When you live in a country where it rains more than 100 days a year, waterproofing is a serious business. A proper waterproof coat or jacket is a wardrobe essential in stormy Britain, and it’s worth investing money in a decent one that will protect you from serious weather all year round.

A good waterproof jacket should be two things – waterproof and breathable. Cheap and cheerful macs-in-sacs and rain ponchos will keep you dry at a pinch, but they aren’t breathable – you’ll get sweaty and hot pretty quickly, which isn’t ideal out on hikes or cycle trips.

Look for a waterproof jacket that either uses branded technology, such as the reliable Gore-Tex, or own-brand technology to render its outer membrane waterproof.

Waterproof jackets (check they aren’t just labelled water repellent or water resistant, which tend not to be fully waterproof) are also known as hardshells, and you’ll often see jackets rated by millimetres of waterproofness – as a guide, up to 1,500mm is water resistant (so not useful in anything more than drizzle), 1,500mm-5,000mm is waterproof and good for most wet conditions, 10,000mm and above is highly waterproof and great for mountain conditions and snow.

Think about how and where you’ll wear your jacket. If you want something for casual use, a roomier design is good for layering underneath on cold mornings, and a longer parka-length jacket with some insulation will offer more warmth. If you’re planning fast-paced hikes or cycles, you’ll want something light and breathable and without insulation.

A good jacket should fit snugly but not too tightly at the waist, cuffs and neck and include taped seams, sealed or protected zips, zipped pockets and a well-designed hood (look for a helmet-compatible hood if you want to wear it for climbing and cycling). Underarm zips will stop you overheating. If you’re out in extreme conditions, it’s smart to pick a brightly coloured jacket so you’re easy to spot in bad weather.

We tested all of these jackets in heavy rain and they kept us dry for multiple hours. To check a jacket is effectively waterproof, see if water spilled on its outer shell balls into droplets and rolls off the surface. If water starts to be absorbed after regular use you can re-waterproof your jacket by treating it with a wash such as Nikwax Tech Wash.

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The verdict: Waterproof jackets

For general outdoor wear, we rate Haglofs’ excellent grym evo. Professionals and mountaineers should pick Jottnar’s asmund, and for more casual use, we’d recommend Seasalt’s good-looking plant hunter.

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