Keep dry and warm with these jackets
We stare down the seasonal showers with our pick of some of the best waterproof mountain bike jackets from lightweight through to heavy-duty jackets.
Broadly speaking, you’ve got two choices when it comes to waterproof jackets. You can either go lightweight and breathable, but sacrifice ultimate protection from the rain in the process, or you can seal yourself from the elements and pay for that shelter with a bulkier garment that may get a little steamy and clammy when you start working up a sweat.
Which type is right for you depends on how and when you ride. If you rarely go out when it’s raining, a lightweight jacket, that you can leave in your pack, may be all you need to ward off unexpected downpours. But if you like to stick two fingers up to the elements and relish the idea of your Sunday ride turning into an Antarctic expedition, a durable, heavy-duty model with a hood would be a better choice.
Only you know which camp you fall into, but either way there’s plenty of choice out there to keep you well covered.
What to look for in the best waterproof mountain bike jackets
A good fabric is far from the whole story when it comes to breathability and comfort — ventilation, pocket design, zip styles and seam taping all impact more on this — but a quality fabric is a good place to start. The contrast between a top-flight fabric such as Gore-Tex Active and a cheaper alternative is striking, and you will be far more comfortable and dry with the former. Make a note of the fabric specs — a waterproof rating over 10,000mm is pretty watertight in normal conditions, while breathability (MVTR or Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate) above or around 20,000g/m²/24hr is pretty good.
Two-layer fabric is the most basic, with the outer face fabric bonded to a membrane, usually with a mesh drop liner hanging inside. A 2.5 layer uses a micro ‘half’ layer bonded inside the membrane instead of a drop liner, so is lighter but still reasonably tough. Three-layer is the toughest, with the outer layer, membrane and tough inner bonded together into one flexible fabric.
Even fabric with stellar breathability ratings will build moisture up when you are working hard, so it is important to have extra ventilation. At its most basic level this is just unzipping the front of the jacket slightly or loosening a cuff, but pit-zips, yoke vents and laser-cut holes offer a more sophisticated level of venting and moisture management.
In days gone by zips used to be backed up with storm flaps inside and out to reduce rain and draught ingress. This method is still used in heavier jackets, but to reduce weight and bulk manufacturers now opt for waterproof zips in the more packable units.
Some riders like hoods, some don’t. They’re handy to stop torrential rain running down your neck, or even to keep some heat in when waiting for mates on a frosty morning. A tab or collar that stows the hood is handy, especially with lightweight hoods that can be prone to inflating on the move. Make sure the hood fits over your helmet but an adjustable volume hood is best because it can fit both your helmet and your head if need be.
Bike waterproofs need longer sleeves and a dropped backside to increase coverage when in the riding position, but beyond that the cut is personal preference. A snugger fit will reduce flapping and bulk, while a looser fit gives more room for air movement and layering.
Adjustable cuffs, collars and hems aren’t just for comfort, they regulate airflow around the inside of the jacket, removing moisture and reducing temperature. Snug them up when you take off on a cold wet ride, open them up when you’re warmed up and need to vent some heat.
Pockets are handy on a jacket you have to wear all day. Adding them does introduce several layers of fabric over important areas such as your chest, though, which can lead to reduced breathability and damp areas.
The best waterproof mountain bike jackets: reviews
Gore Power Trail
mbr review: “Gore’s Power Trail jacket is a lightweight and perfectly shaped with excellent waterproofing. It’s proven durable and well made, and still working well after multiple hose downs. Temperatures can rise quickly inside working hard though and the crinkly, stiff fabric isn’t quite as free-moving as some; two things that keep the power Trail from top marks.”
Altura Mayhem 2
mbr review: “An exceptionally weatherproof jacket, the Altura Mayhem 2 can compete against most high end jackets. It makes use of Altura’s own Stormshield material (hydrostatic head of 15,000mm, which is very high) and has a very high level of breathability. This Stormshield is used for the entire jacket, and Altura has made sure to tape every seam to limit weak points. To further the weather proofing, the Mayhem comes with a substantial hood.”
Pearl Izumi MTB WRX
mbr review: “A 300g jacket with a fixed hood that would be as useful as an all-day jacket as it would a lightweight, packable waterproof. In action, the WRX kept plenty of rain at bay and breathed well enough, though the slightly rubbery feel meant it did feel sticky against bare skin.All round a great jacket if you want one jacket for all, especially if you wear pads.”
mbr review: “Great value lightweight jacket that you could also ride in year-round.The Pace 3×3 jacket is a simple garment cut from a super soft feeling eVent fabric – definitely one of the best fabrics out there. It just oozes quality with a no-thrill design that looks clean and keeps it neat and small, and a superb breathable, waterproof fabric. And it comes at a great price too.”
mbr review: “A great jacket in lots of great colours too. The Madison Zenith jacket blurs the line between a lightweight packable and an all-day waterproof and it does it well and at a good price. At 325g, it’s one of the heavier packable jackets but if it’s going to be your only jacket and you ride in a real variety of conditions, it definitely provides a good compromise.”
Endura MTR shell
mbr review: “One jacket for all your riding. The Endura MTR shell is a superb lightweight, packable jacket that definitely bridges the gap between packable and all-day waterproofs.With minimum features the Endura MTR Shell jacket manages to offer serious packability and ultra-light weight with the inclusion of a good hood. Takes the honours in its class.”
Scott Trail MTN Dryo 20
mbr review: “Fit, function, practicality and looks are all there in spades.The DRYOsphere fabric feels good against the skin, is amazingly waterproof and also very breathable, and with lengthy pit zips and mesh-lined chest pockets, it also ticks all the ventilation boxes making it a good bet for those that run hot.Great value that looks classy too – a real contender.”
Endura MT500 II
mbr review: “Test winning all-day jacket.The Endura MT500 II jacket offers protection in really foul weather, with a great hood, plenty of ventilation and loads of stretch in the fabric. Definitely more for wearing all day than carrying just in case, but if ride in the uplands and need to know your waterproof is going to cut it when things get nasty, this one definitely will.”
Vaude Tremalzo Rain Jacket II
mbr review: “A suitable foul weather choice.Vaude use an environmentally friendly membrane to provide permanent waterproof, windproof and breathable weather protection to the jacket material. This can survive countless washes without needing reproofing. In mild and wet conditions its breathability and temperature control is very impressive.”
The best waterproof mountain bike jackets: winners
The best waterproof mountain bike jackets in the lightweight category: Endura MTR Shell.
The best waterproof mountain bike jackets in the heavyweight category: Endura MT500 II.
The best waterproof mountain bike jackets money-no-object: Gore Power Trail.