We review 18 of the best waterproof cycling jackets for 2012

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

When it started hosing it down back in June we thought we might as well get all our test jackets in early before summer appeared. Thanks to regular torrential storms and almost permanent potential showers, the summer turned out to be perfect for testing. With one jacket on and two more stuffed in pockets, we swerved from black cloud to bouncing deluge and steaming climb, swapping shells as went. As well as some days that felt like winter, we also had some warm but wet days that cut breathability boosting temperature differential to a minimum and tested even the best fabrics to their limits. The result is the most exhaustive, accurate real-world-riding jacket test you’ll find.

Funkier Nylon Showerproof
£44.99
www.bobelliot.co.uk

Funkier’s lightweight, low-cost Showerproof does it exactly what it says and keeps you safe at the same time.

With enough reflective piping and stripes to keep a traffic cop happy, the Funkier is a very safe choice for those who do their training on busy roads between work and home. While it’s bulkier than its weight suggests it will fit in a big pocket (or U-bend into two) if you’re not using it. Rain bounces off pretty well initially, although the number of untaped seams means eventual seeping and sogginess. Silicone cuff and hem grippers are a nice touch for the money too. As you’d expect for the price, breathability is limited, so expect clammy arms, a wet back and potentially rapid cooling if you start putting pressure on the pedals.

Verdict
Well-detailed lightweight commuter jacket, but sweaty and more bulky than it looks.

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

DHB Minima S
£49.99
www.wiggle.co.uk

DHB have a superb reputation for well-executed, excellent value kit and the Minima is no exception. The Teflon coated material shrugs off water well, while the waterproof zip and taped seams slow down seeping dampness if the shower turns into a storm. As you should expect for under £50, breathability isn’t amazing, so it feels clammy pretty quick if you’re working hard. It’s certainly no worse than most jackets twice it’s price though. The fleece-lined collar adds a nice slice of warm comfort round your neck without compromising easy pocketing. Reflective details add safety if you don’t want the full fluorescent yellow option. It’s slightly short in the tail, but that means you can use it for running or walking the dog without looking weird. Swimmers with big shoulders might want to size up though.

Verdict
A decent ‘just in case’ multi-discipline anti-weather jacket at a cracking price.

Performance 3/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 46

Craft Active Bike Rain Jacket
£55
www.united-brands.co.uk

Craft’s Active bike jacket is comfy when cruising, but too bulky and not breathable enough for high-velocity, high-intensity use. The Active Bike Jacket is certainly well put together for just over £50 with a multi-panel construction adding mobility to an already generous cut. A fleece-backed collar and storm-flapped zip keep rain rattling off rather than sneaking in. It’s short in the back for a bike jacket though, with the tightly elasticated hem riding up and exposing your back. Although the separate mesh lining means easy movement and a cosier feel than a bare shell, it makes it a bulky and heavy package. It rapidly overheats and starts leaving you soggy if the pace picks up, with minimal – if any – benefit from the two small vent pockets.

Verdict
Good value, comfy cruising jacket,  but not for head-down/hammer-down use.

Performance 2/5
Value 5/5
Overall 3/5

Lusso HT70
£59.99
www.lusso.co.uk

Lusso’s long-running HT70 is a good value option if you’re after a durable jacket that will keep you dry for commuting, but it’s no heavyweight in performance terms. Whether you’re walking the dog on a wet night or trudging through traffic in a downpour, the HT70 is certainly going to keep you safe thanks to its fluoro green, reflective-festooned design. Tall fleecy collar, storm-flapped front, tabbed cuffs, thick heavyweight fabric and a wicking mesh lining keep it warm too. The fabric is impressively impermeable too, although not all seams are sealed so it will leak eventually. Even with side vents, the hefty fabric soon begins to steam up though and you’ll be roasting as soon as your heart-rate lifts. Its large size when packed and weight means you’re going to be wearing it the whole ride too.

Verdict
Safe and cosy commuting jacket,  but too hot and heavy for hard work.

