A high-quality waterproof cycling jacket is your insurance against the year-round unpredictability of the UK weather. Whether your typical riding consists of commuting to the office or 100-mile sportives, a waterproof cycling jacket is a wardrobe essential.
Waterproof cycling jackets made from fabrics keep out rain, but let sweat through so you don't get 'boil in the bag cyclist' syndrome.
Even the best breathable fabrics can't transpire the sweat of a cyclist working hard, so look out for waterproof cycling jackets with zips and vents to help heat and sweat escape.
Classic 'hardshell' fabrics combine a waterproof, breathable membrane with DWR (durable water repellent) coating to make water run off and usually an inner layer to protect the membrane.
'Softshell' fabrics like Gore Windstopper are softer — the clue's in the name — and thick enough to provide warmth as well as water resistance; they're very well suited to British conditions.
The fabric is the most important point to consider when you buy a waterproof cycling 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 waterproof cycling jackets will need to be reproofed regularly to replenish the 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 cycling jacket.
Fully waterproof cycling 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.
Waterproof cycling jackets usually have dropped tails, to keep your lower back and bum covered up when you're crouched low over the bike. Some waterproof cycling jackets even have a drop tail that can be stowed away, clipped up inside of the jacket.
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.
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 waterproof cycling 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.
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 waterproof cycling 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.
Waterproof cycling jackets range from heavy duty, fully featured designs to ultra minimalist emergency jackets. There’s a huge choice, so you can choose the right jacket for your riding situation, whether it's a jacket for commuting, touring, racing, training or sportives. We've picked 31 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.
Unarguably some of the very best ones are expensive, but in real terms a high-end cycling waterproof is a lot cheaper than it once was. One of the earliest waterproof cycling jackets to use breathable Gore-Tex fabric, the North Face Velo, retailed for £150 in 1988. Allowing for inflation, that's the equivalent of almost £400 now.
Rapha's winter jacket features a three-layer Gore-Tex fabric from Gore's Infinium range and this performs fantastically at keeping out absolutely all of the elements. No problems at all with rain reaching the inside and it blocked out the wind completely.
A high cut front has been paired with a dropped tail for a fit that suits an aggressive riding position. The fabric doesn't conform to your body shape but the well-designed shape keeps it close and it wasn't flapping around.
Tester Anna Marie says: "Overall, the Rapha Women's Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket is perfect for use on days when it's constantly chucking it down. I found it never let any water in and definitely blocked the wind. How often you want to go out in these kinds of conditions probably dictates whether or not it's worth the considerable price tag for you. It affords excellent wind and rain defence on cold rides with wide, accessible pockets making fuelling easy."
The Le Col Pro Rain Jacket is a very good option for intense rides in biblical rain, with excellent waterproofing and good breathability. The long dropped tail is great when you're not running mudguards, and the bright orange colour is nice on a dull day. The price is quite good too, compared with others, though some are more packable.
Tester Liam says: "A rain jacket's primary job is to keep cold rain from soaking you to the bone. I've been out in some incredibly heavy rain while using the Pro Rain Jacket and it's been doing its job very well. I've managed to stay completely dry – well, everything covered by the jacket has.
"Overall, the Le Col is a very good jacket among a range of very good jackets. Which you go for will likely come down to the fit. If you can try the various options on, then you should. Certainly, if you want as aero as possible it's well worth considering."
The Rapha Men's Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket is an exceptional cycling jacket for a range of winter rides. The fit is relaxed for easy layering over thermal long sleeve jerseys, and the lightweight design provides a surprisingly good amount of warmth.
Tester Liam says "My first ride in this jacket was a muddy mountain bike adventure in some incredibly heavy rain. That, combined with the rather sloppy trail, made for challenging conditions for the jacket. It came through this test without being fazed at all. Whatever Rapha is saying about the Classic Winter Jacket just being water-resistant, the rain and wheel spray that it fended off leads me to think it rather out-performed those claims. Which was nice, because I didn't get wet."
