Nobody enjoys riding in the rain but sometimes it’s unavoidable. And on those occasions you need to put something between you and the weather.
- Best bike clothing: all our guides in one place
- The rise of the jerket: where does a jersey stop and a jacket begin?
A waterproof jacket used to mean a hard-shell garment made from a fabric that feels more like plastic. However, now we're seeing the rise of the 'jerket' or rain jersey. These are softshell tops that feel like a jersey but either see a waterproof membrane or DWR treatment to repel precipitation.
Things would be easier if it were simply a matter of keeping the rain out. But, pedalling makes you hot and sweaty, and the heat and moisture you generate needs an escape route. The trouble is, the very properties that allow a waterproof jacket to keep the rain on the outside also make it difficult to deal with the damp building up on the inside.
The ideal solution, therefore, is a cycling jacket that combines being waterproof with being breathable, which is a difficult — but by no means impossible — balance to strike. Some garments manage it by using advanced materials; others solve the problem by incorporating vents into their designs.
Aside from being both waterproof and breathable, it’s worth seeking out a jacket that packs down into a tiny package that’s easily pocketable. A garment that can be stowed in a jersey pocket, saddlebag or rucksack can be conveniently carried with you at all times. Better still, if the rain stops, you can take it off and put it away rather than be forced to keep wearing it long after it’s done its job.
Best waterproof jackets and jerkets, the full list
- Endura MTR Emergency Shell
- Gore One Gore-Tex Active Bike Jacket
- B'Twin 700 Membrane
- Endura Women’s Singletrack
- Castelli Tempesta
- Paramo Quito
- 7Mesh Oro
- Castelli Idro
- Castelli Gabba
- Sportful Fiandre WS LRR Jacket SS
- Rapha ProTeam Shadow
Scroll down to read our reviews of the jackets and jerkets.
How waterproof fabrics work
Waterproof fabrics are pretty amazing, and they work in one of two ways, either they are multi-layer laminate fabrics or regular woven fabrics that get a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment designed to keep water out. While both achieve the same goal, they work slightly differently.
Durable Water Repellent or DWR is your wet weather gear's first line of defence. It's not a laminate or coating but a treatment applied to the fabric's outer surface, and all waterproof garments except for those where the membrane is the outermost surface receive a DWR finish. The treatment does not inhibit breathability because it doesn't fill the gaps between the fibres, instead, it bonds the individual fibres to help the garment shed water and prevent saturation.
DWR treatments are able the shed water because they increase the contact angle of moisture on a fabric by forcing a water droplet to maintain its surface tension, so when you see water beading on a fabric, the DWR is hard at work. When the DWR is applied to a fabric it creates what are called micropegs or microspikes that protrude from the fibres and prevent water from spreading out, forcing it to form round droplets. These 'beads' of water slide off the fabric without having the opportunity to seep in.
Unfortunately, DWR treatments are not permanent and wear off over time accelerated by abrasions and some detergents. When this happens, the fabric will no longer cause water to bead and will become saturated and heavy. Not to fear, refreshing and retreating a garment is quite simple and there are plenty of spray on or wash in options available — more on that later.
The majority of waterproof breathable fabrics are made from laminate fabrics, which usually consist of an inner fabric optimised for wicking moisture, a waterproof membrane, and an outer face fabric with a DWR treatment.
Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, Polartec and eVent are all internal membranes, which are sandwiched between two other materials – usually something abrasion resistant on the outside, with a soft liner on the inside. Even the Castelli Gabba Jersey is made using a Windstopper laminate fabric.
The reason these lamination techniques allow for water repellent characteristics is that the inner membranes are actually full of holes. This may seem counter-intuitive, but a Gore-Tex membrane boasts nine billion pores, each 1µm — a millionth of a metre — wide, per square inch. The holes are big enough to allow water vapour created by sweat evaporation to escape but are too small for water droplets to sneak through.
These internal membranes are quite fragile, which is why there's an abrasion resistant layer on the outside of the garment. This outer layer receives DWR treatment and, as we mentioned before, the problem with DWR treatments is that they eventually wash away, causing a jacket to ‘wet out’, meaning the moisture escaping from inside and landing on the outside saturates the outer fabric, clogging the pores of the membrane and eliminating breathability.
