Possibly the most important item in your winter wardrobe, a good waterproof jacket will keep you riding through all weathers. You can spend a lot of money on one, but do you have to?
Generally, the more you pay, the more you get, in terms of performance – by which we mean breathability, durability, features or a combination of all three. This isn’t always the case, though.
Working out exactly what you need your jacket for can help you narrow down your options and avoid spending money on features you don’t need.
Our expert testers have spent days and weeks out on the trails, putting waterproof jackets to the test in the most horrid conditions, to bring you the best performing options for every type of rider.
Best waterproof mountain bike jackets in 2020
7Mesh Guardian: £352.00 / $400 / €350
Endura MTR Shell: £140 / $199.99 / €164.99
Altura Mayhem 2: £120
Berghaus Changtse: £290 / €350
Mission Workshop The Sans jacket: £400 / $475 / €475
Nukeproof Nirvana jacket: £150 / $184.95 / €175.99
On Waterproof Anorak: £320 / $359.99 / €359.95
POC AVIP rain: £295 / $300 / €350
RAB Arc: £200 / $ 260
Scott Trail MTN Dryo 20: £220
7Mesh Guardian jacket
7Mesh has a reputation for nailing the mountain bike specific detailing. Russell Burton
- £352 / $400 / €350
- Lots of great details
- Exceptional breathability
7Mesh’s Guardian jacket has a great reputation, but at £352 / $400 / €350 it doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately, though, its performance doesn’t disappoint.
It’s impeccably cut, with brilliant details all over and its breathability is fantastic for a totally waterproof jacket.
Endura MTR Shell jacket
The MTR is a lightweight packable shell that takes up next to no space in a pack. Russell Burton
- £140 / $199.99 / €164.99
- Can fit in a jersey pocket
- No pockets
Endura’s MTR shell jacket is a packable waterproof jacket primarily designed for off-road use. It packs up small enough to fit in a jersey pocket, but doesn’t compromise on performance or durability.
Our tester also found the fit to be spot on, with plenty of length and strategically placed stretch panels that enable a full range of movement.
Altura Mayhem 2
The Altura Mayhem 2 is a practical waterproof that delivers and at a great price. Immediate Media
- Good cut
- Well featured for the price
- Weighs 369g
The Altura Mayhem 2 is a practical waterproof jacket that delivers great performance at a good price.
It’s not the lightest, nor does it use the best technical fabrics, but it delivers on value. Its cut is as good as many high-priced jackets, and it delivers on waterproofness.
Breathability is helped by vents under the arms, but in an ideal world these would be slightly larger to promote even better airflow. This is only a minor quibble though, because in reality this jacket offers excellent value for money.
Berghaus Changtse jacket
All the zips are water resistant and the full-length front zip is also two way. Russell Burton
- £290 / €350
- Technical construction with tons of vents and pockets
- Do-everything credentials
The Changtse is absolutely jammed packed with features. It uses a number of different Gore-Tex waterproof fabrics across the jacket for optimal performance in each area.
There’s Paclite Plus on areas such as the chest and arms, which are more prone to wear, while the core is made from Active Shell for greater breathability.
It’s not a bike specific jacket, but the cut and flexibility are good enough that it never feels like a compromise.
Mission Workshop The Sans jacket
The single zipped pocket is big enough to store a large phone. Steve Behr
- £400 / $475 / €475
- Fantastically light and waterproof
- Great fit both on and off the bike
- Weighs 169g (medium)
Mission Workshop’s The Sans isn’t a cycling specific jacket, but it has the specification and performance to make it a great choice both on and off the bike.
The Toray fabric is impressively waterproof, breathable and lightweight (our tester’s size medium weighed just 169g), making it a great packable option for stuffing into a jersey pocket.
If we’re nitpicking, it’s a shame the hood doesn’t fit over a helmet, but otherwise it’s really only the price that might put you off.
Nukeproof Nirvana jacket
Classic mountain bike styling and a killer price point make the Nukeproof Nirvana a jacket to be reckoned with. Russell Burton
- £150 / $184.95 / €175.99
- Packable but with plenty of pockets
- Great price relative to the competition
Built from a 2.5-layer waterproof fabric, Nukeproof’s Nirvana isn’t the most breathable jacket we’ve ever tested, but it’s very good for the price and the gills under the arms also help dissipate excess heat and sweat.
The fit is relaxed, so there’s room to layer up underneath when it gets cold and the hood also fits comfortably over a helmet.
All things considered, it’s built like a jacket that costs a lot more than it actually does.
