Searching for the best women's rain jacket? Over the past 5 years, we've tested 24+ models to curate this line-up of the 13 top contenders on the market. Our enthusiastic team of all-female adventure-seekers tested these coats side-by-side for months on end to learn which are best for different situations and various specific uses. We tested water resistance in downpours and sprinkles - and under showerheads and at the mercy of garden hoses. We biked, hiked, and paddled through warm summer precipitation and cold almost-snowfall. From wet season forests and unpredictable mountaintops to PNW winters and desert squalls, we worked through the storms to bring you the best rain jacket for your needs.Related: The Best Rain Jackets of 2020
The Best Rain Jackets for Women of 2020
Best Overall Rain Jacket
Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's
Once again, the Outdoor Research Aspire scores high marks across the board; from water resistance to breathability, this impressive shell comes fully equipped with all the bells and whistles. It's an impressive contender, proudly sporting its smooth, soft fabric and flattering fit right down to its high standard of waterproofing and relatively light and compact size. This jacket stands out as the best overall and offers leading water resistance with a Gore-Tex, Paclite integrated fabric design to withstand and keep you protected from even the heaviest of downpours. With reinforced, sealed seams and water-resistant zippers, as well as an adjustable hood, hip cinches, and both elastic and Velcro to seal around your wrists, no water is getting in this bad boy. Being completely watertight might sound awfully stuffy, but don't be fooled; the pit vents extend the full length of this jacket and can be fully opened either from the top or poncho-style from the bottom for a quick and easy way to shed excess body heat.
Weighing 11.4 ounces, the Aspire is one of the heavier jackets we tested. Considering all the extra zipper length on the full-length side vents as well as the waterproof, dual direction main zipper, we think this weight is justifiable. It also packs down into its own pocket, complete with a clip for easy attachment to your harness or pack. For an impressive combination of protection and serious breathability, look no further than the OR Aspire.
Read review: Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Marmot PreCip Eco - Women's
The Marmot Precip Eco has been one of our award-winning jackets for several years in a row. With a price tag that won't put a strain on your pocketbook, it makes the cut as our choice for Best Buy. Offering storm flaps to cover the main zipper on both sides, and fully taped seams, the environmentally friendly PreCip Eco comes in with above-average performance across the board. It offers amenities like a large adjustable hood that rolls into the collar and high hand pockets for easy access while in a harness or backpack. For added comfort, this jacket touts a lined chin guard. At 8.7 ounces, it's still lightweight and packable without sacrificing all the features that make it a great jacket.
We're not totally in love with the hood, which lets even the top of the brim be cinched down around your face rather than shielding your eyes. And in general, it's a little less impressive when it comes to intense precipitation protection. But while it may not be as beefy and durable as some of the thicker, more expensive contenders, it combines solid all-around performance with a much more budget-friendly price tag. Performing impressively in a category with some serious competition, this jacket is a steal at less than half the price of most.
Read review: Marmot PreCip Eco - Women's
Best for Torrential Downpours
Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's
The Arc'teryx Zeta SL offers some serious protection against the elements. It's one of the most waterproof models we tested and has a large hood and tall chin to keep your face dry - no matter the weather. This raincoat is just on the verge of being an ultralight hardshell. Its sleek profile and soft interior make it a joy to wear even against bare skin. Gussetted underarms and articulated elbows, combined with longer (but adjustable) sleeves and an impressive hem drop of 5.5 inches, gives you effective protection against even the strongest storms - without compromising your movement. And true to their brand reputation, this jacket literally exudes durability, helping to justify that shockingly high price tag with a layer built to last for years of intensive adventuring.
However, all that durability and protection come at a cost. It lags behind when it comes to breathability, not only as a thicker model but also a total lack of pit vents to dump body heat when you need it most. While the soft interior makes it harder for perspiration condensation to build up, with any seriously active endeavor, this is bound to happen. It's also one of the few models we tested that doesn't pack into its own pocket. Though it's just under average weight, the Zeta's stiff fabric makes it a bit more challenging to pack into a small object or stuff at the bottom of your pack. But if you're heading out into some serious weather and need cold protection along with waterproofness, the Zeta has got you covered for the long haul.
