This in-depth post compares 7 of the best waterproof cycling jackets. It explains how waterproofness and breathability work, and explains all aspects of these jackets, so that you can make the best choice. Includes a chart comparing 7 of the best waterproof cycling jackets. Note that it is very unusual to get a great waterproof cycling jacket cheap. (Although it does sometimes happens, for example during end-of-winter sales. That’s why we have a page that keeps track of CHEAP good quality cycling jackets for you here.)
This post is long, so I will outline it. First I have a chart comparing 7 of the best waterproof cycling jackets. Then the 7 best jackets are listed, with details about what makes them a good buy. Then, the post explains the difference between the 3 kinds of jackets: fleece, softshell, and hardshell jackets. Finally, there is is a whole lot of information about how to choose the best cycling jacket, explaining the technology behind making jackets that are both waterproof and breathable.
Note: If you are looking for a WINDPROOF cycling jacket for Spring, check out 7 of the Best Softshell Cycling Jackets here
Chart Comparing 7 of the Best Waterproof Cycling Jackets
|7 Best Waterproof Cycling Jackets|
|Designed for maximum breathability for performance cycling||Originally designed for elite athletes, but now widely embraced by commuters and all kinds of athletes||This is absolutely the gold standard of cycling jackets, with state-of-the-art workmanship, materials, and every possible detail a cyclist needs||Nylon and eVent rip-stop fabric|
|Great breathability - some users say it has the highest breathability of all Gore jackets||Bike commuters||This cycling jacket is extremely highly rated for breathability and waterproof-ness. It is also roomy enough to put a layer or two underneath.||100% polyamide, Gore-tex membrane, shell inside: 100% polyester|
|Maximum breathability for performance cycling||Serious road cyclists and bike commuters||Form-fitting, with minimal details to add weight, low insulation, super lightweight, lifetime warranty, zips on the side, bright colors, no pockets, long tail||Polyester and Gore-Tex membrane|
|Maximum breathability for performance cycling||Serious road cyclists||Best possible windproof and waterproof rating, slim cut, lightweight, nice high neck, surprisingly stretchy, stylish looking||Polyester; Torrent 2L with breathable mesh inner layer|
|Great breathability||Serious road cyclists||Snug fit except on arms, lightweight, transparent to show your team colors, snug collar, reflective strip on back||Fully seam taped Artex Hardshell 2.5 layer waterproof-breathable fabric|
|Great breathability||Women bike commuters||Comfort fit, reflective strips all over, pockets front and back, great women-specific fit, bright yellow color, water resistant zippers, large back vent, compatible with Showers Pass rain hood||Waterproof-breathable 2.5 layer ARTEX shell fabric|
|Medium breathability||Bike commuters||Comfort fit, extra high visibility with reflective strips all over, bright colors, light-up triangle on back, large pockets front and back, bright yellow color||Polyester and cotton; mesh lining|
7 of the Best Waterproof Cycling Jackets
No. 1: Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Waterproof Cycling Jacket
This jacket is the top of the line in Showers Pass cycling jackets and rates no. 1 on our list of best waterproof cycling jackets because it has it all: the quality of the materials and the construction, and the attention to every possible detail put this jacket firmly at no. 1. It’s got so much going for it that it’s hard to keep this summary short. First off, it has 3 layers of eVent rip stop fabric, which gives exceptional breathability, waterproofness, and durability. The tail is especially long to ensure a dry lower back and butt. And the arms are especially long so you never end up with exposed wrists. Of course, you can cinch them closed.
The Elite 2.1 features a big back pocket and a breast pocket, both with excellent quality waterproof zips. The main zip tucks away at the neck so it doesn’t irritate your neck! The breast pocket has an audio port for the cord of your cell phone. This video shows you all the features of the jacket:
An extra special feature for me is the moisture-wicking comfort lining on the inside of the neck, which really helps me to feel warm and cozy on a cold bike ride. Plus, you can cinch the neck with a pull cord to make sure no air gets in. The neck has concealed attachments for a waterproof hood (available separately).
One of the main problems with cycling jackets is that once you start cycling, you rapidly heat up. This cycling jacket tackles that problem with an impressive SEVEN vent options to let in air: 2 pit vents, 2 cuff vents, a two-way zipper and back vent. The two-way zipper means you can unzip the jacket from the top or the bottom to let cooling air get to your chest or stomach, as needed. Finally, there is 3M reflective trim all around the jacket to make you more visible. And it’s available in red, black, yellow, blue, and pink.
