500mm, however, for reliable protection in prolonged rain look for ratings of 10,000mm and above.
In the past, packable waterproof layers might have kept the rain out but would suffer breathability issues resulting in you being soaked in your own sweat instead. Technology has greatly improved and with the development of breathable hydrophobic materials, jackets can wick away moisture from within while keeping out rain more effectively.
The hydrophobic membranes are covered in pores, by forcing the water to bead on the face of the materials they don’t soak through while the vapor from perspiration inside can still escape.
Moisture and temperature management can be further improved with strategically placed vents to offer some additional airflow. These will usually be positioned under the arms or under storm flaps on the rear of the jacket.
While some waterproof cycling jackets are simply a shell designed to pack away as small as possible, others will have added features built-in. It’s worth considering what extra features you need, as these details will often increase cost and reduce packability.
Pockets are useful for keeping items close to hand rather than needing to dig around under layers to find jersey pockets. Some manufacturers get around this by using zipped access or well-placed vents to make jersey pockets accessible. Some jackets will come with integrated storage pouches making packing and storing the jacket when it isn’t worn neater and providing protection from damage. Elasticated openings, drawcords, and fleece lining are added around the wrist cuffs, hems, and collars to reduce drafts, hold the material in place and increase comfort against the skin.
The ultimate wet weather jacket
If you are wondering why 1985, well that's a tribute to when Gore released the first revolutionary Gore-Tex jacket and a reminder they have been at the top of the outdoor jacket game for a long time.
Gore’s Shakedry technology is their most advanced material yet and has quickly become the gold standard for wet weather activities. Shakedry uses a single layer of Gore-Tex technical membrane which forces water to bead and roll off whilst allowing any humidity on the inside to escape. As the water doesn’t soak into the jacket there is no chilling effect, making this a great windproof layer even in wet weather. Constructed from a single layer of Shakedry membrane paired with a thin liner, the resulting jacket is very light and packs away easily.
Gore has specced the C5 Shakedry 1985 with a reinforced two-way zipper and an ergonomically shaped collar with adjustable velcro for a perfect fit. The back features reflective detailing and a small rear zipped pocket that doubles as a storage sack for the jacket to fold away into.
Castelli’s famous Gabba jersey with the versatility of a full jacket
Updated for winter 2019/2020, the Perfetto ROS Convertible Jacket is essentially Castelli’s much loved Gabba jersey/jacket (which had its breakout moment in the snow at the 2013-Milan San Remo) with removable half sleeves.
The addition of taped seams and updated fabrics bring new levels of waterproofness and comfort, without increasing the jacket’s bulk – so it’s still cut for racing. If you want to layer up underneath it, consider sizing up.
Castelli recommends a wide temperature range of 39 to 60°F, so while this jacket won’t be suitable for the coldest winter days, it might be the most versatile jacket on this list.
WorldTour-proven jacket for training and racing in foul conditions
Designed for training and racing in cold and wet conditions, the Fiandre Pro Jacket was developed in collaboration with WorldTour riders such as Daniel Oss of Bora-Hansgrohe.
It’s made from the super stretchy, wind and waterproof Polartec NeoShell fabric – which Polartec claims is the world’s most breathable waterproof fabric technology – and features fully taped seams, plus a waterproof zipper for even greater protection from the elements.
As the ‘Pro’ moniker suggests, the cut is designed for the lithe bodies of professional cyclists, and it fits best when riding in a racy position. It’s definitely one you want to consider sizing up if you’re simply a normal person or just want to be able to layer up underneath.
Waterproof, warming and well-priced
The Arsuxedo Winter Warm Up jacket takes a lot of the technologies you’d expect to find in high-end winter jackets and wraps them up into a neat and budget-friendly package.
Its three-layer construction consists of an outer windbreaker surface that beads moisture and prevents stains from forming. Below this is a waterproof membrane that is also breathable to prevent that ‘boil in the bag’ feeling that no one enjoys while cycling, and then finally the innermost lining is a soft-to-the-touch fleece to keep you warm.
Available in 7 colors, four of which are particularly eye-catching, plus reflective detailing on the back, this jacket’s sure to keep you visible as well as warm. The stretch inserts and long cuffs provide a cycling-specific fit that keeps you covered against the elements, while the two rear pockets (one zippered) can stash your essentials.
Adjustable fit to keep the rain sealed out
This waterproof jacket from Showers Pass is constructed from three layers of waterproof and breathable Elite high-performance fabric blended with Rip-Stop Nylon for durability. The outer layer is DWR treated for long-lasting performance, while the breathable membrane allows heat to escape. There are also vents along the side of the jackets, as well as a large vent on the back. The front of the jacket is finished with a windproof outer layer to keep the cold air and rain out, while the taped seams and YKK AquaGuard Vislon zippers help seal everything inside away from the wet.
One of the best things about this jacket is the adjustable and personalized fit. There’s a cinch cord at the collar, as well as a double toggle cinch chord at the hem, which allows you to tighten as needed to keep the rain out. It also features a chest pocket with an audio port, as well as 360 degrees of reflective detailing to help you stay visible in low-light conditions.
A whopping 38 color options to match with your kit
For some, color coordination is everything, which is why many will love the fact that the Columbia Watertight II Rain Jacket comes in a massive array of 38 color options. Stock up on all the colors that will match your favorite kit so you’re always dressed to kill.
Constructed from a lightweight nylon shell and polyester lining, this machine-washable waterproof jacket is designed to withstand anything from drizzle to a downpour at a moment’s notice. An abrasion-resistant chin guard helps you stay comfortable while zipping yourself up tight against the elements, while two zippered side pockets keep your valuables safe.
Packs down into its own front pocket
This packable waterproof jacket from Baleaf is lightweight, easy to clean, and packs into its own pocket for convenient portability and storage. The relaxed fit is perfect if you want to layer up underneath, while the elasticated cuffs and drawstring hem helps to seal you away from the rain. Storage comes in the form of two zippered side pockets to keep your valuables secure, as well as a 7-inch wide back pocket, into which the entire jacket can be packed.
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