This may be a question you have been asking yourself as you’ve been searching for the perfect rain jacket before winter really kicks in.
There are factors into making a good rain jacket. A good quality rain jacket should keep you dry, but you will also want a jacket that is breathable, comfortable and offers the best protection for your needs.
We’ve put together this guide to take out the guesswork when it comes to buying a good quality raincoat.
Traditional or high tech? A closer look between fabrics.
When you think of a traditional rain jacket, the classic yellow rubber fisherman style coat might come to mind, but technologies in fabrics have upgraded the traditional rain jacket. But which is best, sticking with tradition or investing in high tech fabrics?
Rubberised Rain Jackets.
While there are some jackets made entirely from rubber, most rain jackets are coated in a PVC or PU rubber coating which helps make the fabric water repellent. Rubberised jackets are great at repelling water, perfect for a sudden downpour.
However, there are some drawbacks of rubberised rain jackets, the main one being that it isn’t necessarily breathable. Of course, this is dependent on the brand and design of the jacket, but rubberised jackets don’t allow for internal moisture to escape.
Rubberised jackets are classic and durable, designed to repel water and keep you dry in a sudden downpour.
High Tech Rain Jackets
There are a lot of different fabrics which are high in tech, designed to keep you dry and stop you sweating. Perfect for high-performance outdoor activities.
The technologies behind these fabrics are the driving force which makes them breathable and waterproof. Microscopic pores are built into the fabric allowing to vent our water vapour that builds up when you perform. The microfibers are small enough to keep water out, making it entirely waterproof.
These jackets are often lightweight and easily packable too. Some big names to look out for are Gore-Tex and Pertex eVent.
The type of fabric you decide to go for is entirely dependent on what you plan on doing while wearing the jacket. Rubberised jackets are great for keeping you dry while you do day to day activities, high tech fabrics are ideal for more high-performance activities where you’ll be outdoors for a longer period.
Water-Resistant Vs Waterproof
It is a question that has stumbled across the lips of many people: what’s the difference between water-resistant and waterproof? It is an essential question if you want to find a quality jacket but are unsure of the difference between the two.
Water-resistant jackets generally mean that they can handle light rain or a short period out in heavy rain. They are not designed to keep you entirely dry for long periods out in downpours, they are built for someone walking to town in the rain or short periods of travel.
Coats that are water-resistant do not have taped seams so water can get through the jacket at weak points. Over time the water-resistant coating can wear, therefore a good way to see that your water-resistant coat is effective is if the water beads on the fabric.
Water-resistant jackets are great for everyday use, perfect for short trips out in light rain.
Waterproof jackets are designed to keep you dry no matter how hard the rain is. They are versatile for being out in the elements for long periods of time and are more suited for harsher weathers.
The fully taped seams ensure that water cannot enter on weak points, ensuring that you stay dry all over. The fabric is also treated with DWR (durable water repellent) which ensures that water is repelled across the garment.
Waterproof jackets are ideal for extensive outdoor activities, perfect to keep you dry no matter the weather.
What do layers mean?
When investing in a rain jacket you will probably come across terms such as 2-ply, 2.5ply or even 3-ply. In a broad term, these refer to the layers of fabric of the garment, one layer generally being the waterproof or water-resistant covering and the others being a mix of fabrics.
This is the weakest of the layers and offers the least amount of water resistance. Made with a layer of polyurethane or similar water repelling coating, and a layer of tightly woven face fabric. A mesh lining is loosely attached to stop the rubbery feel of the material on the skin.
This type of coat is great as a casual rain jacket around town or downhill skiing.
Made using similar materials as the 2-ply but the added half-ply is what makes the difference and trips people up. This half layer is applied in a dot or grid pattern inside of the jacket. This acts like a lining by keeping the jacket’s inner surface off the skin. This key difference makes these jackets lighter than the 2-ply.
This type of coat is great for travelling or for outdoor activities such as running or cycling.
This type of layering offers the greatest protection from wind and rain. Generally, they are fitted with a more breathable waterproof membrane which can be sandwiched between a face fabric and an inner fabric. These three components are then either bonded or laminated to feel like a single piece.
This type of coat is great for long outdoor activities such as hiking or skiing.
