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 jackets of the past were either ineffective or 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.
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.
What to look for in a waterproof jacket?
Most 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 its 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 vapour 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 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 9 best waterproof jackets you can buy today
Gore C5 Gore-Tex Shakedry 1985 Jacket
The ultimate wet weather jacket from the biggest name in waterproof jackets
Pockets: 1 | Colours: 2 | Fit: Form fit | Price: £250.00 / $299.99
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 Idro 2 Jacket
As lightweight as they come, the Idro 2 is the perfect ‘just in case’ packable jacket
Pockets: 0 | Colours: 1 | Fit: Race fit | Price: £260.00 / $299.00 / AU$449.99
Castelli saw the potential of Gore’s new Shakedry material and have licensed it so they can produce a jacket of their own from the now legendary wet weather material.
The Idro 2 is an extremely stripped back minimalistic jacket which tips the scales at a feathery 107g. Likely to be one of the smallest Gore-Tex jackets available, it can be carried on every ride, just in case, whilst still giving market-leading protection.
The minimalistic approach means there are no pockets or adjustment other than the YKK® Vislon® waterproof zipper. A tall collar, elasticated drop tail and anatomical cuffs help maintain a close yet comfortable weatherproof fit.
DHB Aeron Tempo Waterproof 2 Jacket
Waterproof and lightweight, DHB yet again show price point needn’t limit performance
Pockets: 1 | Colours: 4 | Fit: Performance | Price: £100.00 / $127.40 / AU$189.90
The DHB Aaron Tempo punches above its price point by boasting an impressive 30,000mm waterproof rating. This is balanced with a good level of breathability which is bolstered by underarm vents that help reduce heat and moisture build-up while riding.
The jacket offers a nice amount of stretch and has an unrestrictive performance fit with a generous drop tail to protect from wheel-spray. Waist and cuffs are elasticated plus the collar is fleece-lined stopping any unpleasant drafts. A large rear pocket with a storm flap gives some storage and features reflective detailing.
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Gore-Tex Jacket
Shakedry performance paired with the voguish styling of Rapha
Pockets: 0 | Colours: 1 | Fit: Race | Price: £220.00 / $295.00 / AU$385.00
Not ones to miss a trick, Rapha have joined the Gore-Tex Shakedry crowd with their Pro Team Lightweight jacket. Unmistakably Rapha by design, the Pro Team features the classic white armband and pro team strip styling.
Despite the Shakedry membrane having little in the way of stretching qualities, Rapha has achieved a comfortable race fit. The half elasticated cuffs are designed to play well with gloves and a raised collar features a sweat-wicking lining. A two-way waterproof AquaGuard zip has a reinforced zip guard to protect your bib shorts. Inside is a small mesh pocket that the jacket can be stuffed into for storage.
Rapha Women’s Core Rain II Jacket
Rapha Women’s Core Rain II is a lightweight packable jacket that is basic yet functional
Pockets: 0 | Colours: 4 | Fit: Regular | Price: £100.00 / $135.00 / AU$175.00
On the other end of Rapha’s jacket range is the keenly priced Core Rain II Jacket. Constructed from waterproof nylon 2.5 layer fabric and nylon 3 layer fabric for the sleeves, the Core Women's Rain II jacket weighs in at 124g (size small) and is easily pocketable. Under the arms are 6 laser-cut holes that help with ventilation. Fit is relaxed to offer comfort on long rides and will accommodate multiple layers, such as base layers and jerseys underneath if required.
An off-centre YKK AquaGuard water-resistant zip with zip garage reduces penetrating draughts and sits comfortably against the neck. Inner elastane cuffs are a nice touch to assure there is no water ingress and fit snuggly with gloves.
Altura Firestorm Jacket
Subtle by day, visible by night. The Altura Firestorm is a great jacket for winter riding and commuting
Pockets: 1 | Colours: 4 | Fit: Semi-fitted | Price: £79.99 / €100.00
Altura has thought about the conditions that are frequently experienced during winter training rides and commuting. By adding all-over reflective detailing, the Firestorm should give superb 360º visibility to keep you safe and visible when the light fades and the weather turns gloomy.
The Firestorm is waterproof with taped seams and features a semi-fitted design that finishes low on the front of the hips. Shaped cuffs are a nice touch as is the rear pocket which the jacket can pack into when not in use.
Endura Pro SL Shell II Jacket
Endura have combined their excellent ExoShell40 waterproof material with some smart design features
Pockets: 1 plus jersey pocket access zip | Colours: 3 | Fit: Slim | Price: £164.00 / $224.99
As used by Movistar, the Endura Pro SL Shell II jacket is made from Endura’s ExoShell40 material which achieves some impressive figures for waterproofness and breathability.
Endura has constructed the Pro SL Shell II using multi panelling with strategically positioned stretch panels to create a pre-shaped close fit. There is a small external gel pocket and a right-hand vertical zip that gives full access to items stored in jersey pockets. Detailing includes a raised collar to add extra neck protection and reflective panels to keep you visible.
Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket
The Assos RS Equipe brings a durable and feature-packed alternative to Shakedry
Pockets: Access to jersey pockets | Colours: 2 | Fit: Race | Price: £265.00 / $349.00 / AU$507.00
While other brands are jumping on the Shakedry train, Assos have chosen to develop their own materials to use for the premium RS Equipe jacket. Schloss Tex is a 3 layer construction made up of a DWR (durable water repellent) layer that protects the inner hydrophobic membrane.
While pack size and beading levels might not compete with Gore’s material, Schloss Tex does offer more durability as well as some stretch to aid fit. By using body-mapping, Assos has created a closer fitting jacket, improving aerodynamics without restricting movement.
Taking the RS Equipe on and off is easy thanks to the elasticated cuffs and good-sized 2-way waterproof zipper. On the rear are two vents that double as access to your jersey pockets.
Northwave Rainskin Jacket
Northwave Rainskin promises an aero advantage when the weather is against you
Pockets: 0 | Colours: 1 | Fit: Race | Price: £99.99
Northwave boldly claims their Rainskin jacket is the most aero waterproof jacket available. While this is a claim that can’t be verified without access to a wind tunnel it’s an intriguing claim nonetheless. Northwave base this on the use of a 2.5 layer fabric that has 4-way stretch properties to hug the body and eliminate any flapping material.
The fabric is made up of a windproof H20 Flex membrane with a 10,000mm waterproof rating and a P4Dry™ S.Café® lining that transfers sweat from the body to reduce condensation forming inside the jacket. Moisture management and breathability are further helped by rear vents.