Cotswold Outdoor – Waterproof Jackets and Base Layers Guide and Top Picks for 2021


Getting out for a walk may be one of the simplest forms of exercise – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the right kit to make the most of it. Effective layering and fabrics designed for the outdoors will ensure you’re comfortable and prepared for any weather, whatever the terrain. A good base layer combined with a waterproof jacket are key components of any self-respecting walking kit list and looking after them by using environmentally safe aftercare, sweatproofing and waterproofing solutions, such as Nikwax, will dramatically extend their life and performance. Here’s our guide about what to think about when choosing both, plus some of our new season’s top picks for each category.

Waterproof Jackets
Whatever the weather looks like when you head out, in the UK we all know a shower is rarely far away. Being prepared for a downpour aside, a waterproof jacket is a great layer to carry for a little extra warmth and protection against wind chills, or as the final layer in your layering system in colder weather.

Waterproof jackets should keep you dry on the outside, but also on the inside so you’ll want to make sure you choose a breathable waterproof, which will allow sweat vapour to escape and help to regulate your temperature. Waterproof fabrics have different constructions, which are denoted as “layers” and usually come as either 2-layer, 2.5-layer or 3-layer.

A 2-layer waterproof is the most basic construction, featuring an outer “face” fabric with a waterproof membrane bonded to it. An additional lining is usually added to protect this fragile inner layer, which is usually made from nylon mesh, but not bonded to the waterproofing itself. Not many technical waterproofs will have a 2-layer construction.

As in 2-layer jackets, 2.5-layer waterproofs feature an outer fabric bonded to a waterproof membrane. But, instead of a mesh layer to protect the waterproofing, a coating or print is applied to it, which is far better at protecting the waterproof layer and offers extra weather protection, too. These jackets are often lighter and more packable than 3-layer construction, but aren’t as durable and are less suited to mountain environments, so choose one of these if you’re after an everyday, packable waterproof to wear on the trails and keep in your pack for if the weather turns.

In a 3-layer construction, the waterproof technology is sandwiched between face fabric and an inner fabric, usually woven or knitted. These jackets can be heavy and are less packable than 2.5-layer jackets, but are extra durable and suited to mountain conditions. If you’re looking for one waterproof jacket to do everything, go for a 3-layer.

Here’s our buyer’s top picks!

Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket. RRP £400.00
Constructed with 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro 40D fabric, with 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro 80D fabric reinforcements, this jacket provides high performance waterproof protection. The Mountain HC Hood is fully adjustable, whilst two large pockets and one Napoleon pocket provide ample storage. 




Berghaus Paclite Peak Jacket. RRP £190.00
A lightweight waterproof, the Paclite has a PFC-free DWR coating with a waterproof YKK centre front zip for additional protection. The two main pockets are easily accessible, even when wearing a rucksack hip belt, and the dropped hem prevents draughts. 




Jack Wolfskin Far Peak Jacket. RRP £160.00
This is one of the lightest waterproofs in the Jack Wolfskin collection. Using Texapore Ripstop fabric, this durable jacket will wick away moisture from your skin to the outside for user comfort. The jacket is also windproof, protecting you in a variety of weather conditions. 





Rab Firewall Jacket. RRP £275.00
A versatile jacket that uses Pertex Shield 3-layer, breathable fabric for year-round use. The adjustable hood is helmet compatible and the hem drawcord and hook and loop cuffs provide a customisable fit. 2 A-line chest pockets and a Napoleon pocket provide storage for your essentials. 



Rab Downpour Jacket. RRP £130.00
A lightweight jacket which uses Pertex Shield 2.5-layer fabric with Dry Touch. A fleece-lined chin guard provides comfort, whilst the helmet-compatible hood is adjustable. Two YKK AquaGuard hand pockets provide storage and the left pocket also doubles as a stuff sack. 



The North Face Diablo Jacket. RRP £125.00
The Diablo is made using recycled polyester and provides the wearer with efficient waterproof and windproof protection. The inner hem is adjustable and the hood has both front and back adjusters, to give a comfortable fit. 





Use Nikwax Tech Wash® and TX.Direct® to clean and proof your waterproofs.

Tech Wash is a technical cleaner for outdoor clothing and gear. It cleans effectively, restores water repellency and revives breathability. Recommended for Gore Tex®, Windstopper ®, Nikwax Analogy® and all other waterproof, windproof and fleece clothing and gear.

