Is there something that will work for both rain and warmth/ordinary wear?
What I think works best - and I come from a place famous for its rain (In GoreTex We Trust) - are two different pieces of clothing, which do two different things:
A thin, lightweight, waterproof rain jacket (with a hood). This is to keep you dry. It is not intended to keep you warm.
A thin, warm, fleece jacket. This is to keep you warm. It might keep you dry for a few minutes in a light drizzle but in serious rain, it's not enough.
These are two different functions - do not confuse one need with the other. They are related, but they are two distinct needs. The combination of the two will keep you warm and dry (or dry and warm). Also works in a fierce wind.
The key to dress for success is LAYERS. The above are just two of them.
The layers suggested by David are what I do, too.
Yep, a wind/rain resistant top layer roomy enough to add what you need under. My current fave is a 32 Degree base layer Ts, quarter zip fleece and a rain coat over.
David is right. We PNW folks oughta know. I take a knee-length Gore Tex hooded shell parka (sadly no longer as available as in the past), plus a lightweight Patagonia down "puffer" jacket, plus a wool watch cap in case of real cold. That's worked in a lot of climes and places from Baltic to Spain. I mostly travel in spring and fall, in summer I might take a fleece vest instead of the puffer jacket.
It really is about layers, the flexibility to use one or another as conditions require, or both if necessary. They shouldn't be heavy or bulky. A lot of the insulation value is in the air between layers, which weighs nothing and needs no packing -- you'll find it ready for you in Europe, for free! ;-)
Avoid "rain/water resistant" -- you will never stay dry! A light waterproof jacket with a very light "fabric" lining will be more comfy than 1 w/o a lining (sweat, ugh). How about a simple Columbia jacket with a sweater or fleece or down vest for warmth if needed?
For European trips in September, I take a Columbia raincoat, a cardigan, a long-sleeve T (if going hiking in the mountains) and a micro-thermal base layer top.
I took a fleece on one trip and liked this other combo better for more flexibility for me.
For me, a Goretex shell with a roomy brimmed hood, a down vest and a lightweight fleece hoodie. This combo, over a Tshirt or turtleneck, for me works in wind, rain and cold down to about 35 degrees F.
I vote for a packable raincoat, full length, and a packable down jacket, plus a thin zip yoga-type jacket. This combination has met my needs from the top of Mt. Titlis, [10,000' in Switzerland], to 40 degrees variance from morning til noon, during shoulder seasons.
[I know longer raincoats are harder to find for male travelers.] Last week, an OP reported a sale on women's full length raincoats at Eddie Bauer's, and many others have spotted the packable down jackets at Costco.
I also apply water proof spray to my shoes [from Amazon or Target.]
This is what worked for me this past late October, early Nov in Europe (similar to some other posters): One, a "packable" mid thigh raincoat with hood that folded up into a pouch to pack. I could wear this to keep dry and also layer warmer tops underneath it. I also brought a second jacket for added warmth when there was no rain. This one was a waist length "packable" thin puffer type jacket. It was lined with a synthetic down, maybe something called Primaloft or similar. It also folded up into a pouch for packing. I wore the second one almost daily/nightly during chilly weather and it was fashionable looking. I loved this one.
As others have said, layers are best.
I have a packable knee length waterproof jacket and a Primaloft puff jacket. These are lighter and less bulky than fleece. But if you are expecting intense rain then fleece keeps its warmth better.
I also bring a t-zip synthetic base layer top for real cold. Silk long johns complete the package.
Warm - rain jacket only
Cool - puff jacket only
Cold - both jackets and maybe the base layers
BTW - the Primaloft has some wicking abilities when wet. It’s also machine washable.
I've never been in Europe where I didn't experience both warm and cold temps, so I now travel with two jackets:
1 - My Marmot precip. jacket. Good for warmer days (pit zips) with wind and/or rain. Easily folds and slips down into a small pocket of my backpack.
2- My Back Country rain jacket with built in fleece liner and detachable hood. Great for cool, freezing, and/or windy days but the lining does not zip out so it would be awful on warmer days. It was only rated water resistant so I treated it twice with waterproofing spray and it has kept me dry. Granted, I haven't walked around in the pouring rain for hours and hours with no umbrella and am likely to duck into somewhere for a short squall, but so far, so good. It served me very well during a long winter trip to Amsterdam as well as a cool, sometimes rainy fall trip to London in which I did stand for a good bit on a walking tour in pouring rain but remained perfectly dry.
The extra fleece I carry on trips is now more likely to be a shirt/undershirt that I use for layering when cold.
To me the ideal jacket would be one like my Back Country but with a removable shell layer or two - maybe like a squall jacket. Land's End has some nice ones.
I will be the differing opinion here. The only time I wear waterproof is when cycling long distances, or did. Oh, and I worked in an allotment one day in Ealing, UK. Otherwise, I don’t recommend. I travel fall to spring. I will take a water resistant light lands end jacket in the shoulder seasons. I bring a small travel umbrella. I also have had a tiny package of plastic poncho that I have never had to use in 20 years. Don’t pack for the worst scenario. YMMV
So I would have to say, in reference to your question, bring both.
Wray - why would your bring a mere water resistant jacket instead of a waterproof one? They have the same bulk and weight!
My experience is that a water resistant jacket will soak through by the end of the day. You’ll have to cut your explorations short because you are soaked.
