The weather in Scotland is known for being dreich – a Scots word meaning miserable and threatening rain – so a rain jacket is an essential for any outdoor adventures. However, buying a waterproof jacket can be puzzling, as you contend with technical language and so many choices you don’t know how to pick one.
Dinnae Fash – that’s what our waterproof jacket buying guide is for. We’ll answer your most burning questions and ensure that you’re prepared when the rain hits.
What’s the difference between ‘water-resistant’ and ‘waterproof’?
True waterproof clothing is designed to keep your bone dry for hours in the rain or snow. A water-resistant item can stand up to light showers on the hill but will let water in sooner than you’d like.
What makes a jacket waterproof?
Waterproof jackets are made with multi-layered fabric that is treated with a hydrophobic coating. This fabric should have a minimum hydrostatic head of 1,500mm, but ideally over 5,000mm.
What do waterproof jacket ratings mean? / What is a hydrostatic head?
A jacket’s waterproofing is measured in hydrostatic head (HH). The higher the hydrostatic head rating, the longer you’ll have in the rain before the water gets through the fabric.
The hydrostatic head is literally measured as the height the water column reaches above the fabric before drops begin to pass through.
Under 1,500mm: This fabric is water-resistant at best, suitable for brief showers or short exposure to snow.
1,500mm – 5,000mm: Any fabric above 1,500mm HH can handle light rain for a couple of hours at most. Excellent for quick trips about town in the rain, or a sudden shower on an otherwise cracking day.
5,000mm – 10,000mm: Here are your serious waterproofs, perfect for average to heavy rainfall, even over many hours on the hill.
Above 10,000mm: If you’re going to be exposed to persistent heavy rain and stormy weather, fabrics above 10,000mm HH will keep you dry.
A rating of 1,500mm to 5,000mm is plenty for your ideal everyday jacket. It can handle a brief shower when you’re about town or up a hill, but you’ll want to pack something more substantial for grey and stormy days.
Jackets rated for 5,000mm to 10,000mm are excellent all-rounders. Generally comfortable enough to throw on for a park trip, they shine when the weather takes a turn for the worst. It can comfortably handle persistent rain and wet conditions.
What type of waterproof jacket should I get?
2-Layer Waterproof Jacket
A 2-layer jacket offers waterproofing and breathability together, combining two fabrics with very different properties. The outside layer has been fully treated to repel the rain, while the inner layer of mesh allows the body to breathe and provides some airflow. 2-layer jackets, like the Kerrera, make excellent everyday jackets.
2.5-Layer Waterproof Jacket
2.5-layer waterproof jackets have the same inner and outer layer, but with one extra treatment. The inner lining has a thin coating, which protects this layer from being clogged by sweat and dirt from our skin. This keeps the breathability of the jacket high and makes it excellent for more active adventures like hiking, trail running, and Munro-bagging. Check out our Canna for a classic 2.5-layer jacket.
3-Layer Waterproof Jacket
3-layer waterproof jackets are ideal for the winter months when you can expect to spend hours in a downpour. The layers are built from outer waterproof fabric, breathable lining fabric, and a protective layer that helps to keep these layers clean. The three are bonded together to form an outer shell that protects against any weather condition and is also extremely durable and long-lasting. Look at our Munro Jacket for a classic example of a hard-wearing 3-layer jacket.
Packaway Jacket (Pakka)
These are extremely lightweight waterproof jackets that can be folded, rolled, or simply stuffed into a bag or rucksack. Ideal for emergencies, they normally have one layer of waterproofing, with vents providing some breathability. We would recommend the Stow & Go for everyday use.
Waterproof Jacket & Trouser Set
It’s just as important to protect your trousers when you’re out in the rain for hours, and most walking trousers are water-resistant at best. A lightweight waterproof trouser is the perfect companion for any rainy day. Ensure you find a jacket/trouser combination that provides complete coverage, like our Stormguard and Tempest sets.
What features should a waterproof jacket have?
Your waterproof jacket should have a variety of features specifically designed to keep the rain out from all angles.
