Winter comes every year, bringing the typical (and annoying) storms, occasional rain, and freezing winds. Naturally, this won’t stop you from doing what you like, including mountain biking. However, you will need a reliable MTB jacket to keep yourself dry and warm.
Are you looking for an ultralight jacket for the occasional rain shower? Or perhaps a highly waterproof jacket for long rainy days? If you’re not sure what kind of garment you need, don’t worry. In this article, I’ll talk about types of fabric (2 layers, 2.5 layers, and 3 layers), water resistance, breathability, types of seams, vents, and other important features of mountain bike jackets. In addition, I’ll review the best models of the year, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
Take a look at other articles to find the best MTB pants, MTB cameras, MTB shoes, MTB gloves, MTB knee pads, MTB backpacks, mountain bike computers, and MTB helmets.
THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE JACKETS
LEATT DBX 5.0
USE: Awful weather
FABRIC: 3-layer HydraDri
WEIGHT: 24 oz
ADVANTAGES: Highly waterproof, great durability, fantastic ventilation.
DISADVANTAGES: Expensive, a bit heavy.
The Leatt DBX 5.0 is a premium jacket for riders who need protection against heavy rain. It has a rating of 30,000 mm waterproofing and 23,000 g/m2 breathability, making it the ideal choice for enduro racing (and other intense MTB disciplines) in the rain.
The 3-layer fabric with a HydraDri membrane provides a sturdy, resistant construction. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit heavy. The fabric is kind of thick, so it’s not a packable jacket you can store in a pocket. Despite its firm construction, the fabric is quite stretchy, so it doesn’t restrict your movements.
The Leatt DBX includes extra features, such as a magnetic hood that can be fixed over the helmet or at your back, two front pockets with waterproof zippers, side vents, elbow protection, and a thin rubber coating on the shoulders that helps keep your backpack in place.
GORE WEAR C5 TRAIL
USE: Moderate to heavy rain
FABRIC: 3-layer Gore-Tex
WEIGHT: 8.5 oz
ADVANTAGES: Packable, versatile.
DISADVANTAGES: Under helmet hood.
The Gore Wear C5 Trail provides more versatility with virtually the same rain protection. With 28,000 mm water resistance and extremely high breathability, this jacket is ideal for intense cycling in heavy, constant rain. The fabric combines two high-quality membranes: a Gore-Tex Paclite membrane, which is ultralight and abrasion-resistant, and a Gore-Tex Active membrane, which is highly breathable.
This jacket is thinner and lighter than the previous model, which makes it easily packable. You can use it for all-day rides or store it in your backpack and take it out when the rain starts. Due to its lighter construction, it doesn’t offer the same wind protection. However, it’s more breathable. On the downside, the lightweight construction makes it less durable, and the hood fits under the helmet, which not everyone likes.
ENDURA MT 500 II
USE: Very heavy rain
FABRIC: 3-layer ExoShell40 DR
WEIGHT: 18.9 oz
ADVANTAGES: Stretchy, great ventilation and breathability.
DISADVANTAGES: Quite expensive, it’s not lightweight.
Based on the successful MT 500, the Enduro MT 500 II comes with some interesting improvements and the same top-end quality. Among the upgrades are a new, more durable fabric, an eco-friendly water repellent treatment, and a perfect-fitting hood.
It features ExoShell40 DR fabric, which has a waterproof rating of 20,000 mm and a breathability rating of 40,000 g/m2. The previous model’s ratings are 10,000 mm and 60,000 g/m2. As you can see, breathability has decreased a bit, but water resistance has doubled. In addition, the new fabric is more abrasion-resistant and durable. This model efficiently wicks away sweat vapor, making it ideal for high-intensity disciplines, such as enduro or all-mountain.
The 2K water resistance, high collar, sealed seams, and waterproof zippers allow you to go mountain biking on even the wettest of days. Lastly, the underarm vents, front pockets that improve air circulation, and adjustable Velcro cuffs make it one of the best jackets of the year.
GORE WEAR PHANTOM 2.0
USE: Windbreaker, light rain
FABRIC: Gore Windstopper
WEIGHT: 19 oz
ADVANTAGES: Comfort, stretch, pleasant feel, versatility.
DISADVANTAGES: Less water protection.