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Tenn Outdoors Vapor
£69.99
www.tenn-outdoors.co.uk

This lightweight shell is a decent multisports ‘just in case’ option, but baggy fit and clammy feel mean it’s more Xterra than aero sleek. It’s very lightweight, weighing in at just under 200g, and the simple unlined construction stuffs easily into either of the zipped hand pockets for easy carrying. Taped seams and 10K rated fabric mean rain rattles off for as long as you’re likely to want to stay out for, which is good should you ever get caught out in a shower. Unfortunately the breathability is fairly limited so it doesn’t take long for your arms and back to start sweating once the ride gets going. We can only think Tenn mean a mountain biking cut when they describe it as cycling specific as our medium sample had a massive, billowing body but exposed wrists and back if we started to stretch out.

Verdict
Lightweight sports shell, but too clammy and baggy for speed-work.

Performance 2/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

Altura Ergofit Race Cape
£69.99
www.zyro.eu.com

Altura’s Ergofit is a classic race cape, but it performs better than most ‘just in case’
training tops. The Ripstop fabric is durable which means the jacket will last a lot longer if it’s sharing bags with shoes or back pockets with multi-tools. The taped seams mean it shrugs off an impressive amount of water before it finally wets out too, although the thin fabric doesn’t give much thermal protection so you’ll feel cold even if you’re still dry. Unlike a lot of race capes, the breathability is good enough to let you use it as a windproof layer without steaming up too badly as long as the pace is steady. Shaped fit stops billowy bin-bag problems and its size when packed is minimal.

Verdict
Decent dry and wet performance in a conveniently compact and affordable package.

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Pearl Izumi P.R.O Barrier Lite
£74.99
www.madison.co.uk

Pearl Izumi’s Barrier Lite packs an impressive amount of weather protection into a tiny, ultralight bundle. At 75g and the smallest pack size, you can take the Barrier Lite on every ride. However, it doesn’t have any pockets, cord locks, taping or other details besides a double collar and some reflective piping. The feather-light fabric does make the medium cut slightly flappy but a ripstop weave means it’s still quite tough. Breathability is average, but we were impressed by its ability to resist heavy showers – to the point where our stoker was complaining of splashback when we wore it on a tandem. The fabric does wet out eventually and the seams aren’t sealed so you will get soggy if you stay out, but as an emergency protective shell it’s excellent.

Verdict
Impressive emergency protection from a well priced minimalist package.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Hincapie Tour LTX
£109.99
www.evanscycles.com

This soft-touch shell is deceptively protective and comfortable even in the worst weather.
The soft handle and stretch of the Hincapie fabric gives it a casual feel and look despite the dropped tail and two rear pockets. However, when it started to wet out within minutes of meeting a serious storm, our casual concerns seemed to be confirmed. An hour later though, with roads flooded from verge to verge and brutal winds flinging us around we still felt comfortable and surprisingly warm despite the thin back fabric. Mesh underarm and back panels make it impressively breathable. As such, it works really well as a protective shell in dry and cold conditions. Long wrist and back coverage cut draughts and two rear pockets mean you can wear it over a base layer and it’ll just crush into a pocket size package, which is handy for when you need to pack it away.

Verdict
Impressively comfortable and dry, however hard you ride, yet usefully protective.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

OneTen Pioggia
£110
www.hotlines-uk.com

OneTen’s brand new ultralight Poggio performs superbly at a very good price. Designed by the same people who did Wiggins’s skinsuit and Thorpe’s swimsuit, the Pioggia uses eVent’s lightweight fabric with stretchy ‘Raintex’ membrane making up the stretchy fluoro side panels. Untaped construction minimises weight and bulk while maximising breathability. Smart seam placement meant we didn’t got sodden even when we were standing around waiting for rides to start or in bouncing rainstorms. Breathability is also outstanding, letting you ride flat out with only limited sweat build-up and the slightly generous body cut actually fits fine on the bike. Press-stud collar adjusters, stretch collar and cuffs and top quality Riri waterproof zips complete the ultralight package which is also impressively light on your wallet.

Verdict
Outstanding breathability and weather protection in a super-light package.

