A woman in a bright orange jacket smiles slightly as she zips it up to the top, forest behind in the background

Waterproof Jacket Buying Guide

Your Guide to Finding the Perfect Waterproof Jacket

Whether you're taking to the trails, hitting the crag, or venturing high into the mountains, a waterproof jacket is a year-round essential for any adventure. At Cotswold Outdoor, we pride ourselves on having the perfect waterproof jacket whatever the occasion. Whether you're climbing the crag, walking the Appalachian trail, or heading out for that early morning dog walk - here's our guide to all the tech you might come across to help you choose the right one for you.

What is a Waterproof Jacket for?

The answer may seem obvious, and although the main function of a waterproof jacket or waterproof trousers is to keep you dry, it should also be doing more than that. Your waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers should also be breathable, allowing sweat vapour to escape, so you stay dry from the inside and should help you regulate your temperature to help you stay comfortable throughout your adventure.

What is a Waterproof Jacket used for?

Many waterproof jackets are designed and constructed with a particular activity or outdoor pursuit in mind.


  • For high-intensity activities like running, climbing, or cycling, you should choose a jacket that prioritises breathability, helping to keep you comfortable by allowing all the extra heat to escape.


  • For more technical outdoor sports such as mountaineering or ski touring, you should choose a waterproof jacket that balances durability, waterproofness, and breathability. These use hardwearing waterproof fabrics that may feel stiffer on the body but can stand up to the demands of the mountains, such as abrasive rocks or carrying a heavy rucksack.


Usually, most people are looking for a jacket that provides everyday protection for hikes, dog walks, and travel - and these jackets tend to sit between these two extremes. Luckily, the selection for these jackets is wide - covering a range of brands, prices, fits and colours, with some lighter in weight and others strong and more durable, depending on your preference.

A woman in a bright orange jacket smiles slightly as she zips it up to the top, forest behind in the background

What is Waterproof Construction?

Waterproof fabrics have different constructions, which are denoted as “layers”. Waterproof jackets are often 2-layer, 2.5-layer, or 3-layer.

2-Layer - The Everyday Jacket

The most basic construction, 2-layers feature an outer “face” fabric with a waterproof membrane bonded to it, with an additional non-bonded mesh lining usually added to protect the fragile inner layer. These are usually less technical and more everyday jackets.

2.5-Layer - The Agile Lightweight Hiker

2.5-Layer waterproof jackets feature an outer fabric bonded to a waterproof membrane. But, instead of a mesh layer to protect the waterproofing, a coating or print is applied to it, which is far better at protecting the waterproof layer and offers additional weather protection. These jackets are often lighter and more packable than 3-layer construction, but aren’t as durable and are less suited to mountain environments, so choose one of these if you’re after an everyday, packable waterproof to wear on the trails and keep in your pack for if the weather turns.

3-Layer - The Rugged Mountain Professional

In a 3-layer construction, the waterproof technology is sandwiched between a face and inner fabric, usually woven or knitted. These jackets are extra durable and suited to mountain conditions but can be heavier and less packable than 2-layer and 2.5-layer. If you’re looking for one waterproof coat that can do it all, go for a 3-layer.

Waterproof Fabrics and Materials:

Waterproof fabrics are resistant to water penetration. Waterproof coats and trousers use a membrane or coating that acts as a barrier to prevent moisture from permeating - to keep you dry and comfortable all day.


Breathable fabrics allow sweat in the form of water vapour to escape from the inside of the fabric to the outside. Whilst it is common for a fabric to be waterproof and breathable, there are different variations. Some fabrics may prioritise particular properties over others, for instance, being more waterproof, breathable, or mobile. It's essential you get the right level of breathability and water resistance to ensure you stay comfortable for your pursuit.

A woman in a bright orange jacket smiles slightly as she zips it up to the top, forest behind in the background

Should I Buy a Gore-Tex® Jacket?

GORE-TEX® is one of the best-known waterproof membrane technologies on the market and continues to be a top choice for many brands thanks to its durability and reliability.


However, some brands are so confident in alternatives that they choose not to use GORE-TEX® at all, whilst others use it in some items and use their membranes in others. Other waterproof fabrics you might come across include DryVent, Pertex Shield, or e-Vent. We recommend considering other features of the jackets first if you're choosing between a GORE-TEX® jacket and a non-GORE-TEX® one, then consider whether the type of technology will make a difference to your adventures.