Your hood serves two functions: to keep the rain from your head, and to shield your eyes from drops. Many hoods will have a peak at the front for exactly that purpose. A hood with drawcord tightening is useful, especially when you’re moving fast, and you don’t want the wind to blow your hood down – but walkers might prefer a looser fit for more face protection.
You’ll notice that jackets for climbing will have a larger hood – so that you can fit a helmet underneath.
- Chin guard
Some rain jackets have a strip of fabric at the top of the collar, designed to protect the lower part of your face and avoid snagging your chin in the zip.
Just because it’s pouring down doesn’t mean you won’t build up a sweat under your coat. Many jackets will have strategic vented sections around the back or arms to encourage breathability and airflow. On waterproofs, these may be harder to spot, as they’ll be covered by a flap of waterproof fabric.
Pockets should be either zip sealed or protected by flaps to avoid damaging the most important items on your body. Depending on your adventure, you might want pockets to sit higher on your chest to avoid covering them with your hip belt.
A good zip makes a huge difference to your experience of a jacket. Some of our jackets feature fully waterproof zips that give you peace of mind when you’re out in a storm. Others feature sturdy zips protected by storm flaps - a piece of material designed to protect an opening from the rain.
Especially for climbers, well-sealing cuffs are an essential on your jacket. The best are adjustable with either Velcro fastening or lockable drawcords – keeping the rain out and your body heat in.
How should a waterproof jacket fit?
It should be long enough to cover your trouser line when you raise your arms above your head. Jackets normally shift by about 1-2 inches as a guide, but this depends on the sleeve design.
Your cuffs should be long enough to cover your wrists, but without slipping over your hand entirely. Adjustable cuffs help to keep longer sleeves in place and leave your hands.
You won’t be wearing a jacket alone, so make sure you can layer comfortably. You should be able to fit a base and mid-layer underneath the jacket. A rain jacket for lightweight running or cycling is the exception – for really active pursuits, you should choose something close-fitting to avoid chafing.
A women’s waterproof jacket differs from unisex and men’s waterproof jackets in a couple of ways. They have a narrower, more fitted waist, to stop the jacket from moving too much when you’re active. They also have shorter sleeve lengths, and their bottom hem is slightly wider – though most can be adjusted by drawcords or Velcro straps. Some women will get on well with a unisex, but others prefer the tailored fit of women’s waterproof jackets.
What’s the best waterproof jacket?
The best waterproof jacket completely depends on the person – a hiker’s jacket will be very different than a cyclist.
The short answer is – it all depends on what you’re using it for!
For walking and hiking
Hikers, you’ll be pleased to hear you have a lot of great options. For the perfect mix of durability, clever design, and streamlining, the Canna is an impressive waterproof jacket for walking. The construction balances waterproofing and breathability, and you’ll find the extra length is perfect for keeping the rain off your trouser seat.
If you’re out on the hills every weekend in winter, you might appreciate the extra features and 3-layer fabric of our Munro.
If you’re looking for a waterproof jacket for climbers, there’s one that stands out: the Munro Jacket. Every detail has been tailored for the mountains – your large hood to accommodate a helmet and elevated pockets to stash maps and snacks in easy reach. You’ll even find waterproof underarm zips for breathability without compromising waterproofing.
Cyclists need a lightweight waterproof jacket – and you can’t get much lighter than the Stow & Go. This packaway coat is ideal for city cyclists and mountain bikers who want a sturdy waterproof that doesn’t take up lots of space in their pack. For top visibility, choose our Yellow Stow & Go and be seen anywhere you cycle.
You have a lot of cracking choices for everyday waterproofs. We’d personally recommend the Kerrera for mornings walking the dog or a run to the shops in the downpour. It’s sturdy and comfortable, with some serious waterproofing that holds up in the worst winter showers.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to stand out when you stroll into town, the Lighthouse is a relaxed and stylish coat. Based on the classic fisherman’s jacket, it will keep you completely dry without a tight fit.