TX.Direct is an easy to use waterproofer for all breathable waterproof clothing. It adds water repellency and revives breathability without the need for tumble drying. Recommended for Gore Tex®, Sympatex®, eVent®, Nikwax Analogy® and all other waterproof fabrics.

Base Layers
Whether you’re exercising in warm or cold conditions, the surface of your skin undergoes a number of changes. It can go from a hot, high intensity activity, into a cold stationary period, all the while producing heat, sweat vapour and being subject to forces such as friction and pressure.

So what is a base layer and what does it do? It’s the layer worn next to your skin that provides an effective means of protecting your core temperature, helping to keep the surface of your skin dry and reducing friction and chafing – all of which can improve your comfort, enjoyment, performance and even your safety. The materials used in the construction of base layers are integral to a number of factors including the intended activity, climate, duration and intensity.

Many man-made fibres make excellent base layers. These hardwearing but smooth materials effortlessly wick moisture and disperse it out over a large surface area. This accelerates evaporation and keeps you dry, your temperature regular and your skin comfortable. They can also be very robust, elastic and quick drying; all of which aids performance and convenience significantly. Synthetic base layers are particularly effective for high paced activities, where you are likely to get sweaty and need your layer to wick and dry fast.

Merino wool is sourced from the Merino sheep and it is an exceptionally good material for base layers. Its wool is very warm, brilliantly breathable and feels soft and comfortable against your skin. The other interesting thing about Merino is that it is naturally anti-bacterial. This means that it will resist odours, even after multiple wears without washing. Warm and soft, merino base layers are great for low paced activities or very cold climates. Its anti-bacterial qualities mean it’s useful when laundering is not an option.

Some manufacturers take a synthetic fibre and blend it with a natural. This process is designed to combine the beneficial qualities of both materials. The result is a hardwearing, warm material that is quick drying and breathable. It is then possible to change the ratio of the blend until the quantities of each material are fine-tuned to a specific activity or climate, creating a diverse and adaptable material that works great as a base layer, but also performs well as a single wicking layer in warmer conditions.

Here are our buyer’s top picks!

Helly Hansen Lifa Active Set. RRP £75.00
The Lifa Active base layers are constructed with 2-layer Lifa fibres next to the skin and wicking fabric on the exterior. The set delivers high performance moisture management and breathability to help regulate body temperature, whilst providing lightweight warming insulation. 



Icebreaker Everyday Long Sleeve Crew. RRP £60.00
100% Merino wool in a stretchy, rib fabric provides comfortable ease of movement and breathability. The design includes forward set side seams and raglan sleeves in a classic style. 



Rab Forge Short Sleeve Crew. RRP £54.00
This short sleeve base layer is made from Merino wool and polyester, providing essential wicking and temperature regulation. The garment is rapid drying and has anti-odour performance ideal across a range of conditions. 






Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Set. RRP £125.00
This base layer set has a unique 2-layer construction, using 100% merino wool exterior and 100% LIFA Stay Warm Technology interior for user comfort. The garments are non-itch and perfect for providing warmth when active in cold conditions. 




Helly Hansen Active Lifa Crew. RRP £40.00
A high performance base layer, this long sleeved crew uses 100% LIFA® fibre next to skin and wicking technical fibres on the exterior. Lightweight, this base layer will give user comfort and reliable moisture management. 




Icebreaker 260 Tech Legging Tights. RRP £85.00
Made from 100% Merino wool, these midweight tights are warm and perfect for really cold conditions. They are odour resistant and include a gussted construction for flexible movement. Flatlock stitching will also ensure the prevention of chafing. 





Nikwax’s Sweatproofing range of advanced cleaners and conditioners ensure next-to-skin base layers and sportswear dry faster and stay odour free, boosting comfort and performance wash after wash.

Cleans effectively, deodorises, makes fabrics dry faster and improves cooling efficiency. Recommended for all synthetic base layers and next to skin wicking clothing.

Deodorises, makes fabrics dry faster and can be used in a mixed wash. Recommended for all synthetic and woollen sportswear.

Wool Wash
Cleans effectively, deodorises and makes wool dry faster. Recommended for all merino and woollen sports clothing.


Steve says:

Great article – thanks for pulling it together. You mention the combined benefits of hybrid base layers. I have a few with synthetic/merino blend at around 50/50 split.

Is it best to wash those in Base Wash or Wool Wash?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *