Filtered by:
Inside The Outdoors
Waterproof Jacket Buying Guide

Waterproof Jacket Buying Guide

14.03.2024 | Expert Advice

Jump To:


Choosing the best waterproof jacket for you is essential. This Waterproof Jacket guide outlines waterproof ratings, important features such as breathability and technical terms to help you find the right jacket for your next adventure.

1. Waterproof Ratings

How waterproof a jacket is will depend on its waterproof rating. The higher a jacket’s waterproof rating, which can vary from 1,500 to 20,000, the more protection you will have from the elements.

Breathable Taped seams Weather conditions
Water resistant X X Suitable for light showers
Waterproof up to 2,000mm 2,000 Suitable for light to moderate rain
Waterproof up to 5,000mm 3,000 Suitable for moderate rain
Extreme Waterproof up to 10,000mm 5,000 Suitable for heavy rain

0 – 1,500mm – Water resistant

For when the weather is light brief showers.

Up to 2,000mm – Waterproof

Jackets with up to 2,000mm are suitable for everyday use, whether it be around town or walking the dog.

Up to 5,000mm – Waterproof

A rating of up to 5,000mm is suitable for just about all weather conditions but equally at home in lesser ones, great for a Sunday stroll or a trek in moderate rain.

Up to 10,000mm – Extreme waterproof

Jackets with a rating of 10,000mm are suitable for heavy, sustained rain, whilst still being breathable

2. Hydrostatic Head Test

Waterproofness is tested to ensure the product meets the British Standard (which must be more than 1,500mm). Waterproof ratings are measured in millimetres using a Hydrostatic Head test. In a Hydrostatic Head test, the fabric is pulled tight under a 1 inch diameter sealed tube of water. This is then observed over 24 hours to ascertain how many millimetres of water the fabric can withstand before it soaks through. The level at which water starts to come through the fabric is the hydrostatic head, which is measured in mm. See the below video for more information.


3. What Makes a Jacket Waterproof?

Water resistant vs waterproof

Water-resistant jackets will have a waterproofing repellent coating (called DWR) applied to the outer fabric to prevent absorption of water, this means that water droplets will bead and roll off the fabric. A waterproof jacket has a waterproof coating on the outer fabric with fully taped seams and it may have a built in membrane lining. Find out more about the differences in our blog ‘The Difference Between Waterproof & Water Resistant‘.

Waterproof Coating

The fabric used for water resistant jackets will be treated with a Durable Water Repellency coating (DWR), or a similar water repellent coating. You can tell a jacket has been treated with a water repellent coating as water will bead up on the surface of the fabric and run off. The biggest advantage of water resistant jackets is price, they tend to be more affordable than fully waterproof styles. However, they will usually be less durable and may need reproofing more regularly than other waterproof jackets. If you need to reproof your waterproof jacket, check out our How to Reproof a Waterproof Jacket Guide.

Taped Seams

A jacket can be treated with a waterproof coating and have a waterproof membrane but not be fully waterproof. For a jacket to be 100% waterproof, all seams will have to be taped. Taped seams are heat sealed seams that stop water coming through the stitching. It is particularly important to choose a jacket with taped seams if you will be in heavy, prolonged rain.

4. Main features

Waterproof Jacket Features

STIFFENED PEAK – Adds shape and structure to the hood to keep the rain off your face.

WATERPROOF ZIPS – Waterproof, smooth and durable outer zips.

ADJUSTABLE HOOD – To allow the hood to perfectly fit your head.

INTERNAL TAPED SEAMS – Seams are taped to make the product fully waterproof.

UNDER ARM VENTS – Openings under the arms for extra ventilation.

DURABLE WATER REPELLENT (DWR) COATING – Allows water to bead off the surface.

BREATHABLE – This fabric allows perspiration to pass out of the product, keeping you cool and comfortable.

ADJUSTABLE – Adjustable cuffs and hem for a perfect fit.

5. Types of Waterproof Jacket


  • 2 Layer Waterproof Jackets

2 Layer Waterproof Jackets are the most common type of Waterproof Jacket. A two layer jacket combines an outer shell that is fully waterproof with an inner membrane of mesh, polyester taffeta or both. The inner lining layer prevents the deterioration of the waterproof lining by acting as a barrier to corrosion by the wearer’s movements and sweat.


  • 2.5 Layer Waterproof Jackets

2.5 Layer Jackets will usually have the same two layer components as a 2 Layer Waterproof Jacket  but then also have an additional thin polyurethane coating on the inside. This coating acts as a barrier and protects the breathability of the jacket by preventing dirt or sweat from damaging the inner material. 2.5 Layer Waterproof Jackets are generally lighter than a 3 Layer Waterproof Jacket, this is because they do not have any lining or mesh on the inside.


  • 3 Layer Waterproof Jackets

3 Layer Waterproof Jackets are suitable for for just about all weather conditions, including torrential rain. Three layer Waterproof jackets contain an external DWR waterproof fabric layer, an internal waterproof and breathable membrane and an additional bonded protective lining, like the coating in the 2.5 Layer Waterproof Jacket. These 3 layers are bonded together to make a technically efficient single fabric lightweight jacket.


  • 3 in 1 Waterproof Jackets

Not to be confused with a three layer jacket, a 3 in 1 waterproof jacket consists of a waterproof outer-shell with a detachable inner fleece, softshell or padded jacket. A 3 in 1 jacket is a versatile option for all year round and ideal for changeable weather conditions.


  • Pakka

A Pakka jacket is a lightweight waterproof jacket with taped seams that can easily be packed away in its own waterproof pouch. Pakka jackets are an ideal ‘just in case’ jacket for those who want something lightweight which can be stored in their rucksack.

6. Breathable Waterproof Jackets

The ability of a jacket to allow perspiration to escape is as important as not letting water in, especially if you will be doing anything energetic. If a waterproof jacket is not breathable, sweat will be unable to escape, making the wearer feel damp. It’s common for people to feel as though their waterproof has ‘leaked’ when in fact it’s perspiration from inside they are feeling. In addition to a breathable membrane, other features such as pit zips and mesh lined pockets can contribute to a jackets breathability.

7. How should waterproof jackets fit?

Most waterproof jackets will be cut differently for men and women, often you will find that womens jackets have shorter arms and a more tailored fit. As a women if you prefer a looser fitting jacket you may opt for a mens jacket. However, it is worth remembering it has not been cut for a female shape so may have wider shoulders and narrower hips.

When trying on waterproof jackets always take into account the layers you will need to fit underneath. You need to be able to move your arms and shoulders especially if you are likely to be wearing a backpack or doing an activity, such as hiking, where freedom of movement will be important.

Make sure the cuffs of the jacket are long enough to cover the top of your hand to help stop rain entering and soaking your arms.

The length of the jacket is also an important consideration. Always make sure the jacket is long enough to cover your lower back even when you lift your arms up. Shorter length waterproof jackets will often have a longer back so there won’t be a gap between your trousers and the jacket should it ride up. This is especially important for cyclists who will be bending forward a lot!

Now you know how you can choose the best waterproof jacket, check out the range of Mountain Warehouse waterproof jackets below.


Shop Mountain Warehouse waterproof jackets range