Boating Jackets for Foul Weather

These rain jackets will protect you from the elements while boating.

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Rain gear is something boaters never want to need but too often do. We decided to test rain gear that is light, stowable and packable so it’s always nearby just in case.

How We Tested

We evaluated each garment for rainy-day readiness and general wearability. Would it pack and stow? Is it comfortable to wear? Lined jackets are more comfortable than unlined, but they are bulkier. They can also be warmer than unlined jackets, a consideration for warm-weather wear. What about ease of use? We tested all the zippers to see if they were easy to seal and operate and watertight. All the brands we tested touted water-resistant zippers. We wanted to know how resistant they were.

Watertight?

We placed red tissue paper behind each zipper, sealed it, then hung the jacket on a hanger in front of a horizontal shower for five minutes. After five minutes, we let the garment drip-dry for an hour to be certain we didn’t allow water in while inspecting the tissue paper. What we found surprised us. Our results were marked dry, wet or damp. None of the main zippers leaked a bit. Most of the pocket zippers allowed moisture in during the five-minute downpour.

Gill Aspect jacket
All zippers were bone-dry. A D-ring awaits the ECOS lanyard for safety. Courtesy Gill

Gill Aspect

$250; gillmarine.com

The Xplore two-layer fabric is watertight, and the lining with underarm mesh moves moisture away from the body. It lacks the insulation of the Navigator, so it is ideal for spring to fall rains. A YKK AquaGuard zipper and double storm flap keep out water. Right and left hand-warmer pockets are zippered with storm flaps and large enough to hold most SLR cameras. Exterior breast pockets are zippered and mohair-lined for hand-warming comfort. Elastic shock cords on the hood and hem adjust the trim fit. Elastic hem cords are adjustable under both hand-warmer pockets.

  • Pockets: Dry
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin, and the jacket lining extends to
    the chin, adding comfort.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Zipper pulls are made of cord, with shrink tubing over the knots for added friction.
  • We Noticed: The double storm flap helps protect the zipper from water intrusion—and this zipper is right-handed.
  • We Liked: The jacket has a synthetic lining that is comfortable and fights the clammy feel of linerless jackets. Dual exterior breast pockets and one interior breast pocket are large enough for the largest smartphones.
  • Size Appropriate: Our XL fit comfortably with good freedom of motion over a T-shirt.
  • Colors: Shadow, Twilight Blue and Glacier White
  • Men’s Sizes: M to 3XL
  • Women’s Sizes: XS to 4XL
Gill Navigator jacket
Insulated, damn near watertight and a roll-away hood make it a winner. Courtesy Gill

Gill Navigator

$235; gillmarine.com

The Navigator is made of a two-layer fabric shell and liner Gill calls Xplore two-layer. A thermal insulation layer is thin but effective in the cold, yet we found it comfortable to wear in warmer weather for rain protection. Zippers are sealed for optimal water repellency, and the rollaway hood is adjustable for height and width. Velcro cuffs resist water intrusion, and the silicone rubber pull tab is easy to manage even with gloves. The waist is snug but not restrictive and can be further tightened with internal elastic waist cords. An iPhone 13 Pro fits in the left-side interior breast pocket.

  • Pockets: Damp
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin and collar is mohair-lined.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Yes, silicone tabs on the cuffs and zippers are easy to grasp with gloved or wet hands.
  • We Noticed: Gill is European-made; consequently, many models have a left-hand zipper style most common there.
  • We Liked: Nonbulky fabric and the seam-sealed waterproof membrane gave good moisture protection, and the thermal insulation adapted to warmer or cooler weather.
  • Size Appropriate: Our XXL fit comparably to most other brands’ XL.
  • Colors: Graphite and blue
  • Men’s Sizes: S to XXL
  • Women’s Sizes: 4 to 12
Columbia Skiff jacket
Pockets have mesh linings, but the jacket is bone-dry and windproof. Courtesy Columbia

Columbia Skiff

$44.98 to $100; columbia.com

This is a lightweight jacket you can stuff in your bag and have in case of unexpected rain. The breathable membrane is comfortable against the skin, but even more so with a thin layer beneath. It is useful as a windbreaker against an unexpected chill. Zippers are easy to work, and hand-warmer pockets remained dry in our tests. The hood is adjustable for height and has an elastic drawstring to cinch it around the face.

