Requiring excellent breathability, a hard-wearing construction and protection from the foulest of conditions, the best mountain bike jackets have a hard life. Here's our pick of the ultimate outerwear.
The best mountain bike jackets are an investment you will never regret, especially when it starts tipping down halfway through an already wet and muddy winter ride. Whether you’re looking for breathability when working hard, packability so your jacket is always on hand, or something that can withstand the heaviest rain, we’ve got you covered with these extensively tested and reviewed options.
Only the best make this list!
Pair any one of these jackets with some of the best mountain bike trousers and you’ll have no fear of getting out there on splashy trails.
Ultimate waterproofing for big days in the saddle
Weight: 298g | Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: Orange, green, grey, blue, black/red, neon yellow, black| Breathability rating: n/a | Waterproof rating: 28,000mm | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Super build quality, silky fabric, and drier than a martini
Reasons to avoid: Zip pulls are small and slippery. Expensive.
The Endure uses the latest Paclite Plus, which means its really comfy to ride, thanks to the inherent stretch in the fabric. Gorewear has really nailed this detail, the Endure is soft to the touch both inside and out, and there’s none of the crackling, snapping sound you used to get from Gore-Tex of old.
Couple the comfort with first class waterproofing and the Endure is a winning jacket. For something so lightweight and minimal it’s ridiculously good at keeping the water out, which makes it one of the best jackets for those big days in the mountains when it’s going to be soggy. The Endure isn’t small enough to cram into you pocket, but it does a ruddy good job being unobtrusive on your back.
Fantastic breathability and minimal weight
Weight: 238g | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: Red, green, black | Breathability rating: 40,000g | Waterproof rating: 20,000mm | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent fabric put together… excellently.
Reasons to avoid: Slender fit. Single pocket.
We’re far more used to seeing Endura jackets with a ‘MT’ prefix (MT = mountain biking) so what’s this here ‘GV’ labelling all about? It’s the dreaded G-word: gravel biking. But fear not, this jacket is not specifically about the cult drop-bar phenom. It works really well as a no-nonsense, nicely tailored waterproof jacket for the average trail rider on a mountain bike.
There’s enough adjustability and features on offer here and the key thing is that the fabric performance speaks for itself; super breathable and more than capable of withstanding the typical rainy day’s ride.
Best mountain bike jacket
Sizes: XS-XXL | Weight: 326g | Breathability rating: N/A | Waterproof rating: N/A | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent breathability and waterproofing. No unnecessary features.
Reasons to avoid: Comes at a price, although backed up by excellent aftercare. Limited pockets.
The Rapha Trail is an expensive investment, but it delivers serious performance. It wicks moisture very effectively. During testing, when we took one of the other jackets off and put this one on, we actually started to cool down, it’s that good.
It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it fits really well; there’s no excess bulk in the front and you can easily wear this all day or just pack and hack. It’s a clean, efficient waterproof jacket and highly recommended.
Best women’s jacket
Sizes: 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 | Weight: 475g | Breathability rating: 20,000g | Waterproof rating: 20,000mm | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Great fit and protection
Reasons to avoid: Lack of features (which can also be a Pro for some riders!)
Madison’s DTE jacket won our women’s waterproof test, with its three-layer construction proving a match for the worst of a British winter. Our tester praised the hood for having enough room for long hair or a ponytail, and came away extremely impressed with the performance of the Durable Waterproof Repellent coating, with water sheeting off the surface perfectly. A heavy duty jacket, the DTE is the ideal match for even the most stinking of winter days. The jacket to reach for before every wet ride.
Great value winter jacket
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 355g | Breathability rating: 10,000g | Waterproof rating: 10,000mm | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Great price/performance ratio. Packed with features and good breathability for a two-layer jacket.
Reasons to avoid: Looks a bit army surplus and superfluous rear pocket.
Madison claims 10k ratings for breathability and waterproofness for its 2.5 layer mtb jacket, which is nothing to shout about, but it outperformed similar spec jackets from other rivals in the field, both in terms of keeping water out and allowing sweat to escape. There are generous pockets and a usable hood, as well as a cut that’s generous without being baggy. If you want a functional winter jacket without spending the earth, the Madison Roam is a great option.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 380g | Breathability rating: N/A | Waterproof rating: N/A | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Amazing drying ability, windproof, perfect sweet spot of ventilation and warmth, looks cool and modern, 7Mesh repair service.
