The Best Rain Jacket for Women Review

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Women's rain jackets lined up for testing.
Credit: Erisa Coppernoll
A wise man once said, "Weather shouldn't change your plans, just what you're wearing." And a wise woman once said "The clothes don't make the woman…" but the proper clothes can make a woman's experience. If you select the right clothes to keep you warm and dry, you will continue to enjoy whatever you are currently doing outside, be it hiking, camping, or gardening, which will then allow you to maintain your sunny female disposition, no matter the weather.

We took a selection of the top selling women's rain shells and put them to the test, judging each on an array of factors and comparing them side-by-side. We chose a range of jackets from the most expensive to the most budget oriented, stylish to boxy, bright to neutrally colored, jackets with the most features to the most minimal. We ran in them, walked in them, ran errands in them, biked in them, gardened in them, even rode a motor scooter in them…all in the rain. What became clear to us is that each of the jackets we tested is a fairly decent product, but some of the jackets got it just right, and others just missed the mark.

Read the full review below >

Review by: , Erisa Coppernoll, Robert Beno

Top Ranked Rain Jackets - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 7 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Patagonia Torrentshell - Women's
Patagonia Torrentshell - Women's
Read the Review
Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Women's
Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Women's
Read the Review
Marmot Oracle - Women's
Marmot Oracle - Women's
Read the Review
Marmot Precip Jacket - Women's
Marmot Precip Jacket - Women's
Read the Review
Mountain Hardwear Epic Jacket - Women's
Mountain Hardwear Epic Jacket - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $74 - $140
Compare at 10 sellers
Varies $123 - $150
Compare at 5 sellers
$186
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $55 - $100
Compare at 8 sellers
$100
Compare at 1 sellers
Overall Score 
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Pros Great Waterproofing, affordable, packableLightest rain jacket tested, packs down really small.Highly featured, super comfy, well ventilatedAffordable, Breathable, Highly Functional, PackableLight, Simple
Cons Not the most tailored fit, hood cinches can be tough to use, not very breathableThe quest for helium weight means no hand pockets, no side zippered pockets.Heavy, fairly expensiveA little less Durable, Not as sexy, Hood adjustment design, HeavyNot Packable, Sticky Pit Zip Zippers
Best Uses Backpacking, hiking, everyday rain jacket or any application where you want something light and water proofHiking, backpacking, ultralight backpacking, climbing.Recreational backpacking, hiking, light climbing, around townHiking, back packing, general rain useUltralight backpacking, anytime you need a super lightweight rain jacket
Date Reviewed Dec 03, 2013Dec 08, 2013Dec 08, 2013Dec 08, 2013Jun 19, 2012
Weighted Scores Patagonia Torrentshell - Women's Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Women's Marmot Oracle - Women's Marmot Precip Jacket - Women's Mountain Hardwear Epic Jacket - Women's
Water Resistance - 30%
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7
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7
Breathability - 20%
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6
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Comfort - 15%
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Weight - 20%
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Mobility - 10%
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Packed Size - 5%
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Product Specs Patagonia Torrentshell - Women's Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Women's Marmot Oracle - Women's Marmot Precip Jacket - Women's Mountain Hardwear Epic Jacket - Women's
Measured Weight (oz) 11.3 oz 5.5 oz 14.3 oz 11.4 oz 12 oz
Material 2.5-layer, 2.6-oz 50-denier 100% nylon ripstop with a waterproof/breathable barrier with Delugeï¾® DWR (durable water repellent) finish Pertexï¾® Shield fabric balances waterproofness, breathability and wind resistance 2.5 layer Membrain Strata 100% Nylon Ripstop 3.0 oz/yd PreCipï¾® 2.5 100% Nylon Ripstop 2.7oz/yd Body: 50D 2.5L Arkï¾ Ripstop / Laminate: Dry.Qï¾ Core
Pockets 2 1 Interior 5 2 3
Color Options 9 4 5 16 23
Pit Zips Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Helmet compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stuffs Into Pocket Yes Yes Yes Yes No

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Selecting the Right Product
Do you need a hard shell or a rain shell? Both types of jackets serve essentially the same purpose, but they are categorically different pieces of gear. We go more in depth on the differences between a rain shell and a hard shell in our How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket article, but the primary differences you need to be aware of are price and breathability. The average price of a hard shell is $500, while a typical rain shell runs around $150. But with this extra cost comes some advantages: hard shells will have more advanced waterproof/breathable technologies, usually using a three-layer membrane, where a rain shell will use a two-layer membrane that will feel less breathable. This also means a rain shell will probably not last as long as a hard shell. If you want an investment quality jacket for weather protection that will be durable and noticeably breathable, check out the men's versions in this category in The Best Hard Shell Jacket Review.