This is a high-priced product that backs it up with brilliant performance. The fit and cut are both great, the outer fabric is very water-resistant, while the inner fabric provides a surprising amount of warmth. It's a brilliant jacket for varied winter riding conditions
Altura's Nightvision Storm Women's Waterproof Jacket is a great addition to a regular commuter's wardrobe. It offers good protection against the wind and rain without causing excessive overheating, and the reflective detailing and storage options are well thought out, practical and functional.
The jacket is a relaxed fit, gently shaped for the female form. Following Altura's sizing guide tester Emma opted for a size 10 which fit perfectly: plenty of breathing room inside, without making her look like a sack of spuds. She could happily fit plenty of layers under it without feeling like it's starting to be overstretched on the bike.
If you want a quality, functional, reliable commuter jacket, the Nightvision Storm is a great choice: it will protect you from the elements both on and off the bike, without breaking the bank.
Bioracer's Kaaiman jacket is a great option when you want to ride quickly and it's properly filthy out.
The Kaaiman is Bioracer's take on a classic winter hard shell jacket. It's a full membrane fabric with a waffle-texture internal facing that feels good next to the skin if it's warm enough to wear this jacket without a long-sleeve layer underneath.
Available in Black, Orange or this fluo Yellow, it's nicely made, with ultrasonic bonded seams, a storm flap, tight silicone-edged cuffs and a waterproof zip. All those things together make the Kaaiman just about the most waterproof outer layer I've used. I've worn this jacket on some properly biblical days and it's shrugged off everything. It's not a particularly thick jacket but the waffle textured inside fabric traps a bit of air and helps to keep the windchill off you.
The Lusso Aqua Repel V2 Jacket is surprisingly warm and waterproof for such a lightweight jacket, and the performance is excellent, as is the cut, which is close and racy, with plenty of coverage when you are in the saddle.
The Aqua Repel V2 seems to work better than a lot of other waterproof jackets I've worn with the same 10,000mm rating. You seem to stay drier for longer in prolonged heavy rain, as proved by riding in the previous two winter storms that were big enough to get named.
One thing that helps in this regard is just how breathable the Windtex fabric seems to be. When testing a waterproof winter jacket in the rain, it's hard to know how much is precipitation and how much is sweat, but riding on dry and relatively mild days I just didn't suffer from heat build-up in the Aqua Repel V2.
The Showers Pass Transit CC jacket is a super-practical commuting hardshell, packed with clever details. It's equally at home in soggy southern England as it probably is at home in the Pacific Northwest. I've been wearing it as an outer layer every day for my commute and, thanks to its excellent breathability as well as its impressive water and windproofness, it works really well whether it's raining or not.
The Transit CC jacket is aimed at commuting and is not a lightweight, packable race cape. Showers Pass classifies it as having a 'full fit with room to layer over bulky street clothing'. It is also designed for a more upright riding style – it has the cut of a regular jacket rather than an anatomic one cut for a crouched bike position: I found the cuffs covered my wrists fine on a flat-bar bike, but on a drop-bar bike the sleeves tended to ride up, leaving a slight gap. I would also guess it's made for someone with slightly broader shoulders and shorter arms than me.
Showers Pass says the Transit CC has got you covered and this is an accurate description. It is indeed good enough to withstand the worst of the winter and is breathable, comfortable and visible, too. The US firm has ticked off everything a commuter jacket could ever need – including its own rear lights.
The Vulpine Portixol is a rain jacket rather than a packable shell, and as such is aimed more at the commuter than the hardcore roadie. The more casual, urban styling underlines this, but it matches technical hardshells in its performance.
Vulpine uses a ripstop fabric that supplies 15,000mm of waterproofing – that's the height that a column of water can reach before it starts to seep through – and the seams are taped.
It doesn't really pack down small enough for carrying in a rear jersey pocket and at 300g is on the heavy side for that anyway, so it's the kind of jacket you put on and keep on – and its waterproofing and windproofness coupled with its breathability make doing that entirely comfortable.
The Showers Pass Elite 2.1 is in the round the lightest, most waterproof and windproof triple-layer jacket the company makes. It has legions of adoring fans, and it's clear why. It's as close to perfect a jacket as we've ever worn, for going far, fast and hard in the most awful of weather.
