The Best Cycling Jackets: Staff Picks

Neither rain nor wind shall stay thee from thy appointed rides

Ken Knapp|Updated September 16, 2022

A cyclists rides in a downtown city setting wearing an orange cycling jacket

Whether you’re a casual cyclist or take the sport seriously, nature will eventually present you with riding conditions that are less than ideal. In rainy or windy conditions, a good cycling jacket can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and a miserable slog. With so many options, the process of comparing them can also be a bit of a slog. Here we highlight a few of our staff favorites found at REI. We also include customer guidance because so many REI Co-op Members are passionate about cycling gear.

Any of the jackets on this list can serve you well. The right jacket for you depends on how you ride and your preferences, so you can also use this list as a way to get your selection process rolling.

This relatively new piece from venerated outerwear brand Showers Pass is a worthy contender for many performance categories ranging from best packable jacket to best all-around rainwear. Because it weighs less than 10 ounces and packs up into its own pocket, you'll never hesitate to bring it along for weather protection.

There's more to the Cloudburst, though, than its outstanding packability. Product Specialist Chris Cook of the co-op's Seattle-area sales and customer service team says, "The biggest selling point for the Cloudburst is how breathable it is compared to other high-performance rain jackets." The secret breathability sauce is the brand's proprietary eliteAIR™ fabric, which Cook says offers another key trait: "This fabric's 4-way stretch is rare among performance rainwear materials, so the Cloudburst is one of the most comfortable jackets you can get."

Cycling Specialist Dave Delo in the Tacoma, Washington, REI store has owned several Showers Pass jackets and has his eye on the Cloudburst for his next purchase. "I want something that's light, windproof and rainproof, and I can easily throw in my back pocket. The Cloudburst fits that niche perfectly, and it's exactly the right weight and cost for me."

Cloudburst has other noteworthy performance touches, including an aerodynamic fit, fully taped seams, a rain flap covering the front zip, a drawcord hem and reflective accents. The large back pocket doubles as a storage pouch to hold snacks or other essentials, and two mesh-lined hand pockets double as vents if the need arises.

Convertible jackets like this one offer an alternative strategy for cool and potentially misty conditions. Fully put together, the Quest Barrier Convertible Jacket offers water- and wind-resistant coverage in sizes that run to XXXL. When the weather hits that tweener stage where core wind protection is precisely what you need—and nothing more—you can zip off the Quest Convertible's sleeves and stash them in the zippered back pocket. Now you have a wind vest rather than a full-blown wind jacket.

One Southern California customer recounts a ride that took full advantage of that adaptability: "The jacket provided protection against strong ocean headwinds and temps in the low 50's. When rolling in 70-degree temps, I simply unzipped the sleeves and enjoyed the cooling breeze against my arms."

One feature that makes this jacket stand out in both the men's and women's styles is PEARL iZUMi's BioViz® technology. The brand has always been at the forefront of visibility research. In 1990, the brand developed its iconic screaming-yellow color (available in both the men's and women's styles of this jacket), which is up to 300% brighter than the brightest whites. BioViz delivers day and night visibility with a range of tactics, like the way this jacket pairs super-fluorescent colors with reflective trims that pop when headlights hit them.

The women's Quest Barrier Convertible Jacket differs from the men's in one small but important detail. The sleeves attach with snaps rather than zippers, which are easier to attach with cold fingers, according to Larisa Castille, a sales specialist at the REI Co-op store in Encinitas, Calif., who wore the previous version through years of bike commuting.

For both, customer reviewers offer a consistent fit tip: The sizing runs a bit small, so if you're between sizes, go bigger.

Headwinds happen, but then so do rain showers, which is why some rides call for full-blown waterproof/breathable protection. It's rare to find that level of weather technology at this price, which makes the REI Co-op Junction Cycling Rain Jacket an impressive buy. The fact that the jacket features both recycled and bluesign®-approved materials is also noteworthy because choosing items with sustainable attributes sometimes requires us to be willing to pay a little more to aid the cause.

Coverage on the Junction jacket includes waterproof zippers throughout (with rain flaps), a longer cut in the rear and on the back of the cuffs, and a hood that adjusts to fit over a helmet. The hood, which stows in the collar when not needed, distinguishes this year's jacket from its predecessor (women's and men's), which customers consistently praised for being both lightweight and waterproof.

Reviews of this hooded Junction are also positive. A Chicago rider who uses it with a base layer underneath has this to say: "Overall, it is perfect for my needs. My bike is my main mode of transport, and I will be wearing this every day."

The first thing you notice about the Dirt Roamer is how stretchy it is, which lets you comfortably contort whenever a tricky section of trail requires it. During shoulder seasons when weather can be a mixed bag, this jacket is one that you can put on at the trailhead and leave on for the entire ride.

