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 Great Outdoors Ireland, we're committed to helping you find the perfect waterproof jacket for any occasion. Whether you're climbing a crag, walking the Appalachian Trail, or heading out for an early morning dog walk, here's our guide to all the tech you might encounter to help you choose the right one for you.

What is a Waterproof Jacket for?

The main function of a waterproof jacket is to keep you dry, but it should do more than that. A good waterproof jacket should also be breathable, allowing sweat vapor to escape so you stay dry from the inside. It should help you regulate your temperature to keep you 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.

  • High-Intensity Activities: For running, climbing, or cycling, choose a jacket that prioritizes breathability. This helps keep you comfortable by allowing extra heat to escape.

  • Technical Outdoor Sports: For mountaineering or ski touring, opt for a jacket that balances durability, waterproofness, and breathability. These jackets use hardwearing waterproof fabrics to withstand the demands of the mountains, such as abrasive rocks or carrying a heavy rucksack.

  • Everyday Protection: Most people need a jacket for hikes, dog walks, and travel. These jackets tend to sit between the extremes of high-intensity and technical sports jackets. You'll find a wide selection of brands, prices, fits, and colors, with options ranging from lightweight to strong and durable, depending on your preference.

What is Waterproof Construction?

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

  • 2-Layer - The Everyday Jacket: The most basic construction, featuring an outer fabric with a waterproof membrane bonded to it and an additional non-bonded mesh lining to protect the fragile inner layer. These are usually less technical and more suited for everyday use.

  • 2.5-Layer - The Agile Lightweight Hiker: These jackets have an outer fabric bonded to a waterproof membrane, with a coating or print instead of a mesh layer to protect the waterproofing. They are lighter and more packable but less durable, making them ideal for everyday use and light hiking.

  • 3-Layer - The Rugged Mountain Professional: In this construction, the waterproof technology is sandwiched between a face and inner fabric, making these jackets extra durable and suitable for mountain conditions. They can be heavier and less packable but are ideal if you need a jacket that can handle anything.

Waterproof Fabrics and Materials

Waterproof fabrics resist water penetration, using a membrane or coating to keep you dry and comfortable all day. Breathable fabrics allow sweat in the form of water vapor to escape, ensuring you stay dry from the inside. Different fabrics prioritize various properties, such as waterproofness, breathability, or mobility. It’s essential to get the right balance for your needs.

Should I Buy a Gore-Tex® Jacket?

GORE-TEX® is a well-known waterproof membrane technology, valued for its durability and reliability. However, many brands offer alternative technologies that are just as effective. Other waterproof fabrics include DryVent, Pertex Shield, and e-Vent. When choosing between GORE-TEX® and non-GORE-TEX® jackets, consider the jacket's overall features and whether the technology will impact your adventures.

For eco-conscious options, Patagonia uses new GORE-TEX® fabrics with an ePE membrane, setting a new standard for durable, waterproof, windproof, and breathable protection.

Waterproof and Breathability Ratings Explained

Waterproof Ratings:

  • 5,000mm: The minimum rating to be called rainproof. Suitable for light rain showers or drizzle.
  • 10,000mm – 15,000mm: Can withstand most downpours and heavy snow but may soak through with prolonged exposure.
  • 20,000mm and up: Ideal for all-day use in all conditions, even while carrying a heavy load.

Breathability Ratings:

  • 5,000 – 10,000g/m²: Suitable for urban travel or camping in the rain but may get clammy during high-intensity activities.
  • 10,000 – 15,000g/m²: Good for adventurous travel or low-level walking. More intense activities might be too much.
  • 15,000 – 20,000g/m² and up: Perfect for extended trips to the hills, trekking in warm climates, or high-intensity activities.

What Waterproof Features Should I Look For?

A Comfortable Fit: Choose a jacket that you find comfortable. Consider the specific activity you'll be using it for. Ensure the sleeves cover your wrists, and the material isn't too tight across the shoulders and underarms. Think about layering when selecting the fit.

Taped Seams: Look for jackets with fully taped seams to ensure complete waterproofing. Critically taped garments only have tape on high-exposure areas, which might not be sufficient for heavy rain.

Zips: Jackets may feature hydro-seal zips or storm baffles for waterproofing. Hydro-seal zips are lighter, while storm baffles are more durable. Some jackets have pit zips for added ventilation.

Hood: A well-designed hood is crucial. It should protect your head and face without obstructing your vision. Some hoods are helmet-compatible, and others have a wired peak for customization.

Pull Cords and Velcro: Ensure the jacket has quality drawcords or Velcro seals at the head and wrists to keep water out. These features should be easily accessible and intuitive.

For even more waterproof jacket options, check out our fantastic men's and women's waterproof collections at Great Outdoors Ireland.