This is a simply outstanding jacket – well worth the price for those who can afford it. No wonder it is a top choice with everyone from bike commuters to pro cycling teams to kayakers to skiers to motorcyclists. It fits small, so order a size larger than usual.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for Showers Pass Elite 2.1|
|Amazon Sales Price||$229.03|
Note that there is also an excellent women’s version of the Showers Pass Elite 2.1 jacket.
No. 2: Gore Bike Wear Power Gore-Tex Active Jacket
This jacket is rated no. 2 on our list of best waterproof cycling jackets due to the rave reviews it gets from customers, who love it. They rate it extremely highly for breathability and waterproof-ness. It is also roomy enough to put a layer or two underneath. This cycling jacket is part of Gore Bike Wear’s Power series, which they designed to keep the year-round cyclist dry. It can be comfortably worn with the inner mesh layer right next to the skin. And it’s available in slim-fit or roomy, which I really like. Roomy would give you space for layers – or just be more comfy, if you don’t happen to like going around looking like a sausage.
This jacket is neither very heavy nor very light – it’s somewhat of an in-the-middle-weight jacket, with a high level of waterproofness. If you want to make just one jacket work for you all year around, this could be the one.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for Gore Bike Wear Power Gore-Tex Active Jacket|
Note that SOME of these jackets currently have their prices slashed to under $100. This only applies to some colors and sizes.
Note that there is also an excellent women’s version of the Gore Bike Wear PHANTOM 2.0 WINDSTOPPER Soft Shell Jacket. It is incredibly well priced at Competitive Cyclist right now.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for The Gore Bike Wear Phantom 2.0 Women's Softshell Jacket|
No. 3: Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Shell Cycling Jacket
This has been a top choice with road and mountain bikers since Gore introduced it. Of course it’s waterproof, because it’s Gore-Tex. This jacket uses Active Gore-Tex, which is the most waterproof of all. It breathes really well, has excellent features, and is famous for a really great fit. It looks a bit form fitting in the photos, but I find mine really comfortable.
Importantly, the fit around the neck is superb. It does not have pockets, but it does have zips on the sides, and comes in bright colors for safety. To my mind, a perfect waterproof cycling jacket – except not in very cold weather, as it offers little insulation, and little space for layers.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 Waterproof Cycling Jacket|
One of the most waterproof jackets you can buy (proving that Gore is not the only company that does waterproof plus breathable well). It boasts the highest possible waterproofness and breathability ratings, with taped seams, high collar, and waterproof zippers. Also has ventilation ports at the back. The really clever thing with this jacket is the Torrent 2L fabric, which manages to be very stretchy despite giving a hard-shell level of protection. It is aimed at more serious cyclists, with the fit being designed for those riding road bikes, and a slim-line cut. Despite being slim-line cut, the stretchiness means it is possible to wear layers underneath. Although if this is your plan and you usually wear a Large, you might be better off ordering an Extra Large.
The only reason this one is not no. 1? It’s more for the hard-core super athlete than your average Joe commuter, due to the Castelli styling and slim cut. Also, the color is dark (although there is some reflective piping), meaning it is not ideal for being seen in traffic. However, there is a version here that has some fluorescent yellow accents.
No. 5: The Showers Pass Pro Tech ST Cycling Jacket
This is a lightweight, clear race cape. Out of Portland, Oregon, where they know about rain! Decent venting, fully taped seams, good length, reflective strip on the rear, stylish looks (off center zip), and a nice collar with a soft fleece material that keeps your neck snug. At 156 g it’s reasonably packable – tight fit in a jersey pocket, but easy to throw in a pannier and forget until you need it. The sleeves are a little wide, so may flap a bit in the wind. Only partially breathable, so you could get warm in this. The main application for this waterproof cycling jacket would be to keep it in a pannier for a sudden downpour. I would not make it my main jacket for commuting in the rain – but I would be very happy to find it in my pannier in a sudden downpour! Note that this jacket is hand-washable only – a major drawback compared to Gore-Tex jackets.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for Showers Pass Pro Tech Cycling Jacket|
No. 6: Showers Pass Club Pro Cycling Jacket
Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist’s favorite cycling jacket, this has lots of reflective trim, making it easy for other cyclists to see you signalling with your arms. Another great feature is front and rear pockets.
