Buyer’s guide: Waterproof cycling jackets

What to look for in a waterproof jacket + 10 of the best from £19.99

by David Arthur   November 26, 2014  

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 binbag is waterproof. Making a fabric waterproof and breathable, 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 get 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.

It’s also worth considering that many jackets will need to be reproofed regularly. 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. And water repellant fabrics use a  hydrophobic treatment that reduces the fabric from picking up rain droplets. 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 your arms, leaving your wrists exposed, when you're stretched out on the bike. 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 fabric can still struggle to let enough water vapour escape, especially when you’re riding very hard. 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.

Ten 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 10 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  £19.99

The BTwin 500 High Visibility Waterproof Cycling Jacket provides excellent rain protection with a coated membrae material and taped seams with plenty of reflective details to help you been seen on the commute to work. There are vents and breathability is very good.

Altura Microlite Showerproof jacket  £39.99

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.

dhb Cosmo waterproof jacket  £59.99

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.

Showers Pass Pro Tech ST jacket  £65.00

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.

Madison Men's Road Race Apex jacket  £99.99

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.

Santini Reef rain jacket with short sleeves   £139.99

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.

Sportful Fiandre Norain Jacket  £170.00

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.

Vulpine Women's Harrington Rain Jacket  £195.00

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.

Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 GT AS jacket £210

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.

POC Essential Rain Jacket  £250

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.

For even more choice view all the cycling jacket reviews here.

33 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

I have the Castelli Liner Jacket (Event fabric). It's fantastic. Oh so breathable (you can barely feel it on, even in heat), and very waterproof. The Muur is probably just as good.

The only minus point would be that while it can fit in a jersey pocket, it doesn't fit in snuggly. But you are really looking to use this sort of jacket when the chances of rain are great, and the rain prolonged. Otherwise a lighter weight jacket will probably get you through the odd shower. I have a small mavic jacket which is more of windproof jacket for that sort of thing.

How breathable is the Rapha top?

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1199 posts]
1st August 2013 - 12:39

51 Likes

I've got the Rapha Rainjacket, in the cream colour. I wanted the red or dark grey but they were out of stock - wish I'd waited as the cream gets minging swiftly! Love the jacket though. Totally impermeable, never clammy, and it fits in the back of a jersey really easily. Not sure I'd have invested in it if I hadn't had gift vouchers to spend, but I'm glad I did.

davecochrane's picture

posted by davecochrane [105 posts]
1st August 2013 - 20:15

1 Like

Craft Performance Rain Jacket is really good. Can be had for less than 90 quid. I've found it to be highly breathable and completely waterproof. Very light and pocketable too. Would recommend highly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVWRgiViNG0&feature=player_detailpage

posted by toetruck [15 posts]
1st August 2013 - 20:55

1 Like

Nothing from Gore? Seems an odd omission.

posted by jacknorell [566 posts]
2nd August 2013 - 1:14

47 Likes

As a result of reading this, I went looking for a Mavic Vision on all the usual internet sites and it seems to be pretty much unobtainable now; I think it has been discontinued. There are some available from European distributors, but only in the smallest sizes. A shame, because it looks ideal for my winter commuting. Perhaps a new version is on the way? Anybody know about that, or of a UK stockist that I haven't found?

posted by mattsr [17 posts]
3rd August 2013 - 18:29

46 Likes

I have both Sportful jackets. The Norain jacket got me through the winter. On the coldest days this and a thermal long sleeve baselayer was enough. Got the Survival jacket for use in the warmer weather. Worn it a number of times in both heavy rain and showers. Worked a treat; the only problem is it doesn't roll up very small. This means I tend to wear it from the off, rather than trying to stuff it a pocket.

Both I managed to find at a discount over the prices quoted in the article.

posted by BobE [9 posts]
4th August 2013 - 8:39

47 Likes

Assos Sturmprinz is very good for wet rides, it's not really packable but it's so breathable you don't need to worry about taking it off when the rain stops.
If the weather's just a bit iffy I take a Sportful hotpack with me, OK in a pinch but not something you'd want to ride in a lot, it packs up tiny though (fag packet size).

posted by fuzzywuzzy [61 posts]
5th August 2013 - 7:32

1 Like

And no review of the Aldi - crane (£9.99) lightweight jacket. Shame on you... ;-}

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [125 posts]
6th August 2013 - 16:46

2 Likes

I have an Aldi jacket which is very waterproof to the extent that if water gets in it collects in the sleeves

Zero emissions so Zero tax

posted by petethegreek [23 posts]
17th September 2013 - 20:56

2 Likes

Can't beat the Sportful Hot Pack, in my opinion. The zip weighs more than the jacket.

Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades. (Merckx)

obutterwick's picture

posted by obutterwick [536 posts]
17th September 2013 - 21:36

2 Likes

If the answer isn't Castelli Gabba and Nanoflex arm warmers then you're asking the wrong question Smile

Seriously though, best cycling kit I've ever bought.

