It is all about preparation. One critical item you’ll need to venture out into the unknown is a reliable waterproof jacket. Luckily for you, cycling jackets have come a long way in recent years, and they are loads more breathable, dependable, and packable than they used to be. While shopping, you’ll likely run into some cryptic tech terminology (clothing manufacturers like throwing around fancy words, which aren’t always an indication of quality) but we are here to help.
First, let’s break down the elements you should pay attention to and then dive into some of our favourite cycling jackets currently on the market.
What should I look for in a spring cycling jacket?
Know the difference between waterproof and water-resistant
Unless you live somewhere with very little rain, you’d be wise to remember that there’s a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Waterproof will typically come with a claimed waterproof rating of at least 10,000 mm, be multi-layered fabric with a perforated membrane, have taped seams and storm-proof zips. Water-resistant will usually have a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating and be lightweight, making it more packable. Everyone has different needs but if you want to invest in a jacket that will see you through more adventurous cycling endeavours—waterproof is what you need.
Remember that you need to breathe
As in, your whole body needs to be able to breathe. Staying dry from the elements is one thing but there isn’t much of a point if you’re generating your own sweat storm underneath your jacket. Breathability can also be rated, and claimed ratings of above 10,000 g will help prevent you from boiling on the inside. Generally speaking, the more waterproof a fabric is, the less breathable it becomes, although there are some higher-end exceptions to the rule (see below).
Find the right fit
If you’re not concerned with racing or your aero performance, finding an appropriate and comfortable fit shouldn’t be too tricky. If you are on the hunt for a tight-fitting rain cape, be sure you can try it on before purchase or that there’s an easy return policy. Either way, be mindful of what kind of layers you might want to have underneath and realistic about whether or not the jacket will be comfortable throughout an all-day affair. Other fit details are more subjective—some riders love a long tail or thumb loops. Try on a few different designs to see what feels best to you.
Always be mindful of packability
When the weather’s a-changin’ every five minutes, you’ll want a jacket that is easy to stow. As mentioned above, genuinely waterproof jackets tend to be bulkier and don’t often pack down small enough for a rear pocket. At the same time, water-resistant options can usually be scrunched into a ball the size of a fist. If you don’t mind spending the cash, though, you can have the best of both worlds. Read on to discover some of our picks for those that are exceptionally waterproof and very lightweight (in addition to some alternatives for varying budgets).
All-out water protection and packability: C5 GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY™ 1985 Jacket
Well, after teasing you, let’s just get right to it. This jacket offers top-notch performance, its Shakedry fabric doesn’t wet out, and it is lightweight and packable. It is also on the pricey side. That said, if you’re looking to invest—this is a great option that takes the cake when it comes to lightweight protection. Shakedry tech is a pretty magical invention. In addition to keeping you protected, it dries almost instantly once the sun comes up. This jacket also has a host of nifty features, including elasticated cuffs, extra stretchy fabric and even a little pocket at the rear to stuff itself into for convenient stowing.
A more budget-friendly Shakedry option: Rapha Pro Team Lightweight GORE-TEX Jacket
This is a slightly more affordable Shakedry option that still provides solid packability. It isn’t quite on par with our first pick in terms of sealing and fit but this is still a jacket that will undoubtedly be more than up to the job for the demands of many riders. The important thing here is that precipitation will stay outside, and you can still fit this jacket in your pocket. It is available in women’s and men’s versions.
Versatility you can count on: Castelli Alpha RoS 2 Light Women’s Jacket
This women’s jacket is a high-quality, high-performance and three-season option that will keep you comfortable in a wide range of temperatures and weathers. We love that the torso is soft and comfortable against bare skin, so you can even forgo a base layer on warm days. Overall, this is a jacket that will see you through many a cycling season while doing a brilliant job of keeping sudden wind chills at bay. This isn’t for the really wet days, though. Water repellency will keep you safe from a few drops of rain but not a heavy downpour.
For the pluviophiles among us: Le Col Pro Rain Jacket
On the other hand, if you’re not deterred even by the most biblical of rains, this might be the jacket you’re after. It boasts excellent waterproofing, solid breathability, and a long dropped tail that can stand in for mudguards. Its bright colour will help you stand out on the road, even on dark days. It isn’t the most packable of the options listed here but if superior rain protection is your top concern, this is an excellent buy.
Trusted and affordable: Altura Nightvision Storm Women’s Waterproof Jacket
Nothing too fancy here but the Altura’s Nightvision Storm Women’s Waterproof Jacket is a great pick if you’re primarily a dedicated commuter looking to stay dry and comfy as you get from point A to point B. It offers a relaxed (good for layering), women-friendly fit and has reliable wind and rain protection without causing excessive overheating. The reflective detailing and storage options are in the right places and result in a highly functional design.
When you want to feel seen: Proviz Reflect360 Plus
It’s easy to roll your eyes at the full hi-viz outfits that seem to defeat their own purpose by being temporarily blinding to look at but hey—it’s important to be visible out there! The Proviz’s Reflect360 Plus jacket meets you halfway. This waterproof jacket is made from a unique material that is grey in the day but comes to life at night, reflecting the light from vehicles to ensure that everyone and their dog will see you coming. In addition, it offers solid waterproofing and breathability and is available in both men’s and women’s versions.
Just a little something for emergencies: Pearl iZUMi Summit Shell Jacket
This is a good one to carry with you, just in case. Water-resistant and windproof, this wind shell weighs only 100 g, and you can pack it into such a tiny package that you might even forget it’s there. This won’t prevent you from getting wet during a cloud burst but it can do a long way towards keeping you warm while you pedal to shelter.