The big seller for Maggie however is she says it’s the best women-specific fit jacket she has ever tried. Note that most of the jackets in this review can just as easily be worn by women as by men, but if you are curvy (like Mrs. AJC), a women-specific cut is probably a better bet. Also, it is completely waterproof, with taped seams, yet it is still very light, made of two and a half layers of ARTEX shell fabric. Unfortunately, there is no hood. But the pricing on this particular jacket is very competitive. And you can buy a compatible Showers Pass rain hood separately.
Note that there is also an excellent men’s version of this jacket.
Related Content: In-depth review of the Showers Pass Women’s Club Pro Jacket
|Buy it now! Find the best price for Showers Pass Women's Club Pro|
No. 7: Proviz Nightrider Cycling Jacket
This jacket makes it onto the list of best waterproof cycling jackets due to its extraordinary visibility. No one will fail to see you when you are wearing this high visibility jacket. It even has a removable hi-viz triangle on the back. You can replace the triangle with an even more high-viz triangle, their award-wining Proviz Triviz Red (Red Dot Design Award Winner 2013), which is basically a flashing triangular light for the back of your jacket (or your backpack). Comes in men’s and women’s fit, and in a lot of bright colors. Large pockets, and reflective piping, patches, zippers and lettering. Not suited for very hot weather. Fleecy collar makes it very welcome in cool weather. This jacket was ranked no. 1 high visibility jacket by Road.cc.
It would also be ideal for nighttime walks, or simply crossing the road on a dark night. And it is really cheap!
All about How to Choose the Best Waterproof Cycling Jacket
It’s a good idea to start out by being clear just what kind of cycling jacket a waterproof cycling jacket is. As you can see in the table below, it is a hardshell jacket.
|Waterproof?||Not at all||Usually water resistant, due to a DWR coating on the exterior. Not waterproof||Aims to be completely waterproof, using a hard shell - such as a woven fabric with a laminate coating, such as Gore-Tex|
|Breathable?||Extremely breathable||Much more breathable than hardshell jackets, but less breathable than fleece jackets||Very limited breathability, because keeping out water has the obvious side effect of keeping water IN. Quality hardshell jackets strive to incorporate SOME breathability, by using the advanced micro pore technology developed by Gore-Tex to allow water vapor molecules to escape|
|Windproof||No||These vary from a little bit windproof to completely windproof. Some have a woven face to increase windproofness. And Gore uses WINDSTOPPER, a laminate that is sandwiched together with other textile layers to create a single fabric that is windproof but breathable||Yes, they are especially designed with laminate and sealed seams to exclude wind completely|
|Do they make a noise?||No||These are usually quieter than hardshells, as they are softer||These jackets can make a noise as you move, due to the hard materials|
|Texture||These are the softest jackets||These are the second softest jackets||These are the least soft. Nothing soft and cozy about these jackets, as they strive to exclude the elements|
|Packable||Quite thick, not designed to pack away in a pannier||Not as thin as hardshell jackets, as they include a fleecy layer. Harder to pack than hardshells||The thinnest, as they have no fleecy layers, so they pack well into a pannier|
What Kind of Fabric is the Best for a Waterproof Cycling Jacket?
The fabric is the most important aspect to think about. Bear in mind that it is easy to make a waterproof fabric – for example, a trash bag is waterproof. However, you would not want to wear a trash bag! Quite apart from the fact that it would not look good and would not have sleeves – it also does not BREATHE.
A Good Cycling Jacket should be Breathable AND Waterproof
The clever trick that great waterproof cycling jackets get right is this: they stop the rain from coming IN, while letting the water vapor produced by your sweat OUT. So they are breathable AND waterproof. This is pretty sophisticated, if you think about it, because rain and sweat are almost the same thing – variations of water (H2O). Manufacturers achieve this by putting tiny pores in the fabric. Water vapor can pass out of them, because water vapor molecules are not bound together, so individual tiny molecules can pass through the tiny pores. However, water molecules are bound together and therefore bigger, and cannot get in.
Gore-Tex Technology for Waterproof Cycling Jackets
The W. L. Gore Corporation pioneered this breathable AND waterproof technology for outdoor clothing way back in 1978, with their popular laminate technology. They called their new fabric Gore-Tex. Since then, a lot of other name brands have arrived on the market, such as eVent, Polartec and many generics. But Gore-Tex is like Hoover – they are so associated with the brand that many people refer to the entire breathable AND waterproof category as Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex still make great products (and are my personal favorites), but they certainly NOT the only company that makes great breathable AND waterproof clothing.
