waterproof jackets reviewed (Wanderlust)
Review 30 April

Traveller's guide to: Lightweight waterproofs

You might be expecting gentle showers or full-on storms, but you should take a waterproof jacket wherever you travel – just in case. Choose one that’s light and you’ll barely know you’re carrying it – we review the best available

Key features to look for when choosing an waterproof jacket

1) Fit

As with all gear, look for men’s and women’s specific fits and try on both to see which design suits you best. Smaller men may find the women’s bias feels better; some women may be more comfortable in a man’s cut. All jackets in this test are available in both men’s and women’s specific fits.

2) Weight

All jackets featured here are very light, weighing in at less than 350g for a men’s size L (that’s over 125g less than an iPad Air).

3) Hood

It’s vital that your hood fits close to your head so that it doesn’t blow off in the wind. Also, make sure it moves with you – it’s no good if you turn to look to one side and your head simply moves inside your hood, obscuring your vision! On lightweight jackets hoods tend to either be adjustable (so you can get a close fit) or elasticated. Look for a structured or wired peak so that it’s easy to reshape after being scrunched away in your bag.

4) Zip

Some jackets feature water resistant zips (coated) and some don’t. Either way no zip is water tight and is always the weak point where rain can get in. Look for external stormflaps (strips of fabric that cover zips) – some jackets offer double ones, though these do add to the weight. Internal stormflaps sometimes feature too, providing extra protection inside the jacket.

5) Adjustable Hem

As with cuffs, look for a hem that’s close fitting and can be adjusted to stop water getting in. Light jackets are sometimes shorter to save weight, but remember that a scooped hemline will offer added protection over your bottom.

6) Cuffs

Anywhere there’s a hole, there’s potential for water to get in. Make sure the cuffs fit well, are adjustable and that the sleeves don’t ride up too much when you raise your arms above your head or move about.

7) Ventilation

All the jackets are made from waterproof and breathable fabrics. However, even these can become wet inside if you’re very active or are somewhere warm – your body heat will cause condensation as you sweat. Look for venting to help with this – in the form of pit zips (underarm zippable vents). Mesh pockets also help with airflow but add weight.

Lowe Alpine – Kamala Jacket £100

THE TEST: Though it’s the cheapest on test, Lowe Alpine certainly manages to pack in the features on this jacket. The hood boasts not only a structured peak but also a wired one, making it easy to reshape once it comes out of your bag. It also easily folds away when not being used and is adjustable with good movement once on.

The cuffs are both elasticated and offer a Velcro adjuster for a close fit. The hem is not as scooped as others on test, but it is adjustable making it easy to keep water out. In terms of venting there are no pit zips but the two pockets are mesh lined, which helps with airflow. However, this adds some weight – this jacket comes in at 292g (women’s size 10), the second-heaviest on test.

Neither the zips on the pockets or the main zip down the front feature water-resistant coating, but they do have stormflaps – the main zip has two for extra protection from the rain. At the top is a welcome chinguard and around the neck is a strip of fleece that really helps with comfort.

THE VERDICT: Well featured and excellent value for money, though its heavier weight may put some people off.

IN BRIEF
Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Weight: ★★★★✩
Value: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★

www.lowealpine.com

Rab Cohort Jacket £120

THE TEST: Shaving off some weight is this offering from Rab, which at 277g (women’s size 10) is the third-lightest on test. You might think that the loss of grams equates to loss of features, but happily this is not the case. The hood features a wired and structured peak, and the adjustment cords are not only easy to use – even with gloves on – but are also captured by fabric strips to stop them blowing in your face, which is a nice touch. It also moves well with your head.

The cuffs are adjustable via Velcro strips, as is the hem; the length is good, with a nice scoop to protect your bottom. As with Lowe, there are no pit zips, and the pockets are mesh lined to help with condensation, but Rab has opted for a much finer and lighter mesh that has clearly been a weight-saver.

The two pockets are a good size and offer coated zips to make them water resistant. The main zip does not have stormflaps, but is also coated; a thin internal stormflap is present to help funnel away any water that does get in.

THE VERDICT: Well priced, well made and well designed proving that weight can be cut while still retaining key features.

IN BRIEF
Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★

www.rab.uk.com

Jack WolfskinExhalation Texapore Jacket £130

THE TEST: Add an extra tenner and you lose even more weight. This Jack Wolfskin model comes in at an impressive 255g, the second-lightest here. You can quickly see where weight-saving compromises have been made: the hood is structured but not wired; the adjustable cords help make it fit, if not as well as others here, and they are slightly trickier to use. As with the Rab, the cords were captured by fabric strips.