Reasons to avoid: Expensive. Kangaroo front pocket is thin and heavier items pull it out of shape easily. Fabric washes well but can get snagged over time. Not a waterproof, per se.
The Chilco uses a new fabric that 7Mesh calls WTV (wind/thermal/ventilation), which is essentially a single layer engineered with different inner and outer faces. It’s part of a new breed of soft-shell riding jackets with fleece textured fabrics to boost warmth and shift heat and sweat away from the body fast. We were seriously impressed by its performance over a wide temperature range; it managed to keep us warm, but not too warm, in all weathers, and it dries unbelievably fast. The secret appears to be the deep waffle pattern acting much like a radiator, and the just-permeable-enough shell that’s often completely dry again at the bottom of long descents; even when sweating heavily on the climbs.
The best jacket for the coldest, wettest days
Sizes: XS-XXL | Weight: 433g | Breathability rating: 40,000g | Waterproof rating: 20,000mm | Rating: 8/10 | Men’s and women’s versions
Reasons to buy: Loads of features, high collar, over-the-helmet hood, good breathability and waterproofing
Reasons to avoid: One of the heaviest on test, stiff outer layer, runs hot when riding hard
MT500 is Endura’s hardcore mountain bike range, and features a quite stiff three-layer ExoShell40 laminate which has very good breathability and waterproof figures. That said, it isn’t the coolest jacket when you’re working hard, despite being able to vent away some heat using the pit vents.
It’s loaded with features like an over-the-helmet hood with stiffened peak and single pull toggle for adjustment, internal storm flap with zip gutter, two huge side pockets and an inside pocket with leashed lens wipe. Abrasion-resistant silicone ribs on the shoulder help protect the jacket from rubbing pack straps. While it’s not great in warm wet weather and doesn’t pack down very small, the attention to detail is excellent, it’s good value, and a must wear on the coldest and wettest days.
Best lightweight and versatile jacket
Size: S – XXL | Weight: 265g | Breathability rating: 30,000g | Waterproof rating: 15,000mm | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Versatile, plenty of storage, breathable, comfortable fit, adjustable over-the-helmet hood
Reasons to avoid: DWR coating not super effective, will need reproofing sooner rather than later
Constructed from a lightweight breathable 2.5L fabric with DWR coating, this jacket is packable, highly breathable, with medium waterproofness. The fit is comfortable and roomy enough for layers underneath, including elbow pads.
For a lightweight jacket there is quite a bit of storage – two zip side pockets, two internal stuff pockets and also a mini-chest pocket, into which you can stash the whole thing. If you want, you can also use the key fob to hang the jacket on your pack, which is handy if it’s dirty.
Versatility is the name of the game – the Nukeproof Blackline is light enough to carry with you and throw on mid-ride, but you could also ride all day in it. It’s good value but will definitely need a re-proof sooner rather than later.
Brilliant budget mountain bike jacket
Sizes: S-XXXL | Weight: 476g | Breathability rating: 20,000g | Waterproof rating: 10,000mm | Rating: 8/10 | Men’s and women’s versions available
Reasons to buy: Great protection at a great price, PFC-free,
Reasons to avoid: Bulky, some condensation build up
Constructed from ExoShell 20 Eco three-layer fabric, this jacket is softer against the skin that the Endura MT500 and has a very effective water repellent coating.
While it isn’t as cut back as the Rapha Trail Gore-Tex jacket, Endura has kept things simple. It features an over-the-helmet hood with two side toggles for fit adjustment, a high collar, waterproof zip with internal storm flap and pit zips for venting, plus side and chest pockets.
The Endura Singletrack II is a heavy hitter offering full-on protection at a great price, and is the sort of jacket you’d wear on a really cold day riding on the moors, despite its bulk.