The Finer Details
All rain jackets come with a varying of different styles and attachments, they can determine the make or break of a jacket. But what details do you want to look out for when you come to choose the best jacket for you?
A term that you may have already heard but what exactly do taped seams mean?
Taped seams are a material applied to the inside of the garment along the stitching. Designed to stop water penetrating through the stitched holes of the material, it can be essential in making a jacket waterproof.
Watch out for terminology, critically taped seams are seams which have been taped in certain areas, such as the hood, neck, or shoulders. While important areas are protected other areas such as arms are not, which means that you could get damp from prolonged exposure to the rain.
Welded seams are when two pieces of material are fused together with heat and pressure. It melds the two pieces together so that there are no holes from stitching. This type of taped seams works best as there is no way water can seep through.
An essential to any rain jacket and one you might see as a given to offering the best protection. But not all hoods are designed the same, there are some that offer better protection than others.
The main thing to look out for in a hood is whether it fits entirely over your head and ears. You want to be completely covered and protected, so a hood that falls short of this is unsuitable. If you find a hood with good coverage, make sure it has adjustable drawstrings, this allows you to customise the fit.
Some extra features on the hood can include peaked hoods, these types of hoods are great for keeping the rain off your face. Acting almost like a baseball cap, it gives you that extra bit of coverage.
Helmet compatible hoods are perfect if you plan on climbing. These hoods have adjustable drawstrings around the crown of the hood, ideal to reduce hood volume and secure the hood to your helmet.
Rain jackets that offer manual ventilation are ideal if you are doing vigorous activities, giving you complete control over how you want your jacket ventilated.
There are a few places where ventilation can be added to the jacket. Vented pits sit in the armpit, allowing manual ventilation for those active wearers. Great for preventing sweat but concealed to keep you protected from the rain. Another feature are back flaps are great at preventing moisture from staying within the garment.
Mesh can be used across a wide variety of jackets, even some of the cheaper options. Mesh panels are used in key areas of a jacket which may need ventilation. In cheaper options you might find mesh in the pockets, these can act as a form of ventilation to the garment.
A sign of a quality jacket is whether it has enough pockets, in the right places, for your needs.
Pockets in jackets are crucial, perfect for storing your personal items and in a handy place for you to grab them when you need them. If you’re into climbing or mountaineering, rain jackets specifically designed for the sport tend to have chest pockets on the torso so not to create bulk where the harness might sit.
In other non-technical jackets, pockets are usually positioned central to the body, making it convenient and within easy reach of the opposite hand without difficulty. Pockets with zips might be engineered to open and close easily with just the one hand.
Essential to make the jacket fit perfectly to your body and to provide waterproof coverage.
Drawcords are designed to improve the fit of the jacket and eliminate dead space, ensuring that your body is well covered encase of a sudden storm. Great for making the fit more personal to you.
Hem drawcords allow the user to cinch the bottom of the jacket in, this can be great for heat retention during those colder months and breezier conditions.
Ensuring that water stays out of your jacket no matter what the activity.
There are varying options for cuffs on a rain jacket, especially if it is a jacket designed for performance. If you have a lightweight packable jacket, then elasticated or narrow cuffs would be perfect to save on weight and bulk when packed away.
If you’re wanting a more specialty jacket, then adjustable cuffs which can be opened and closed are ideal. They will usually be wider too, but you get to customise the width with drawcords. Perfect for ventilation as well.
Angled cuffs are ideal as they maintain coverage over your arm. Additionally, these cuffs provide an ease of movement if you extend your arms, ensuring that they will remain covered.
Choosing the Right Rain Jacket
The main question you must ask yourself now is: what do I intend on doing while wearing a rain jacket?
If you want a jacket for keeping you dry while climbing mountains or trekking in the countryside, you’d want a more performance conscious brand which offers the features we’ve highlighted above. If you want a rain jacket just for popping into town or during a run, then a lighter jacket that you can easily pack away might be the better option.
If the performance rain jacket is what you need, we’d recommend some staple pieces from And Wander. High tech jackets that keep you dry no matter how long the hike is.
Perhaps you just need a jacket for short trips out? Then we’d recommend you check out Rains, perfect for casual trips out and features some of our highlights from the guide.
Or you can explore our entire range of jackets here.
If you're in the market for an insulated jacket, check out our Guide to Insulated Jackets here.