All of the features are beautifully executed, using premium materials and construction techniques. If that were all Showers Pass had done the Elite 2.1 would be a great jacket, and would sell very well. But that's not all. The Elite 2.1 really stands out because of its ventilation capability. The reality of any aerobic activity outdoors is that sooner or later you're going to sweat, and you need to evaporate that liquid to both cool your body down and not let it pool in your clothing, lest you freeze once you stop moving. But how to manage the necessary airflow, around the entire body, without compromising waterproofness? This is the question Showers Pass has answered, and its execution is as genius as it is simple.
For £199, or £227 with the hood, in one of five colours, the Elite 2.1 is a fabulous choice for riding long days in awful weather, through a range of temperatures. The technical features to allow adjustment are all do-able one-handed on the bike, meaning every time you put it on you'll be glad you invested the money.
The Castelli Perfetto RoS wants to be both a jacket and a jersey, and is surprisingly good at being both. It's windproof and rain resistant whilst being super breathable, works well either on gravel or the road, and is perfect for chilly but not really cold weather.
RoS stands for Rain or Shine. The idea is that it performs like a jacket, but feels more like a jersey to wear.
Thus the Perfetto gets a Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper fabric, which is also extremely water resisant. It's not waterproof – it's more for protection against showers on otherwise dry rides – but nevertheless, the Perfetto is extremely impressive. It’s the most waterproof non-waterproof soft shell I’ve ever worn.
Probably the most unusual waterproof cycling jacket here, the Chrome Kojak Convertible is well appointed and full of surprises. Its USP, and the source of 'Convertible' in the name, is that as tester Matt Lamy explains, "it's not a single jacket that stretches to your knees, it's actually a short 'trucker' jacket with a zipped-in lower extended section. Should the mood take you, you can unzip the bottom section and just have a shorter top."
In either configuration it keeps the rain off superbly, though as a short jacket it's obviously not going to protect as much of your body. Matt adds: "Rain instantly and faultlessly beads on the Kojak and – even in the worst weather – nothing gets through its taped-seamed interior. It also helps that it looks rather smart and up to the task, not unlike a cycling orientated Dryza-Bone-style coat."
The Galibier Tempest Pro Jacket has an impressive ability to shrug off the heaviest of rain for ages without soaking you from the inside out, and when you don't need it, just stuff it in your rear pocket. There's a bit of a plasticky feel to the fabric, but it works really well.
Using a HydraStop membrane, the Tempest Pro delivers factory results of 9,000mm when it comes to waterproofing; that means it can resist 9,000mm of water from a hydrostatic head (tube of water) before it can't hold any more and it leaks through. In the real world that means heavy rain and downpours.
The biggest plus point is the staggeringly low price. The Galibier Tempest Pro compares favourably with waterproof cycling jackets like the Endura Pro SL Shell II or even the Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Shadow but is over £100 cheaper.
The 7mesh Rebellion is an excellent waterproof cycling jacket that offers Gore-Tex Active protection, a slim fit and easy packability.
Gore-Tex Active is used throughout. It comprises a nylon ripstop outer fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment and a lining that's integrated into the Gore-Tex C-Knit membrane.
It's impressive stuff that keeps the rain out superbly. We used the Rebellion for all kinds of winter rides – everything from all-weather commuting to long Sunday morning jaunts – and the fabric didn't let water through. The seams are sealed with 13mm tape that shows no signs of lifting or bubbling several washes in, which is a good sign that they'll keep the outside world outside for a long time to come.
The Metier Beacon Rain Jacket performs brilliantly in foul conditions and can also pack down small and compactly into a jersey pocket. Its USP, the flashing LEDs, work really well too, although if you're thinking it'd be great for everyday commuting with a backpack, they're not ideally placed. This isn't your typical commuter jacket, though, it's a piece of high-performance kit – with a price tag to match.
The idea of incorporating flashing lights within clothing isn't new, but can be a little garish and needs to be done subtly in order that the wearer doesn't look like a walking traffic light. Metier has managed this well with slim strips of LEDs, one set of white lights on the front of each shoulder, and a set of red lights on the bottom hem at the back of the jacket.
The lights offer a decent amount of visibility – so bright you could probably get away without bike-mounted lights (not recommended at night), though I tended to use them as additional visual aids rather than primary lights.