Toasty mid-season trail jacket
Sizes: XS-XXXL | Weight: 462g | Breathability rating: 5,000g | Waterproof rating: 5,000mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Comprehensive range of sizes. Multiple hood configurations
Reasons to avoid: Not fully waterproof. A little tight and short in the sleeves
The MTB 3.0 trail jacket is built from a lightweight fabric that’s rated 5,000mm/5,000g for water-resistant and breathability. These figures aren’t particularly high, and I’d only recommend this jacket for light showers, but it is fully padded down the front and even comes with a mesh liner, making it perfect for those early morning starts.
Since you don’t really need to wear that many layers under this one, it is snug fitting. However, we found it’s a little too tight in the elbows, and it can ride up ever so slightly at the front. But for cold rides, especially on an e-bike, this is a great jacket.
Perfect winter warmer
Sizes: S-XXL | Weight: 218g | Breathability rating: N/A | Waterproof rating: N/A | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Toasty warm yet breathable. Great value
Reasons to avoid: Not designed for full-on downpours. Rustles a lot.
Polartec’s Alpha material is a brilliant new insulating fabric originally designed for special forces. Now incorporated into this jacket from Wiggle in-house brand Föhn, it does an great job of keeping you warm in the winter, and manages to regulate temperature better than any insulated jacket we’ve tested. Great value at £120, too.
Significant investment but the ultimate blend of weight, waterproofing and breathability
Weight: 253g | Sizes: XS-XXL | Colours: Green, beige, blue | Breathability rating: 25,000g | Waterproof rating: 28,000mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Money-no-object perfection.
Reasons to avoid: £300! Zip pulls can loosen and fray.
7Mesh stuff ain’t cheap. It’s a relatively small brand formed by folk who used to work at Art-teryx and design mountain bike specific gear over in Squamish. The general vibe of 7Mesh is one of no-compromise. Take the fabric – Gore-Tex Acxtive – it’s pretty much the best full 3-layer fabric that Gore-Tex make. This alone makes for a high price tag due to its unbeatable rating for both waterproofness and breathability. The cut is a bit looser than some but the light nature of the fabric means it’s not annoying or bunchy.
7Mesh’s secret weapon is their after-sales policy of low-price repair (or replace) service for any damage that happens to the jacket.
Compact and incredibly lightweight package
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 262g | Breathability rating: 15,000g | Waterproof rating: 28,000mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Minimalist.
Reasons to avoid: Not the most stylish design.
It really was a close-run thing between this and the Endura MT500 for the test win. The performance of both jackets is superb but C5 Trail Hooded gets the runner up spot because the lightweight build is just a bit more fragile and we feel that under hood isn’t as practical and doesn’t offer the same level of protection as an over-helmet design.
How we test the best mountain bike jackets
There are a couple key tests we do to all waterproof clothing. The first is to verify the pooling on the DWR (durable water-repellent) coating on the face fabric by spraying all of our test jackets with water and gauging the run-off. This coating does wear out and wash off, so we test this again by riding several times in each jacket and putting it through a spin cycle.
We tested the waterproofness by immersing a section of the fabric in a shower for 20 minutes. Several back-to-back test rides were undertaken in each jacket to gauge breathability and condensation and heat build-up.
What to look for in the best mountain bike jackets
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘there’s so such thing as bad weather, only the wrong type of clothing’, and that rings true for mountain biking as any outdoor activity. But there are probably few disciplines placing such extreme, and often conflicting, demands on foul weather clothing as riding bikes in the dirt.
Not only does a mountain bike jacket have to protect you from the elements, it needs to process sweat generated by your body too. It has to be durable enough to endure being sprayed by abrasive pellets of mud and dirt, and resistant to rips and tears when you crash, yet, ideally, lightweight and packable into a pocket or bag. An obvious aspect to prioritise is water resistance. And while that’s crucial, we’d argue that waterproofing should never come at the expense of breathability, since you’ll only get soaked on the inside if your jacket can’t manage the heat you generate on a climb.
The reason jackets can be both waterproof and breathable is down to the size of the water molecules. Water droplets are larger than moisture vapour molecules, so by designing the size of the fabric weave, a jacket can block the rain while also allowing sweat to escape. Most quality waterproof jackets are built from a laminate fabric, which consists of a waterproof/breathable membrane either sandwiched between two layers (three- layer jacket) or stuck to the inside of one (two-layer or 2.5-layer). The membrane is the part that keeps rain out while allowing sweat to escape.