GORE-TEX® fabrics are nylon and polyester face fabric, laminated with a GORE-TEX® membrane. They come in a range of grades, including GORE-TEX® Pro, GORE-TEX® Active, and regular GORE-TEX®. Active Shell is a newer Gore-Tex membrane, designed to be very breathable, waterproof, windproof, and lightweight. The company also offers soft shell fabric and a super light fabric called Paclite®. Their Paclite jacket is the best lightweight waterproof cycling jacket I have ever tried, but it is not very breathable. It has largely been replaced now by one of Gore-Tex’s newest offerings, the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 Jacket. This is made of Active Shell fabric and is more breathable than the Paclite.
Fun fact: Gore-Tex fabrics have over 1.4 billion micro-pores per square centimetre!
Types of Waterproof Fabrics
There is a range of waterproof fabrics, with a range of levels of waterproofness. Most of them have two or three layers:
Outer layer: This layer is called the “face fabric” – and is usually nylon or polyester. This outer layer is not waterproof, but it is usually treated with a durable water repellant (DWR) to bead water. This is a great thing to see on your sleeves as you are riding – rain falls on you, but then it beads together into big lumps, which do not penetrate the fabric. You can even brush the lumps off. Note that over time DWR layers start to wear off, but can be rejuvenated by simply running them through your washing machine. If it wears off completely, you can even spray on a fresh layer of DWR. For example, Nikwax TX Direct Waterproofing.
Middle layer: A coated or laminated membrane – which is usually Teflon or Polyurethane. This is where the magic happens: this membrane can breathe, but at the same time is waterproof, thanks to microscopic holes. So it keeps the rain in and lets your sweat out!
Inner layer: Some fabrics also have a tri-coat mesh bonded to the inner surface. This mesh helps to remove the moisture, so that the jacket is much less likely to cling to your arms.
These are the layers.
Most cycling jackets use a variety of combinations of the above layers. From all this, you can start to appreciate why good waterproof cycling jackets are not cheap!
Degrees of Waterproofness in Waterproof Cycling Jackets
Read the product description carefully when buying a waterproof cycling jacket. The manufacturer should tell you how waterproof it is. Basically, there are three levels:
Waterproof: made from a waterproof fabric and has taped seams (you can also turn the jacket inside out to check that the seams are taped over)
Water resistant: suitable only for light, short showers, as it is not made from a waterproof fabric and does not have taped seams
Water repellent: has been given a hydrophobic treatment to reduce the amount of water the fabric will absorb
Note: All of our top-rated best waterproof cycling jackets in this post are waterproof (and windproof).
Neck of your Waterproof Cycling Jacket
Always look for a cycling jacket with a high neck! There are many major blood vessels in your neck, and exposing these to cold and rain will chill you rapidly.
Dropped tails on Waterproof Cycling Jackets
Cycling is unique in that cyclists will often be crouched way forward, especially if riding road bikes. The problem with that is that if you are wearing a regular length jacket, your lower back and butt will be exposed to the rain. Cycling jackets compensate for this by having dropped tails – they are longer at the back, so that they are always covering you adequately.
These can occasionally be a problem – I have had the tail of my cycling jacket snag under my saddle, almost causing me to fall when I attempted to stop and dismount. Some manufacturers get around this by having a stowable drop tail. This is a good compromise – you get to have the dropped tail only when you actually need it.
Apart from that, a draw cord around the bottom will enable you to pull it nice and snug, so that it cannot snag under your saddle.
Long Sleeves and Cuffs on Waterproof Cycling Jackets
If you are stretched out on your bike, your sleeves could easily ride up and expose your wrists. This could make you very cold very quickly. To compensate for this, most cycling jackets have extra-long sleeves. Of course, you don’t want the sleeves covering your fingers, so look for a jacket that has elasticated or adjustable openings at the end of the sleeves. Personally I like Velcro cuffs the best, as they are quick and easy to adjust. You want to be able to cinch them over your gloves, so that no part of your skin is exposed.
Check this feature on the jacket you plan to buy, because if this aspect is tricky or time-consuming, you are going to be irritated every time you put your jacket on or take it off.
Zip quality of Waterproof Cycling Jackets
Look for a jacket with a high quality zip, and preferably also a large tag. Struggling to find your zip tag with gloves on, while cycling, can be extremely annoying. As with other kinds of jackets, high quality zips tend to come with the more pricy, good quality jackets. I once bought a regular (non-cycling) jacket at a “bargain” price, and I do still wear it – but every time I am standing in the bitter cold, bent over and battling to get the zip to engage, I curse myself for not having spent the extra money for decent quality.