If you're seeking a more eco-conscious alternative, Patagonia are using New GORE-TEX fabrics with ePE membrane or Expanded Polyethylene – a revolutionary material setting a new standard of durable, waterproof, windproof, and breathable protection. Learn more here.

Waterproof and Breathability Ratings Explained:

Waterproof ratings and breathability ratings measure the level of waterproofing and breathability of a fabric used on a product. The higher the waterproof rating, the more waterproof the material will be. Likewise, the higher the breathability rating, the more the fabric will release moisture and vapour, which allows the body to regulate temperature and minimise sweating.

Waterproof Ratings

• 5,000mm: This is the minimum rating to be called rainproof. Whilst water resistant, it won’t stand up to much more than a very light rain shower or drizzle.

• 10,000mm – 15,000mm: Will withstand most downpours and heavy snow, but will eventually soak through over time if subjected to pressure and heavy, sustained rain.

 20,000mm and up: This is the rating you should look for if you plan to be out all day, in all conditions, whilst carrying a heavy load.

Breathability Ratings

• 5,000 – 10,000g/m²: Fine for urban travel or camping in the rain, but will get a bit clammy during high-intensity walking or climbing.

 10,000 – 15,000g/m²: Suited for adventurous travel or low-level walking, but running or walks with tough uphill ascents might prove too much.

 15,000 – 20,000g/m² and up: An extended trip to the hills, trekking in warm climates, or otherwise working hard and heavily perspiring.

A woman in a bright orange jacket smiles slightly as she zips it up to the top, forest behind in the background

What Waterproof Features Should I Look For?

A Comfortable Fit

How a jacket should fit is entirely subjective. Put simply, you should choose the one you are comfortable wearing. Some like a jacket long enough to cover the waistband, whereas others prefer it short and tailored. However, if you’re buying a waterproof coat for a specific activity, there are a few things to consider when trying it on. With climbing, for example, are the pockets high enough to be clear of your harness, or can you still see your feet? Or, if you want it for running, is it tailored to sit close to the body and reduce drag?


More general considerations include: do the sleeves cover your wrists as you move your arms around? Is the material too tight across the shoulders and underarms? Remember, you may be wearing the jacket in different temperatures, so consider the number of layers underneath and choose the fit accordingly.

Taped Seams

Taped seams involve using a heat application of thin waterproof tape to cover the tiny holes made by the needle in the sewing process to prevent leaking. Jackets can be either 'fully taped' or 'critically taped' – the difference is that a fully taped garment has every seam taped, while a critically taped one has tape only on high-exposure areas like the neck, shoulders, and chest. No matter how waterproof or breathable the fabric on your jacket - without adequate seam sealing - you will unfortunately end up wet.


Some waterproof jackets use a 'hydro-seal zip', a rubber mechanism that binds shut when closed. Others use a 'storm baffle', a material that folds over the zip. Both methods are effective; a hydro-seal zip is lighter and less bulky, while a storm baffle tends to be more durable.


Some jackets also have pit zips that you can zip open under your arms if you get too hot. All jackets should be breathable, but this is an ideal addition to your jacket for added comfort if you know you are prone to overheating. 


A hood’s function is simple: protect your head and face from the elements. A well-designed hood can make even the heaviest rainstorm feel like a light shower.


Some hoods feature a wired peak, which enables you to ‘customise’ the fit and shape of your hood. Other jackets offer large helmet-compatible hoods, which are useful if you plan to wear your jacket for climbing or cycling.


When putting the hood up, ensure it firmly fastens around your head and face without obstructing your vision, that the peak forms a protective shield for your eyes, and that it is easy to turn your head without limiting your movements.

Pull cords and Velcro

Waterproof jackets should have good quality drawcord or Velcro seals at the head and wrists to effectively keep water out. Velcro tabs should be easily accessed and sealed, and elastic pull cords should be intuitively placed. 

A woman in a bright orange jacket smiles slightly as she zips it up to the top, forest behind in the background

To explore even more waterproof jackets, why not check out our fantastic men's waterproof and women's waterproof collections?


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