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Amanda Fenn wearing the affordable Marmot PreCip in place of a hard shell on the Fox Glacier, New Zealand.
Credit: Jessica Fenn

However, most people will be happy with a rain shell. These jackets are equally as waterproof and wind resistant, often weigh less since the materials from which they are constructed are less complicated, and they are much more affordable. A third alternative is a soft shell, which is more breathable than both a hard shell or rain jacket, not waterproof, and less wind resistant. These pieces are designed for use mainly during high output activities. Prices for soft shells usually fall in between hard shells and rain shells. To learn about these jackets, and even some hybrid options that combine features of both, reference The Best Soft Shell for Women Review. If you are looking for wallet-friendly waterproof protection from the elements, read on about the best rain shells on the market for women.

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Tressa Gibbard uses a rain jacket in conditions where many people would use a hardshell. Rain jackets work great but aren't as comfortable or as durable as hardshells. Shot near McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
Credit: Tressa Gibbard

Types of Rain Jackets
The rain jackets in our test group generally fall into two categories: typical rain shells and minimalist rain shells. Typical rain shells are usually a little more affordable, have plenty of pockets, pit-zips, and comfort features such as micro-fleece around the collar. Minimalist rain shells try their hardest to shed weight, so they usually use as few zippers as possible. This means they skip the air-flow creating pit-zips and have less pockets and luxurious features. This light weight usually also means they are less bulky, and can more easily be stuffed into a stow pocket or stuff sack. Minimalist shells are perfect for hikers looking to shed as much weight as possible but still need a layer to protect them from inclement weather. A typical rain shell is the better choice for a person who values comfort and livability over weight savings.

The minimalist rain shell that we tested is the Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Women's. The most comfort-driven rain jackets are the Marmot Oracle- Women's and the Columbia Arcadia Rain. The rest of the models fall somewhere in the middle: they are decently lightweight and packable, but balance performance with a few extra comfort features.

Criteria For Evaluation
In addition to the metrics below, we also assessed each jacket for durability, checking each piece for wear throughout our tests. We also evaluated the style. Are the colors flattering? Is it cut with feminine lines or is it too boxy? The majority of consumers buy an article of clothing largely based on the way it looks, especially women. Even on technical clothing, style matters. The color, the cut, the stitching, the accent features are all important. Of course, this is all a matter of personal opinion. The style we find attractive might be hideous to you, but we tried to judge the jackets with a broad sense of what looks good.

Below are the categories we used to score and rate each of the tested shells:

Water Resistance
Choosing the most waterproof jacket in a line-up of waterproof jackets proved to take a bit of work. We judged the jackets not only on the waterproofing abilities of the fabric, but also the features and shapes of the jacket that help keep water out. The cuff design, zipper design, hood shape, and collar all proved to be important factors. The outliers in waterproof protection were the Marmot Oracle and the Patagonia Torrentshell - Women's. Both of these jackets can withstand prolonged drenching without any leaks or seepage.

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Amanda Fenn staying dry in the Best Buy award winning Marmot PreCip.
Credit: Jessica Fenn

Breathability
None of the jackets' fabrics are very breathable during high intensity activities, but some of the jackets' designs are better geared toward effective ventilation. Each of the jackets has a waterproof/breathable membrane of some kind. Since rain shells are usually constructed with a two-layer material, such as a ripstop nylon coated with polyurethane, they are noticeably more breathable than old-fashioned rubber slickers, but still less breathable than a hard shell jacket made from a three-layer material such as Gore-Tex. However, the jackets with means for ventilation beyond the breathability of the fabric, such as pit-zips and mesh-lined hand pockets that can double as vents, tend to be best suited for high exertion activities. The Marmot PreCip Jacket - Women's and the Marmot Oracle both have great ventilation features.

