Time-Saver Guide to Choosing a Waterproof Jacket

Posted by Mark Richardson on Oct 16, 2023

  • A Waterproof jacket that will cope with most conditions will have a Hydrostatic Head of 20,000mm and an MVTR (breathability) of 20,000g/m2. In both cases higher is better.
  • 2 and 2.5 layer jackets are less durable than 3 layer jackets but tend to be lighter in overall weight and more packable. 2 and 2.5 layer can sometimes feel a bit clammy next to the skin because of the lack of an inner bonded fabric, something 3 layer fabrics don’t suffer from.
  • All fabrics from reputable brands are decent and usually quote Hydrostatic Head and MVTR so you can have confidence in their performance, see below for a roundup.
  • Gore-Tex is still the most popular and if you want a Gore-Tex jacket go for 3 Layer Gore-Tex ACTIVE or 2 Layer Gore-tex PACLITE PLUS.

Key Features:

  • Hood – helmet compatible is OK for general use if it has good adjustment
  • Hood – make sure you can cinch it round the head so that it moves with you as you turn your head.
  • Pit Zips – Love them or hate them they can be used to effectively ventilate the jacket keeping you drier inside, and they let surprisingly little water in.
  • Pockets – some pockets will be unusable while wearing a hip belt
  • Pockets – All pockets add layers of fabric between you and the outside hampering breathability, that’s why some are mesh.
  • Pockets – all pockets add to the weight of your jacket, only get the ones you want.

Fabric Roundup:

  • Gore-Tex – The market leader, Gore don’t generally quote performance stats for their fabrics, preferring to recommend the right fabric by activity.
  • Pertex Shield – highly respected, commercially available, comparable performance to Gore-Tex. Generally 20k/20k (HH/MVTR).
  • RAB Proflex – Feels very soft like a softshell. 10k hydrostatic head but a massive 35k breathability – intended for runners and high energy activity.
  • Outdoor Research – Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse – Improved Durability version of Pertex Shield – 20k/20k
  • Patagonia H2No – Patagonia do not quote any performance figures for their H2No fabrics but it generally has a good reputation.
  • OMM – Point Zero H2O – 10k/10k, super lightweight 2.5 layer fabric

“I want a reliable jacket for mountain walking and backpacking”

  • Go for at least 20k HH and 20k MVTR, 3 layer, Gore-Tex Active or Pertex Shield

“I’m a backpacker who hikes fast and maintains a high activity level even when going uphill”

  • Look for higher MVTR rates than 20k. 3 Layer for durability, 2.5 Layer if you want the lightest.

“I’m an ultralight backpacker, going out for 2-4 days and do the occasional Mountain Marathon”

  • Look for highest MVTR, superlight fabrics, probably 2.5Layer, Gore-Tex Paclite Plus or RAB’s Proflex would be good choices

For a more in depth discussion go to our full page on this subject: Choosing a Waterproof Jacket 

Our ‘Time Saver Guides’ aim to give you the benefit of our knowledge and experience in a concise format, some of what we include is our opinion because presenting all sides of an argument takes time.

Mark Richardson

Mark was the founder of Ultralight Outdoor Gear back in 2006 and has completed long distance backpacking routes in some of the remotest parts of the world. His favourite hikes have been Torres del Paine (full circuit), the John Muir trail and the Markha Valley trail (Ladakh, India). Although semi-retired Mark has not lost any enthusiasm for minimalist backpacking and is tackling Scotland’s Munros choosing multi-day backpacking routes over the more usual guide book excursions.

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