If you are worried about sweat then a waterproof jacket with pit zips would be the way to go.
A water resistant jacket with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish can keep you dryer than even a "breathable" waterproof jacket under high physical exertion situations. Cycling and hiking are examples where a breathable water resistant jacket does a better job of venting out the body moisture than a waterproof jacket.
A water repellent jacket can be softer and lighter than a jacket with a breathable waterproof (e.g. Gore-Tex) jacket. Gore-Tex jackets are typically either three layer (Gore-tex sandwiched between an outer shell layer and an inner layer that protects the membrane. Or a 2.5 layer with outer, membrane, than a "printed"partial layer on the inside surface to protect the membrane.
The water repellent jackets are appropriate as a wind proof jacket and light mist or light shower conditions especially when engaging in high exertion physical activities. . If you anticipate or want protection against all day wind driven rain, go with the waterproof jacket.
PS If you are out with a water resistant jacket and weather turns to extreme rain, a (lean) plastic garbage bag can be an emergency waterproof liner. Cut or tear holes for head and arms and try not to sweat. Sweat is less of a problem with cold rain than warm. Our local outdoor music festival passes out garbage bags when patrons are caught in evening thunderstorms.
Yeah, two jackets. My experience is based on decades of backpacking and cycle touring.
I have a super lightweight waterproof Marmot with a hood and pit zips. I have an Eddie Bauer down jacket with hood and hand warmer pockets. They are both obnoxiously bright colors. The Marmot is totally waterproof but it still works as an everyday windbreaker or jacket in all situations because of the pit zips. The down is super cozy and doesn't come out often but I have never regretted carrying it. In Scotland last spring, I only needed the down on one day and I wore the rain jacket over the down on one rainy-blustery-cold mountainside trek.
The layers under my jackets are the usual polypro or merino. I'm always in shorts unless the rain is going sideways. (I used to carry rain pants but gave those up.)
Cindy H, I don’t particularly like waterproof for regular use. In my adult life, except when cycling, I have never been soaked through. I guess I prefer an umbrella for downpours. Just me. To each their own.
Keeturn4, before we debate the pros & cons of waterproof vs. repellant and fleece vs puffy jackets, etc. further, could you tell us where you’re planning to go and which month? Depending on your answer, the recommendation may just be a lightweight pocket raincoat & pashmina scarf. ; )
In response to Jean we're going March 14th- April 5th. First to Venice (5 days), then Florence (same), then to Tuscany (Moltepulciano) for the remainder of the time. We generally travel to Europe in the fall to (early) spring. We've lived in Paris for a few months at a time generally from Jan. to April. Generally have a down vest and a rain resistant coat (an old one from TravelSmith). This time, I'm trying to pack as light as possible without having to buy an entire new wardrobe. I have a bright blue Columbia rain coat, but it doesn't seem like the thing to have as a go-to coat/jacket - it's too obviously a raincoat and rather bright for a night out in a city.
By the way, my husband and two friends have hiked different parts of the Cornwall coast a few times and no matter what sort of rain gear they have, a plastic garbage bag definitely seems to be the best when it really starts raining hard.
I didn't mean to say that we go to Europe every winter - just that when we do get a chance to go, it's generally in the very off season.
Depends on the destination and time of year. Keep in mind, waterproof and keeping warm are two separate issues, which require two separate solutions.
If I know it'll absolutely rain, I'll bring a rain shell. Marmot Precip is most handy and inexpensive, there's also The North Face Venture and Patagonia Torrentshell...all three perform the same, come in a massive range of colors and in the $99-120 range. I recently picked up a Drizzle Jkt ($225) from The North Face's new 3-ply Futurelight (replaced GoreTex) and so far, so good. A big leap in fabric and performance over Gore while keep weight down; also doesn't look like I just got off the trail or mountain. A good shell will accomodate wearing a sweater or, insulated jkt underneath, which is why I stick with 3-ply constructed jkts and avoid the 2-ply, or, hanging liner type of jkts.
Insulated Jkts are handy and I will bring if I know I'll be in freezing or, near freezing conditions. Uniqlo is a great place for inexpensive and well made styles. Insulations depend on synthetic or down: wet conditions choose synthetic, winter-dry conditions choose down. Patagonia, Marmot, Arc'Teryx, The North Face, Black Diamond...all are great outdoor brands with very popular styles. Also consider, LL Bean and Eddie Bauer. Insulated jkts take up little room in luggage/packs and are great as mini-comforter on flights. Synthetic will be cheaper than down, however down will last much, much longer...depends upon your sustainability position. I'll leave the insulation home if I bring a few long-sleeve shirts or, sweaters.
I wear soft-shells a LOT when traveling; RS Eddie Bauer jkt he wears in some videos is a soft-shell. Very versatile, and provide just enough protection across a broad range of weather & temperature conditions. While not waterproof, they breath very well so you don't get stuffy when things start to warm up. Many are stout enough to shed any rain and stiff wind when you step outside, something to consider is how much time outside do you plan on....museum-cross plaza-cafe-bus-back to accommodations. An inexpensive mild-weather soft-shell can be had for $99-120 or, a cold weather version around $150-250. The heavier ones don't pack up very well but, you'll wear it much more often than just a rain shell or, insulated jkt.