When a jacket stops breathing, the moisture your body creates gets trapped inside, creating that unpleasant steaming sensation.
Most outerwear today is based upon this two and a half or three layer lamination, but the fabrics and membranes are continuing to evolve and we're now seeing jackets eliminating the outer fabric.
Pioneered by Columbia with its OutDry fabric, brands have figured out how to toughen up these membranes and eliminated the DWR treated outer fabric. We've now seen a few cycling specific jackets using GoreTex's version, the One Active fabric, which allows the membrane to be used as an outer 'beading surface'.
The advantage to these fabrics is they can't wet-out because there is no face fabric to saturate, and weigh next to nothing and breathe better too.
What to look for when buying a waterproof cycling jacket
Taping is used to seal the seams in a waterproof jacket on the inside. It does add bulk, though, and reduces a jacket’s breathability — so some of the jackets here trade a bit of seam leakage for a better overall performance.
It’s no good keeping rain out if you get soaked by sweat from within. Different fabrics have different water vapour transfer rates but cut, lining, membranes and vents all make a significant difference to how dry you stay.
To be officially waterproof a garment has to withstand the pressure of 1,000mm of water without leaking. This test concentrates on jackets that keep moisture managed so you stay warm however foul the forecast.
Usually, this is achieved through an internal membrane like those from Gore-Tex and eVent, which see perforations that are too small for water droplets to squeeze through but still allow water vapour to escape.
The worst enemy of your wet weather gear is your washing machine. Detergents strip off waterproof coatings and conditioners will clog the pores and fibres that help fabric wick and breath. Still it's important to keep waterproof fabrics clean as dirt and oil can clog membranes and degrade DWR treatments. Always read washing instructions.
Often overlooked is the outer DWR treatment, if your jacket is wetting out as described above, there are ways to 'revive' the treatment on your jacket. Some manufacturers say to throw it in the tumble dryer for a few minutes on low to medium heat, others recommend 'touch ups' with an iron on the 'warm setting. Again refer to the manufacturer's instructions.
Finally, if the DWR treatment can't be saved you're going to want to retreat, and there are quite a few spray on and wash in products available from brands such as Granger's and Nikwax. We're beginning to sound like a broken record here, but again, always follow manufacturer's instructions.
Pockets, hoods and zipped vents might seem a good idea on a hanger, but not if they make a jacket too bulky to shove in your back pocket when you’re not wearing it. Extra features will all add to the cost too.
Best waterproof jackets
- Price: £250 / $300 / AU$TBC
- Weight 93g
- Packs down to the size of an apple
- Rear flaps for pocket access
7Mesh is a small brand based in Canada's infamous North Shore and was founded by former Arc'teryx team members — and their experience with technical fabrics shows with the Oro.
Made using Gore-Tex's new Active with ShakeDry technology fabric, instead of the normal three-layer laminated fabric, the waterproof membrane occupies the outermost layer. In addition to welded raw hem edges, a laminated zipper and taped seams, the jacket also sees rear flaps that allow for easy access to pockets. It's also got a drop tail and a reflective strip on the bottom edge.
Unfortunately, the jacket's collar is a bit short and the zipper isn't particularly easy to use while riding.
- Price: £260 / $350 / AU$380
- Race fit
- Tall collar and YKK Zipper
- Red and reflective accents
Also made from Gore's Active with Shake Dry fabric, Castelli's Idro is tight fitting and weighs 125g in a size large.
With red accents, reflective stripes and of course Castelli's trademark Scorpion logo it's great looking, though we're hoping that Gore will start making the Active fabric in a colour that's not black.
The wrist closures are tight fitting, which limits flapping, but also makes getting your hand out of the sleeve precarious. It's also got a tall fitted collar and a chunky YKK zip with a pull tab that's easy to use on the bike
Endura MTR Emergency Shell
- Price: £90 / $TBC / AU$TBC
- Beautifully minimal with practical performance
- Lightweight and packing loop make it easy to keep with you at all times
- Slim cut that doesn’t restrict your freedom of movement
The Endura MTR combines a beautifully minimal design with eminently practical performance. There are no weighty extras, just a slim cut, deep dropped rear hem and a little loop that secures the rolled-up jacket in the corner of your pack or jersey pocket.
