Choosing a Waterproof Jacket

In order to choose the best waterproof jacket for your needs, first you need to ask yourself one simple question…

What are you going to be doing?

It’s neither difficult nor costly for a brand to produce a fabric that blocks out rain and external moisture (a plastic bag can do that). What is much harder is creating a fabric that does this and yet still allows moisture generated by perspiration to escape: a process termed breathability. If you regularly participate in an outdoor activity, from walking to cycle touring, and from trail running to climbing, it’s well worth investing in a jacket with good breathability. Failure to do so can result in the retention of moisture from perspiration inside the jacket, with potentially serious implications. The majority of base and mid-layer garments cease to insulate as effectively when wet, reducing personal comfort and putting the wearer at risk of hypothermia.

Thankfully all the waterproof jackets we have here at Webtogs are breathable to varying extents. If you’re going to be going for sedate countryside walks, you don’t need to invest hundreds of pounds in a super-breathable jacket. If on the other hand mountaineering, ultra-running or fast peak bagging is more your scene, you’ll want the most breathable waterproof jacket you can get within your budget. Thankfully you can filter waterproof jackets by activity on Webtogs, but it also pays to know a bit about our individual fabric technologies.

Though there are many variants of waterproof fabric, all function through the same basic principal of diffusion; whereby water vapour molecules pass from an area of high concentration (the inside) to an area of low concentration (the outside). As a result, when the wearer exercises, warms up and sweats, the water vapour generated wants to escape. How this is achieved varies from one garment to another, depending on the materials and construction method used. Here is a lowdown of the main waterproof fabric technologies you’ll find in the Webtogs range, and their strengths and weaknesses. They can be split into two main construction types; membrane technologies and coated fabric technologies.

Membrane Technologies

Membrane technologies feature a membrane: a distinct layer of waterproof material, which is either bonded to the outer fabric of the jacket, or suspended between fabric layers. Tiny pores in the membrane allow water vapour molecules (smaller than liquid water droplets) to pass through, whilst keeping external water out. They are generally more durable and have better longevity than the other type of waterproof technology, coated fabrics. They are also generally more expensive as a result. Some have a PU coating or ‘smear’ layer, providing structural support. These are less breathable than those which have done away with this, such as eVent, new Gore Pro and Polartec NeoShell.

Membrane technologies on Webtogs include the following:

Gore-Tex Pro

The most rugged Gore-Tex technology. Designed to withstand harsh conditions and lots of abrasion, yet has good breathability (28% better than the previous generation). It’s the top of the range Gore-Tex fabric, and for good reason! Best for prolonged wear in foul weather, and winter use.

Strengths: Durability, Good weight and breathability for such a rugged system. The ultimate shell fabric for high-end winter use.

Weaknesses: Not breathable enough for the most intense activities. Lighter, softer technologies available.

Gore-Tex (Classic)

The most ‘basic’ Gore-Tex variant, found in a range of constructions: 2-Layer, 3-Layer and Z-Liner. Gore-Tex formerly called this technology ‘Performance Shell’. For walking, backpacking and mountaineering here in the UK Gore-Tex is a great option, versatile, very durable (though not as tough as Gore-Tex Pro), and of course dependably waterproof, windproof and breathable.

Strengths: Good durability and versatility. More affordable than Gore-Tex Pro.

Weaknesses: Not breathable enough for intense activities. Lighter, softer technologies available.

Gore-Tex Active

The most breathable Gore-Tex variant, and lightweight to boot. Good for intense activities and Alpine summer conditions due to breathability and weight. It’s not as rugged as Gore-Tex Pro, but is tougher than most fabrics of similar weight and thickness thanks to 3-layer construction.

Strengths: Highly breathable, lightweight, and tough for its weight.

Weaknesses: Not as tough as the most rugged fabrics (i.e. Gore Pro). Lighter (but less durable) technologies are available.


Another high-end waterproof membrane technology, and highly breathable, thanks to it being an ePTFE membrane. Breathability and abrasion resistance of eVent garments varies according to the fabric that the membrane is bonded to. As a result it can fall into either the rugged, or lightweight camp – so be sure to read the product specification.

Strengths: Highly breathable, rugged.

Weaknesses: Lighter, softer technologies available.

Polartec NeoShell

An innovative waterproof soft shell technology from Polartec. Offers the best breathability of any waterproof technology through unique 2-way air transfer, as well as great comfort. Lower hydrostatic head than other top-end fabrics (10,000) means that it’s not as dependable as Gore-Tex or eVent fabrics in extremely foul weather. But it’s great for constant wear in Alpine summer use and intense activities. Because it provides insulation as well as water and wind proofing, it also reduces the need for complex layering during high-energy activities.

Strengths: The most breathable waterproof technology around. Comfortable and soft to the touch. Reduces the need for layering.

Weaknesses: Not as highly waterproof rated as other membrane systems. Not as rugged as Gore-Tex Pro or toughest eVent garments.

Pertex Shield +

Membrane-based waterproof technology from technical fabric manufacturers, Pertex. Available in 2.5-layer and 3-layer laminate variants; the former extremely lightweight and competitively-priced, the latter slightly more durable and breathable, Pertex Shield is a great lightweight option delivering 20,000mm hydrostatic head.

Strengths: lightweight, breathable, and extremely packable.

Weaknesses: Not as robust or abrasion resistant as many other membrane-based technologies.

HyVent Alpha

The North Face’s top-end in-house waterproof technology. Works similarly to Gore-Tex, through a porous membrane with a PU ‘smear’ layer. It has good durability, but is not as breathable as membranes without a PU coating, e.g. the new Gore-Tex Pro, eVent or NeoShell.

