Our pick of waterproof jackets
Rain doesn’t require much coaxing in the UK, but with winter around the corner there’s even more call for a lightweight waterproof layer
A packable winter jacket is probably the most useful weapon in your winter arsenal. As the outer layer it has to be water resistant if not waterproof, wind resistant — which generally follows if a fabric repels water — and breathable. Because UK weather conditions can and do change throughout the course of a ride it also needs to be able to pack down small enough to fit in a jersey pocket when the sun comes out. Some winter packables have their own systems for doing this, whether that’s using a separate stuffsack, zipping into one of their own pockets or using a loop of elastic sewn to the collar.
It’s vital to pay attention to the fit: a high collar is good for keeping out the draughts, cuffs that overlap gloves and ideally a tail to catch spray. A jacket that’s more than an emergency rain cape, that may be worn all day, also needs to fit well with no wind flap.
Dressing in layers rather than whacking a heavily padded winter jacket over a thin base layer is the best way to dress for the UK off-season. Since, with winters getting progressively warmer, there’s only really one cold snap each year, a packable shell will see far more use than a dedicated winter jacket so it’s important to choose one that ticks all the boxes.
We tested some of these jackets at the end of last winter so we’ve done plenty of chilly miles in them all and have been able to get a handle on their durability as well as their performance. Some fabrics can lose their water-resistant properties after a few wash cycles so for a winter jacket the laundry is just as important a proving ground as the claggy lanes.
The jackets we’ve selected for this grouptest range in price from £75 to £220, so we’ve taken a good look across the spectrum at what’s available. Will a cheap jacket do or should you pay top dollar to stay dry, warm and comfortable this winter? We took into consideration all of the above points and of course factored in value for money alongside performance when we rated them.