Buyer’s guide: The best waterproof cycling jackets

What to look for in a waterproof jacket + 13 of the best from £11.99

by David Arthur @davearthur   September 3, 2015  

Poc Essential Rain Jacket Zink Orange - riding

The year-round unpredictability of the UK weather can make dressing for cycling tricky, so whether your typical riding consists of commuting to the office or 100-mile sportives, you need a high quality waterproof jacket in case you get caught in the rain.  

Fabric

The fabric is the most important point to consider when you buy a jacket. Our advice is not to skimp if you want a decent high-quality jacket that is going to provide years of outstanding service. You really do get what you pay for.

Making a waterproof fabric is relatively easy; a bin bag is waterproof. Making a fabric waterproof and breathable, so it lets sweat out, now that is a lot more challenging, but it’s not impossible. With a hard-working cyclist inside a jacket producing a lot of sweat, the fabric needs to let water vapour escape outwards, while stopping the rainwater getting in. Fortunately, water vapour can pass through pores in the fabric that are too small to let water get through as a liquid.

There are all manner of fabrics on the market. Some have a waterproof treatment applied to the actual weave of the fabric (the lightest and most breathable option), some have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) layer that causes water to bead up and roll off, and some have a membrane sandwiched between several layers. Many fabrics use more than one approach. Membrane waterproofs  have a DWR coating that provides the first line of defence against the wet.

It’s also worth considering that many jackets will need to be reproofed regularly to replneishteh DWR. If water isn’t beading off your jacket, and it was when it was new, then it needs reproofing. There's plenty of choice of reproofing products. It's typically a matter of just putting your jacket through the washing machine with this special proofing product added.

Pay close attention to manufacturers' descriptions when buying a jacket. They can claim to be waterproof, water resistant or water repellant. To be considered waterproof, a jacket must be made from a waterproof fabric and have taped seams. Anything else is water resistant, which will hold up to some rain but eventually water will find a way in. Water repellant fabrics use a hydrophobic treatment that reduces the amount of water the fabric absorbs. A water resistant jacket might be okay for short showers, but if you're likely to be out in prolonged heavy rain you want a waterproof jacket.

Taped seams

Fully waterproof jackets will have taped seams to stop water getting in, while some might just have taped seams in key places. Fewer seams provide less opportunity for water to get in, but more panels, and therefore more seams, often lead to improved fit, and better fit leads to greater comfort on the bike. Some manufacturers are now combining different fabrics, some with stretchy panels, to improve fit.

Dropped tails and adjustability

Waterproof jackets regularly have dropped tails, to keep your lower back and bum covered up when you're crouched low over the bike. Some jackets even have a stowable drop tail.

For the same reason, the arms are usually given some extra length so they don’t ride up when you're stretched out on the bike, leaving your wrists exposed. The collar and cuffs are places for rain to get inside so look for a design that is close fitting with elasticated and/or adjustable openings. Drawcords at the hem and neck and Velcro cuffs let you adjust the fit.

Ventilation

Even the best fabrics are not breathable enough to cope with the amount of sweat put out by a cyclist working hard, for example while climbing a hill. A full-length zip obviously provides good ventilation, but if it’s raining heavily you don’t want to be opening it up and letting the water in.

Some jackets therefore have various ventilation options — zips on the sleeves or in the arm pits, for example — to let some of the moist air escape. Extra zips and features like pockets cost more money though and will push the price up, plus they add weight.

Mesh lining

The reason you get sweaty inside a jacket is because your sweat rate exceeds the capability of the jacket to pass the moisture out. For this reason some jackets have a mesh lining that helps remove the moisture and makes it a lot more comfortable and less clingy on bare arms, but all that mesh adds weight and bulk.

Twelve jackets from £20 to £250

Waterproof jackets range from heavy duty, fully featured designs to ultra minimalist emergency jackets. There’s a huge choice, so you can choose the right hacket for your riding situation, whether it's a  jacket for commuting, touring, racing, training or sportives. We've picked 13 of the best that represent the variety of choice and what you can expect to pay. Many of these jackets are offered in both a men and women's cut and different colours too.


B'Twin 500 High Visibility Waterproof Cycling Jacket — £11.99

The B'Twin 500 High Visibility Waterproof Cycling Jacket provides excellent rain protection with a coated membrane material and taped seams plus plenty of reflective details to help you been seen on the commute to work. There are vents and breathability is very good. We reviewed it at £19.99 and were impressed; for its current £12 it's an amazing bargain.

Read our review of the B'Twin 500 jacket
Find a B'Twin dealer


Altura Microlite Showerproof jacket — £27.99

Altura's Microlite Showerproof jacket is designed to be packed down and carried for emergency use. It is a simple, single skin waterproof jacket more suited to light showers than prolonged downpours.

Read our review of the Altura Microlite Showerproof jacket
Find an Altura dealer


Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket — £40

The Proviz Reflect 360's unique feature is that it's entirely made from reflective material. If you spend a lot of time on the roads in the dark it'll certainly get you noticed. The cut of the jacket is more commuter style than race so it's safe to assume that a streetlit urban environment is where the designers expect it to be used most. 

The Reflect 360 is water resistant rather than Proviz claiming any waterproofing ratings but the material keeps out moderate rain for a decent amount of time backed up by taped seams and a storm zip. The rear drops slightly to which also adds protection if you aren't using mudguards.

