How to find a good waterproof cycling jacket to keep you dry in wet weather

Riding in wet weather is no one’s idea of fun, but if you want to make it a little more bearable then a good waterproof cycling jacket is an essential investment. Such a jacket will keep you dry through the foulest weather, making you more likely to head out of the front door whatever the weather, avoiding the dreaded turbo trainer.

What features should I be looking for?

Waterproof-ness

Clearly the most important thing you want to know about any waterproof cycling jacket is how waterproof it is. There are plenty of jackets out there that claim to be “water-resistant” (usually meaning that they have a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating applied to the fabric), but these will only keep you dry through showers and relatively light rain. If you want a proper waterproof cycling jacket for real wet weather riding, then you’re going to want something with a little more protection.

>>> Buyer’s guide to winter cycling clothing (video)

The good news is you can get some idea of how waterproof a jacket is by doing a bit of research into any prospective purchase, with an increasing number of manufacturers stating the waterproof rating of their waterproof cycling jackets.

Rain, wind, storm

Riding in wet weather doesn’t always have to be unpleasant

“But what’s a waterproof rating!?” I hear you cry. Well, it’s basically a number, and the higher the better. The number is calculated on the basis that if you put a 1in x 1in square tube over the fabric, how high could you fill the tube water before it started to leak through.

>>> Better than the Castelli Gabba? Wet weather racing jackets on test

For a good waterproof cycling jacket you’re going to want something with a waterproof rating north of 10,000mm, although there are a number of jackets on the market that claim to offer more than this. However, “claim” is the key word in this sentence, with no central body set up to test these figures, and manufacturers generally doing the testing of their own products.


Ride better in wet weather


It’s also not all about the fabric when it comes to making a waterproof cycling jacket waterproof, with other features playing an important role. Most crucial of all are the seams. You can make a waterproof jacket out of the most waterproof material in the world, but if you then stitch a load of tiny holes in it, it’s not going to do its job very well.

>>> How to dress for wet weather cycling

The solution to this is taping the seams, a process which covers the seams with a waterproof material, helping to keep the water out. All of the best waterproof cycling jackets will have this feature, although some will only have taped seams in crucial areas such as the shoulders and back, rather than across the whole jacket.

Gore Power Trail Gore-tex active jacket taped seams

Taped seams are a vital feature on any good waterproof cycling jacket

The other area where water is likely to get in is through the zip. This is particularly the case if you’re riding in the wet in a group, where water is constantly being sprayed up onto your chest by the back wheel of the rider in front. Unsurprisingly the solution is a waterproof zip, which is either taped on the outside or sealed on the inside.

Breathability

For all that, probably the major factor that distinguishes good waterproof cycling jackets from bad ones (or at least great one from good ones) is breathability. If you’re working hard (as we hope you are!) then you’re going to be building up quite a lot of heat, so a good degree of breathability will allow sweat to escape.

>>> Cycling in the rain: how to survive it

As with waterproofing, it’s possible to put a number to breathability, and again it’s a case of the higher the better. In this case the number refers to the weight (in grams) of water vapour than can pass through a 1m x 1m area of fabric over a 24 hour period. So if you have a jacket with a 20,000 breathability rating, 20,000g of water vapour can escape through the fabric in 24 hours.


Dress properly for your winter riding


Again, for a good waterproof cycling jacket you’re going to want that number to be more than 10,000, but as with the waterproof rating you should always be a sceptic, with manufacturers carrying out all the testing rather than an independent body.

Fit

As with any piece of cycling clothing, making sure your waterproof cycling jacket fits properly is a crucial part of the equation. However, it’s not a case of one fit fits all, with different fits being better suited to different types of riding and riders.

>>> Pro tips for winter cycling

If you’re using this jacket for fast rides, maybe heading out for the local chaingang whatever the weather, then you’re going to want a relatively slim-fitting jacket which won’t flap too much in the wind, holding you back with its poor aerodynamic performance. However you don’t want it to be tight, just in case you want to add extra layers underneath in really cold weather.

>>> Buyer’s guide to the best winter jackets

For everyone else, a slightly looser fit might be more suitable, giving the possibility for bulkier layers underneath and possibly greater comfort too. However you don’t want to go too loose, as this will not only slow you down, but will cause annoying windflap on bustery days, and loose-fitting collar and cuffs could also undermine an otherwise very waterproof cycling jacket.

