The modern waterproof cycling jacket can do far more than the traditional rain cape used to do. With the latest breathable fabrics, riders no longer need to worry about the famous boil-in-the-bag scenario.
Even basic, relatively cheap packable jackets allow sweat and condensation to be transferred from the inside to the outside of their fabric while keeping out rain. A quality waterproof cycling jacket will keep you dry through the foulest weather, allowing you to head out of the front door and avoiding the indoor trainer.
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When it comes to choosing the right waterproof jacket for you, it can be a bit of a minefield with lots of technical terminology to wade through from a huge selection of clothing manufacturers. Below the list of our favorite jackets, there’s more information on the way waterproofing, breathability and other featured are graded.
Our pick of the best waterproof cycling jackets
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dhb Lab Aeron Ultralight
Made from a three-layer waterproof fabric with a DWR coating, as is standard for this type of garment, the dhb Lab Aeron is so thin it packs down smaller than the others in this test, weighing only 103g. Despite this, it’s tough and survived a tumble on hardpacked ground.
The fit is skinny, with long arms and narrow shoulders and the collar fleece-lined for extra insulation, which also stops water trickling down. All the seams are taped, the lightweight YKK zip works smoothly and the jacket rounded out by a perfectly judged drop tail which prevents your chamois and lower back from getting soaked
Sportful Stelvio waterproof cycling jacket
The SportfulStelvio is a close-fitting, lightweight stowaway jacket which we found went a long way to reducing the misery of a wet ride.
The price is high — but some of the other stats explain why. This jacket weighs just 156g but comes with a breathability rating of 50,000g/m2/24hrs (most come with a rating of 5,000 to 8,000g/m2/24hrs!) and a waterproof rating of 20,000mm. That’s pretty darn good.
Castelli Perfetto RoS long sleeve jersey
Ok, so strictly speaking this may not be a jacket, but it’s as good as. In wet weather, its water resistance is good enough to keep you dry, with visible beading on the surface rain and road spray literally roll-off. A high collar keeps the wind and chills out while a long tail protects your back from road slop.
Assos Mille GT winter jacket
An Editor’s Choice award winner in 2018, the Assos Mille GT Winter Jacket is as much about keeping you at the right temperature when riding in blustery conditions as it is about rain protection. But it does both really well, with a low weight and a mix of fabrics to keep off windchill without getting too hot or clammy.
Santini Vega Xtreme winter jacket
Another winter jacket that fends off a downpour too, the Vega Xtreme uses Polartec Windbloc fabric with a built-in membrane and DWR surface treatment for waterproofing plus the insulation for rides down to freezing. The fit is well tailored, so there’s no windflap, there’s an extra-long tail and enough waterproof storage for all your ride kit.
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Shadow jacket
Rapha says that the Lightweight Shadow jacket isn’t designed for heavy downpours, but we reckon it’s up to the task, coping even with heavy downpours of 90 minutes or so. It’s twice dipped in DWR treatment to fend off the wet and thin enough to offer great breathability.
Castelli Idro 2
Without doubt one of the best performing full waterproof rain jackets we have ever tested, let alone in the packable category. The Idro 2 uses Gore-Tex Shake Dry fabric to ensure complete weatherproofing, yet a quick shake and it is dry enough to comfortably put back in your pocket. The fit is excellent with plenty of length in the arms and a tall collar. It is very expensive and lacks any additional features but the performance more than makes up for any shortcomings.
Altura Firestorm Jacket
Altura’s packable Firestorm jacket utilizes a proprietary waterproof and breathable fabric to deal with the worst the weather can dish out. It’s a little bulkier than some of the other jackets here, but also provides a little more warmth for really cold days. Plenty of reflective features add another dimension to the Firestorm and make it a good choice for riders getting out in the early mornings or evenings.
Albion Rain Jacket
Having already established a range of jerseys and shorts, the Albion Rain Jacket sees the London brand break into new, water-resistant territory. It features fully taped seams and the jacket body has a three-layer waterproof and wind-resistant fabric. To touch, the jacket is lightweight and doesn’t feel bulky or heavy in your hands. In fact, one of its best features is its packability, and it easily fits into a rear pocket.
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Jacket
Rapha’s entry into the Shakedry jacket category actually proves to almost be a bargain compared to its rivals. Our tester had this to say about it lauded Gore’s Shakedry fabric for its ability to keep the precipitation the outside, while also preventing the boil in a bag feeling on the inside. In fact, this particular CW staffer, Rupert, who usually avoids waterproofs like the plague, happy wore the Pro Team Jacket for entire rides; something he would usually only do if it was completely unavoidable.
Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket
As Assos puts it, the Equipe RS is the offspring if its legendary Rs.strumprinz jacket, which also has a legendary £350 / $499 price tag. Made from a softshell, Scholl Tex fabric, the Equip RS is completely waterproof, but also breathes quite a bit better than some its crunchy hardfaced compatriots. It’s not quite as compact as some of the others on this list, but Swiss jacket will easily stuff into a pocket.