Did Newcastle to London 24hr at the end of August. Lashed it down from 2pm until 7am the next morning. Wearing a gabba, normal base layer & nanoflex arm and knee warmers. Was very comfortable and the bits covered by Castelli were as dry as you can possibly be in sustained conditions like that.

posted by VeloPeo [221 posts]
18th September 2013 - 10:16

1 Like

Here's my 2p's worth:

Chance of showers: Sportful hotpack 4 in the jersey pocket. Keeps a shower off but if you're going hard you will overheat.

Definite/likelihood of showers/light rain: Gabba and nanoflex warmers - absolutely superb kit. What it doesn't keep out doesn't matter as the windstopper stops you feeling wet or cold. Only gripe is the arm warmers are too tight for a baselayer underneath if it gets too cold, and the next size up would be way too long for my arms (and I'll tall and skinny with monkey arms!). +1 for VeloPeo

Heavy prolonged rain: LS base layer + Gore Power Active Jacket. Keeps out the heaviest stuff all day long and you don't overheat if you're going hard. Worth every penny.

Went with the Gore jacket (£130) after considering the Rapha Hard Shell (@ £170 in the recent sale). Reviews seemed to suggest the Rapha was actually quite thick with a kind-of neoprene feel, ok for deep winter but not autumn. The Gore has that, as you can just layer up more when the temp drops in a couple months, or just ride with a single layer underneath now.

I'm so lazy I'd rather order something off Wiggle than go to the shops for Haribo...

posted by Mr Jono [105 posts]
20th September 2013 - 11:19

54 Likes

Mrs G has a Hotpack and she loves it. She originally ordered a Rapha wind jacket but it did not fit as nicely.

Myself I use a Castelli Squadra - great in showers (not so good when the rain gets heavier) and a Craft jacket (don't know which one) if I set of in the rain which is a bit bulkier but keeps me dry, but does not fit in my back pocket as well.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [276 posts]
30th September 2013 - 22:28

52 Likes

The Sugoi Hydrolite is a very good "might rain" jacket. Lightweight and packable so there is no excuse not have it in your pocket if there is a chance of rain.

However if it rains moderately-hard you will get wet (as I can attest to after just finishing 1 hour riding through an unexpected downpour). If you choose an appropriate base layer/jersey, the Hydrolite will keep you comfortable (it was 10C today and even being soaked through I wasn't cold).

This jacket fits very well -- cut for road cycling, just enough stretch, etc. The material is breathable and with the pit vents you won't overheat so this can also be a cool weather jacket. However the zipper is a bit flimsy so I wouldn't expect it to last if you plan to use it regularly -- IMHO it is an emergency use jacket.

posted by massspike [117 posts]
19th October 2013 - 18:12

43 Likes

Gore Oxygen GT jacket is superb. Slim cut, packs down to fit flat in your jersey pocket and very breathable. Looks great too.

gore-bike-wear-25th-anniversary-oxygen-gt-jacket.jpg
kiwiglider's picture

posted by kiwiglider [23 posts]
20th October 2013 - 6:48

46 Likes

I have the Sportful Fiandre Norain Jacket which is good no doubt and pretty waterproof although in persistent downpours you do tend to end up damp on the inside and when it's really cold ie. around 0-2 degrees I tend to get cold wearing it even when layered up.

The best jacket I have is the Castelli Gabba by far. More like a jersey but a brilliant insulator and totally waterproof. Get one!

JL

posted by jonnyllew [17 posts]
21st October 2013 - 9:05

42 Likes

I'd say close but cigar-free for your general introduction...

The fabric is important, but not the most important. However wonderful the Super-Duper-Tex it's made of is, if it don't fit it won't be much good.

Para. 3 is a bit at sea. A DWR is used in combination with a coating or membrane to stop the outer face getting saturated, because if that happens breathability goes down to around nothing. But the DWR isn't what makes the jacket waterproof. re-proofing is just getting the DWR back up to speed, it doesn't affect the fundamental waterproofing bit.

Taped seams to be waterproof... yes, unless you've got a Paramo or similar jacket. It isn't technically waterproof as it will fail a hydrostatic head test, but it will keep you dry (which is the important bit) by the liner keeping the water away from your body. Bit warm for hard cycling outside of water but more breathable than any other waterproof system.

No mention of pockets. Rear pockets are popular but if you use a rucksack or ride a 'bent they're no use and may actually make the jacket less comfortable. And if you're off the bike in a crowd they're potentially a gift to pick-pockets. I prefer front chest pockets big enough to stick a map in, others prefer no pockets, some just a small one on the chest, etc. etc. But it's worth thinking about what (if any) storage you want (why that Rapha means nothing to me, even if I had the cash).