Packability

If you’re riding in changeable conditions, then packability is an important thing to look for in a new waterproof cycling jacket. If the sun comes out after it’s chucked it down for the first two hours of your ride, then you’re going to want something that will stuff down small enough to fit in a rear pocket.

Nico Roche waterproof cycling jacket

Packability is important if you’re going to be taking the jacket off mid-ride

However, in general, waterproof cycling jackets that offer good waterproof protection are generally fairly bulky, so the majority will not pack down that small. So if you want a jacket that will both keep you dry in heavy, persistent rain, and will pack down small enough to fit into a jersey pocket, then expect to pay dearly for it.

Other features

Thumb loops are probably the most common extra feature found on many waterproof cycling jackets. These are designed to stop the sleeves from riding up, creating a gap between the cuffs of the jacket and your gloves.

>>> 15 reasons why cycling in the winter is great

In general, these basically consist of a piece of elastic sewn into the cuff, an unsophisticated design that can quite often pull at the webbing between your thumb and index finger if the sleeves are slightly too short. Better designs incorporate the loop into the cuff, which is more comfortable and looks better too.

Sportive, wet, wheelbase spring classic

A long tail will keep your bum dry on wet roads

To keep your bum dry from wheel spray it’s also worth looking for a waterproof cycling jacket with a long tail (or bumflap). However this isn’t just a case of manufacturers just adding an extra bit of material at the bottom of their jacket, and it’ll need to have some silicon grippers or other devices to prevent it from riding up.

>>> 10 worst winter kit mistakes and how to avoid them

If you’re on a long ride, then you’re also likely to need to access the rear pockets of your jersey in order to get at any energy bars or gels you might have stashed in there. With this in mind, many waterproof cycling jackets will have some sort of opening at the rear, but if your one doesn’t then it’s easy enough just to lift up the tail of the jacket to access your pockets that way.

>>> Buyer’s guide to bib tights

Finally, it’s also worth looking for a waterproof cycling jacket that has some sort of soft fabric on the insides of the cuffs and collar. This will really help with comfort, feeling much nicer against the skin than the slick, cold material found on the inside of most waterproof cycling jackets.

Our pick of the best waterproof cycling jackets

Sportful Hotpack NoRain jacket

Sportful Hotpack Norain jacket

Score: 9

Price: £120

White might not be the most practical option for a waterproof cycling jacket (so thankfully Sportful also makes its Hotpack NoRain jacket in high vis yellow or black), but the performance is still exceptional.

Not only is this jacket exceptionally waterproof and breathable, but Sportful has also nailed the little details with the thumb loops and zip garage.

Read the full review of the Sportful Hotpack NoRain jacket here

Buy now from Wiggle

Planet X Hydrosphere jacket

planet x hydrosphere waterproof jacket

Score: 9

Price: £99.99

Planet X might not be the first company you think of when buying some new cycling kit, but that doesn’t mean that Sheffield brand can’t offer clothing that offers just as much value as its bikes.

Case in point is the Hydrosphere jacket, which might lack the finer details of pricier waterproof jackets, but will still keep you dry when the heavens open.

Read the full review of the Planet X Hydrosphere jacket here

Buy now from Planet X

POC Raceday Rain jacket

POC Raceday rain jacket

Score: 9

Price: £230

Yes, £230 is a huge amount of money to blow on a waterproof cycling jacket, but if you can afford it, and you’re riding in the rain a lot, then this POC Raceday Rain jacket is worth the outlay.

Everything about this jacket is superb, with perfect waterproofing, exceptional breathability and fit, and a quality construction which means that it is built to last.

Read the full review of the POC Raceday Rain jacket here

Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles

Polaris Hexon jacket

polaris hexon waterproof jacket

Score: 9

Price: £89.99

For a penny under £90, the Polaris Hexon waterproof jacket is incredibly hard to fault, even when you compare it to jackets of double the price.

