Three Things To Consider When Buying A Waterproof Jacket

A good waterproof jacket is the perfect tool to keep you dry when Mother Nature has other plans.

man hiking on rock near water
A good raincoat could save your trip when you're camping, just like a bad one could ruin it.Robert Alexander Wilson via Unsplash

A good waterproof jacket can keep you dry and comfortable, no matter what weather you are braving to pursue your favorite outdoor activity. When shopping for a waterproof jacket, you’ll notice that the rubber “raincoat” of yesteryear has been replaced by much lighter and more efficient materials that can keep you dry in the wettest of weather. To make a good selection when shopping for a waterproof jacket, consider three important factors—breathability of the material, packability of the jacket and the expected temperatures when you will be using the jacket.

Breathability

Man wearing grey Columbia rain jacket
This rain jacket has a 100 percent polyester lining and breathable seam-sealed construction for protection in wet weather.Amazon

Breathability is what sets modern rainwear apart from old-fashioned raincoats, which usually kept the rain out, but often caused you to sweat profusely while doing so. Waterproof breathable fabrics are typically constructed from several layers of material. All look like a single layer of fabric, but most have an outer face fabric, a coated or laminated membrane layer and an internal mesh layer to protect the membrane. Many are sprayed with a durable water repellant (DWR) chemical coating for additional waterproofing. Be sure and choose a jacket designed to keep rain out while wicking moisture away from your skin. When you get the right jacket, you'll stay dry when others in your party aren't.

Packability

Man wearing EZrun lightweight waterproof jacket
This lightweight waterproof jacket packs into its own back pocket, making a carrying bag unnecessary.Amazon

How packable you need your jacket to be might be very important to you, or it might not. It just depends on your intended usage. If you plan to backpack or canoe into a remote area and need your raingear along to keep you dry in case of an unexpected squall, a jacket that packs down to fill only a very small space in your pack is a must. A bulky, heavy jacket just won't do. On the other hand, if you are going to drive right to your campsite and just need a waterproof jacket in case it rains while you're out gathering wood, a jacket that hardly packs down at all will work—heck, you can even take it to camp on a coat hanger. If you'll be participating in both kinds of activities from time to time, the packable jacket is more versatile and can be used for both types of outing.

Temperature

Wantdo heavy waterproof jacket
This heavy waterproof jacket is made for use in extremely cold conditions.Amazon

The temperature when you are participating in an outdoor activity is a critical factor for choosing a waterproof jacket. You'll need a waterproof jacket when it rains in warm weather just as much as when it rains in cold weather. You'll just need a different waterproof jacket for those differing conditions. For warm days, the lightest rainproof jacket that keeps rain out, wicks moisture away from your torso and arms and is breathable is your very best bet. In much colder weather, you'll need to worry more about staying warm than breathability. Choose insulated waterproof jackets based on how cold it will be when you are outdoors in wintertime. And remember, adding additional base layers can make a waterproof jacket work well in temperatures that would normally be considered too cold for it.