Read review: Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's
Best for Versatility
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic - Women's
Mountain Hardwear is redefining what it means to be a rain shell with the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. This relatively thin jacket is so soft and comfortable to wear that you'll have a hard time believing its actually waterproof. Well, believe it, because it packs an impressive amount of protection into a flexible jacket that's versatile enough to wear to peak bag or walk the kids to school. With a long torso and long arms (both of which can be adjusted to your personal size and shape), the Ozonic provides protection that moves with you and won't leave you exposed to the elements just because you use your arms. The stretchy fabric is impressively breathable, and large pit vents help make this a layer you could even wear on a wintery-mix run. It features a large-toothed zipper that's consistently easy to operate and packs into its own pocket to easily bring with you anywhere.
All that breathability and stretchiness aren't without a few trade-offs, though. Anything stronger than a light breeze easily cuts through this jacket. The fabric also doesn't offer its impressive stretch AND a ripstop design, which makes it one you might leave at home if you plan to scrape up against rocks or hug any cacti (though we hope you don't do that last one). This stretchy material also needs to be treated more frequently with an extra layer of DWR finish to keep it truly waterproof. However, for a jacket that is seriously versatile across a huge range of activities and motions, the Ozonic can't be beaten.
Read review: Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic - Women's
Best for Ultralight Adventures
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket - Women's
The Outdoor Research Helium is hands-down the best overall jacket for ultralight travel, scoring among the best for weight and packability. It's an excellent choice for backpacking or any adventure where space and weight are your main concerns. It also ranks highly in breathability, with its thin design that's great for keeping you dry on the inside as well as the outside. The latest technology from Outdoor Research also makes this thin jacket impressively resistant to rain - it's one of the few we tested that repelled rain from both the fabric and the zippers.
However, this jacket is incredibly thin, which won't do much for cold weather protection. It also isn't our absolute favorite when it comes to fabric feel against bare skin. As an everyday option, it's lacking hand pockets or a longer torso that make it super comfortable for casual wear. But for an emergency layer and super packable protection, you really can't beat this ultralight jacket that's practically begging to be clipped to your harness or tossed in your bag to accompany you everywhere.
Read review: Outdoor Research Helium - Women's
Best for Functional Fashion
Cotopaxi Parque - Women's
Cotopaxi is making a name for themselves with gear that doesn't sacrifice style for functionality, and they've done it again with the Cotopaxi Parque. This jacket is different from the normal rain shell with fabric that's soft both on the inside and the outside but still waterproof. They've also managed to include not two but FOUR large pockets to keep all your items close at hand. With bold colors and quirky patterns, you'll stand out in the crowd with this jacket while still staying cozy and dry. Pit vents with easy-positioning dual zippers help to dump extra heat and a spacious hood with a decent brim and tall chin (five inches) help to keep your face from becoming soaked.
However, if you're looking for a packable jacket, this is unlikely to suit your needs. It doesn't pack into its own pocket, and compared to the others we tested, it is rather bulky and relatively heavy (though not the heaviest we tested). While the fabric has a small amount of stretch that adds to its overall comfort, the inner liner can be seen to crack as the outer fabric gives. However, it performed exceptionally well for us during our whole testing process and is our go-to when we're unwilling to melt into a sea of humanity just because it's raining outside.
Read review: Cotopaxi Parque - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Our team of rain jacket testers is lead by long-time avid outdoorswoman and Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg. Maggie never lets the weather stop her from going for a run or heading out on an adventure with her energetic dog. She loves kayaking, biking, and exploring in the rain when the bulk of the crowd goes home. She's been a backcountry guide in rainforests and mountain ranges for over 15 years. Maggie has been testing all kinds of outdoor adventure gear for over three years and loves putting new pieces through torturous testing. She and her friends and family have spent hours testing these jackets in wet and windy weather through all four seasons.
To test rain jackets, we started by selecting the highest rated models amongst the industry's leading brands. Ranging from ultra-lightweight to three-layered heavyweight models, we ran them through a gamut of tests. We compared the breathability of each of the models to make sure you don't overheat while taking on aerobic activities. We also analyzed durability in real-life scenarios, so you don't have a catastrophic failure while out in the wilderness. These tests had us outside whenever the weather rolled in and inside conducting some limit-pushing lab tests with showers, hoses, and pools. Our unbiased and objective reviews provide direct comparisons that will help you find what you need.