It weighs a barely there 135g and the construction is very clean. The styling is pared-back simplicity and its slim cut manages not to feel restrictive thanks to stretch inserts at the cuff and shoulders. The zip has a full-length flap both inside and outside, which adds virtually no bulk but is, we found, very effective.
The MTR’s fabric is a microscopically thin two-layer waterproof — the unlined and rubbery-feeling stuff — but given this jacket’s explicit ‘emergency’ nature that’s how it should be. We had expected there might be a compromise in durability due to the lightweight and two-layer fabric used, but after more than a year our original MTR still looks as good as new.
Gore One Gore-Tex Active Bike Jacket
- Price: £220 / $300 / AU$TBC
- True waterproof performance with excellent breathability
- Barely-there weight
- Doesn’t absorb moisture — shakes dry
Less is definitely more with the new Gore One breathable waterproof jacket. While the performance and price are high, the weight and size are tiny with the jacket packing down into its own pocket that’s about the size of a fist. A quick shake of the jacket removes most all water so you can easily tuck it into your still-dry jersey pocket.
We weighed a test size Large at 109g, and Gore achieved the low weight and small size by completely reworking the structure for what a waterproof jacket is. Instead of a normal protective outer fabric laminated onto a delicate breathable PTFE membrane, the One just has a single, breathable, waterproof layer.
With no brushed fabric on the inside there’s no thermal value apart from wind protection, so teaming it with the right weight of base layer for the temperature and your work rate is crucial if you’re going to stay comfortable on long rides. To be fair though, you could say that of any waterproof jacket, and the level of protection offered for its weight and pack size is phenomenal.
If only the tail were longer with a bit of gripper, and perhaps the wrists were easier to get on and off, this would be theperfect rain jacket.
B'Twin 700 Membrane
- Price: £60 / $N/A / AU$N/A
- Outstandingly good value
- Quality fabric and construction
- Plenty of nice touches, including storm flaps for pockets and pit zips for ventilation
A three-layer waterproof with bike-specific cut for £60; there must be some mistake. No, actually there isn’t. It’s simply a very good garment at an especially good price.
Out of the box the first things that strike you are the quality of the fabric and the construction — it’s of a standard you usually only see at three-figure price points that start with a two.
There’s only one chest pocket, which has a waterproof zip, but there are two long pit zips (needed when you start to get warm), which are covered by a storm flap and a dropped tail that stays well in place thanks to a touch of elastic.
The three-layer fabric does have a firm-ish feel when new as well as a faint crackle factor, but that’s offset by soft inner cuffs that extend well over the wrists with thumb loops for those who love them. There’s even a cut-out so you can easily view your multi-function sport GPS watch on the fly.
Endura Women’s SingleTrack
- Price: £100 / $170/ AU$TBC
- Keeps you warm and dry without leaving you overly clammy
- Flattering slim cut that’s roomy enough for stylin’ your airtime
- A competitively priced jacket that does it all
The SingleTrack’s fully sealed 2.5 layer waterproof fabric breathes well, keeps you dry and causes no more clamminess than is typical for waterproof garments. It balances temperatures well, so you’ll stay warm when you’re stopped but won’t overheat when you’re pedalling.
It has a rollaway hood at the top that tucks neatly into the collar and a subtle dropped hem at the bottom that’s adjustable to keep drafts and moisture at bay. The sleeves are also a generous length with adjustable cuffs and zippered underarm vents for when things get a bit heated. It also packs down reasonably small, but not tiny, when not in use.
Its slim-fit is flattering and it didn't flap at high speeds yet afforded me the space to pull some funky shapes on the bike without moving position or leaving me feeling like I was confined in a straitjacket!