The Gore Wear Phantom 2.0 is a great windbreaker for mountain biking in dry winter weather. It’s made with a Gore Windstopper fabric that protects you from the elements and a breathable back panel that helps regulate body temperature. It’s comfortable on its own, but can be worn over a base layer, too.
This model stands out for its versatility because it can adapt to different sports and weather conditions. The Gore Phantom 2.0 protects you from the cold, the wind (even when it’s very cold wind), the occasional rain, and solar rays.
As you’ll see, it has detachable sleeves with zipper fastenings, which are great for intense exercise. Plus, this jacket is ultralight, stretchy, and really comfortable to wear. It won’t restrict your movements on the bike.
It has a mid-height collar, elastic cuffs, and two elastic rear pockets. Keep in mind that it’s a softshell jacket, which means that it’s highly breathable but not as waterproof as other models on the list (although it does withstand light rain).
ENDURA FS260 PRO RACE CAPE II
USE: Ultralight jacket
FABRIC: ExoShell20 ST
WEIGHT: 4.3 oz
ADVANTAGES: Packable, lightweight.
DISADVANTAGES: It doesn’t have a hood.
The Endura FS260 Pro Race Cape II is a great option for MTB riders who also love road cycling. This model is ultralight, thin, and highly packable, so you can compress it and store it comfortably in a pocket or your backpack.
It has a waterproof rating of 15,000 mm and a breathability rating of 20,000 g/m2, which are great values for such a lightweight garment. It smoothly withstands moderate to heavy rains. The fabric is quite stretchy, so you can easily wear it over any base layer. It features several reflective designs on the sleeves, the front, and the back, as it’s designed mainly for road cycling.
GORE WEAR C3 INFINIUM THERMO
USE: Winter MTB
FABRIC: Gore-Tex Infinium
WEIGHT: 15 oz
ADVANTAGES: Warm, comfy design.
DISADVANTAGES: Less water-resistant.
The Gore Wear C3 Infinium Thermo is perfect for mountain biking in the winter. This windbreaker features a comfortable and soft-touch inner lining, along with a face fabric that efficiently protects you from the cold and wind.
Gore says that it’s ideal for riding in temperatures from 5º C to 15º C, although many riders feel that it’s too hot when the temperature gets above 10º C. Naturally, you’ll feel more or less hot depending on the MTB discipline you practice. Keep this in mind because it’s not too packable. You can’t take it off and just store it in a small pocket.
This model has a great cut, a comfortable design, and great wind protection. While it’s not highly water-resistant, the Gore-Tex Infinium fabric can withstand the occasional light rain. Keep in mind that the C3 series is designed for intermediate-level riders, as it offers great performance at a reasonable price. If you’re seeking a more professional garment, take a look at the C5 and C7 series.
ARCTERYX BETA LT
FABRIC: 3-layer 40D Gore-Tex Pro
WEIGHT: 12.7 oz
ADVANTAGES: Versatile, highly water-resistant.
DISADVANTAGES: Poor ventilation.
The Arc’teryx Beta LT is a highly versatile jacket, ideal for MTB and other sports in adverse weather. This garment is really popular among hikers because it’s lightweight, easily packable, and durable. Plus, it includes two handwarmer pockets. It’s also quite popular among skiers and snowboarders due to its great waterproofing. The Gore-Tex Pro membrane provides extremely high water resistance, so don’t worry if you get caught in heavy rain.
This model stands out for its high-quality construction, high durability, light weight, and helmet-compatible hood. It weighs 360 g (size L), which is quite light for a jacket featuring a highly water-resistant Gore-Tex Pro membrane. In addition, it includes a stuff sack for storage, taking up very little space. I just wish it had a more efficient ventilation system, such as pit zips. Then, it would be perfect.
PEARL IZUMI SELECT BARRIER
USE: Moderate to heavy rain
FABRIC: 2.5-layer WxB
WEIGHT: 5.4 oz
ADVANTAGES: Highly waterproof, lightweight.
DISADVANTAGES: Under-helmet hood.
The Pearl Izumi Select Barrier can be worn all day in rainy weather, or as a lightweight jacket when you need an extra layer. Made from a combination of polyester and spandex, it feels soft to the touch, comfortable, and stretchy. It features sealed seams, a waterproof zipper, a detachable hood, a rear pocket, and helpful elastic cuffs, which prevent rainwater from seeping into the sleeves.