Santini 365 Scudo Jacket
The 365 Scudo is an ultra-lightweight jacket that has a little less waterproofing than some of the other rain jackets here but still offers 100% windproofing, making it ideal for those days when the weather just can’t make its mind up and threatens showers. Packing down to less than the size of an apple, it will fit into a jersey pocket with space to spare.
Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II
Scottish brand Endura knows a thing or two about creating weather beating kit and the Pro SL Shell jacket is no exception. It’s on the bulkier side of the packable jacket spectrum but will still fit into a pocket. What it does have is an exceptional fit and a three-layer fabric that is as tough as it is weatherproof.
Gore C7 Gore-Tex Shakedry Stretch jacket
Gore’s Shakedry rain jacket tech still rules the roost when it comes to lightweight protection. It’s very waterproof, but still breathable and the Shakedry tech really does work, so you don’t end up with a heavy, soggy mass in your pocket once the sun does come out. Gore has upped the feature count too, adding stretch to the equation. It was impressive when we awarded it top marks in our 2017 Editor’s Choice and Gore’s tech has only got better since, justifying its still-elevated price tag. There’s an insulated version for cold, wet rides too.
What to look for in a waterproof cycling jacket
Key elements to look for in a waterproof jacket are waterproofing, breathability, fit and packability. We’ve got in-depth details of all these features below – but as a quick summary:
- Waterproofing: There’s a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Waterproof will normally come with a claimed waterproof rating of at least 10,000mm, be multilayered fabric with a perforated membrane, have taped seams and storm-proof zips. Water-resistant will usually have a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating and be lightweight, making it more packable.
- Breathability: It’s a tricky balance between staying dry from rain and staying dry from sweat. Breathability can also be rated and claimed ratings of above 10,000g will help prevent you from boiling on the inside. Generally speaking, the more waterproof a fabric is, the less breathable it becomes, although there are some expensive exceptions to the rule. Jacket design often takes account of breathability with the inclusion of more breathable fabrics under the arms, or additional ventilation.
- Fit: It’s horses for courses, or in this case: jackets for jockeys. Fast riding or racing will require a tight-fitting rain cape, which minimizes fabric flap to maintain your aero performance, while slower all-day affairs may be more comfortable with a looser fit for layering up underneath. Other fit details, such as a long tail to keep your backside dry or thumb loops will appeal to some, but not others.
- Packability: If conditions are changeable, then it’s likely you’ll want to be able to stow the jacket in a rear pocket. Waterproof jackets tend to be heavier and bulkier, and don’t often pack down small enough for a rear pocket, while water-resistant options can usually be scrunched into a ball the size of a fist. But the technology has come a long way since the original Gore-Tex days, and Gore’s ‘Shakedry’ technology, also adopted by some third parties like Castelli and Rapha, is exceptionally waterproof and very lightweight. Take a look at our guide to the best packable rain jackets if that’s better suited to your needs.
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.
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.
“But what’s a waterproof rating!?” we 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 with water before it starts to leak through.
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.
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.
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.
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 has tightly meshing teeth. It may have a storm flap either on the outside or on the inside too.
For all that, probably the major factor that distinguishes a good waterproof cycling jacket from a bad one (or at least a great one from a good one) 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 inside the jacket, so a good degree of breathability will allow sweat to escape.
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 vapor 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 vapor 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 (g), but as with the waterproof rating you should always be a skeptic, with manufacturers carrying out all the testing rather than an independent body, and the testing is for the fabric only.
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 size fits all, with different cuts being better suited to different types of riding and riders.
If you’re using this jacket for fast rides, maybe heading out for the local chain gang regardless of 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 too tight, just in case you want to add extra layers underneath in really cold weather.
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 blustery days. A loose-fitting collar and cuffs could also undermine an otherwise very waterproof cycling jacket.
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.
However, in general, waterproof cycling jackets that offer good waterproof protection are fairly bulky, so the majority will not pack down that small. Although new technology is making smaller jackets ever more waterproof it should come as no surprise that 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, you’ll pay dearly for it. Gore’s Shakedry technology is a great example: it’s extremely lightweight, highly hydrophobic but usually only comes in the most expensive jackets.
Other fit details such as 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.
These often consist of a piece of elastic sewn into the cuff, a rudimentary 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.
To keep your derriere dry from wheel spray it’s also worth looking for a waterproof cycling jacket with a drop tail (or bumflap). However this isn’t a case of manufacturers just adding an extra bit of material at the bottom of their jacket, and it’ll need to have some silicone grippers or other devices to prevent it from riding up.
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. If yours doesn’t then it’s easy enough just to lift up the tail of the jacket to access your pockets that way.
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 cold, crunchy material found on the inside of most waterproof cycling jackets.
How much should I pay?
The sky really is the limit when it comes to buying a waterproof cycling jacket, with some options from certain premium brands nudging north of £300 /$400. However, the good news is that you don’t need to spend nearly that much to get a great jacket.
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 than $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 / $120-200 price range offering a whole host of options without getting you in too much trouble with your bank manager.