The Key Difference Between Raincoats and Waterproof Paddling Jackets

best paddling jacket women's
paddling jacket women's

Many people use the terms “raincoat” and “waterproof paddling jacket” interchangeably, but there are some important differences between these two types of outerwear that paddlers should understand.

In this article, we’ll break down the key factors that set raincoats and paddling jacket womens apart.

A Paddling Jacket is Designed for Water Sports

The most notable difference between a raincoat and a paddling jacket is in their intended use.

A paddling jacket is specifically designed for water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding.

These jackets are constructed to be worn while actively paddling, with features like:

  • Articulated arms and shoulders for full range of motion. Paddling requires repeated overhead movements, so paddling jackets have tailored fits to avoid restricting mobility.
  • Waterproof fabrics on both the jacket exterior and seams. Non-waterproof seams and linings allow your inner layers to get wet from the inside out. Quality paddling jackets are waterproof from hood to hem.
  • Tight wrist, waist, and neck closures. Openings that let water seep in will leave you soggy. Paddling jackets cinch down snugly at potential leak points.
  • Pockets are designed for accessibility while seated. Easy-access chest and thigh pockets let you store snacks, gadgets, and other small items without having to take the jacket off.

Raincoats Prioritize Style over Performance

Raincoats are more focused on looking stylish than withstanding rugged marine use.

Their streamlined silhouettes and varied designs make them ideal lightweight outer layers for everyday wear.

But features tailored for fashion over function make them less suitable for paddling, like:

  • Looser standard fits rather than an athletic cut. Avoiding bulk helps raincoats pair effortlessly with work and casual clothes. But the looser cut flaps uncomfortably and restricts motion in a kayak or canoe.
  • Partial weatherproofing on high-wear areas. Many raincoats have water-resistant fabric only on high-exposure areas like the shoulders and hood. Full water protection adds cost and compromises appearance.
  • Open wrist, waist, and neck openings. Closures disrupt the clean lines and styling details of raincoats. But open areas allow wind and water to penetrate the shell.
  • No specialized pockets. Standard side seam pockets preserve the streamlined look but aren’t handy for accessing gear while paddling.
best paddling jacket women's
best paddling jacket for women's

Key Factors to Compare

When deciding between a raincoat and a waterproof paddling jacket, keep these key factors in mind:


  • Raincoat: Loose standard fit
  • Paddling Jacket: Articulated, athletic cut

Water Protection

  • Raincoat: Partial weatherproofing
  • Paddling Jacket: Fully waterproof fabric and seams


  • Raincoat: Open wrists, waist and neck
  • Paddling Jacket: Tight closures at openings


  • Raincoat: Stylish side seam pockets
  • Paddling Jacket: Accessible chest and thigh pockets

The Right Outer Layer for Paddling Adventures

A waterproof paddling jacket is purpose-built for protection and performance on the water.

Its athletic fit, sealed seams, secure closures, and practical pockets make it the clear choice over a raincoat for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and other paddling adventures.

Investing in a quality paddling jacket ensures you’ll stay warm, dry, and comfortable out on the water!