Pactimo's Vertex WX-D waterproof cycling jacket has proved to be a top performer in the cold and wet British weather. It's warm, dry and light while being breathable enough to wear all day in comfort.
It can be hard to gauge what to wear in winter – how cold is it, will it rain, blow a gale? The usual response seems to be layers and extra clothing in your pockets, but you end up looking like the Michelin man or without the bits you need. A jacket that claims to cover all aspects is a tantalising prospect, then, but can it deliver? The Vertex W-XD claims warmth down to -17°C, windproofing and waterproofing too, with its three-layer outer fabric providing the weatherproofing with taped seams (reflective on the outside) and waterproofed zips, and brushed fleece grid providing the warmth.
It's reasonably thin and light for a cold weather outer – not quite enough to fold up into a jersey pocket, but you shouldn't need to as breathability is good and it has two small zipped vents for fresh air if needed.
The Assos Mille GT Winter Jacket is a very strong performer, offering excellent protection against low temperatures and heavy downpours, and although it comes with a fairly heavy price tag, it goes a very long way to justifying it.
Away from the very depths of winter, one of the elements that's difficult to get right is knowing what to wear, as you can often start the ride in under 5°C and come back in the mid teens, but one of the key elements of the Mille GT jacket is that it not only keeps you warm, it also has fantastic breathability.
This combination of warmth and breathability comes from the use of three different materials: Neos Medium on the front panels, Neos Light on the upper back and upper sleeves, and RX on the underside of the sleeves and the spine. The triple-layer Neos Medium takes the brunt of the weather because of its positioning, and is water repellent and wind resistant. The Neos Light has a similar construction but with around double the breathability (Assos quotes 27,000 gr/m2/24h vs 14,000 for the Neos Medium) and is used in areas that are less impacted by the weather, still allowing for good protection but letting heat dissipate nicely. The RX is used in areas most hidden from the weather, and offers high wicking and temperature control.
Galibier's Mistral foul weather jacket will cover off nearly all of your winter rides if you like to work up a sweat. It's windproof, waterproof, breathable, close fitting and exceptional value. Only the pockets let it down.
Fully black winter jackets aren't always that visible on murky days, and if you wear full neon and it's sunny some enterprising defence lawyer will probably claim your jacket was camouflage. So the best bet is probably a mixture of the two; the Mistral waterproof cycling jacket has plenty of neon on the back and the arms, as well as a substantial reflective panel on the pockets. The zip piping on the front is fluorescent yellow too, but other than that and the embroidered logo, the front is black.
dhb has created an excellent bad weather top layer with its Aeron Lab Ultralight waterproof cycling jacket. It keeps the weather at bay better than most, especially at this price and weight, plus it's packable too. It's quite an outlay, but it's justified by the very good performance.
Tester Stu Kerton reported that he was was still dry after two hours of constant heavy rain mixed in with road spray from lorries and puddles. And there was a pretty nagging headwind too, just for good measure.
The Gore C7 Gore-Tex ShakeDry Stretch Jacket provides total rain protection with incredible breathability. The stretch panels help to give a perfect fit that lasts through machine washing and tumble drying.
This jacket is packed with tech features. The Gore ShakeDry fabric that made the last iteration so good is still present, and it works really well in heavy rain. Put simply, nothing gets through.
Added to this latest edition, which we first looked at in May, is Gore's new Stretch technology. It was developed with the military for use with body armour and is also windproof and completely waterproof.
One of the best waterproof cycling jackets on the market. Made right here in the UK, in Manchester, the Lusso Aqua Extreme Repel Jacket V2 keeps serious rain out without creating that boil in the bag sensation found with many others on the market. A huge amount of reflective detailing makes this jacket perfect for night rides too.
The 7Mesh Oro jacket might be expensive but it keeps the rain out, it's super-lightweight and it takes up an incredibly small amount of space in a jersey pocket. Tester Mat Brett wore the Oro in the rain a whole load of times, most memorably on a ride in Italy where a couple of cyclists had to get bussed home for fear of getting hypothermia (really), and the results were superb. If anyone's in danger of getting hypothermia it's usually Mat, but rain didn't once get through the fabric or through the internally taped seams. You almost expect water to get in because the jacket is so lightweight, but it doesn't.