It’s highly water-resistant and breathable, although, as with any waterproof jacket, you’ll sweat more while wearing it, especially when you’re pedaling hard or climbing. Generally, you should feel comfortable wearing it in autumn and winter.
You can wear it over a thermal layer on the coldest days of winter. The hood is hidden in the collar, which is practical when you don’t need it. On the downside, it’s an under-helmet hood, which offers less protection in heavy rain.
GORE WEAR PACLITE
USE: Moderate to heavy rain
FABRIC: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite
WEIGHT: 7.4 oz
ADVANTAGES: Lightweight and packable.
DISADVANTAGES: The rear pocket isn’t very big.
Due to its 2-layer construction, the Gore Wear Paclite is ultralight and packable, so you can easily store it in the rear pocket of your jersey. It’s a great option for MTB training in the winter because you can wear it over a base layer that protects you from the cold. As you’ll see, it has several reflective elements, including a reflective front zipper, making it really popular among road cyclists.
The Active Fit design adapts perfectly to the shape of the body and allows for movement. If you’re slim, you should get a size smaller than normal. Highly water-resistant and breathable, this is a compact, packable garment for riding on rainy days. Keep in mind that it doesn’t include a hood.
MARMOT PRECIP ECO
FABRIC: 2.5-layer NanoPro Eco
WEIGHT: 10 oz
ADVANTAGES: Great price, good breathability.
DISADVANTAGES: The hood isn’t compatible with a helmet.
The Marmot Precip is the perfect choice for intermediate riders seeking great features without spending a fortune. While there are top-end models with better weather performance, the Marmot does a great job in moderate to heavy rain conditions, at an incredible price.
It’s lightweight and comfortable enough for all-day riding, as well as breathable and ventilated enough for those moments of intense exercise. The hood is not compatible with a helmet, but it can be stored in the collar when you don’t need it.
It features two large side hand pockets and has a pretty casual design, so you can wear it as an everyday rain jacket. In fact, this jacket is not specifically designed for MTB; rather, it’s a rain garment that you can wear in many situations.
IMPORTANT FEATURES OF MTB JACKETS
Before considering technical features, state-of-the-art materials, and innovative technologies, keep in mind that the right model must adapt to the weather conditions of the place where you’re riding.
If you simply need to protect yourself from the wind and occasional rain, I recommend that you look for a waterproof, thin, and packable garment. These jackets are ultralight, and they take up hardly any space. Most can easily be stored in a pocket.
Softshell jackets provide more cold protection and better breathability. They allow more sweat vapor to escape to the outside. Also, they are much more pleasant to the touch than waterproof jackets, which can feel a bit plasticky. Softshell garments perform well for all-day activities. The drawback is that they aren’t as water-resistant and packable.
If you need greater water protection, look for a waterproof jacket. Unlike “water-resistant” models, “waterproof” models will protect you from heavy rain for a longer time. These models include taped seams, waterproof fabrics, and Gore-Tex membranes. Unfortunately, these jackets are not as breathable as softshells are.
3-layer fabrics are built with a face layer of polyester or nylon, a highly waterproof, breathable membrane (typically a Gore-Tex membrane), and a soft-touch inner liner that protects the membrane. These three layers are laminated together.
These types of fabrics are highly waterproof and heavy-duty, so they’re the perfect option for serving as winter MTB jackets. Thanks to their high breathability, they can also be used in any season of the year. The drawback is that they’re heavier and less packable.
2.5-layer fabrics’ construction system is similar to that of 3-layer fabrics. The main difference is that 2.5-layer garments don’t have an inner lining. Instead, a coating is applied on the inside to protect the waterproof membrane and make it more pleasant to the touch.
With no inner lining, these jackets are generally much lighter (and cheaper) than 3-layer models. They are less durable, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you’re looking for a waterproof, packable jacket, you might be interested in a 2.5-layer model.
2-layer jackets have an inner membrane, which protects you from the rain, attached to a face layer, which is usually resistant polyester or nylon fabric. These garments feature a water repellent on the outside. This treatment is known as DWR (durable water repellent).
Most of these garments have an inner liner that is not attached to the other layers (typically a breathable mesh liner), which protects the waterproof membrane.
Most 2-layer garments are inexpensive and packable, but unfortunately, they are not highly durable.
What level of waterproofing do you need? A jacket that withstands occasional rains? Heavy rains?
