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Photo credit: Showers Pass

This post is part 2 of our essential guide for winter biking gear.  If you missed part 1, check out Essential Winter Biking Gear: How to Choose a Base Layer.   

Remember: dressing in layers allows you to adjust the temperature to your comfort level and adapt depending on exertion or changing conditions like wind or rain.  So pick pieces that can be both worn alone or layered with other pieces.  

Keep reading for things to take into consideration when choosing outerwear for winter biking, along with some of our top picks–many of which can be purchased on Amazon.  (Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, so we may receive a small commission from your purchase – it helps us keep this site up and running!)*

Waterproof Cycling Jacket

A high quality waterproof cycling jacket doesn’t come cheap.  In fact, you can plan to spend around $200-$300–which means that jacket will quite likely be the most expensive piece in your winter biking wardrobe.  Here are the most important things to keep in mind when purchasing a cycling jacket:

1. Water and Wind  Resistance

Always check the manufacturer’s labels since not all claims to water resistance are created equal.  A “waterproof” jacket will be made from waterproof fabrics and fully seam-sealed to prevent water seepage from all angles.  Jackets marketed as “water resistant” or “water repellent” will resist or repel water to a certain degree but may not be suitable for extended rides in wet conditions.  A windproof jacket is also a must.

2. Breathability

While water and wind resistance might seem like a given, breathability is equally important to keeping you warm and dry.  Gore-Tex is perhaps one of the best known patented technologies to combine water and wind resistance with breathability, although there are other companies that create similar products. eVent is another well-recognized breathable waterproof technology.  

Regardless of brand, look for jackets constructed with:

  • A waterproof face fabric made of polyester or nylon,
  • A breathable inner membrane made of ePTFE (Teflon) or Polyurethane, and
  • A liner.

The type of liner will determine whether the jacket is designated as 2-, 2.5-, or 3 layer.  

A 2-layer jacket has a separate layer of fabric or mesh that hangs on the inside of the jacket rather than being laminated together.  2 layer jackets are often used for more casual rather than athletic purposes.

A 2.5-layer jacket has a printed- or sprayed-on protective coating over the breathable layer, making it the most lightweight option. This is one of the most common types of lightweight jackets for outdoor sports.

A 3-layer jacket has a mesh liner laminated together with the breathable membrane and the face fabric, making it lightweight, breathable, and durable.  

The chart below summarizes the differences:

Lightweight Durable Breathable Affordable
2 layer $
2.5 layer $$
3 layer $$$

3. Insulation

Depending on the climate where you live, your insulation needs may vary, and cycling jackets range from very lightweight to heavily lined.  A lightweight jacket is nice because it won’t add unnecessary bulk while riding and can easily be packed and stowed when not in use, but you may need additional layers if temperatures drop.  

If you live in an area with highly variable temperatures throughout the year, you may find it useful to have a basic wardrobe of three key layers: a moisture-wicking base layer (such as merino wool), a warm “middle” layer (such as a fleece jersey), and a lightweight waterproof outer layer.  Then you can mix and match these layers as needed throughout the year.

4. Fit

Any good cycling jacket should have dropped tail — longer fabric in the back to keep your backside dry when leaning forward.  This is a the key difference between cycling jackets and other winter sport jackets.  Some cycling jackets have dropped tails that can be clipped up and out of the way when you don’t need it.  

Other important fit features to look for include a high neck and long enough sleeves to avoid skin-exposing gaps.

5. Reflectors

If you plan to ride around dark, consider a outer layer with reflective trim or paneling throughout to help you stay visible from all angles.


Note: although women don’t necessarily need to buy women’s specific jackets (a men’s jacket in the appropriate size should work just fine), there are many female-specific options available that may offer a more comfortable or flattering fit, depending on your body type and personal preferences.

All of the following options listed below are waterproof, windproof, and made with breathable fabric.  

Recommended for men

Recommended for women


Waterproof Pants

The same 5 considerations for choosing a waterproof jacket, also apply to choosing waterproof pants.  Pants should also be both waterproof and breathable (and ideally windproof as well) and you should look for a level of insulation appropriate to your typical riding conditions.

Look for a trim but not restrictive fit with an adjustable waistband so that the pants can easily be layered over tights.

Recommended for men

Recommended for women 

*The Fat Bike Hub is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com 

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Hi I'm Santi, and I'm a content marketing manager in the tech industry by day and grad student and writing instructor by night. I’ve always loved biking, ever since I got my first bike on my fourth birthday. As a kid, my siblings and I would go on biking “adventures” around the neighborhood, pedaling our way to nearby schools and lakes. Naturally, those adventures have only increased over the years! In addition to biking, I also love telling stories and traveling around the US. I write about our biking adventures and about fat bikes for women and kids.
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