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 46

Santini Taka
£119.99
www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Santini’s Taka jacket is ultralight and packable, but colour run is disappointing and swimmers won’t get on with the Italian shaping. As one of the lightest jackets on test, it’s no problem to stuff into one of its own back pockets and then into yours. Three cycle-jersey style back pockets mean you can still carry stuff if you wear it over a base layer, which enhances the wicking performance of your whole outfit. Either way, mesh strips on the sleeves, over the shoulders and down the side keep steam levels reasonable too. While rain beads off the shell fabric itself, any concerted weather goes straight through the shoulder mesh, which drops core temperature quickly. Despite a big body, very tight forearms make them feel cold and constrictive if you’re a swimmer. Severe colour run on the first few rides left shirts and gloves a fetching pink too.

Verdict
Very light and breezy shell, but rain vulnerable, non-colourfast and awkward fit.

Performance 3/5
Value 2/5
Overall 2/5

Polaris Pulse
£144.99
www.polaris-apparel.co.uk

Polaris are best known for simple but effective high-value cycling gear, but the performance of the Pulse is comparable with top jackets from other brands. The combination of a close, pre-articulated cut and stretchy Hydravent fabric means a flap-free fit that doesn’t tug around the shoulders. Generous length arms get built-in thumb holes to stop your wrists getting exposed when you’re in a tuck and the long tail keeps your bum dry. There’s even a window on the back pocket so you can keep a clip-on rear light protected from spray. Taped seams also made for a very weatherproof performance in the face of the worst summer storms. However, while it shifts vapour well enough for dry cruising, it’s not quite in the league of the best breathing jackets when you start working hard.

Verdict
Comfortable stretchy jacket that is waterproof and reasonably breathable.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Mavic HC H20
£169.99
www.mavic.com

Impressively feature-filled weather shell, but much of the innovation proved to be irritating on the road. The multi-coloured, multi-panel cut of the Cocona Xcelerator fabric is fully taped to bounce off the efforts of the biggest climbs. Fit is mobile but not baggy, with the Velcro tabbed and diagonal cut ergonomic cuffs and dropped tail giving useful extended coverage. Forearm and chest vents give additional airflow to boost good – if not exceptional – breathability, so you can ride steady without steaming up. The full-length zipped mesh panel up the front just makes the main zip prone to jamming though and, even with an asymmetric design, the two zips make the tall collar a stiff choker for at least the first few rides. Extra zips and pockets make it feel heavy and bulky.

Verdict
Good weather protection but bulky innovation can be more irritating than useful.

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Endura/Equipe Exo Shell
£179.99
www.enduraequipe.com

The rain-beating hard-shell in Endura’s Equipe range is a strong performer with some truly excellent detailing. The multi-panel cut includes a tall collar, extra long sleeves with zipped darts for venting/snug glove syncing and an elasticated, silicone gripped bum-hugging tail that actually stays put. Stretch underarm, side and yoke panels keep the fit close without being restrictive or noticeably leaky. The single zipped chest pocket has a glasses wipe and an internal headphone port and there’s plenty of reflective detailing. Internal and external sealing backs up fabric that, when riding even in heavy rain, water just rolls off. Breathability is good enough that even extended firm exertion sessions just left us slightly moist rather than cold and clammy.
It packs down into a drinks-can-sized sack for easy carrying.

Verdict
Packable, protective and nicely detailed. One of the best performers on test.

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Gore Bike Wear Oxygen GT AS
£189.95
www.gorebikewear.co.uk

Gore’s latest Active Shell jacket uses their highest performance fabric to its maximum potential thanks to superb cut and detailing. Active Shell is the lightest and most breathable waterproof fabric in the Gore arsenal so you have to work hard for a long stretch before it starts to feel clammy. It’s fully taped inside for properly waterproof protection however long you ride or the rain lasts for. The shaped soft cuffs with zipped darts are great for venting and glove syncing and the tall beard guarded, soft gaiter collar is the snuggest seal this side of a wetsuit. Fit is slim enough to stop flapping without constricting or compromising coverage and it packs small enough to stuff safely in a jacket pocket. The amount we’ve used the previous Oxygen AS this year confirms the high price is a very worthwhile investment too.

Verdict
Currently the best it gets in terms of wet weather performance and delicious detailing.