The cuffs are Velcro adjustable and fit well, as does the hem (also adjustable). The length is good and offers a decent-sized scoop. It has venting pit zips featuring stormflaps.

Neither the pocket zips, pit zips or the main zip are coated for water resistance, though the main zip features an internal stormflap to help keep rain out. There is a poppered closing so that the jacket can be loosely closed without using the zip – an alternative way to vent it – though water would likely find its way in when doing this. A soft chinguard at the top helps with comfort.

THE VERDICT: Some nice touches and the pit zips make this ideal for wet and humid places where sweat may be a problem.

IN BRIEF
Features: ★★★★✩
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩

www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk

The North Face Pursuit Jacket £140

THE TEST: Given that it costs more, you may be surprised that the The North Face jacket actually weighs more (heaviest on test) – but closer inspection reveals why. Venting is the key feature: there are two good pit zips that have a water resistant coating as well as two well-sized mesh-lined pockets for excellent air flow. Both of these also feature single stormflaps (no water resistant coating) that do a good job of stopping water getting in.

The hood is adjustable and offers a good fit, though is only structured and has no wire. The chinguard adds additional comfort. Both cuffs feature Velcro adjusters and the hemline not only features a generous scoop and a great length but is also adjustable.

The main zip features no external stormflaps but does have a generous internal one, which would be key in keeping any rain away from your body. At 326g (women’s size 10) the weight is not a deal-breaker and the venting is excellent if going somewhere hot, though with a slightly heavier weight you might argue you’d need more venting anyway.

THE VERDICT: Robust and a good length, with superb venting, though the heavier weight may put some people off.

IN BRIEF
Features: ★★★★✩
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★✩✩
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩

www.thenorthface.co.uk

Sherpa Asaar £150

THE TEST: Made in Nepal, this jacket may cost a bit more but money from each product is donated to a help underprivileged Sherpa children. With actual Sherpas testing the products too, you know that this jacket has been put through its paces in the harshest conditions by people who truly understand the value of lightweight kit. It’s no surprise then that this jacket comes in at 193g (women’s size 10) – the lightest on test.

Some features are missing though. The hood has a structured peak but no wire; however, it is adjustable and also features a nifty touch – it’s elasticated around the sides and then coated with soft fabric (with an added chinguard) for a comfortable fit and excellent movement. The cuffs are adjustable with Velcro and the scooped hemline is cord adjusted. There is no venting, but then a lighter weight can mean less sweat.

The zips on the two pockets are both water resistant coated. There’s no external stormflaps but the zip is coated too and the internal stormflap is an excellent size.

THE VERDICT: A good weight with a well fitting hood at a reasonable price, though lack of venting may be an issue for some.

IN BRIEF
Features: ★★★★✩
Design: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★✩

www.sherpaadventuregear.com

Rohan Elite Jacket £225

THE TEST: Why the price jump? Unlike the others here, this jacket is made from 3-layer waterproof fabric, meaning the extra lining is laminated to the waterproof/breathable layer (as opposed to a spray-on one with 2.5 layer). This makes it more hard-wearing and breathable. That extra layer means extra expense and usually extra weight. With Rohan’s Elite the expense is obvious but the lack of weight is impressive – it’s only 277g (women’s size 10), the fourth-lightest here.

The structured, wired peak hood has good movement and a chinguard. It’s adjustable via a cord system. This is captured by strips of fabric rather than hemmed internally, meaning it can get caught on things in your bag which is not ideal. Cuffs are Velcro adjusted and the hem is scooped and adjustable too.

The two pockets feature water resistant coated zips instead of stormflaps. But the main zip has an internal stormflap and is also coated. There is no venting in terms of pit zips and mesh, but with such a lightweight and breathable fabric you don’t really need them.

THE VERDICT: A breathable, waterproof fabric that’s great to touch with some nice features. But you certainly pay for it.

IN BRIEF
Features: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★★
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★✩
Overall: ★★★★★

www.rohan.co.uk

How we did the test…

We asked gear manufacturers to submit lightweight waterproof jackets that weighed less than 350g (for a men’s size L) to ensure they would not bust travellers’ luggage allowances. From the 12 we were sent our editor, Phoebe Smith, took them out on the road to see which performed best. The six here are all ‘Wanderlust Approved’, with a Value Buy and Best in Test (for the overall best buy) being indicated. All are available in men’s and women’s specific fits with the different names given if applicable.

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