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.
The dhb Waterproof Jacket does what it says on the tin, at a price that would get you an arm and half a collar from some other brands. It's not loaded with tech – in fact there's almost no tech on show – but if around fifty quid is your budget it's hard to go past.
The FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape is a great garment from Endura, proving breathable race capes can be relatively affordable. Packable race-light 'shells' are usually either super-expensive yet breathable and comfortable, or cheap and boil-in-the-bag. I'm delighted to report here that the FS260-Pro straddles the two definitions.
It performs very well. Of course, there's a limit to how effective any breathable fabric can be. Even industry standard Gore-Tex meets its match in the right (or wrong) combination of humidity, warmth and exertion. But, if you're riding at a high tempo, the Endura keeps you as dry as I've experienced in a shell such as this. It works best in cooler conditions – and layering up too much negates its effectiveness – but it really is quite impressive.
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.
The Bontrager Velocis Softshell Jacket keeps the cold off your front, lets the heat out at the back and provides an impressive level of winter protection. It might have saved our tester Neil from a dose of exposure on one occasion.
If you're after a highly waterproof cycling jacket and are willing to accept a small amount of extra bulk over some other offerings, the Polaris Fuse is well worth looking at. Its waterproof quality is up with the best, keeping you dry in rain that, speaking from experience, would see others fail. It's really well made, and represents good value for money.
Made with lightweight stretch waterproof fabric, the jacket's breathability is good enough that you don't notice any uncomfortable overheating – even in our wet yet warm UK winter like the one we've just had.
The Pearl Izumi Women's Elite WXB jacket is on the expensive side at its £150 RRP, but it will keep you warm and dry on horrible days. Lack of storage could be a problem, but there is room for that in your jersey. It is worth the sacrifice just to stay this dry, and for this sale price, it's a great deal.
The first thing you notice about this jacket is the high visibility colour scheme – in the bright yellow and pink you really shouldn't be missed. Love it or hate it, it's perfect for day time riding visibility, and there are enough reflective accents on the rear and the arms to make sure you stand out come evening too.
The Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II has impressive waterproofing and will really keep out the worst of the rain and wind. It just about fits in a large jersey pocket, and is a good investment for cooler days when you need a robust level of weather protection.
Endura's Exoshell 40 waterproof fabric is a three-layer construction, with fully taped seams to keep the rain out and a claimed waterproofing level of 20,000mm – meaning nothing from a tube of water 20 metres tall would seep through a patch of fabric from this garment. And nothing did: no complaints about the waterproofing at all.
The collar is quite high, which is good for protection and I didn't find that it irritated me at all, even on hard rides.
One of the things I like most is the fit. Endura has gone for a shaped, multi-panel construction with strategic stretch sections to make the jacket move with you, and although it looks quite rigid and robust (I thought it was more commuter-orientated when it was first given to me) I found it was perfectly flexible on the bike.
The Parentini Mossa is a race-fit waterproof and windproof jacket/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.
There are waterproof cycling jackets that are best suited to being emergency jackets, rolled up in a rear jersey pocket in the hope that they'll never actually be required. Then there are jackets that are there to be worn on the wettest, filthiest ride, giving all-day comfort and making a bad day not so terrible. The Showers Pass Women's Elite 2.1 Jacket sits firmly in the latter camp and does a great job of it too.
The first thing that's noticeable about the Women's Elite 2.1 Jacket – aside from the not inconsiderable price – is how well featured and how meticulously designed it is. This is not a walking or outdoor waterproof repurposed for cycling, it's a cycling jacket from the ground up.
This thing is crazy-light. At 123g, it's possibly the ultimate pocket-jacket. The idea is that it’ll go more or less unnoticed in a jersey pocket until you need proper protection from the rain.
"The Gore-Tex Active technology with a new permanent beading surface is an innovative fabric construction that eliminates the textile on the outer face of the fabric, resulting in a two layer fabric that is lighter weight and doesn’t absorb moisture on the outer face,” says Castelli.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.