Getting caught out in the rain is a part of outdoors sport. And that's fine, but it's well worth owning a high-quality waterproof jacket if you're not one to head straight home at the sign of a shower. When testing a bunch of 100 Percent clothing earlier this year, one of the stand out items was the Hydromatic Jacket, which sells for $269.99

A waterproof jacket doesn't need to be cycling, or mountain bike, specific - but it makes a big difference to the fit and utility of the jacket - and therefore how often you'll pack it and use it.

A closer look

There are a number of details that combine to make a great waterproof jacket for mountain biking. You'll want a waterproof material that breathes well, and is seam sealed so rain doesn't come in through the stitching.

A really smart cut, and ideally use of slightly stretchy material is a big plus. This means the jacket doesn't fit like a bag, and isn't restrictive either. This may mean a longer back and a shorter front, and usually some longer arms as well.

Pockets will be minimal but well thought out. You don't need a long line bushwalking jacket with map pockets, pockets from scroggin and a compass lanyard afterall.

A hood is a personal choice, I think it makes sense to have one for a jacket for trail riding - maybe less so for a race day jacket. And if it's there it better be easy to store.

The 100 Percent Hydromatic Jacket ticks all those boxes. The size small I had to test is pretty fitted, and I could easily size up to a medium if I wanted to fit elbow guards underneath. As it is, the cut is pretty slim through the body, with plenty of room to move around the shoulders.

The body has two large front pockets with waterproof zips. The right hand pocket also has a handy glasses wipe and mesh security pocket inside - which can even fit a mid-sized smart phone without case!

The main zip is a waterproof zip with a storm flap hehind it. It's dual ended, which is a nice touch so you can undo the zip from the bottom to cool off a bit on a climb, or grab gear from storage bib shorts or a hip pack. The waist has a single cinch cord on the right. It's easy to grab and tighten it up to stop any water ingress coming up from wet ground.

The hood is generous - big enough to fit over a trail helmet, and quite adjustable with two cinch cords. There's a tab to store the hood in a folded design, which is better than a zip away hood. It creates quite a tall collar - but that's no bad thing for a jacket designed for foul conditions.

The arms are pretty special. I really liked how fitted they were as they're cut for a slightly bent arm. The front side of the forearm is a reinforced material, which is perfect for leading into wet, overhanging spikey shrubs that typify a lot of Australian singletrack. The cuff is elasticated with a tapered velcro tab to secure the fit.

As for the material, it's a woven stretch material with a waterproof membrane. The material has a durable water repellancy (DWR) coating, but the membrane does the waterproofing. It's rated to a 10k hydrostatic head and breathability rating. This is to do with moisture ingress and moisture transfer. A 5k-10k hydrostatic head is pretty good for active sports. GoreTex is 28k, and that's why it's the choice of alpinists - those who ski, snowboard or climb.

This material is much lighter and more breathable, so you'll actually use the jacket and not find it too heavy or hot compared to a waterproof that isn't designed for active sports.

On the bike

The longest ride I did in the 100 Percent Hydromatic Jacket was about 3 hours, in constant showers. It was pretty wet, but I needed to get out - hence the jacket. It wasn't that cold so I didn't use the hood for much of the ride, instead I used the cinch cords to make the folded hood work like a good collar. 

While I did need to unzip a little when the rain eased, I remained pretty comfortable, even when riding at a high aerobic rate.

Water that fell from the sky and that sprayed upwards mostly beaded off the jacket. Towards the end of the ride I had the sense some of the material was starting to wet out (but not through) and that's fairly typical for extended rain from my experience.

I could probably do away with the pockets for a single, small chest pocket up high - although that might be a bit XC nerd. The two pockets were really useful when wearing the jacket as a shell and not riding. They provide a place to put your hands in a social setting when you're not sure where else to put them, and pockets are always useful when you're carrying cutlery and a buzzer and your wallet and your phone at the pub for a post-ride meal.  

There is a vent across the back of your shoulders which can aid in keeping the sweat down when riding, and it works well enough. There's a point with waterproof gear where you will sweat enough that you're not going to stay dry inside, and I'd be lying if I said that doesn't happen in this jacket. It happens in every waterproof jacket if the conditions are right. The key thing is managing it. Yes, the jacket breathes well, but nothing like it not being there. Using the zip to dump some body heat make a big difference, and I did think 'pit zips' might be a good addition, although they'd be a bugger to get to if you had a pack on, and they add a lot of bulk and fuss. I'd maybe suggest that vented pockets could be a good addition, although it may reduce the overall storm proof nature of the jacket.

The reality is, I'd rather be a bit sweaty than soaked through from cold rain, and there have been a number of rides and bike races where I have made that choice and been happy with it. Conversely, there have been other rides and events where I have opted to go without. And they have ended with evacuations from a high alpine cheese making dairy, a German firestation, a cafe in Bormio, a cafe above Florence, a Belgian train station, a road side in France - and many more occasions where I've made the wrong decisiong and paid for it with an overall crap day, getting sick, and putting myself in danger.

Wrapping up

Overall, I was really impressed with the 100 Percent Hydromatic Jacket. I've been riding a lot for more than half my life, and I own a number of snazzy waterproof jackets. Alongside my Cinettica jacket from 2013, this is a firm favourite. That older jacket nails the fit and material, and can fit in a jersey pocket. But the added hood and better articulation on the sleeves makes the 100 Percent Hydromatic a real winner. 

I've paid several hundred dollars for a good waterproof jacket, numerous times, and I've bought all sorts of clothing in duress and paid large amounts as I needed it then and now. And I'm still surprised that this jacket is only $270, and not $370. It's a great piece of kit and something any mountain biker should get a lot of use out of. Whether it's a jacket to take when heading to a bike park, something to stuff into your pack for a big day in the alpine, or something to pull out for the grey months or summer storm season - I don't think this is a jacket any mountain biker will regret purchasing. Just fit it snug if you're a bit more XC, and a little roomier if you know you'll need to fit some protection underneath.

From: FE Sports
RRP: $269.99

Photos: Anna Beck and Denzil Heeger