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When you live in a country where it rains more than 100 days a year, waterproofing is a serious business.
A proper waterproof coat or jacket is a wardrobe essential in stormy Britain, and it’s worth investing money in a decent one that will protect you from serious weather all year round.
What to look for in a waterproof jacket
A good waterproof jacket should be two things – waterproof and breathable. Cheap and cheerful macs-in-sacs and rain ponchos will keep you dry at a pinch, but they aren’t breathable – you’ll get sweaty and hot pretty quickly, which isn’t ideal out on hikes or cycle trips.
Look for a waterproof jacket that either uses branded technology, such as the reliable Gore-Tex, or own-brand technology to render its outer membrane waterproof.
Waterproof jackets (check they aren’t just labelled water repellent or water resistant, which tend not to be fully waterproof) are also known as hard shells, and you’ll often see jackets rated by millimetres of waterproofness – as a guide, up to 1,500mm is water resistant (so not useful in anything more than drizzle), 1,500mm-5,000mm is waterproof and good for most wet conditions, 10,000mm and above is highly waterproof and great for mountain conditions and snow.
What are you using your waterproof jacket for?
Think about how and where you’ll wear your jacket. If you want something for casual use, a roomier design is good for layering underneath on cold mornings, and a longer parka-length jacket with some insulation will offer more warmth. If you’re planning fast-paced hikes or cycles, you’ll want something light and breathable and without insulation.
Waterproof jackets - finding the perfect fit
A good jacket should fit snugly but not too tightly at the waist, cuffs and neck and include taped seams, sealed or protected zips, zipped pockets and a well-designed hood (look for a helmet-compatible hood if you want to wear it for climbing and cycling).
Underarm zips will stop you overheating. If you’re out in extreme conditions, it’s smart to pick a brightly coloured jacket so you’re easy to spot in bad weather.
How we tested the jackets
We tested all of these jackets in heavy rain and they kept us dry for multiple hours.
To check a jacket is effectively waterproof, see if water spilled on its outer shell balls into droplets and rolls off the surface. If water starts to be absorbed after regular use you can re-waterproof your jacket by treating it with a technical wash.
Get kitted out for your camping and backpacking adventures
Best women’s waterproof jackets at a glance
- Best for packability: Columbia Outdry Extreme Mesh Shell Jacket
- Best for casual strolls: Joules Shoreside Waterproof Jacket
- Best for mountain explorers: Keela Cairn Jacket
- Best for blowing the budget: Nobis Terra Jacket
- Best 3-in-1 jacket: The North Face Mountain Light Futurelight Triclimate Jacket
- Best eco-friendly jacket: Patagonia Granite Crest Jacket
- Best for use at night: Proviz Reflect360 Women’s Waterproof
- Best for keen walkers: Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Jacket
- Best for cycling and commuting: Chrome Storm Salute Jacket
- Best all-rounder: Fohn Women’s Supercell
Travelling light? Pack Columbia’s OutDry Extreme Jacket in your rucksack or bike pannier – it compacts down into its own pocket and is so lightweight you’ll barely notice you’re carrying it.
Columbia’s own-brand OutDry technology plus sealed seams offer reliable waterproofing if the rain starts up, and this design is super breathable, too - we wore it for hours in grim weather without getting damp or sweaty.
Ideal for stashing in your backpack if storms threaten.
Not many fully waterproof jackets on the market look as stylish as Joules’ ever-popular Right as Rain collection of coats in bright primary colours.
The Shoreside is our top pick – the longer length protects more of your torso, there’s a well-fitting hood and the jacket is lined with soft cotton, which feels much nicer to wear against the skin than many plastic-y waterproofs.
The Shoreside may look casual, but the outer material is still fully waterproofed, and stood up to heavy rain when on test.
This jacket isn’t super breathable or lightweight – save it for relaxed strolls, dog walks and wearing about town in a downpour.
Keela’s jackets are designed with the mountain-bound in mind, and the Cairn is ready to do battle with wind and rain in extreme conditions thanks to the brand’s Aquaflex waterproofing technology.
