How to Choose a Waterproof Jacket

By Alpkit

How do you work out which waterproof is right for you when seemingly identical jackets can cost anywhere from £30 to £500?

The jargon used to describe waterproof jackets can be so specialist that even the most enthusiastic enthusiast needs to look up every other word to begin to understand what they’re paying for. It’s needlessly complicated, so we've broken everything down to make it simple. That way you can decide which waterproof is best for you.

(Don't forget, before buying a waterproof jacket, check whether you can get more life out of your old jacket by reproofing or repairing.)



Waterproof Buying Guide


  1. How waterproof is it?

    The measure for waterproofing is hydrostatic head (HH). The higher the HH rating, the longer your waterproof will keep out the rain. Officially anything over 1500 mm is waterproof but ours range from 8,000mm – 30,000mm. Check that the seams are taped (poking lots of holes in seams with a needle lets the water in) and that the zips are water-resistant or have a waterproof storm flap (this can be external flap of fabric with velcro or a thin strip behind the zip itself).

  2. How  breathable is it?

    ​​The higher your level of activity, the harder you work and the more heat and sweat you produce. If your jacket isn’t breathable, the sweat can’t escape and stays inside your jacket, making you feel damp. We measure breathability by something called Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate (MVTR) which is counted in grams per square metre per day. 8000g/m²/24hrs is fine for sedentary activities, 10,000-15,000 for moderate activity and 20,000+ is necessary for high intensity exercise like running, cycling or strenuous hillwallking.

  3. Is it comfortable to wear when you’re active?

    How much freedom of movement do you have for mountaineering, running, hillwalking or biking? Does it ride up at the back when you lean forward on your bike or lift your arms when climbing? Does it flap about in the wind?

  4. What are you using it for?

    Runners need fabric that’s light, breathable and flexible whilst riders need a slim fit with a long back, good forward reach and easy access pockets. Walkers benefit from longer coats, bigger pockets and snugger fitting hoods whereas mountaineers need a tough shell with space for warm layers underneath, good coverage when their arms are raised, higher pockets that leave room for a harness as well as a hood that goes over a helmet.

  5. How much protection do you need?

    A waterproof for regular hillwalking needs to be durable and highly waterproof, but not as durable as you’d need to climb a major Himalayan peak. You may not need taped seams for a short shower, but in prolonged rain they’re essential and they’re often specific in race kit lists.


So to sum up, the most important factors to consider when choosing a waterproof are:

  • Comfort – is it breathable enough for your level of activity? Does the fabric have the right feel and weight?

  • Function – does it have appropriate features for your planned activities? Of course you can wear a walking jacket to go biking, but a biking waterproof would be more appropriate.

  • Durability - does the jacket give the waterproof protection that you want and is the fabric tough enough for what you’re doing?

Environmental considerations

Be aware of the environmental impact of your waterproof jackets. The DWR coatings that make your waterproof repel water have historically had significant unintended environmental impacts. The outdoor industry is leading the way in minimising our environmental impact on the natural places that we love to play in.

Match the Jacket to the Activity

Over to Ben and Gabe in Hathersage to talk you through our range. For more general help, scroll down for our tips for choosing a waterproof.

At Alpkit, all our waterproof jackets are highly waterproof and breathable, so your choice really comes down to what you want to use if for:

Squalline: a showerproof run/ride jacket for short cloud burst protection. It will stave off the worst of the weather and pack in your pocket when you don’t need it on. (Men's | Women's)

Argonaut: for fully waterproof multi-activity ease of use. (Men's | Women's)

Gravitas: for high-paced activity ... running, riding. It’s incredibly packable and minimalist for moving fast and light, but not as durable as a hillwalking jacket. (Men's | Women's)

Balance: a balance between durability, packability and breathability that’s excellent for hill walking, riding and tackling UK mountains.(Men's | Women's)

Definition: a durable and protective waterproof with features designed for mountaineering in winter conditions.(Men's | Women's)

Pro Tips: Getting the most from your waterproof

  • Protect your electronics

    Keepthem in a drybag. A waterproof jacket is designed to keep you dry by allowing airflow or damp air away from your body. This means things in your pockets can still get wet from condensation.
  • Clean and reproof frequently

    All modern waterproofs need regular reproofing so that they maintain breathability. We've created an easy step by step guide to reproofing your waterproof.
  • Use the hood when you’re not wearing it

    Fold your waterproof jacket into its own hood (it’s designed to fit) for a neat packed size and quick access in a downpour.

If you’ve decided to retire a waterproof, please consider passing it on to our Continuum projectso we can reuse and recycle by putting it into the hands of someone whoneeds it.

Further reading

How does my waterproof jacket work?

Find the answers to all your burning questions about waterproof technology with our waterproof jacket spec guide.

Why reproof your waterproof

Designer Ronnie explains the benefits of regularly cleaning and reproofing your waterproof

How to reproof your waterproof clothing

Our step by step instructions for cleaning and reproofing your waterproof garment

Help, I think my waterproof jacket is leaking!

Our waterproof jackets deal with water coming from the outside and the inside. Read this guide for tips on making the most of your waterproof's breathability.

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