Also, some jackets offer windproof zips, and others offer waterproof zips. Obviously, a waterproof zip will keep more water out.
Extra Ventilation for Waterproof Cycling Jackets
There is one thing that is certain on a bike – you will be warmer 10 minutes after you start cycling than when you start! So you might start off feeling very comfortable, and then feel unbearably hot once you have been riding for a while. Some jackets offer additional ventilation options to let more heat escape. Most common are zips that you can open under the armpits or on the sleeve.
The under-the-arm-pits zips are surprisingly effective, so I really like waterproof cycling jackets that have these. Of course, you are going to pay more for options like this.
Insulation of Waterproof Cycling Jackets
Waterproof jackets tend to focus on keeping water out, rather than keeping you warm. They can be quite lightweight, like the Showers Pass Pro Tech ST.
If you don’t get much rain during the winter where you live, but it does get bitterly cold, then you should focus on a jacket that is designed for maximum insulation, rather than complete waterproofness. These are now being manufactured with pockets of padded insulation, much like ski jackets.
There are jackets that are very warm and also completely waterproof and breathable. However, they are hugely expensive. This post is focused on jackets that are designed for maximum waterproofness. These are waterproof cycling jackets that can be stowed in your pannier all year around, ready to be put on over your cycling jersey if you are suddenly caught in a downpour. Ideally it should be breathable, so you do not get too hot when wearing it in the summer.
Alternatively, you can have a heavier weight but still reasonably waterproof cycling jacket for the winter, and a totally waterproof and windproof, super light shell that you carry around during the summer. That’s the way I do it – I find it impossible to use the same jacket all year around, as the temperature change is too great. I have a Gore Countdown jacket for the winter and a Gore Oxygen for the summer.
This post is focused on jackets that are waterproof, yet reasonably light and packable. If you are using one of them in extremely cold conditions, you have the option of putting very warm layers underneath, of course. Ideally you should have three layers – a wicking layer (such as merino wool or Under Armour) next to your skin, a warm layer (such as a fleece cycling jersey) over that, and then your totally waterproof cycling jacket over top.
Related Content: How to Dress for Winter Cycling
Sizing and Fit of Cycling Jackets
Because you are likely to have at least one and possibly two layers underneath your waterproof cycling jacket, it is a good idea to go for a more relaxed fit. Of course, most cycling clothes tend to be quite form fitting, but cycling jackets sometimes come with a more relaxed fit. The product description usually gives a good idea of what to expect. For example, the Castelli Confronto jacket is clearly aimed at a more form-fitting, slim cut for fast cycling.
Do you Need a Women Specific Cycling Jacket?
Good question! Most of the jackets featured here offer a women’s version, but some don’t. According to Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist, most women do just as well with the men’s version. However, if you are especially curvy and like a snugly form-fitting jacket, then you might want to opt for a women-specific jacket. For example, the most form-fitting jacket in our top 6 is the Castelli Confronto. This one also comes in a really good-looking women-specific design.
Pockets in Cycling Jackets
It’s very useful to have pockets on your outer layer, so consider this aspect when deciding on which waterproof cycling jacket to buy.
Color of Waterproof Cycling Jackets
This jacket will always be your outermost layer, so it is a good safety feature if it is a bright color, and even better when it has some reflective elements. You are going to be wearing it in the rain, when visibility is reduced for you and other road users, so it only makes sense to be easily visible, rather than wearing a black jacket. Bear in mind that you can sometimes get a good deal on a cycling jacket by buying an odd color that is not selling well (fuschia pink for example), or a size that is not selling (such as XXL – which is sometimes a lot smaller than you might think).
There you have it – everything you need to know about how to buy a really great waterproof cycling jacket. Make your choice based on the climate where you live, and your cycling needs. If you are lucky, you may be able to get away with just one jacket – possibly the Gore Bike Wear Men’s Oxygen 2.0. More likely, you will need a warmer jacket, such as the Gore Bike Wear Men’s Fusion or the Castelli Confronto, combined with something super light, such as the Gore Bike Wear Men’s Oxygen 2.0 or the Showers Pass Pro Tech.
Every one of these jackets will keep you dry, last for years, and help you to enjoy your cycling!
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