Strengths: Durable, breathable. More affordable alternative to Gore-Tex etc.

Weaknesses: Not as breathable as some membrane-based technologies.

Dry.Q Elite

Like Polartec NeoShell, Dry.Q Elite from Mountain Hardwear features slight air permeability. It also has no PU layer, which aids breathability. Large pores allow water vapour to pass uninhibited through the membrane, aided by the 2-directional movement of air. Dry.Q Elite is found on top-spec Mountain Hardwear waterproof garments.

Strengths: Highly breathable, rugged.

Weaknesses: Lighter, softer technologies available.

NanoPro Membrain

Marmot’s newest lightweight and incredibly breathable waterproof technology. Works on a 2.5 layer basis similarly to Hyvent 2.5L and rates a minimum 10,000 mm in hydrostatic head and a whopping 47,000 gr/24 hrs in breathability (140% more breathable than Marmots equivalent previous technology). NanoPro memBrain is used in the most lightweight, breathable garments in the Marmot range.

Strengths: Extremely lightweight, unbeatable breathability and packability.

Weaknesses: Not as abrasion-resistant as some other membrane-based technologies.

Coated Fabric Technologies

Coated Fabrics are breathable in the main by allowing liquid to pass from one fibre to another within the fabric. A waterproof layer bonded directly to the garment fabric itself provides the water resistance. These fabrics can be extremely lightweight due to there being no need for a separate membrane layer, or in some cases even an inner lining. They are however typically less durable, as the waterproof coating is more prone to damage from abrasion and delamination than hardier membrane-based systems.

Coated Fabric Technologies on Webtogs include the following:

Pertex Shield

Very lightweight, and excellent breathability. Good for fast, light activities, and as an emergency shell layer. Not advisable for harsh winter conditions or prolonged wear due to lightweight construction.

Strengths: Extremely lightweight, good breathability and compressability.

Weaknesses: Vulnerable to abrasion, not suited to long-term constant use.


An affordable, versatile waterproof technology from The North Face. Provides long-lasting, breathable protection at an affordable price. Found on most entry-level TNF waterproofs.

Strengths: Affordable, versatile entry-level technology.

Weaknesses: Not as durable as membrane technologies. More breathable fabrics available.

HyVent 2.5L

Like HyVent, but without an inner liner fabric. Instead 2.5L has an oliophobic (oil-repellent) inner layer, which prevents the jacket from sticking to skin or inner layers. This has the effect of doing away with the unnecessary weight of a lining fabric and increasing breathability: useful on lightweight waterproof jackets.

Strengths: Extremely lightweight, good breathability and compressability.

Weaknesses: Vulnerable to abrasion, not suited to long-term constant use.


NanoPro is Marmot’s new entry-level lightweight waterproof technology, but it’s far from entry-level in performance terms. Marmot have heralded NanoPro as their ‘most comfortable waterproof/breathable coating technology ever’, as it opens up new levels of breathability and comfort to the price-conscious market. This is thanks to NanoPro being constructed with 30% smaller pores than Marmot’s previous coated waterproof technology, PreCip; enabling pore density to be far greater in any given a garment. This radically improves breathability whilst having no negative impact upon waterproof protection

Strengths: The most breasthable entry-level technology on the market – fantastic value for money.

Weaknesses: Not as durable as membrane-based technologies.

Of course, performance also varies by budget (mainly on the breathability and toughness front), but all will perform excellently in the conditions for which they were intended.

All jackets we sell as waterproof on Webtogs and Southwest Mountain Sports are seam-sealed, because no matter how waterproof the fabric, unless you seal the seams it will start to leak very rapidly! Sealed seams will have seam tape bonded down their length, which will often be visible – so you can ususally check for yourself.


Some features are desirable on all waterproof jackets, and pretty much our whole range has them. These include things like storm flaps over zips, to keep out the rain, or alternatively PU-coated or waterproof zips such as the RiRi Aquazip. A decent peak on the hood is invaluable on waterpoof jackets intended for prolonged or all-day wear, as are features like adjustible cuffs, and cinch chords on the hood and waist for maximum adjustability. Many lightweight jackets for less-frequent or emergency wear will omit these, instead featuring non-adjustible elasticated waists, cuffs and hoods to save weight. You’ll need to decide where your priorities lie: with minimum weight and packability, or with day-long comfort and practicality.

You’ll also need to consider different features according to the particular demands of your particular outdoor activity: for example you’ll need a helmet-compatible hood if you’re going mountaineering, or a drop-tail cut rear to protect your rear if you want a jacket for cycling. On Webtogs you’re able to filter products by activity, but we’ve included a list of features desirable (but not necessarily essential) in a waterproof jacket for each given activity below, so you can be sure what you’re looking for!


  • Helmet Compatible Hood, or Under-Helmet Hood for lightweight (emergency) jackets
  • Harness-Compatible (High) Pockets
  • Abrasion Resistant (on jackets for prolonged wear)


  • Adjustable Hood
  • Lightweight
  • Packs Small
  • Map-Sized Pockets


  • Adjustible Hood
  • Map-Sized Pockets


  • Ultra-Light
  • Packs Small

Cycle Touring:

  • Lightweight
  • Drop-Tail Cut
  • Helmet Compatible Hood or Under-Helmet Hood


  • Lightweight
  • Packs Small

We hope that these tips and pointers have been helpful in your search for the perfect waterproof jacket. Be sure to read the product specifications of every waterproof you’re considering, and look out for the features and fabrics mentioned on this page. Compare weights too to get an idea of where products fall in relation to others, and hopefully you’ll not get any nasty surprises when your jacket arrives! If your jacket has the right features, the right fabric (and therefore breathbility) and the right weight for your pursuit of choice, you’re onto a winner.