Are jackets tested for waterproofness and breathability?
To help define a jacket’s performance, standardised lab tests have been developed. For waterproofness, this involves putting a piece of fabric under a 1in diameter tube and filling it with water until it leaks through. The height at which the water starts to penetrate the fabric is its hydrostatic head. Hence a 20,000mm jacket can withstand a column of water up to 20m high.
For breathability, the test examines how much water vapour can pass through 1m2 of fabric in 24 hours. So a 3,000g jacket lets through 3kg of water in 24 hours. Some brands publish the figures for their garments, but these tests don’t always tell the full story, as they can relate to the fabric itself rather than the performance across a specific garment taking into account zips, pockets and seams, which can alter performance.
What is a DWR?
Stands for durable water repellent and is a hydrophobic fabric treatment that helps any water to bead into droplets and run off the surface rather than collecting in pools and wetting-out, which impedes the transfer of water vapour (sweat).
How important is a hood?
While not essential, a hood (either fixed or removable) prevents water running down your neck and keeps heat in. They are designed to fit either over the top or underneath the helmet, so need to be either pretty tight against your head or generously sized with a means of tightening down. This means they need adjustment, which usually takes the form of drawstrings or pull toggles, located on the crown, rear, sides, chin or combination of these, to get the best fit.
So vents must be pretty important, right?
To a degree, yes, although the most breathable jackets we’ve tested rarely have vents, as it’s actually the fabric (usually Gore-Tex Pro or Infinium) that makes the biggest difference. Vents are often used as a way of introducing airflow to a jacket with poor breathability. Mechanical venting can include zipped vents at the front and exhaust slits on the back. Armpit vents are also popular and some jackets also have mesh-lined pockets, so simply opening them can also increase airflow.
Certain fabrics (such as Gore- Tex Active) breathe better with a pressure differential between the interior and exterior, in which case keeping everything zipped up actually helps keep you cool in the long run.
What should I look for in a zip?
Lots of jackets have waterproof zips, but some companies add a storm flap as a second line of defence. These are effective, but if they’re too narrow or flimsy they can snag in the zip. Also look for a zip gutter (garage) and/or a fleecy area at the collar – this stops the sharp end of the zip scratching your neck.
A zip gutter (garage) is a little pocket at the top of the zip that the zip tag goes into when it’s fully done up, which stops it irritating your neck. It usually comes hand in hand with a storm flap, which is usually on the inside but on some of the heavy-duty, threep-layer jackets you also get one on the outside.
How is water prevented from leaking through the seams?
Most quality waterproof jackets are built from a laminate fabric, which consists of a waterproof/breathable membrane which is either sandwiched between two nylon layers or stuck to the inside of one. To ensure full waterproofness, the seams are then taped on the inside. It’s worth noting that the reason manufacturers recommend you only wash the jacket at a certain maximum temperature is because it can melt the glue used on this tape.
What’s the difference between a 2 layer, 2.5 layer and a 3 layer jacket?
A two-layer fabric is made up an outer face fabric bonded to the waterproof membrane, usually with a mesh liner hanging inside. On a 2.5-layer, the mesh liner is replaced with a micro (or half) layer, which is either bonded or printed onto the membrane. A three-layer jacket has a third layer attached to the membrane, which usually has some form of texture or open weave to help draw out moisture, promos wicking and feel good next to the skin.
Do I really need pockets?
Not if you use a pack, but we’d always go for a jacket with at least one pocket on the front, as they’re incredibly useful. Some jackets have a ton of pockets, while some have none. There are side pockets for keys, a phone or tools, a big rear pocket to stuff the whole lot in, or even a Napoleon chest pocket for putting your hand in, like er… Napoleon.
How should I care for/wash my waterproof/Gore-Tex jacket?
Since jackets are expensive, it makes sense to take care of them. The best way to prolong the life of your waterproof jacket is to wash it in either pure soap liquid (available from most supermarkets) or a specialist detergent such as Nikwax Tech Wash. Use a low temp (30º) and either air dry or tumble dry on low. Wash-in reproofers are also available to restore the DWR should you notice that water is no longer beading on your jacket.