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Pit-zips add significant ventilation to otherwise not-all-that-breathable rain shells.
Credit: Robert Beno

Comfort & Mobility
To our tester,s The Marmot Oracle, Outdoor Research Helium 2, and Patagonia Torrentshell feel the most comfortable while wearing and moving. The Oracle is the most highly featured and comfort-driven jacket, feeling more like a real coat than just a waterproof skin. The OR Helium is ultralight and has a great fit. Ease-of-movement also playa a large role in how comfortable the jackets are. We judged each jacket on its ability to accommodate an active lifestyle and various activities such as hiking and biking. The Marmot PreCip has great mobility with its Angel-Wing construction along the arms.

Features
The rain jackets we tested came equipped with a varying degree of features and functional elements. The ultralight jackets shave weight at the expense of pit-zips, pockets, and comfortable fleece along the collar. The Marmot Oracle is the most highly featured jacket we used, with several pockets and an all fleece collar. Outdoor Research's Helilum 2, on the other hand, is minimalist and offers little beyond basic function, but manages to be ultralight and packable.

Weight & Bulk
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The Women's Outdoor Research Helium 2 packs into its own stow-pocket, which is handy for carrying along on trips.
Credit: Rob Beno
Weight and bulk are always factors on gear intensive outings. Generally we love light gear. The Outdoor Research Helium 2 is the lightest shell we tested by far. Weighing just under 6 oz., it's a jacket that you won't notice you have on and that won't weigh your pack down. Packability also played a part here. When the jackets stuff down small, they are easier to cram into a crowded pack or clip to a harness. Testers really preferred the jackets that pack down small into one of their own pockets, such as the PreCip, Helium 2, and Torrentshell.


Editors' Choice Award: Patagonia Torrentshell
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Our Editor's Choice, the Patagonia Torrentshell. This is a versatile jacket that performs well for everyday use or extended hiking and camping trips.
Credit: Robert Beno
Our Editor's Choice award for women's rain jackets goes to the Patagonia Torrentshell - Women's. The numbers don't lie, and this is our top scorer, even with the few reservations we detailed in the review. The top quality material, versatility, and ability to pack into itself helped make it our winner. It is affordable, holds up to even the most prolonged downpours, and is fairly lightweight at 11.3 ounces. It functions just as well in the backcountry as an everyday rain jacket. All in all, the Patagonia Torrentshell is a top notch rain jacket, and you can't go wrong with it.

Best Buy Award for Everyday Rain Protection: Columbia Arcadia Rain
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The Arcadia Rain has extra comfort features to enhance livability. Here is a micro-fleece patch on the collar to prevent chin-chafe.
Credit: Rob Beno
Our Best Buy award for women's rain jackets goes to the Columbia Arcadia Rain - Women's. At $65, this is one of the least expensive jackets we tested, and it performed uniquely, we might say better, than some of the other budget options. We particularly like the construction of the Arcadia Rain; it keeps the weather out and the old school mesh lining prevents some of the clamminess that accrues in other rain jackets. This is hands down the coziest jacket we tested and it comes equipped with many convenient features. While heavier than many of the other jackets reviewed, we found the looks, comfort, and breathability of the Arcadia Rain to be superior, allowing us to justify a slightly heavier jacket.

Best Buy Award for Packable Rain Protection: Marmot PreCip
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The Marmot PreCip is lightweight and packable enough to be used on backpacking trips, as seen here in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
Credit: Jessica Fenn
Slightly more expensive than the Columbia Arcadia Rain but lighter in weight, the Marmot PreCip - Women's is a top notch performer at a reasonable price. A comfortable, long lasting, versatile jacket, it can serve in just about any wet weather application. It has a particularly beneficial cut for mobility, so this jacket moves with you as you move. Unlike the Arcadia Rain, it packs into a pocket for easy transport, and at 11.4 ounces it doesn't weigh you down either.

Top Pick for Ultralight Rain Shell: Outdoor Research Helium 2
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Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket worn under the Outdoor Research Helium 2. This is one of the lightest (and brightest!) down jacket/rain jacket combos.
Credit: Chris McNamara
Our Top Pick award goes to the Outdoor Research Helium 2 - Women's jacket. Female testers found this jacket's light weight and super packable design to be one of the most convenient jackets in our test sample. The jacket provides lightweight protection from wind and rain while maintaining a high-level of comfort and minimal clamminess. It is so light it functions just like a wind shell but provides the added protection of a waterproof shell. At only 5.5 ounces, it is an inconsequential addition to your pack, and offers outstanding weather protection.

McKenzie Long , Erisa Coppernoll, Robert Beno
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Rain Jacket

by Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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