One question I often get asked is which waterproofs should I buy without having to spend a fortune. This is a good question as waterproofs are essential walking kit. They provide an outer ‘shell’ layer that protects from rain and wind. Together with footwear I would encourage anyone to buy the best they can afford. I think generally speaking the term ‘you get what you pay for’ does apply but this unfortunately this means the higher performance technical fabrics come at a higher cost.
That said, there are some good performing budget brands out there and the cost should be balanced against the frequency of use etc. You can get waterproofs that will keep you dry, without breaking the bank for less than £100.
Whatever you do don’t go for the £4.99 petrol station bargains!
Don’t just pick a brand that you like the look of.
Do some research into the material types, breathability and look at online gear reviews. Breathability is the key factor and this is the ability to keep rain out whilst letting body sweat escape. Most waterproofs nowadays are breathable but there are different technologies such as Gore Tex, E-vent and Drilite.
The reason breathability is so important is because you sweat a lot during a day on the hills and if this sweat vapour can’t escape you will soon get wet from the inside (you may think the garment is leaking) which can lead to discomfort & feeling cold. Ultimately this can lead to hypothermia.
Breathability aside one waterproof may appear much the same as another but this isn’t the case. As well as the fabric there are many different fits, & features.
For a jacket consider the size, number and position of pockets (big enough for a map, gloves etc), venting & the type of hood.
For trousers consider the ease of putting them on (full length zips) & the fabric (rustling all day can be quite annoying).
For both consider the weight. There is no such thing as a set of bomb proof ultra light waterproofs though. If they srcunch up into a tiny ball the size of an apple they won’t be good enough for a day in Lakes in persistent rain and 30mph winds.
Make sure you try the gear on. Don’t just go and buy online, even having done research. The fit is very important so go to a high street or independent shop and take your time. It’s an important investment.
Looking after your waterproofs is important to prolong the life of them and maintain performance. Wash often with Nikwax or Grangers and re-proof from time to time. Gradually sweat and dirt impregnate the jacket and breathability is reduced.