Related: How We Tested Rain Jacket for Women
Analysis and Test Results
It is a common mistake to assume all rain jackets must be waterproof, seeing as how that is their main purpose. However, not all jackets are created equal when it comes to waterproofness, and many other factors make a difference between a rain jacket that feels like wearing a garbage bag and one you can't wait until it rains just so you can put it on. We consider the full range of possible factors that make a jacket a joy or a burden to wear and then test each one rigorously to bring you the best performers on the market today.
When evaluating and scoring products, we never consider their cost. However, we recognize that this is a very important factor when you decide which product is right for you. While some categories clearly demonstrate a linear relationship between the money you spend on a product and the performance you can expect from it, that's not the whole story with women's raincoats. The Marmot PreCip Eco, our Best Buy Award winner, is one jacket that bucks that cliche, merging reliable performance with a fairly low price tag, making it a high value jacket. The Outdoor Research Aspire is another high value product. It costs more than many others we tested (though is far from the most expensive), but is also our Editor's Choice Award winner, outperforming all the rest, making it an excellent investment.
We assessed models with a wide variety of fabric components, ranging from the all-mighty Gore-Tex to DWR treated nylon to an exclusive Acentshell technology, each touting its own superior waterproofing benefits. In addition to fabric technology, the waterproofness of a jacket is also supported by the details, such as zipper flaps, taped seams, hood size, and tightening straps. Each is designed differently to keep out multi-directional pummeling rain and unexpected flurries. To test the water-resistance of each jacket, we tested them both outside in storms and inside in the lab.
What we discovered is that many of the raincoats, such as the Editors' Choice, Outdoor Research Aspire, and Top Pick for a Torrential Downpour, Arc'teryx Zeta SL, perform impressively well, providing full-torso, arm, and head protection when fully battened down (all tighteners and straps fully sealed). Both of these jackets are seriously watertight with thicker fabric and details where it counts to keep you from taking on a single drop of moisture.
The Outdoor Research Interstellar, OR Helium, Cotopaxi Parque, and REI Stormbolt GTX also all perform admirably both in the lab and through stormy weather. Each of these options lack a little something extra when it comes to water protection, though. The OR Interstellar and Helium both started losing their DWR coating during the end of our testing period and had to be redone with a fresh application of Nikwax in the washer. The Cotopaxi Parque lasted a little longer before needing to be recoated and has a large hood that is a bit lacking in side-of-the-face protection. And the REI Stormbolt let pooled water slip through the main zipper during our laboratory testing.
Also notable for their weather resistance are the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic and Rab Downpour. The Ozonic impressed us because, as such a stretchy jacket, we expected it not to withstand water as well. We are happy to report that we were wrong about that, and the Ozonic does a great job keeping you dry while still staying stretchy and flexible. The Rab Downpour is also a pretty thin jacket that holds up well to the weather, but we really like its hood. It's a great shape that conforms easily to individual noggins and has a wide brim with a flexible edge that protects your face from both the top and the sides. Where some jackets' hoods fall short, the Downpour is among our favorites.
There is a wide range of fabric comfort among these jackets, from soft, stretchy options to stiff, crinkly coats. We considered a wide range of factors when assessing comfort, like fabric feel, fit, range of motion, adjustability, and ease of use.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic the Outdoor Research Aspire and the Arc'teryx Zeta SL all rank near the top of the pack with their soft, smooth fabric that feels great on your skin and allows you to move freely in any direction. The Zeta and Aspire both have a great design that is flattering without compromising on the ability to layer over other clothing. The Zeta and Ozonic both allow an impressive range of motion, though in different ways. The Ozonic accomplishes this with 4-way stretch fabric, long arms, and a long, protective torso. The Zeta gets there with clever design, including articulated elbows, gusseted underarms, long, adjustable sleeves, and an impressive hem drop.
The OR Interstellar is also notable for its moderate amount of stretch and well-designed underarm panels that facilitate a great range of motion and is a favorite of ours for climbing. The REI Stormbolt is a 3-layer jacket with an extra collar inside the hood and pockets that can still be used with a waist belt or harness on. It does an excellent job of melding everyday comfort with technical features that made it a go-to for colder day adventures.