Hoods... never use them on a bike myself and don't recommend them on the road, but off-road they're liked by some and it can be handy to have something that works off the bike. If you want one and you wear a lid you'll need to consider how they'll work together.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [73 posts]
16th December 2013 - 9:05

31 Likes

ENDURA helium been brilliant so for this year . It's been tested a few times up here in Cumbria They do not call it the Lake District for nothing! Smile

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [264 posts]
16th December 2013 - 11:03

32 Likes

Galibier now do a lovely looking jacket for £29. Mines arriving next week
http://galibier.cc/product/shield-lite-race-jacket/

posted by mattbibbings [103 posts]
24th May 2014 - 13:44

10 Likes

I don't think my review of the cheapo Decathlon hi viz jacket said it had excellent breathability! The fabric is pretty basic but the vents let out enough steam to keep it comfortable. For the money you can't complain.

Jez Ash's picture

posted by Jez Ash [146 posts]
26th November 2014 - 10:28

0 Likes

my gore oxygen 2 (which is awesome) doesn't have pockets at this article suggests. FYI.

posted by jon86boi [7 posts]
26th November 2014 - 12:10

0 Likes

I think my gabba is great but waterproof it is not. Yes it will hold of a constant stream of medium/light rain for a quite while but having been caught in a heavy downpour I was soaked in minutes - through the seams. To be expected, its not waterprood and it didn't matter as it keep you warm.

Good reviews on here though, thinking of going for a hotpack

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [392 posts]
26th November 2014 - 13:44

1 Like

Its all about breathabilty at the end of the day. No point being rain free when your soaking in your own sweat. The real test for these garments is if you can be comfortable and nott too hot in them in temperatures around 10-12 degrees.

The sportful bodyfit pro ws jacket is another lovely jacket, probably considered a poor mans gabba to some, but it is lovely and can deal with moderate rain.

posted by Scoob_84 [231 posts]
26th November 2014 - 14:27

1 Like

I've bought and tried the best you can buy and the bottom line is; There is no such thing as waterproof in medium to heavy rain in the UK, let alone somewhere with much heavier precip than we have.

posted by Beaufort [184 posts]
26th November 2014 - 14:29

1 Like

I have an Endura Helium which isn't bad, and the Madison Apex which is excellent. Fully agree on the breathability front - very impressive given the full-on stormproofing it gives. I got the white version as I wasn't keen on the black, although that's not exactly practical in filthy conditions. It washes well though,and still looks good a year on.

andyspaceman's picture

posted by andyspaceman [233 posts]
26th November 2014 - 17:05

0 Likes

So out of 10 jackets only 1 female model used? The jackets might be available in a 'gender specific cut' but please either have equal represention of men and women riders or do 'men's waterproof jackets' and 'women's waterproof jackets' as seperate features.

Road biking is not gender specific, please help to represent that fact.

And by the way, I Flippin love my womens Rapha rain jacket now £180, superb neat cut, neoprene cuffs, highly breathable, lightweight and super sleek without creating puffy air drag!

posted by Ceri B [0 posts]
26th November 2014 - 22:33

0 Likes

Just picked up a Galibier Tourmalet, seems a good value jacket...with claims of 7k/4k waterproofness/breathability. Light, well made and a good 'on bike shape'. Can't vouch for the technical claims (yet) as I've yet to use it in anger. For £52 I can't grumble....I've paid more for a bottle of booze before...and I'm pretty sure this will last longer, give as much fun and keep the water at bay...

The_Kaner
FREEEEEEEEDOM!

The _Kaner's picture

posted by The _Kaner [494 posts]
27th November 2014 - 18:53

1 Like

Bravo, lots of options for men. Perhaps you should be clearer in the headline whether it's worthy the fairer sex bothering to read?

The only woman you have pictures is wearing a vulpine jacket and I'm crossly aware and 200 quid worse off that their jackets are most definitely NOT waterproof even only for a 30 min commute.

posted by WalshyMK [7 posts]
28th November 2014 - 18:50

0 Likes

I have the Rapha Hardshell for poor/cold weather on an entire ride.
Utterly waterproof, comfortable and breathes reasonably well for such a good bad weather jacket.
Paired with only either a single merino long sleeve base or a sleeveless Craft mesh base and Helly Hanson L/S base depending on temperature.
For reasonable weather I wear a Long Sleeved Jersey, base and pack the Rapha Rain Jacket- it folds up small and works a treat, not clammy but keeps all the weather out.
I also have a Long Sleeved Gabba for slightly warmer inclemental weather but with a good base its good for most temperatures really.
Doesn't keep you as dry as you may think but acts a bit like a wetsuit so you do stay warm.
Until you stop for cake at least...

posted by HulaBoy [12 posts]
9th December 2014 - 22:18

1 Like

I really want that POC jacket. There, I've said it. Not going to happen though, not at £250.

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posted by Martin Thomas [584 posts]
10th December 2014 - 8:33

0 Likes