On Waterproof Anorak
The material is very light and that’s complemented by bonded hems. Russell Burton
- £320 / $359.99 / €359.95
- Light and athletic fit
- Hydrophobic inner helps wick perspiration away
On’s Waterproof Anorak isn’t a cycling-specific jacket, but its performance impresses nevertheless. The half-length zip isn’t perhaps the most practical option for getting On’s Waterproof Anorak on and off while on the bike, but it does reduce bulk a bit and fashionistas will likely welcome the alternative look.
We didn’t notice any compromise in breathability either, possibly thanks to the hydrophilic elements on the innermost layer of the jacket’s three-ply fabric.
It’s an especially good jacket for those who do a bit of running as well as cycling because it can happily share duties across the two sports.
POC AVIP rain jacket
So bright that it hurts, but the AVIP was designed for visibility. Russell Burton
- £295 / $300 / €350
- Comfortable even against bare skin
- Tear resistant fabric
The style, colour and cut are reminiscent of a road jacket, but in reality POC’s AVIP is more of a multi-purpose cycling waterproof.
Its tear-resistant Vectran fabric, for example, means it can stand up to the rigours of XC and gravel when a true road jacket might be too delicate.
The three-layer waterproof fabric does its job well too, though the lack of a hood might be a deal breaker for some off-road cyclists. If that’s not a problem for you, though, there’s a lot to like here, with great on-bike performance and fit.
The RAB Arc is a durable, multi-purpose jacket. Immediate Media
- £200 / $ 260
- Multifunction styling that works on the bike
- Sturdiness means good warmth and durability
- Weighs 466g
The RAB Arc jacket isn’t made specifically for cycling, but this compromise means it brings more versatility to the table.
In particular, the cut feels a little boxy on the bike, but it’s great when you’re not riding – unlike cycling specific jackets, which are often poorly shaped for off-bike use.
Generously sized front pockets and a hood that fits comfortably over a helmet only further its credentials.
The fabric is three-layer rip-stop with a high-quality and durable feel. This adds a bit of weight and a fair bit of warmth, but it also means it’s more likely to stand the test of time.
Scott Trail MTN Dryo 20
The Scott Trail MTN Dryo 20 offers high levels of weather protection for long days out. Immediate Media
- Gear functionality
- Lots of great bike-specific details
- Weighs 407g
Scott consistently makes high performing waterproof jackets, with the kind of small, bike-specific details that make a big difference in use.
The chest pockets, for example, are large enough for easy access with gloves or freezing hands at the end of a long ride. Extra-long vents complement an already breathable fabric for excellent airflow. They can also be quickly closed off for long descents.
The triple layer waterproof fabric is durable, and the lining bonded to the inner layer makes for a much more comfortable feel than single layer jackets.
What to look for in a waterproof jacket for mountain biking
Water resistant zips
These keep wind and rain out without the need for a storm flap. They’re easy to identify by the smooth seal that closes protectively over the teeth, but can be stiff to use.
A longer back hem to ensure your lower back is covered and help keep mud and spray off the seat of your shorts. Check the length is right for you by jumping on a bike when you’re trying a jacket on.
A fleecy inner collar not only feels more comfortable, it absorbs stray drips before they run down your neck.
Helmet compatible hood
A hood that goes over a helmet is our preferred style for practicality, although some riders like one that fits underneath. Check that it can be cinched in to reduce its volume and keep your peripheral vision clear.
Vents help heat and sweat to escape. They can either be zipped or open, gill-like slits.
If you wear a pack, check that the straps don’t obstruct the jacket’s vents, and look for double-ended zips, which give more ventilation options.
The rate at which a fabric allows heat from inside to escape, in the form of water vapour. Multilayer fabrics can be both waterproof and breathable because the membrane layer has billions of tiny pores. These pores are large enough for water vapour to escape, but too small for water droplets to pass through.
One where the waterproof membrane has no backing. Can have a rubbery or plasticky feel next to the skin. Generally lightweight (although newer three-layer materials can compare well) and lower-cost.
Here, the membrane is lined, so the inside of the jacket feels smoother. The lining can help with moisture management and also improves durability, so can prolong wear.
This can come at increased cost, though, and the extra material means more mass, so jackets with three-layer fabrics tend to be less packable.
Perfluorinated and poly-fluorinated chemicals are often used in the production of DWR (durable water repellent) finishes, but break down very slowly once released into the environment. Many brands are now moving to PFC-free materials, so check the blurb.
This is when a fabric is cut along the lines of active use, so that it follows the shape of your arm or curve of your back when in the riding position.
A design of this type allows free movement without the need to be baggy, but may be less suitable for use off the bike.
If you only want one waterproof jacket to do it all, you might have to compromise somewhat in this department.