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 46

Sportful Survival
£200
www.sportful.it

Sportful’s top weatherproof jacket uses Gore-Tex’s latest fabric in a vented version of the classic race-cape cut. With its press-stud secured duck tail, tall collar, short chest vents and Velcro and popper storm flap, the Survival has an initial old-school appearance to it. The fabric itself is Gore’s latest Active Shell design, which means all the proven features and tailoring enhance one of the most breathable fabrics available. While the taped seams collect some moisture if you’re hitting long hills, the zipped cuffs allow you to cool your wrists easily and this helps to make it an impressively dry jacket from the inside out. The sealed seams kept us dry on all but the longest, wettest test rides we took it on, which left us thoroughly impressed. The only slight negative to this otherwise excellent jacket is its relatively high price.

Verdict
High price, but a great blend of fabric performance and extended coverage.

Performance 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Castelli Gabba WS
£219.99
www.saddleback.co.uk

Castelli’s Gabba isn’t cheap, easy to pack or properly waterproof but we’ve used this and its short-sleeved brother loads this year. Designed as a foul-weather jersey for pro peloton riders rather than a temporary shell, you get three deep back pockets and a flap-free aero fit from Gore’s stretchy Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric. The thin soft-shell material wicks well even when you’re hammering along, with two big zipped vents to help you control core temperature. While it isn’t properly waterproof, the coating shrugs off showers and long sleeves and dropped tail mean excellent coverage. Critically, it stays a lot warmer than a thin shell if it does get wet and we’ve been OK even in snowy conditions. Typically for Italian kit, even slim riders will have to size up though and it’s too bulky and heavy to pocket.

Verdict
High price, but a surprisingly versatile and addictive addition to your bike wardrobe.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Exteondo Comp Gore Tex
£249
www.zyro.eu.com

This Spanish Paclite jacket is a tour de force for the worst weather but it’s surprisingly simple for the relatively high price. Exteondo have been clothing some of the best pro road riders since 1976 and this jacket uses Gore’s Paclite material in a classic high-collar, long-tail racing-cape cut. Elasticated waist, long scooped tail and extended cuffs mean excellent drip and draught-free coverage however far you stretch out and the fully taped seams keep it totally waterproof in even the worst deluges. Minimal features make it small enough to fit in your pocket, but the big popper storm-flap front and lack of grippers leaves it feeling retro despite the premium price. It’s hard to control heat and inevitably sweat builds up when you can’t vent the forearms.

Verdict
Totally waterproof race-cape design but simple for the super high price.

Performance 4/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5

Assos Sturmprinz
£348.99
www.yellow-limited.com

This superbly designed and presented jacket is a true top performer, but vastly expensive.
If the Swiss manufacturers are to be believed, the Sturmprinz started off as a non-commercial, cost-no-object project for their in-house team and textile development lab. Cue a glove-like multi-panel fit, using different proprietary fabrics to create a figure-hugging semi-stretch jacket with specific protection and breathability characteristics for each area. The result is a close fitting but not constrictive jacket with a soft feel and excellent tail, neck and wrist coverage. While proofing levels vary throughout the jacket, we never felt miserably wet or cold however bad or long the storm we rode through was. Breathability is excellent, and while there’s some dampness on your skin if you’re really working hard, it’s never enough to make you chilly on descents.

Verdict
Staggering cost but superb performance from the kings of boutique bike gear.

Performance 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Overall Verdict

The great news for riders of all budgets is that jacket design and fabric performance is getting better right across the price spectrum. That means we’ve got a lot of very high scoring jackets right through our line-up. It’s still definitely a case of picking out the best coat for your riding, though, as you can’t expect a heavyweight commuting jacket to be as comfortable as an ultra high-tech lightweight shell when you’re on a flat out training session. While overall quality is high, there are obviously some standout pieces here we would steer you towards. If you’re on a budget then the contrasting performances of Hincapie and Pearl Izumi are well worth a look, but the overall protection for price award has to go to DHB’s Minima S. If you’re prepared to cough up for the best splash-proof protection look at the Sportful, Assos, Endura/Equipe and Castelli, but it’s Gore’s inside track on the latest fabric that sees them take our ultimate Anorak award. It’s a new brand that takes our overall award; managing to combine cost-effective pricing, minimal pack size and excellent practical performance in the superbly versatile bare bones OneTen Pioggia jacket.

This review was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

You’ll find loads more triathlon gear and kit reviews in triradar.com’s Gear section

Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TriathlonPlus and follow us on Twitter @TriathlonPlus.