Read our review of the Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket
Find a Proviz dealer


dhb Cosmo waterproof jacket — £55

Available in gender specific cuts and neutral colours, the DHB Cosmo waterproof jacket is a nifty little shell, compact enough to fit in a jersey pocket. Boasting waterproof and breathability ratings of 20,000mm and 30,000 m2/24, it's a specially crafted polyamide (nylon) fabric with taped seams conceived to resist moderate to heavy downpours.

Read our review of the dhb Cosmo Waterproof Jacket


Showers Pass Pro Tech ST jacket — £65

The Showers Pass Pro Tech ST is a light weight, clear race cape, so that when the heavens open you can stay dry and your club or team kit can still shine through on race day or just on a training ride.

Read our review of the Showers Pass Pro Tech ST jacket
Find a Showers Pass dealer


Vermarc Extreme Rain Jacket — £74.69 

The Vermarc Extreme SPL Rain Jacket is a very light, very thin jacket that manages to pack in a load of technical features at a reasonable price while fitting into a jersey pocket. And it keeps you dry too.

At 209g for a medium size the SPL seems almost too light. The fact that it can scrunch up and be put into a jersey pocket without much fuss might lead you to think that this is not a serious contender for keeping you dry come a UK winter. You'd be wrong.

Read our review of the Vermarc Extreme Rain Jacket
Find a Vermarc dealer


Madison Men's Road Race Apex jacket — £89.99

The Road Race Apex Jacket from Madison is a solidly waterproof jacket that completely prevents water penetration, all while managing to be impressively breathable. The fit and attention to detail is good, and the price reasonable for the level of performance it offers. The black colour won't to be everyone's taste though, but there are lots of reflective details.

Read our review of the Madison Men's Road Race Apex jacket
Find a Madison dealer


Santini Reef rain jacket with short sleeves — £113.49

The Santini Reef is a windproof and water-repellent short sleeve jersey for keeping you dry in drizzly conditions without the need to resort to a full-on waterproof jacket.

Read our review of the Santini Reef
Find a Santini dealer


Sportful Fiandre Norain Jacket — £157.99

Sportful's Fiandre Norain Jacket uses a proprietary fabric with a water repellent technology. The jacket isn't a 100% waterproof top like some of the other jackets here, but keeps a huge amount of the rain off, with a lot more breathability than most out-and-out waterproof jackets, which makes it well suited to a lot of weather conditions.

Read our review of the Sportful Fiandre Norain Jacket


Vulpine Women's Harrington Rain Jacket — £146

The quality of workmanship really shows in Vulpine's kit, which oozes attention to detail in both design and manufacture. The Harrington Jacket is no different; think of it as a high performing all weather guardian in the guise of high quality classic British tailoring. The men's version is just as good.

Read our review of the Vulpine Women's Harrington Rain Jacket
Find a Vulpine dealer


Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 GT AS jacket — £170.95

Gore's Oxygen jacket has been completely overhauled, with the same excellent Active Shell waterproof fabric with a 3D cut, dropped tail, long arms with large reflective cuffs and lots of reflective prints and two big zips at the back for getting at your jersey pockets underneath.

Read our review of the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 GT AS jacket
Find a Gore Bike Wear dealer


Parentini Mossa jersey — £175.00

The Parentini Mossa is a race-fit waterproof and windproof jersey that copes well with the rapidly changing and impossible-to-predict British winter conditions.

The Mossa is actually fully waterproof, not just water resistant. This is achieved with the Windtex Membrane fabric, which comprises two layers sandwiching a membrane, plus a hydrophobic treatment providing water repellency. Water simply beads off the fabric and even on a ride of 2-3 hours in steady rain, the Mossa copes admirably.

Read our review of the Parentini Mossa 


POC Essential Rain Jacket — £174.99

POC's Essential Rain Jacket is pretty much the pinnacle of hi-viz cycling kit thanks to its fit and performance but at £250 is it also the most expensive. The POC is a three-layer waterproof. The outer layer of fabric has been treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to give an added layer of water resistance. Next up is a membrane that keeps water out but has holes small enough to allow sweat out as vapour. Finally you get an internal layer for comfort.

Read our review of the POC Essential Rain Jacket
Find a POC dealer

For even more choice view all our cycling jacket reviews.

5 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

What about Assos rS.sturmPrinz EVO in lolly red? Bloody expensive but what a great investment (I got it for £200 from bike-discount in Germany, retails at £349)! Waterproof, very in-your-face hi-viz and no boil in the bag effect (unlike my Rapha race cape).
The fabric is the most important point to consider when you buy a jacket. Our advice is not to skimp if you want a decent high-quality jacket that is going to provide years of outstanding service. You really do get what you pay for.

posted by steviemarco [40 posts]
3rd September 2015 - 15:21

0 Likes

No mention of the Parentini Mossa either?

posted by RichmondDenton [12 posts]
3rd September 2015 - 15:35

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tried and tested the Mossa since last winter, Fantastic piece of kit, fully waterproof, never sweat in it,light, machine washable,stretch...simply best kit i had.

posted by Vinerman [45 posts]
4th September 2015 - 7:01

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I have owned expensive ones. And tbh the two i bought for a fiver off ebay China are just as good, breathable, flat seams, ventilated, long at the back. Transparent with hi vis green flashes on the shoulders.

They do a great job.

Downside = you have to wait up to 4 weeks for them to arrive.

posted by billyman [142 posts]
4th September 2015 - 9:08

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RichmondDenton wrote:
No mention of the Parentini Mossa either?

We've amended that and put the Mossa (which we reviewed a few months ago) in, who knows how we missed it out originally, nobody's perfect!

posted by fatsimonstan [62 posts]
4th September 2015 - 11:47

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