We put 15 riding jackets through the wringer to find the best waterproofs for your riding style and wallet
Riding through winter in the UK means investing in a waterproof jacket. It’s potentially the most expensive item of clothing in your kit drawer, so it’s important to pick the right one. Deciding how much to spend is straightforward – the more you pay, the more you get, in terms of fabric and/or features. Pockets, vents and detailing all add to construction costs, while guaranteed-waterproof and highly breathable materials are pricier to produce.
Be aware that a lower-specification fabric will breathe better if it isn’t hampered by multiple pocket layers and has generous vents. If you’re on a budget, our advice would be to go for clean designs with maximum venting. Wicking baselayers help with the comfort of any waterproof, but especially if you know you’re compromising on breathability.
For fast XC riding we favour going as breathable as you can afford. We’ve tried and tested Gore-Tex in all its forms and it works extremely well, as does Polartec NeoShell. If you always wear a pack, then you don’t need to pay extra for pockets.
Think about the exposure of the trails you ride – the relative accessibility of a trail centre versus a backcountry epic, where a puncture or accident in extreme conditions will leave you needing the very best protection – and look for a corresponding balance of durability and breathability. If you spend all day between uplift and downhill, then your priority will be durability, but you’ll want good vents so you can cool down between runs.
The features we look for are a drawcord hem, to stop crud spraying up inside the jacket, a hood that doesn’t impede peripheral vision, a sufficiently long back and well-shaped sleeves. And because sometimes you just need one jacket for everything, we’ve included some good multi-purpose options.