The Marmot Minimalist is also a surprisingly soft, pliable jacket that's pleasant to wear and has some of the largest, most useful hand pockets of any we tested. This jacket, unfortunately, falls short on water protection, but we love how it feels.
When it comes to waterproof fabrics, issues such as condensation and moisture trapping can become major annoyances. Thus, breathability is a serious concern, particularly for active and windy endeavors. Each model's breathability is a combination of its fabric qualities and additional jacket features like pit vents and dual zippers. We tested jackets by adventuring outside in a variety of weather conditions; in wind and in front of a fan, and while walking, climbing, biking, running, paddling, and just about any activity we could come up with.
Many jackets offer varying sizes of pit vents, from as small as seven inches long to running the entire length of the jacket. The OR Aspire is that second one, with dual zips on each side that allow you to open any length of space from the inside of your arm to the bottom hem of the jacket. You can even flap it all the way open like a poncho if you need to dump some heat in a hurry. While lots of jackets feature a more standard pit zip design, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, REI Stormbolt, Patagonia Torrentshell, and Cotopaxi Parque all offer dual direction zips on each vent, which lets you put your opening where you want it most.
A couple of jackets are notable for their exceptionally breathable fabric. The Stretch Ozonic and OR Helium are those two jackets. Each of these jackets loses out a bit when it comes to wind resistance, but they are also some of our top choices for high output activities because their fabric is seriously breathable. As an ultralight model, the Helium doesn't even have pit vents and instead relies on some exceptionally thin fabric to keep you moving when you need to.
While difficult to determine in just a few short months, we measured the durability of these jackets by testing them in real-life situations, from riding our bikes and playing with dogs to climbing and running errands around town. We also tested the seams with varied levels of torsion and pressure.
The Arc'teryx Zeta and OR Aspire take the cake in this metric, as some seriously durable jackets. They are both thick, have reinforced seams, long-lasting zippers, and are built to take a beating. Each is made of tough materials with a lot of thought that went into the construction of each one. Just holding these jackets, we noticed they both practically ooze durability.
The REI Stormbolt GTX is also a close contender for durability. Its rugged 3-layer construction is made with Gore-Tex with an external, 30D ripstop nylon hull that holds up well against some serious abrasion. The zippers are also secure and well-designed to withstand daily use. Tidy, fully taped seams add even more credibility to the robustness of this sturdy jacket. Our only issue with it during testing was a few small stains it picked up along the way.
Weight and Packability
Weight and packability are key concerns if you're looking to cut ounces or volume for any reason. We weighed each model on our own scale to see what they truly balance out at, and packed each one as small as we could to discern our relative willingness to bring them along on any given adventure.
When it comes to the rain jackets we tested, the Outdoor Research Helium is by far the lightest and most compact of the jackets; weighing in at 5.6 ounces, it's less half the weight of many of the others we tested. With a single zippered chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, this minuscule layer is an excellent option for an emergency layer and in non-extreme weather. It does cut certain comforting features to drop weight (like hand pockets and pit zips) but doesn't sacrifice the truly important ones (like an adjustable hem and hood).
Many of us don't want to sacrifice function just to shed a few ounces, so finding a good balance between weight and functionality is key. There are few things worse than tromping through the woods while cold and sopping wet. Our recommendation for travelers who want to keep their weight down is the Marmot Precip Eco, which weighs just 8.7 ounces and provides excellent water resistance and comfort. The North Face Venture 2 is also a pretty reasonable, packable option, fitting into its own pocket and weighing just 9.3 ounces.
Choosing the right rain jacket, especially when it comes to making a significant investment, can seem daunting. The right choice could mean you'll have a solid piece of gear that will last you for years to come and accompany you on a variety of drizzly adventures, or you could end up with a partially saturated disappointment. Armed with the details we've provided, we hope you have enough information when it finally comes to decision-making time. Whether you are trudging through the backcountry, taking a mellow walk in the woods, scaling up the side of a mountain, or just window shopping in town, having a proper rain jacket can make or break your day when there's inclement weather afoot.
— Maggie Brandenburg & Katherine Elliott