  • Pockets: Dry
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin, but the lack of lining might cause chafing after long use.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Zippers are easy and smooth. Larger pulls could be easier to grasp.
  • We Noticed: It’s lighter, linerless design means no inner pockets or breast pocket, but its hand-warmer pockets stayed dry in our tests.
  • We Liked: The simple, dry, packable design and quality construction with sealed seams make it a bargain.
  • Size Appropriate: Roomy enough but not oversize.
  • Colors: Black and Metal
  • Men’s Sizes: Small to XXL
  • Women’s Sizes: NA
Helly Hansen HP Racing Jacket
Sharp-looking protection, but lacks a hood, so you’ll want to use a rain hat. Courtesy Helly Hansen

Helly Hansen HP Racing Jacket

$135; hellyhansen.com

We were surprised at the comfortable price on this upscale brand of outdoor wear. Its design was ideal for powerboating in inclement weather, and the lining makes it comfortable in warm or cool weather as a windbreaker. It also eliminates the clammy feel of the waterproof membrane against the skin, adding comfort and versatility. The collar is mohair-lined for a chafe-free fit. Helly makes a number of ski garments, and we couldn’t see why this one wouldn’t make a useful shell on warmer days on the slopes.

  • Pockets: Damp
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin and collar is mohair-lined.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: All zippers have standard pulls that hide behind the storm flaps for a snag-free design.
  • We Noticed: The waterproof outer shell is comfortably lined with nylon and soft mesh.
  • We Liked: The hood-free design is ideal for wearing a rain hat. The Dubliner is similar ($130) and has a hood, if preferred.
  • Size Appropriate: Sizing is roomy, but a size up might better accommodate layering.
  • Color: Ebony
  • Men’s Sizes: S to XXL
  • Women’s Sizes: NA
Magellan’s Fishgear Lightweight Rain Jacket
The cheapest raincoat tested is bone-dry—Amazing. Courtesy Magellan’s

Magellan’s Fishgear Lightweight Rain Jacket

$49.99; magellans.com

This is a sharp-looking jacket with a two-tone black and heather design. It’s made with a TPU membrane, a polyester fabric bonded to a polyurethane membrane in a way that allows moisture vapor to escape from within but resists moisture intrusion. Large hand-warmer pockets and a large left-hand breast pocket keep gear handy, and zippers are water-resistant. The main zipper is also water-resistant, protected by a Velcro-secured outer storm flap and assisted by an inner storm flap. Elastic drawstrings adjust the hem and hood. The hood fit is also adjusted with a Velcro strap that raises the rim over the brow.

  • Pockets: Dry
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin. The nylon lining is thin but does mitigate chafing.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Zippers work smoothly, but larger pulls would be handy.
  • We Noticed: The interior breast pocket will not hold the largest phones, but the exterior pocket will.
  • We Liked: Elastic neoprene cuffs comfortably cinch the liner around the wrist, and Velcro wrist straps snug up the shell.
  • Size Appropriate: On target
  • Color: Heather gray
  • Men’s Sizes: S to XXXL
  • Women’s Sizes: NA
Huk Grand Banks jacket
Comfortable for weeklong trips and priced just right. Courtesy Huk

Huk Grand Banks

$150; hukgear.com

Velcro secures a double storm flap over the waterproof YKK zipper. Cuffs are secured with elastic and Velcro, reducing water access without restricting movement. A left breast pocket closes with a waterproof YKK zipper. Left and right hand-warmer pockets are protected from water with YKK waterproof zippers and storm flaps. All pockets are generous in size and can hold large smartphones. Zipping the jacket to the chin requires wearing the hood. The cinch adjustments are within the hood lining.

  • Pockets: Damp
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: It actually zips over the mouth, and the hood- adjustment cinches are hidden in the lining.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Larger zipper pulls would be easier to find and operate, but anglers likely prefer the minimalistic snag-free design.
  • We Noticed: The hem adjusts with elastic cords, and the adjustment cinches are in the main hand-warmer pockets, where they won’t snag. 
  • We Liked: The jacket has a handsome cut, and we liked the shadowed gray camo with the black cape and shoulders. It is an outstanding bargain for spring and summer rain.
  • Size Appropriate: Roomy at size, allowing a layer underneath for warmth if needed.
  • Color: Gray camo
  • Men’s Sizes: S to XXL
  • Women’s Sizes: NA
Sitka Gear Dew Point Rain Jacket
Sitka even has H2O-proof zippered armpits for ventilation. Courtesy Sitka Gear

Sitka Gear Dew Point Rain Jacket

$339; sitkagear.com

Sitka has made its name among hunters and anglers, but the Dew Point rain jacket in solid colors is appealing to boaters. The jacket is packable and provided excellent comfort and rain protection. This three-layer Gore-Tex fabric makes a super-light jacket that wears as if it has a liner. The outer shell is durable, the membrane is breathable and watertight, and the inner layer is a woven nylon that helps ventilate the jacket. Color selections will please boaters, anglers and hunters.

