Which Jacket Reigns Supreme - The Difference Between Our Rain Jackets
It doesn't matter whether you're an amateur outdoor adventurer, a weekend warrior or a seasoned explorer, everyone should own a quality rain jacket. These technical designs are ultimately the single most important piece of clothing to keep rain on the outside where it belongs. But as with all outdoor gear, choosing the right one can be difficult. While there are many things to weigh up, one thing is certain - whether you're out on a backcountry expedition, hiking rainforest trails, camping under the stars or just getting around town, there's no way to stay dry outdoors unless you're zipping up purpose-made rainwear. So read through our selection guide and comparison charts to ensure you kit yourself out in the most suitable rain jacket for your adventure.
Choosing Your Rain Jacket
The main thing to consider is the weatherproof protection your rain jacket offers. From there look at factors such as breathability, range of movement, packability and weight.
Weather Protection - There are a number of ways that a rain jacket can protect you from the elements. Firstly, many designs will use laminations and coatings that are bonded to the underside of the outer shell to act as a barrier for water and wind. An example is GORE-TEX®, a world-renowned technology that guarantees waterproofness. Another method of enhancing protection is internal seam taping, which seals the stitching of the garment and stops water from penetrating the outer shell. An external Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish is also common practice - this treatment is applied to the outside face of the shell to cause water to bead up and roll off the surface (preventing it from saturating). Other ways a rain jacket may create protection is with waterproof zips, a storm flap to cover the front zip of the jacket, or a hood to cover your head.
Breathability - A lot of this will depend on the lamination or membrane used to waterproof the jacket. GORE-TEX® is the best technology when it comes to waterproof and breathable performance. This strong, microporous material prevents water droplets from passing through but allows water vapour in the form of your body heat to escape from within (learn more about GORE-TEX® in our Field Notes). Functional features such as underarm zips and two-way zips enhance air flow for ventilation.
Range of Movement - A rain jacket is an outer shell so it needs to fit over the top of layers and be free enough in its design to allow you to maintain your range of movement. Look for articulated elbows and adjustable hems that work with your natural shape, and two-way zips that can be undone from the bottom when you need freedom to bend or sit.
Packability - Being able to pack your rain jacket away into a compact size when the sun finally comes out is handy for minimising bulk in your load. Some designs even stow away into their own hand pockets.
Weight - As with all outdoor clothing, the lighter the better, but without compromising on performance. A heavyweight canvas cover will keep you dry from the rain but its weight and lack of breathability will probably cause you to sweat underneath; on the flipside an ultralight skin might be easy to wear but not if it starts to wet through.
Any rain jacket bearing the GORE-TEX® logo (left) guarantees waterproof protection - just ask Adventure Ambassador Harrison Candlin and partner Madison who recently put their Cumulus GORE-TEX® jackets to the ultimate test in New Zealand (centre, right). (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Men's Rain Jackets Range
At the top of the men's range of rain jackets is the iconic Cumulus, which features GORE-TEX® PACLITE® technology to make it extremely breathable, lightweight and smaller to pack away without compromising on protection. It has waterproof zippered hand pockets, a hood with peak stiffener to divert water from your face, and a funnel collar to stow the hood when the sun comes back out. The Cumulus was introduced to the Mountain Designs range back in the mid-90s and remains a popular choice for hikers, campers and travellers alike. Next is the newly-released Wayfarer, which offers you an even lighter option at around 350g. It still features the GORE-TEX® PACLITE® technology so you're well and truly covered, but it can pack away into its own left-side hand pocket, making it a great option for backpacking travel, day hikes or everyday commuting where you don't want to load yourself up with more than one jacket. The other option in the range is the Nightcap, which uses Repel™ Water technology to deliver weatherproof performance. It has a 10K/10K waterproof-breathability rating so you'll stay dry without feeling stuffy, and like the Wayfarer it packs up into a hand pocket for lightweight, compact carry when not in use. All jackets in the range have a DWR finish and are seam sealed.
Women's Rain Jackets Range
The women's range of rain jackets is similar to the men's, with the Cumulus and Wayfarer styles at the top. They both have GORE-TEX® PACLITE® technology making them fully waterproof and windproof, lightweight (the Wayfarer comes in at just 340g) and breathable. On either style you can adjust the hood, hem and wrist cuffs for a personal fit, while waterproof zippered hand pockets keep small personal items dry. Both jackets are perfect for active hiking adventures, camping and travel. For the budget-conscious there is the Springbrook, which uses Repel™ Water technology for protection (10K/10K waterproof-breathability rating). Like the GORE-TEX® options, it has seam-seal taping and a DWR finish. Ladies have another option to choose, the longer length of the Cascade jacket. With a modern, urban look, peach finish and extra length, this keeps you covered on everyday outings and travel days. The 10K/10K rating ensures your protection from rain and wind, while the slim fit gives you the style.
DWR? What's that?
You've probably read on a hang tag somewhere 'DWR finish'. What is that? These days most rain jackets have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish applied to the outer surface. This treatment causes water to bead up and roll off the face fabric, preventing the fabric itself from getting saturated, which would inhibit the jacket's breathability. So while it doesn't create guaranteed waterproof performance, it does play an important role in the overall performance.
Caring For Rainwear
Our rain jackets are have been rigorously tested in the lab and, more importantly, outside in the real world. But while they are rugged and ready, you still need to care for them properly if you want them to deliver weatherproof performance wet season after wet season. To get the best out of your rainwear, follow our simple care instructions (or these care instructions for GORE-TEX® jackets), which explain the right way to wash, dry and store your rain jacket.
Images supplied by Harrison Candlin