This was one of the best jackets on test for easy wear under a backpack or with a climbing harness, and it also sports a great helmet-compatible hood and a chest pocket for easy access – climbers, trekkers and mountaineers will appreciate how easy it is to wear with all their gear.
The Cairn also stood out for breathability, so you can keep it on even when you’re working up a sweat.
Key specs – Waterproofing technology: DWR; Pockets: 2, Colours available: black, red, grey.
If beautiful quality is top of your shopping list, look no further than new apparel brand Nobis’ jackets – they may be eye-wateringly expensive, but these jackets are also durable, storm-proof and rather elegant.
The Terra is only described by Nobis as ‘water-resistant’, but we found heavy rain beaded right off on test. A longer parka-style length keeps your body warm and works for winter use, and the Terra also has a great-fitting hood and deep pockets.
This design also looks very flattering, with a drawstring waist creating a slim silhouette – a great jacket to wear daily in city and country alike, so you’re likely to get your money’s worth out of it.
The North Face’s designs are having a bit of a style moment, but whether or not their jackets give you street cred, we can’t fault their function and fit on test in the great outdoors.
The North Face Mountain Light Futurelight Triclimate may have a mouthful of a name and a hefty price tag, but it’s our favourite of their waterproof offerings for women – because you get three outstanding jackets rolled into one.
Wear the cosy down jacket on its own on cold days, pop the comfy, fully waterproof jacket on top for an insulated, rainproof winter coat or wear the waterproof alone when hiking. If you want to invest in just one jacket for travelling and adventure in any weather, this is a great quality pick.
Patagonia’s latest and greatest women’s waterproof for women is the Granite Crest, which ticks all the boxes for getting out in the elements.
It’s fully waterproofed but avoids using PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals, which are harmful to the environment) in its construction.
The Granite Crest is also constructed with 100% recycled materials sourced from fishing nets.
The fit is beautiful, sitting nicely on the hips and feeling comfortable to move in all day, even under a backpack.
Proviz are all about reflective outdoor wear that makes you light up like a Christmas tree in the night – we’ve tested their cycle and insulated jackets in the past and have been impressed by both their quality and the extra safety they offer when you’re out in dark and stormy conditions.
Their women’s Reflect360 waterproof jacket is a chip off the same block – this is a fully waterproofed jacket with 10,000mm of protection in the day time, and when night falls, the silvery material shines brightly under light.
We also like that parts of this jacket are made using recycled bottles.
Best for: keen walkers
Key specs – Waterproofing technology: Texapore Ecosphere; Pockets: 5, Colours available: light blue, dark blue, red, black
Go Hike – a very fitting name for this jacket, squarely aimed at female walkers.
Impressively lightweight at 378g, Jack Wolfskin’s design will never weigh you down and is ideal for fast-paced hikers who want to pull on a waterproof if the heavens open while they’re out on the trail.
This may be a light jacket, but it still sports no less than five pockets, making it easy to store valuables. The Go Hike, which is made with recycled materials, is surprisingly soft, comfortable and flexible to wear.
We also rate the colour-blocking design of the indigo version of the Go Hike, which reminds us of retro outdoor gear. A softshell version is available for dry conditions.
Key specs – Waterproofing technology: 10,000mm; Pockets: 3, Colours available: black, olive
On your bike – we think Chrome’s Storm Salute jacket is perfect for cyclists and commuters who need a waterproof and functional outdoor jacket that also looks the business in the city.
This smart jacket boasts plenty of great design features, from well-placed zippered pockets to reflective detailing to light you up on night rides. A drop tail and adjustable hood stops splashback in wet weather, and the jacket is waterproofed to 10,000mm, so it can withstand the stormiest cycle.
Well worth it if you get out in any weather and need a jacket you can rely on.
There’s a bewildering amount of choice on the market when you’re shopping for a new waterproof – if you just want to buy a good all-rounder of a coat that’ll suit lots of different adventures, head over to Wiggle to meet Fohn’s Supercell.
This versatile jacket is reliably waterproof even in the worst downpours and features a great hood, roomy pockets and underarm zips – everything you need for a day out on the mountain.
We like the soft inner fabric, which feels great against the skin, and the unusual orange ‘harvest pumpkin’ colourway, which makes you visible in low light without being too acid-bright.