- Price: £320 (can be bought for £240) / $299 / AU$TBC
- Exceptional eVent fabric is waterproof and breathable
- Great feel — more like a light windproof garment than heavy waterproof jacket
- Pockets are an unusual but welcome addition
The Castelli Tempesta Race Jacket is a protective, foul-weather shell that breathes so well you can race in it.
It’s made with eVent fabric, Castelli's answer to Gore-Tex, and it’s exceptional. Breathability in a fully waterproof layer is no easy trick to pull off, and the Tempesta is right on par with Gore-Tex's best offerings. Further, the light, silky fabric feels more like a windproof soft-shell than a stiff, waterproof hardshell.
The rear flap extends below the pockets and is welcome when the rain is pouring. Reflective, elastic seams ring the bottom of the extension and the two large, mesh-bottom pockets. The presence of pockets on a rain jacket struck me as odd at first, but you’ll appreciate the extra storage and the ease of access they provide when the alternative is removing your jacket or searching through a tightly packed saddle bag.
- Price: £230 / $TBC/ AU$TBC
- Multi-purpose jacket with cycling specific touches
- Non-rustling fabric keeps out the wind and rain
- Lacks the usual plasticky feel of waterproof jackets
Páramo is best known for high-end hiking jackets, but the Quito is a multi-activity waterproof designed with an emphasis on cycling.
The sleeves are lengthy so don’t drift up when riding and the back is long enough for all but the most stretched out riders. Elasticated drawstrings allow you to cinch in the hood and hems to eliminate draughts and flapping fabric.
It’s made from Páramo’s Nikwax Analogy Light Waterproof material, a non-rustly fabric that’s incredibly waterproof while remaining breathable. It’s also windproof and will keep you warm on colder days as well as being comfortable against the skin, feeling more like a shell suit than a waterproof jacket.
Best waterproof jerkets
Sportful Fiandre WS LRR Jacket SS
Price: £185 / $TBC/ AU$TBC
- Gore's Windstopper Light Rain Resistant fabric
- Relaxed fit
- Brushed interior
Coming from Castelli's sister company Sportful is the Fiandare WS LRR Jacket SS.
While the name is definitely a mouthful, it's made using Gore's Windstopper Light Rain Resistant fabric, making it a bit lighter weight than the Gabba and sees a more relaxed cut too.
Suggested for temperatures between 5–15°C, the Sportful jacket sees three rear pockets complete with drainage holes, a silicone gripper along the bottom hem, brushed interior, YKK waterproof zipper and an extra high collar.
Rapha ProTeam Shadow
Price: £220 / $320 / $385
- DWR treated thread in lieu of membrane
- Very breathable
- Costs a pretty penny
Rapha has taken a slightly different approach to its jerket opting for just a DWR treatment rather than a laminated membrane fabric.
According to the the brand, the thread itself has a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating applied before it’s woven into the fabric. It then undergoes a steam-pressure treatment, which shrinks the fabric by half and creates a very dense weave that's claimed to greatly increase its resistance to rain and wind while retaining breathability. Finally, another coat of DWR is applied.
The advantage to using this method is that the Shadow Jersey breathes much better than any membrane. However, the down side is that DWR treatments wash out over time.
The top is race fit and doesn't stretch quite like a regular jersey. It's also got a tall collar, brushed interior, taped seams, three large pockets and a full-length zipped pocket to keep the weather on the outside. Rapha also makes a Shadow version of its Pro Team Bibs too.
- Price: £120 / $179/ AU$230
- Four-way stretch Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric
- Three large pockets
Available in both short and long sleeve versions the Gabba (now called the Perfetto) was the one that started the jerket craze. In fact, so much of the pro peloton started using them as a joke that the brand began shipping them with a Sharpie so you too could black out the logos.
Made from Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric, the Gabba is meant to be worn as a jersey instead of a temporary shell. It has three pockets and fits close to the skin. Because of this, unfortunately, it doesn't pack down well and probably won't fit in your pockets.
The thin soft-shell material wicks well even when you’re hammering along, and two big zipped vents help you control core temperature. It's completely windproof and largely water repellent, with the coating shrugging off showers, and long sleeves and a dropped tail mean excellent coverage.