The best lightweight waterproof jackets 2023: top picks for unpredictable spring weather
Shield yourself against April showers
Spring weather is anyone’s guess. Between ‘beasts from the easts’, April showers and heatwaves in May, layering up is a tricky business in the months before summer. Wrap up for inclement conditions and you can bet the sun will shine all day. But leave home without a jacket and you’re guaranteed to be caught in a squall as soon as you step off the bus.
Need a waterproof jacket that’s thin and breathable, but tough enough to survive a sudden downpour? From recycled raincoats to packable jackets, the coats below can cope with the most confusing of forecasts, without weighing you down around town.
Additional copy by Jack Needham
How heavy are April showers? Some jackets are coated to repel rainwater, while water-resistance will only shield your skin for so long. Proper waterproofing requires sealed seams and an impermeable material to resist sustained drizzle.
The coat/no coat call is never an easy one. Packable jackets mean you can forget the guesswork and always have an extra layer at the ready. Some stuff into their own chest pocket; others pack away in a separate pouch.
Even in a whipping wind, your body needs to breath. Most lightweight layers are breathable, but some feature additional ventilation to assist air circulation. Look for zipped flaps below the arms or on the hips.
Hoods are more than umbrellas for your bonce. A larger cowl can cover a cycling lid or ski helmet, while a peaked bonnet will stop precipitation from dribbling into your peepers. Drawcords can also hide your face from frigid air.
The mustard mantle: Fjällräven Vardag
Buy the Fjällräven Vardag here from Bergfreunde
It’s an unwritten rule that raincoats should be yellow. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood trawlerman. For an overcoat that continues the custard tradition, don this durable outer jacket – complete with kangaroo pocket for all your angling accessories. Timeless by design, the Vardag’s waterproof properties can be revived again and again with Greenland Wax. It’s also available in mellower shades, but where’s the sun in that?
The old-school overcoat: Burton Freelight
Buy the Burton Freelight jacket here
The Nineties might be back in fashion, but nostalgia alone won’t keep you dry in a deluge. For retro slope style that sheds the wet stuff, try this two-tone topper. Inspired by Burton’s classic snowboarding shells, the nylon ripstop finish is water-repellent, ventilated and sure to please Gen Z. And if Mother Nature delivers a winter throwback, you can layer up with hip knitwear beneath.
The Scandi skin: Didriksons Slaghöken
Buy the Didriksons Slaghöken here
Scandinavia gets its fair share of squalls, so it’s no surprise that the Swedes know their way around a waterproof. Didriksons began outfitting Baltic seafarers in 1913 and its roomy rainwear soon found favour with fishermen and fashionistas alike. Its latest layer stays true to those coastal roots, with welded seams and a Galon construction that readily repels the elements.
The stormy shield: Finisterre Stormbird
Buy the Finisterre Stormbird here
From misty hillsides to inclement headlands, conditions can be hardcore in the great outdoors. You could stay cosy at home. Or for wearable shelter while you wander, you could add this pac-a-mac to your daypack. It won’t clear the skies, but it will withstand whatever the weather throws at you: with a 20K Hydrostatic Head rating, its recycled shell is as waterproof as they come.
The capable cagoule: Patagonia Calcite
You don’t need the forecasting wisdom of Michael Fish to know that spring can bring four seasons in a single day. Wrapped in recycled polyester, this packable proof is prepared for erratic elements: hand-warming pockets and drawcord hems seal out sudden chills, while a watertight chest compartment stops your stuff getting soggy in unforeseen storms.
The Night Rider: Regatta Britedale Waterproof Jacket
Buy the Regatta Britedale Waterproof Jacket direct from Regatta here
Imagine the scenario. You’re lost in the middle of nowhere, the UK weather has taken a particularly grim turn, and your phone torch is doing little to illuminate the muddy path before you. It’s a pretty common downside to enjoying the great outdoors, but that’s where the Britedale waterproof from Regatta comes in.
The Regatta Britedale is a very handy piece of wearable winter gear that has a battery-powered torch stitched into the hood. Tried and tested by us, the Britedale comes with an inner fleece that keeps you toasty, while a breathable outer waterproof jacket keeps the rain where it belongs (not on you, essentially). The Britedale comes in a range of colours, but if you act fast some designs are available for as low as £36 via the Regatta website.
The rainproof runner: Adidas Terrex Agravic
Getting soaked in a surprise downpour won’t do much for your sprinting PB, but spring drizzle can be tricky to predict. This lightweight layer packs away into its own chest pocket for easy toting on the trail, ready to deploy when the clouds roll in. Four-way stretch fabric lets you flex on the fly, while the nylon construction is resistant to wind and wet weather.
The alpine anorak: Arc’Teryx Beta
Buy the Arc’Teryx Beta direct from the Arc’Teryx website here
Mountain goats don’t need anoraks. For mammals that shimmy up cliffs without the help of hooves, this pullover provides featherweight protection from alpine draughts. Less insulated than an ibex, its hardy but breathable Gore-Tex fabric is windproof and suited for a range of activities. And at just 300, it won’t be a burden on your carabiners.
The reflective rider: GoreWear Endure
Long winter break left you with a serious case of Saddle Absence Disorder? Don’t let uncertain skies keep you off your steed: be showerproof and seen with this neon number. Designed for cyclists, the streamlined Gore-Tex shell has a long back for better bum coverage, while an over-helmet hood keeps rain at bay without compromising the safety of your can.
The trendy trekker: Nike ACG Misery Ridge
Buy the Nike ACG Misery Ridge jacket direct from Nike here
When it comes to Nike’s ACG range, you pay for what you get. Made for the outdoors and designed to withstand rough terrains, ACG also brings some classic Nike style to gear that, at times, can be a little boring. ACG’s ‘Misery Ridge’ jacket, though, is equally suited for a woodland ramble as it would be a night out.
This layerable jacket comes with Nike’s Storm-FIT tech, which combines windproof and waterproof fabric for ultimate snugness. It’s also made from sustainable materials, and is equipped with enough pockets to carry everything you need for a long roam. At £450, the Misery Ridge is certainly not cheap, but for weekend walkers who want a multi-purpose jacket that lasts it’s a top-tier purchase.