This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.
Why do you need a waterproof jacket?
It’s hard to stay warm when you’re wet. A waterproof jacket and pants keeps you dry in bad weather.
You might not need a waterproof jacket and pants for every trip. In the Pacific Northwest where I hike, it can rain any day of the year. Being caught out in the rain without a waterproof jacket and pants is not fun.
A bonus of the waterproof jacket is that it will trap in heat as well.
I usually spend a bit more on a waterproof jacket if I wear it skiing or around town. If your waterproof pants are only for hiking then you might be able to get away with a cheaper pair.
Look for Waterproof
Not all jackets are waterproof. If they say ‘water resistant’ then it’s not going to keep you dry for long. That said every jacket has its limit to how much water it can keep out. Gore-Tex is one of the most trusted names in waterproof jackets and for good reason. Jackets with Gore-Tex membranes will keep water out longer than nearly any other kind of jacket.
Jackets sit in the bottom of your pack when it’s not raining, snowing or very cold. Having something small and light will take up less space.
Some jackets have waterproof membranes that are breathable as well. This means they keep water out but allow moisture like sweat out from the inside. This prevents the soggy feeling inside as it traps moisture. Typically the more you spend on a jacket the better it will breathe.
Moving in waterproof jackets can be like hiking in a plastic bag. Make sure you can vent heat and moisture from inside without taking the jacket off. Usually this is with zippered vents under the arms. If you can’t vent, you’ll be stuck in the heat and the moisture.