  • Pockets: Dry
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin with or without the hood up.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Corded pulls are easier to find and grasp than straight tabs without offering snag points.
  • We Noticed: The minimalist design is perfect as a just-in-case garment, but its waterproof utility makes it a go-to for milder weather.
  • We Liked: The long hand-warmer pockets are zippered and water-
    resistant, and the opening is large and accessible under inflatable life jackets.
  • Size Appropriate: Sizing is accurate based on chest measurements.
  • Colors: Deep Water, black, olive, gray and two camo patterns
  • Men’s Sizes: M to XXXL
  • Women’s Sizes: NA
Grundén's Charter jacket
Grundén’s is the choice of commercial watermen for good reason. Courtesy Grundén’s

Grundén’s Charter

$199 to $320; grundens.com

Gore-Tex is the most respected brand in waterproof fabric, but the manufacturers that use it can only claim the brand if they create the garment according to strict guidelines intended to create a long-wearing, water-resistant garment. The Paclite fabric is two-layer and nylon-bonded to a Gore-Tex membrane, with a sealed seam and pleated elbows for flexibility. Waterproof pockets, Velcro-fastened storm flaps over a watertight zipper, and Velcro cuffs keep out water. It zips to the chin and has a mohair collar, plus an elastic adjustable hood and waistband. 

  • Pockets: Damp
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin and collar is mohair-lined.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Larger zipper pulls would be helpful. 
  • We Noticed: Waistband elastic is adjusted on the right rather than left and right. 
  • We Liked: This jacket is easily packable and ideal for a just-in-case garment when rain is possible but not expected. Its rain protection is top-notch.
  • Size Appropriate: Roomy at size, allowing a layer underneath for warmth if needed.
  • Colors: Blue, Surf, black and gray refractive camo
  • Men’s Sizes: S to XXXL
  • Women’s Sizes: XS to XL

Read Next: What to Look for in Foul Weather Gear

AFTCO Barricade jacket
Cozy and dry (except the pockets), the camo pattern is urban-chic. Courtesy AFTCO

AFTCO Barricade Jacket

$249; aftco.com

I liked this the second I opened the zipper—it zips to the chin with a comfortable liner and zips from the bottom to better accommodate seated boaters. The outer cuffs and liner cuffs have Velcro fasteners to snug them and prevent water from entering. Like the Sitka in design, the three-layer fabric has a tough shell, water-resistant membrane and bonded liner for comfort. The double storm flaps go behind the zipper and in front, adding protection to the watertight YKK zipper. The hood has corded elastic for rim and length adjustments. The waistband cords feature two cinches to ease use.

  • Pockets: Damp
  • Main Zipper: Dry
  • Main Zipper Function: Zips to the chin, with a soft protective liner for comfort.
  • Zippers, Tabs Easy to Work: Corded pulls were easy to find. The zippers were smooth, but the main zipper required a few cycles to “break in.”
  • We Noticed: A right-hand D-ring makes a handy safety lanyard connection.
  • We Liked: The Green Acid Camo is a cool urban-chic look. The jacket is tightly stitched and nicely fitted.
  • Size Appropriate: Sizing is generous. For a trim fit, consider one size smaller.
  • Color: Green Acid Camo
  • Men’s Sizes: S to XXL
  • Women’s Sizes: No

Proofing Gear

We aren’t scientists or engineers, but consider ourselves layman experts based on our experience in the field and our study and observation of real scientific tests. We did this test three years ago on many of the same brands, and water resistance has improved dramatically since then. Even those rain shells with damp pocket tissues in our test are worthy of consideration, and your field experience may differ from our conscientious layman tests. I’d take any one of these jackets on a rainy boating day.

History of Dry

A product of the space race of the ’60s, waterproof membranes had to be fine-tuned for the consumer after decades of testing and field use. It takes a waterproof membrane bonded to a durable, water-resistant shell to keep water out while allowing for steamy human sweat to escape. But the original fabric came in bolts that were cut and sewed, and the unsealed seams of the driest membrane leaked. Now manufacturers seal the seams, and they fashion the elbows, knees and stress points to flex with the wearer and bond to an outer shell treated with water-resistant material. Rain gear in general has never been drier.

Keeping it Dry

The outer shell of rain gear is treated with a substance (DWR, in a spray can) that can wear off over time. The membrane can be compromised by human sweat, dirt and abrasion. Examine your jacket after use and look for compromised stress points. There should be none for dozens and dozens of uses. But jackets should be washed after 30 or so trips afield to remove contaminants that block the pores from breathing outward. The outer waterproof shell should be retreated with water-resistant spray when it no longer beads water. 

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