The fit might not be that aero, but this jacket is incredibly waterproof and very breathable, making it a perfect choice if you’re doing hard efforts in bad weather

Read the full review of the Polaris Hexon jacket here

Buy now from Wheelies

Castelli Gabba 2 jacket

castelli gabba 2 jacket

Score: 10

Price: £180

Ok, so it’s not technically a waterproof jacket, but if you’re looking for a piece of clothing to get you through horrible wet and cold rides, then the Castelli Gabba 2 jacket is a great option.

The water-resistant clothing will keep you dry through showers, but if the rain does get through in heavier downpours, then the insulation will still keep you warm

Read the full review of the Castelli Gabba 2 jacket here

Buy now from Ribble Cycles

How much should I pay?

Bike shop by Russ Ellis

You don’t need to spend the earth on a waterproof cycling jacket

The sky really is the limit when it comes to buying a waterproof cycling jacket, with some options from certain premium bands even nudging close to the £300. However the good news is that you don’t need to spend nearly that much to get a great jacket.

>>> How to get your bike ready for winter (video)

If breathability isn’t a massive issue (for example, if you’re just using the jacket for commuting to and from work) and are willing to do a bit of shopping around, then you can easily pick up a really good waterproof cycling jacket that will keep you nice and dry for less that £50.

For something that will offer better breathability, more features, and probably a closer fit, then you are going to have to spend a little more money. However, there’s no need to go crazy, with the £100-£150 price range offering a whole host of options without getting you in too much trouble with your bank manager.

How we score

10 – Superb, best in its class and we couldn’t fault it
9 – Excellent, a slight change and it would be perfect
8 – Brilliant, we’d happily buy it
7 – Solid, but there’s better out there
6 – Pretty good, but not quite hitting the mark
5 – OK. Not much wrong with it, but nothing special
4 – A few niggles let this down
3 – Disappointing
2 – Poor, approach with caution
1- Terrible, do not buy this product

  • Odd Bloke

    How did we all cope before the zip garage came along?

  • http://www.webmarketingitaliano.com/ Loris Castagnini

    My vote for: “No mention of the Parentini Mossa which is true waterproof garment, with Windtex membrane works perfectly to regulate body temperature.” [Volata]

    If you test Windtex membrane (Parentini or Storm Shield) you’ll be the first to put the others in waste

  • Volata

    No mention of the Parentini Mossa which is true waterproof garment, with Windtex membrane works perfectly to regulate body temperature. the article states re Gabba: “but if the rain does get through in heavier downpours, then the insulation will still keep you warm”, this is not accurate, its the opposite, the Gabba release any sweat/heat the body produces leaving the fabric cold, hence when you get wet, you get freezing cold.

  • TirelessThomas

    Thanks for this post. I have been all over the net, and this is one of the only two good posts on this topic. Amazing to me, as it’s an important topic. Interestingly, a lot of the top UK jackets are not available in North America. It’s like we are parallel universes! For North American readers – the other great post on this topic, plus a list of 7 great jackets you can buy in North America, is here: https://averagejoecyclist.com/7-best-waterproof-cycling-jackets-choose-best-cycling-jacket/

  • James Lee

    Another important consideration is how long the waterproofing lasts. Notice no Gore products are considered here. Initially they are amazing – waterproof and highly breathable, however, that doesn’t last and reproofing never seems to bring the performance. Would also add visibility as rain and dark clouds often impairs drivers’ vision.

  • reippuert

    Vulpine Portixol is amazing for its mid range cost.

  • J1

    The same article from last year? Have manufacturers not released new jackets since then?? You need to put some work into your reviews, CW.

  • http://majzel.blogspot.com/ Marcus Bennett

    You know what YOU REALLY need when it rains. Well it is a jacket with an Integrated hood. A hood keeps your head dry and an integrated hood stops the water from trickling down your neck. So now, which of the jackets that you reviewed makes the cut then?

  • Michael chalkley

    Not one of the jackets cover your rear like the Gore Alp-X 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket. Awesome coverage, especially if you have no mudguards.

  • Jonathan Seyghal

    “..with each cycling jacket promising great wet weather shielding for under £80”

  • Chrisg123

    If its wet I look no further than the Castelli Gabba 2 long sleeve. You really should have included this in the review.

  • Jonathan Seyghal

    Now working.

  • Tim Phillips

    And most of the others..

  • Jonathan Seyghal

    The links for the Dhb and BBB reviews (at least) are not working.