The jacket's nylon outer fabric has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to fend off light showers. That shell also guards against windchill on steep descents. A knit liner adds a touch of warmth on cool days, while also wicking away sweat when you have to grind up a vertical section of trail. The Dirt Roamer's measured degree of weather protection doesn't come at the expense of breathability either, which means you won't overheat.

When you do need to take it off, the Dirt Roamer stows neatly into its own zip pocket to minimize the space in your pack. Other nice touches: an easily adjusted hood that fits over a helmet, and a rear drop pocket that's V-shaped to center the weight as you ride.

Patagonia, long venerated for its sustainability initiatives, is true to its brand here, too. The Dirt Roamer's shell fabric is made from 100% recycled nylon and the final jacket was sewn in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory.

Best Soft-Shell Cycling Jacket

REI Co-op Junction Hybrid Cycling Jacket

Protection 2.5-layer windproof, waterproof/breathable shell

Hood Helmet compatible; stows in collar

Reflective accents Yes

Sustainability Contains bluesign ®-approved materials and recycled materials

The lofty initial promise of soft-shell fabric was that a single jacket could handle all conditions. But performance tradeoffs are inevitable, so designs have evolved over the years. A worthy refinement of the genre, the REI Co-op Hybrid Cycling Jacket handles a range of riding conditions, thanks to REI Co-op designers carefully mapping out the placement of technical fabrics. Front-facing panels are a water-resistant nylon/spandex that sloughs off both rain and headwinds. Rear-facing panels are a polyester/spandex that breathes freely, wicks away sweat and dries quickly. Four-way stretch throughout makes movement free and easy.

Cycling specialist Molly Miller in the Norwalk, Connecticut, REI store, says the Junction Hybrid is a local favorite among staff and customers. "Around here you get a lot of misty mornings. It's got just enough water resistance to keep you dry in those conditions—or in a light rain—without being a full-on muggy raincoat," she says. "It's also really sleek looking, so a lot of our customers wear it as a crossover piece for both riding and as an all-around jacket for inclement weather. Several customers have also worn theirs to go hiking."

The Junction Hybrid also has some subtle touches that Miller lauds, like "added length in back to cover your butt when you ride, reflective stripes for visibility and a stormflap over the front zipper to keep rain out. I also love how stretchy it is and the way that it fits."

Buying Advice

When you shop for a cycling jacket, you need something that can both block wind and keep you dry. The good news is that any jacket that’s waterproof will also be windproof. For a highly aerobic activity like cycling, though, breathability is also important. So what most cyclists want is a waterproof/breathable jacket like the Showers Pass Cloudburst or REI Co-op Junction Cycling Rain Jacket.

For a full overview on waterproof/breathable technology and basic rain gear buying tips, read How to Choose Rainwear. To learn how to keep any jacket performing at its peak for years, read Rainwear Care.

Jackets for cool, misty conditions: If you plan well and the weather cooperates, then most of your rides likely won’t encounter full-on squall conditions. Your options for less-severe weather are more varied. A convertible jacket like the PEARL iZUMi Quest Barrier Jacket allows you to detach the sleeves when conditions turn mild. For merely cool conditions, a jacket that provides a little extra warmth, like the Patagonia Dirt Roamer works well. For a jacket that handles a little wind and rain while also breathing extremely well, consider the REI Co-op Junction Hybrid Cycling Jacket.

Cycling Jacket Fit

A cycling jacket should fall somewhere between not too restrictive and not too loose: If the fit is too tight, you won’t be able to comfortably layer up or lean over your handlebar; if it’s too loose, the jacket will flap around in the wind, slowing you down and making you work harder.

In order to allow you to easily stretch forward to grab your handlebar, most cycling jackets have slightly longer sleeves. In addition, an extended cut on most jacket tails and cuff backs gives you greater coverage when you’re in that riding position.

Cycling Jacket Features

  • Reflectivity: Important for urban riding, headlight-reflecting accents help drivers see and steer clear of you after dark.

  • Hood: Most hoods are designed to fit over a bike helmet, though a few slip underneath instead. Some jackets forgo the hood to save weight and cost, which leaves your helmet as your first line of rain protection. A few hoods zip off or can be tucked into the collar when needed.

  • Detachable sleeves: This feature lets you convert to a vest for core wind protection. Some convertible designs have zip-off sleeves; others might fasten with snaps. (Having the sleeves connected across the back yoke eliminates the issue of losing a single sleeve.)

  • Vents: Even high-performance waterproof/breathable jacket technology can become clammy if conditions are damp enough and you’re pedaling hard enough to work up a serious sweat, so it’s nice to have a few zip vents (often under the arms) to open things up.


We polled staffers and member-testers across the co-op for their favorite cycling jackets. We then identified some of the available standouts for differing conditions and types of riding.