Before choosing your MTB jacket, take a look at the waterproof ratings of the fabrics. Here are some reference values:
Rating 0 mm – 1,500 mm = very light rain
Rating 1,500 mm – 5,000 mm = light rain
Rating 5,000 mm – 10,000 mm = moderate to heavy rain
Rating > 10,000 mm = heavy rain
The more water-resistant a garment is, the less breathable it will be, and vice versa. This is a sad reality that we have to accept, whether we like it or not. If breathability is your priority, I recommend that you choose a softshell mountain bike jacket.
Breathability ratings are determined by both manufacturers and independent laboratories, but the measurement methods are often different. Check out the following reference values:
Rating 5,000 g/m2 – 10,000 g/m2 = mild activity
Rating 10,000 g/m2 – 15,000 g/m2 = moderate activity
Rating 15,000 g/m2 – 20,000 g/m2 = intense activity
If you like to ride on physically demanding trails, especially if you practice disciplines such as enduro, which can involve hard climbs, I recommend that you get a jacket with a minimum breathability rating of 20,000 g/m2.
When a garment is stitched, the needle makes hundreds of tiny holes that can let water through. If you are looking for a water-resistant garment, make sure it has taped seams. As the name suggests, these seams are heat-sealed to prevent water from seeping through. All top-quality models have taped seams.
Generally, mountain bike jackets are not designed to protect you from the cold so much as they are to protect you from the wind and rain. However, sometimes you’ll need thermal protection, for instance, when you’re riding in very cold places.
In those cases, most mountain bikers wear a middle layer under the jacket. Other riders go for softshell jackets, which are generally warmer than hardshell jackets.
Vents reduce heat stress in hot climates while allowing sweat vapor to escape to the outside. Typically placed under the arms or on the sides of the jacket, ventilation systems can be small perforations, breathable mesh fabrics, or zippered vents.
If you’ll be carrying a backpack while riding, make sure the straps don’t cover the vents. Some models include mesh-lined pockets, which improve air circulation too.
Depending on the weather conditions, you might need a hooded jacket. A hood will keep you warmer and, above all, prevent your head from getting soaked. Some hoods are worn under the helmet, while others fit over the helmet.
For cold, rainy weather, I recommend that you go for a helmet-compatible, high-collar hood with adjustable drawstrings, so that you can find the perfect fit.
Although not always essential, pockets can be useful in some cases. In the end, it depends on the preferences of each mountain biker. Some MTB jackets have two zippered side pockets (which are great for storing keys, a smartphone, or a snack) and a large rear pocket for storing other belongings.
If you always carry an MTB backpack on your trips, you won’t miss any pockets, as you can store anything you need inside your bag.
If you go for a jacket with pockets, make sure it features waterproof zippers. Otherwise, some water could seep through the zippers, and the jacket’s water protection abilities will decline.
FIT AND COMFORT
Make sure you wear the right size to feel comfortable while mountain biking. Most models are available in sizes S, M, L, and XL, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding the best fit. I recommend that you review the manufacturer’s size chart before making a purchase.
Regardless of size, you should choose a highly adjustable jacket. What does this mean? As you’ll see, most models feature Velcro cuffs as well as adjustable drawstrings at the waist, collar, and hood. These elements will help you find the perfect fit, thus preventing water and wind from entering your MTB jacket.
Sometimes, beautiful sunny mornings can turn into ugly rainy days. Temperatures can change quickly. Also, during moments of intense exercise, you’ll feel more heat.
Packable designs are helpful because they take up hardly any space in a pocket or small backpack. This way, you can take off your jacket and store it when you are climbing or when the temperature rises. Also, you can take it out of your pocket and wear it when the weather gets cold.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR MTB JACKET
These garments aren’t cheap, so you should take good care of them. Follow these tips to extend your jacket’s lifespan:
After each use, hand wash your garment in cold water. Remove all dirt and mud. (Dirt can clog the membrane’s pores, which will reduce performance over time.)
If you want to use a washing machine, wash the jacket in cold water and don’t add detergent. (It can damage the water-repellent treatment.) Read the manufacturer’s label carefully because some items should not be machine-washed.
For quick drying, hang your garment in a dry, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight. Do not use a dryer.
Two or three times a year, depending on how often you use the jacket, check that water beads on the surface of the fabric. If it doesn’t, it’s time to reapply a water repellent.
Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 12 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.
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